Ben Affleck Tells Congress 5 Million Have Died in Congo Since 1998 But Says U.N. Has Not Failed in its Mission There

By Nicholas Ballasy | March 10, 2011 | 4:33 AM EST

( – In making the case for increased U.S. involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Academy award-winning actor Ben Affleck told Congress that 5 million people have died from civil conflict in that country since 1998. After the hearing, Affleck told that the United Nations had not failed in its mission in the Congo.

“The United States government can and should play an active role in ensuring that this November’s elections are free and fair,” said Affleck on Wednesday, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. “An electoral outcome that is questioning could easily perpetuate another downward spiral of violence, division and rupture, and the last time the Congo collapsed, armies came in from across Africa and, as I said before, 5 million people died – 5 million people have died since 1998 because of the conflict in Eastern Congo.”

“We must learn from history and do our part to see that this never happens again,” said Affleck.  “In this time of heightened concern over federal spending some suggest that austerity demands that we turn a blind eye to the crisis in Congo. I believe nothing could be more misguided. It would simply be penny wise and pound foolish to allow the Congo to again fall into a state of crisis or humanitarian chaos.”

Affleck, who appeared with Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the hearing, also said Western forces withdrew from the Congo prematurely in 2007, and that this led to increased violence.

Actor Ben Affleck speaking at a rally for Feed America in 2009. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

“Starting in 2007, the U.S. along with others in the West drew back involvement,” said Affleck.  “Instead of continuing a high level of engagement to consolidate a new and fragile democracy, Congo was treated as if it was a well-functioning state in which the United Nations mission in Congo could be safely withdrawn.”

“This notion was quickly dispelled when rebels waged a new battle against the government in Eastern Congo in 2007 and 2008,” he said.

In his testimony, Affleck called on Congress to provide the Congo with funding for monitors for the upcoming November election and for President Barack Obama to appoint a special envoy to the country.

Following the committee hearing, asked Affleck, “The State Department’s report on human rights in the Congo said that the government’s security forces have committed rape, torture and disappearances. Do you think the United Nations has failed in the region?”

Affleck said, “I don’t think the U.N. has failed. I think, I mean, the U.N. is doing a lot of things, naturally. It’s a very difficult job and they’re not, they haven’t finished, and things need to get better.”