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Engel Floor Remarks on Respect for the Constitution in the Democratic Republic of Congo

ENGEL FLOOR REMARKS ON RESPECT FOR THE CONSTITUTION IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks in support of a resolution urging respect for the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the democratic transition of power in 2016 (H.Res.780) on the House floor:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I, I rise in support of this measure, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume. Thank you.

“Let me start by thanking our, our chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Royce, for his leadership.  I had the good occasion to travel with him to Congo last year, and we pushed very, very hard on the fact that we believed democracy needs to be carried out there.

“In fact, the President of Congo who is running for a, an unprecedented third term—which he’s not supposed to do according to the constitution—he opted not to see us because he was angry at the fact that we came to Congo and, and spoke out so heavily with one voice, I might say, for democratic reforms.

“And, that has been the tradition of the Foreign Affairs Committee in, during the time that Chairman Royce has been chairman and I’ve been ranking member.

“We speak with one voice on most things and we are more effective that way, and I think that foreign policy, especially, should be bipartisan and partisanship should stop at the water’s edge.

“So, we, we personally, the two of us and the colleagues that came with us on the trip, drove that message home to the President of the Congo.  We met with the Prime Minister, and we didn’t mince our words.

“So I want to thank Chairman Royce for his leadership, I want to thank the chair and ranking member of the Africa Subcommittee, Mr. Smith of New Jersey and Ms. Bass of California, on their hard work in bringing this measure to the floor.

“As I mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, in recent months, protestors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have faced an, an increasingly violent crackdown at the hands of armed authorities. 

“These people are protesting again the illegal third-term grab by the President of Congo. Citizens have been subject to arbitrary arrests.  And civil society groups are finding it harder and harder to operate.  In just over a month, when President Joseph Kabila’s term expires, I fear that this instability will grow even worse.

“We want to see democracy thrive and the constitution prevail in the DRC.  But we know forces are hard at work to tear that country’s democracy down.

“This resolution sends a message that the United States is watching this situation closely.  Those who try to undermine democracy in the Republic of Congo won’t get a free pass from us. 

“This measure calls for U.S. sanctions on core government and opposition officials who hinder democratic processes or stand in the way of progress toward a peaceful democratic transition. 

“It calls for sanctions to remain in place until President Kabila declares that he will abide by the constitution and step down on December 19th unless there is verifiable—until there is verifiable progress—toward holding a free and fair election, and until the opposition and civil society groups are free to operate without interference.

“Lastly, this resolution requests that our government support civil society groups and the media so that the DRC’s citizens and the world have a clear picture of democracy and governance.  So I’m glad to support this timely resolution.  I reserve the balance of my time.”