PRETORIA, South Africa-- Sen. Barack Obama cancelled a Congo sidetrip after fighting erupted following the nation’s first presidential balloting in more than 40 years, triggering a runoff election.
The U.S. embassy asked Obama to drop the visit set for later this week, not because of specific danger to the Illinois Democrat but because embassy personnel who would have been detailed to the Obama delegation were needed elsewhere in the wake of events.
“The timing was two days after the results were announced in such a complicated election,’’ Obama said.
President Joseph Kabila failed to win a majority in the voting and faces former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba in the runoff.
``And we were only planning to be there a day anyway. It is not an enormous disappointment,’’ Obama said.
Obama is the sponsor of a Senate bill (S 2125) designed to “to promote relief, security, and democracy��? in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hosting the biggest United Nations peacekeeping mission in the world. It passed unanimously in the Senate and is pending in the House. (for a summary, see below.)
Obama flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg on Tuesday aboard a U.S. Army airplane. (Senators get this perk, it’s not special for Obama.)
He met with officials from a South African energy company in a sales call that could, one day lead to benefit the Illinois coal industry, anchored in the southern portion of the state.
The press following Obama was disappointed that all his sessions were private on Tuesday. Obama sat down for questions session with the entourage at the posh Sheraton Pretoria hotel—where CODEL OBAMA is staying- near 6 p.m.
During the session he conceded that he probably would not get a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki.
A meeting was never firmed up and Obama said he thought the critical comments he made Monday about the Mbeki administration approach to HIV-AIDS (that they were in “denial��? about the disease) dashed any hopes for a meeting.
CODEL OBAMA PRESS DAY:
Since all of Obama’s meetings were closed to reporters, the press traveled to Soweto Township, southwest of Johannesburg, to gather background material in advance of Obama’s visit there today.
(The press traveled in a van arranged by the U.S. Embassy, to be paid for by the reporters.)
Soweto (SOuthWEsternTOwnship) became etched in the public consciousness--and propelled the anti-apartheid movement-- after the June, 16, 1976 killing of a 12-year-old boy, Hector Pieterson. Pieterson was part of a demonstration that turned into a riot, prompted by the government forcing schools to teach in Afrikaans as well as English.
See the pictures I took of Soweto and some surrounding area on the Obama page of this site.
SUMMARY OF S 2125
SUMMARY AS OF:
Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2005 - Authorizes additional FY2006 funds for bilateral assistance programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, and the Arms Export Control Act.
Expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be committed to achieving specified policy objectives if U.S. and international efforts are to be effective in bringing relief, security, and democracy to the country; and (2) the international community is providing substantial funding that is giving the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo an opportunity to make progress towards such policy objectives but this assistance cannot continue in perpetuity.
Authorizes the Secretary of State to withhold assistance if the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not making sufficient progress towards accomplishing such policy objectives.
States that the President should appoint a Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region to resolve the instability and insecurity in Eastern Congo and to enhance regional harmonization of U.S. policies and assistance programs.
Directs the United States to use its influence in the U.N. Security Council to: (1) address exploitation at the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC); (2) ensure that appropriate codes of conduct and programs for sexual abuse prevention and trafficking in persons are undertaken by the United Nations; (3) strengthen MONUC; (4) ensure that the recruiting and arming of children in the democratic Republic of the Congo is halted; (5) strengthen the arms embargo; (6) allow for more effective protection of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and (7) press countries in the Congo region to help facilitate an end to the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Directs the President to use U.S. influence to seek to increase international humanitarian and development assistance for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
12/16/2005 Introduced/originated in Senate
5/23/2006 Committee on Foreign Relations. Reported by Senator Lugar without amendment. Without written report.
6/29/2006 Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate with an amendment by Unanimous Consent.
7/10/2006 Referred to House committee: Referred to the House Committee on International Relations.
SOURCE: THOMAS, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS