Turning World's Eyes and Ears to Congo

Ben Affleck witnessed the plight of displaced people in war ravaged Congo.

ByABC News
June 24, 2008, 11:38 AM

June 26, 2008— -- Over the last year, I have been traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an effort to learn more about the country.

I view this as a long and ongoing learning experience to educate myself before making any attempt to advocate or "speak out." My plan has been to explore, watch, listen and find those doing the best work with and on behalf of the people of the DRC, in an effort to give exposure to voices which might not otherwise be heard.

In short, I want to listen before speaking and learn before taking action. The "Nightline" segment airing Thursday June, 26 is an attempt to take the viewer along with me in that process.

It makes sense to be skeptical about celebrity activism. There is always the suspicion that involvement with a cause may be doing more good for the spokesman than he or she is doing for the cause.

I welcome any questions about me and my involvement, but I hope you can separate whatever reservations you may have from what is unimpeachably important about this segment: the plight of eastern Congo.

Anyone familiar with the Congo has heard the mind-numbing statistics: more than four million dead since 1998 (and many more before then), the most killed in any conflict since the Second World War. 1,200 people a day are still dying from conflict and conflict-related causes such as starvation and preventable disease.

The country languished as the second worst on the list of failed states until last year, when it bumped up a few notches (though it still ranks below Iraq and Afghanistan on many indices).

The larger war that was fought in Congo included eight countries; regional fighting and violence still continue and instability, impunity and inhumanity are rampant. There are some parts of the country where two out of every three women have been raped.

Children are still widely used as soldiers if they are boys, and as "wives" to militia soldiers if they are girls. The state exerts little authority over much of the eastern part of the country it is controlled by at least 22 known armed groups. These elements combine to create an environment, in some parts of the country that more closely resembles the movie "Road Warrior" than a properly secured modern state. Bands of militia groups roam freely and each answer only to their own respective leader, living off the population and offering as payment the "Congolese credit card" the AK-47.

Save the Children: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/990.htm

Malu Malu and Goma Peace Process: http://www.amanileo.org

Stand Proud (Polio Rehabilitation Center): http://www.ipvrc.org

International Medical Corps: http://www.imcworldwide.org

Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders): http://www.msf.org

Doctors Without Borders in the Democratic Republic of Congo: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/country.cfm?id=2290

United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo:http://www.monuc.org

Heal Africa Hospital: http://healafrica.org