Secretary Pompeo to Welcome DRC’S President to the State Department in April
THE AFRICA BAZAAR MAGAZINE
March 28, 2019
Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi, will make his official inaugural visit to the United States next week, meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department.
President Tshisekedi, who assumed presidency in late January following what some in the international community considered a controversial presidential elections, is scheduled also to meet with other Trump administration’s top Cabinet members and senior officials to talk about bilateral trade relations between the U.S and DRC as well as how the U.S. government and private sector can aid his administration’s agenda to improve good governance, heighten national security and protect human rights in DRC.
The meetings are scheduled to take place during a three-day period between April 3 through April 5.
“We support President Tshisekedi’s commitment to delivering change that the Congolese people desire and deserve, and we share a common interest in realizing Congo’s potential and in creating a better and more prosperous future,” State department spokesperson Robert Palladino told reporters during press conference on Tuesday. “Secretary of State looks forward to hosting him.”
In addition to discussing bilateral affairs, the two sides will also look into ways to enhance efforts to contain the current Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo, which currently is approaching 1000 cases amid increased violence in the area, and so far has infected 993 people, killed 621 people in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, including children, according to the World Health Organization’s recent data as of last week.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the outbreak has gone on for far too long. “We use words like ‘cases’ and ‘containment’ to be scientific, but behind every number is a person, a family and a community that is suffering. We owe it to the people of North Kivu to work with them in solidarity not only to end this outbreak as soon as possible, but to build the health systems that address the many other health threats they face on a daily basis,” he said.
WHO said more than 96 000 people in the country have been vaccinated against Ebola, including health workers in Uganda and South Sudan. As of March 21, no cases have be reported or spread beyond North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and no cases have crossed international borders.
Efforts to curb the recent outbreak have been stymied by increased violence from armed group in the affected areas. However, border screenings of travelers have proven very effective in stopping the spread of the outbreak to other neighboring countries. The health organization said it has sent more than 700 health professional and health experts to DRC and “is working hard with partners to listen to the affected communities and address their concerns and give them greater ownership of the response, particularly in the current outbreak hotspots of Katwa and Butembo”.
“The communities affected by this outbreak are already traumatized by conflict,” said Dr Tedros. ”Their fear of violence is now compounded by fear of Ebola. Community engagement takes time. There are no quick fixes. But we are learning and adapting to the evolving context every day.”
Despite the setbacks, most communities are responding well to vaccination intervention with more than 90 percent of those eligible for vaccine accepting it and agree to follow up visits. Results shows that those who get vaccinated early are 95 percent protected from getting the virus. Many people in the community are also following rule for safe and dignified burials, a key to preventing onward transmission, said WHO.
“Despite the increased frequency of attacks by armed groups, WHO will stay the course and will work with communities to end this outbreak together with the Ministry of Health and partners,” said Dr Tedros. “We need redoubled support from the international community, and a commitment to push together to bring this outbreak to an end.”
WHO said it is committed to working with the government and communities to help build resilient health systems in the country. The organization also said it will need an estimated $148 million to fight and stop the disease. The DRC government plans to mount nationwide health campaigns as part of the efforts to educate people about the disease and stop the spread of it.
The U.S. government through its agency, USAID has contributed at least $8 million as well as other resources including providing personal protective equipment, mobile laboratories, and supplies, and public health experts to join the efforts of the WHO, other health partners and the Ministry of Health of the DRC to help fight the recent Ebola outbreak.
Last month, the World Bank Group released $60 million in grant through the International Development Association, its fund for low-income countries, to provide for over half the estimated cost of an escalated six-month Ebola response effort being mounted by the government of the DRC and international partners. The fund, which is more than half of the World Bank Group and the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) approved $80 million grants provided for by joint efforts from Australia, Germany, and Japan. The campaign will run during the period from February through the end of July 2019.
Upon the released of the funds, World Bank Group Interim President and Chief Executive Oofficer Kristalina Georgieva said the Bank’s priority is to stop the Ebola outbreak and limit the devastation it causes to families and communities. “Today’s commitment ensures that lifesaving work can be urgently scaled up, and that lack of funding is not a constraint. Our investments today also help DRC and its neighbors to build strong health systems that protect their people and economies from the long-term damage that pandemics can cause.”
At the time of this reporting, President Tshisekedi is not scheduled to visit the White House to meet with President Donald J Trump, according to the State department spokesperson.
President Tshisekedi’s visit to the State Department comes as the Trump administration ramps up efforts to counterbalance China and other advanced countries’ growing trade influence in the African continent. His visit also comes on the heels of Deputy John Sullivan’s official visits this month to Angola and South Africa.
The Trump administration has been supportive of President Tshisekedi following his inauguration, despite the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the elections that put him into power.
In February, the State department issued sanctions and visa restrictions against DRC’s elections officials as well as military and government officials “believed to be responsible for, complicit in, or to have engaged in human rights violations or abuses or undermining of the democratic process in the D.R.C.”
“These individuals enriched themselves through corruption, or directed or oversaw violence against people exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. They operated with impunity at the expense of the Congolese people and showed a blatant disregard for democratic principles and human rights,” said a statement released in February by the State Department.
In addition, last week, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued sanctions against three senior DRC’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) officials, Corneille Yobeluo Nangaa, President of CENI, Norbert Basengezi Katintima, CENI Vice-President; and Marcellin Basengezi Mukolo, for undermining democratic processes in the DRC.
Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a statement that the sanctions “follows persistent corruption by senior officials within the DRC’s National Independent Electoral Commission and the former Kabila Government to obstruct and delay preparations for credible and inclusive elections. [U.S.] stand with the Congolese people who went to the polls on December 30 but remain concerned about a flawed electoral process in which, following the presidential election, CENI continued to obstruct the democratic process and failed to ensure the vote reflected the will of the Congolese people. The United States will continue to assist those who seek to root out credible allegations of corruption but will not hesitate to leverage our authorities to impose tangible and significant consequences on malign actors in the DRC and around the world that undermine the democratic process and traffic in corruption.”
DRC is one of America’s extended trading partners in the Africa, with several mining companies having headquarters in the East African country. It is home to some of the world’s valuable natural minerals, including cobalt ore, cooper, diamonds, cassiterite, and tantalum. Last year, investment firm, Alliance Bernstein Holdings said DRC is the Saudi Arabia of electric vehicle age due to its cobalt resources, a key element in electric vehicle battery.
Correction: *The name of the State Department spokesperson was misspelled as Pallidino in the earlier version of this post. The correct spelling is Robert Palladino.