Durbin, Coons Amendment on Congolese Violence Passes Senate

Amendment Places Sanctions on Those Who Give Support to M23 Rebels in Eastern Congo

[Washington, D.C.] – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) and Senator Chris Coons’ (D-DE) amendment dealing with the terrible violence in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) unanimously passed the Senate late yesterday and was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, a measure expected to pass next week.


The amendment imposes an asset freeze and visa ban on persons deemed to be providing support to the M23 rebels in eastern Congo. Last week, the rebel group overran and occupied the city of Goma in eastern Congo.


“The civil war in eastern Congo is the most lethal conflict since the Second World War and its barbarism defies description,” Durbin said. “Last week, a well-armed rebel forces occupied the city of Goma and have set their sights on Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. The rebels, known for brutal violence and led by known war criminals, have the potential to destabilize the entire nation.  As the violence continues to escalate, it is clear that the rebels are benefitting from strategic and material support from outside forces. This amendment freezes the assets and implements a visa ban for any person providing such troubling support. Our goal is to hasten an end to the violence by starving the rebels of the key lines of support.”


The measure was also cosponsored by Senators Boozman, Boxer, Brown (OH) and Inhofe.


“M23 has demonstrated an unconscionable disregard for human life and Congo's territorial integrity, and seems determined to sink central Africa in another deadly, devastating war that could set the region back a generation,” Senator Coons said. “The actions of M23 rebels, as well as those who aid and abet the M23, are deplorable and must be stopped immediately. These sanctions are designed to stop the illicit and dangerous support the M23 is receiving from those seeking to destabilize the region. I applaud Senator Durbin for taking the lead on this amendment, and am pleased the Senate spoke with one voice in unanimously supporting its passage.” Senator Coons is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.


Eastern Congo has been plagued by civil war for over the better part of two decades. Fighting for control of the region’s vast mineral resources, the fighting has killed millions and uses unpatrolled violence against women as a weapon of war.  Known as the “Rape Capital of the World,” an estimated 1,000 women assaulted every day – nearly 12 percent of all women in Congo. The conflict is also marred by the use of child soldiers and the bloody and brutal violence inflicted on civilian populations. Durbin has visited Goma, in eastern Congo, twice in recent years.


Senator Durbin is the author – along with former Senators Brownback and Feingold - of the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, which was enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.  The new law requires companies that use key minerals mined in Congo to disclose such usage as part of their Securities and Exchange Commission filings, as well as what measures, if any, they are taking to ensure that they are not purchasing minerals from armed groups or military units, and that their trade is not fuelling the conflict.  These disclosure requirements will let consumers decide if they want to buy products that might have been used to fuel the violence in Congo.


Senator Durbin also chaired the first-ever hearing in the United States Senate on the use of rape as a weapon of war under the Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. A copy of the amendment is attached.