The United States came under fire Tuesday for failing to do enough to end the rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as experts proposed ways to stop the bloodshed, including tough sanctions.
"By global standards the international effort to construct a credible peace process for Congo is manifestly derelict, condemning that country to further cycles of devastating conflict," John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough project, told a House subcommittee in his prepared testimony.
Beyond a simple UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to violence, "the international diplomatic response is revealed to be shockingly ineffective, perhaps even violating the Hippocratic Oath: 'First, do no harm.'"
But the top US diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, defended the administration from charges that US policy in the Great Lakes region was weak, telling lawmakers: "I reject that notion and I must reject it pretty soundly."
The M23 rebellion, launched earlier this year by army mutineers largely from the ethnic Tutsi community, conquered large swathes of the mineral-rich eastern DR Congo and briefly took over the main city of Goma before withdrawing following a diplomatic initiative.
Kinshasa accuses the Tutsi leaders in its neighbour Rwanda of arming the M23 and sending some of its own troops to fight, an allegation Kigali has consistently denied.
Representative Christopher Smith, chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, said he believed current US policy was framed by the failure of the former administration of president Bill Clinton to halt the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The "guilt over the Clinton administration's colossal failure... has led to subsequent US administrations being reluctant to criticize the government of Rwanda," Smith said, adding it was time "to overcome our regret over what happened 18 years ago."