KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of The Congo- Ben Affleck has been in the limelight for nearly a decade and has seen his status rise thanks to last year’s Academy Award winning film, Argo, which he directed. Although Affleck was not up for any awards this Oscar season, he was still hard at work pursuing his other true passion.
“I am not a Congo expert but an American trying to do my part,” Affleck said to a room full of congressional leaders before the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Recently, Affleck spoke persuasively to congressional leaders asking for the government to bring change and support to the people suffering from the ongoing war ravaging the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“Outside my family and my work, this is it. This is my legacy. This is the thing I will be identified with. I take it extremely seriously,” said Affleck to a packed house of suits and ties. Affleck is no stranger to Capitol Hill, as he has made nine trips to Washington to put pressure on political leaders to save the millions of people suffering from genocide. United States Senator John McCain (R-Ariz) praised Affleck’s knowledge and dedication towards finding a solution to ease the suffering of those suffering most in the DRC.
“Your credibility is great because of the depth of your commitment,” said McCain. Affleck’s has invested his time towards helping the region by founding the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI,) the first U.S based advocacy and grant-making program fully focused on working with and for the people of Eastern Congo. Affleck founded the initiative, which believes in local, community-based approaches and public and private funding, in order to supply leaders in the community the resources to self-sustain.
“There are big NGOs that I think do very good work, but when I did research around Congo and other countries what I saw, what I found was that the people doing the best work, with the real expertise, who understood what was needed intuitively, just like they would in my neighborhood, who knew who the guy was to talk to, were community-based organizations,” said Affleck.
At the hearing, Affleck suggested the U.S. could increase agricultural aid, deal with government corruption and ensure that political elections are conducted fairly. Affleck was followed by Russell Feingold, former Wisconsin senator, who is now a State Department envoy to the region, spoke about the situation. Feingold told the committee the he was “cautiously optimistic about the road ahead,” and hit upon several major issues. Despite the end of many rebellions, several armed militias and oppositional groups remain and continue to terrorize citizens and natural mining resources.
Affleck will continue to raise support and money for his initiative by teaming up with his best friend for life, Matt Damon, and his organization, Water.org. By donating $10, participants will be entered into a raffle which could win them a trip to a VIP event in Hollywood with the duo. As Affleck’s celebrity and influence continues to grow, so can his efforts to aid those suffering in the DRC.
– Jeffrey Scott Haley