On Wednesday, Ben Affleck will testify before the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on the evolving security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the implications for U.S. security.
Affleck will be joined in his panel by Jendayi Frazer, a Carnegie Mellon professor, and James Jay Carafano, an expert from the Heritage Foundation and the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies. The hearing’s other panel shall consist of Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Derek Chollet and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs Johnnie Carson.
It comes as no surprise that Affleck has been asked to testify, given his sustained involvement in bringing change in the DRC. In 2010, Affleck founded the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), which strives to increase investments from private and public funding sources to support Congolese-led programs that build sustainable community, raise public awareness about the needs in the region as well as to generate policy change that amplifies the U.S. government's engagement in the Congo.
One of the actor’s recent initiatives to support the DRC’s economic development led the actor to team up with chocolatier Joe Whitnney, owner of the Seattle-based confectioner Theo Chocolate, to kickstart organic chocolate production in the Congo, by creating chocolate bars made of 100% Congolese cocoa. For the first harvest, which began in September 2012 and will extend through February 2013, Theo will export more than 300 tons of Organic, Fair Trade certified cocoa from Eastern Congo. Cocoa production is a strategic economic solution for the region, given that cocoa has no commercial value for the rebels and is, as a result, not considered a resource or a threat in the conflict.
In an effort to raise awareness on the situation in the DRC, the Hollywood actor has taken part in numerous conferences, meetings and panels. In July, Affleck took part in a Washington D.C. conference focused on child survival with distinguished participants, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah, health ministers and practitioners from around the world. During the conference, he presented his experiences during his previous trips to Congo, during which he met children who were faced with key obstacles as a result of the militias’ activities and stressed that, without peace and security, Congo will not be able to reduce infantile mortality rate and provide its children an opportunity to grow up and contribute to their society’s development.
While recently making an appearance on ABC’s The Week, Affleck urged the U.S. government to do more for the DCR, as he expressed concern over the deteriorating conditions in the African nation, where M23 rebels are carrying on an intense conflict with the government.
Based on some of Affleck’s statements during the appearance on The Week, the Business Insider has suggested that Affleck’s testimony on Wednesday could be used to support a U.S. intervention in the DRC. The actor expressed concerned over al-Qaeda popping up in and taking over in regions with little American presence, such as the DRC, and suggested that the U.S. should make a priority of ensuring that this scenario did not occur in the central African country.