Washington lined up to genuflect before Ben Affleck, the director of The Town, Argo, and the star of Gigli, while he testified before Congress about the troubles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Washington pols swooned before him, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), “Your credibility is really remarkable because of the depth of your commitment,” Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), “So often we get celebrities and it’s as much about them as it is about the issue,” and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), “We’re getting some wicked smart answers.”
Affleck, who founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, a philanthropic organization that allows donors to give their money directly into Congolese nonprofits rather than international NGOs, said, “Our work in DRC is not finished. We cannot risk diminished U.S. leadership at a time when lasting peace and stability are within reach.”
Affleck urged President Barack Obama to make DRC President Joseph Kabila implement security reforms and also hold free and fair elections. He instructed USAID to invest more money in development initiatives in eastern Congo and to help the country’s agricultural sector grow.
Laura Seay, a Congo expert at Colby College, told The Cable:
His testimony reflected solid knowledge and contained specific recommendations that show familiarity with the crisis and ideas about how to resolve the conflict. I particularly appreciated Affleck’s emphasis on the need to provide more support to civil society organizations, which, to her credit, Senator Boxer did engage.
But Seay also cautioned, “This hearing contained little information that was new or particularly revolutionary. There is not enough attention on areas like justice sector reform, economic development, and support for civil society that are necessary for DRC to reach a sustainable peace.”
Affleck was under no delusion about his status during the exchange, saying, “I am, to state the obvious, not a Congo expert. I am an American working to do my part for a country and a people I believe in and care deeply about.”