On April 17, US Secretary of State John Kerry, during a hearing on the budget, told congress that President Obama has chosen and is vetting a person to appoint as US Special Envoy to Africa’s the Great Lakes Region to coordinate US efforts in the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This announcement was made when Secretary of State Kerry was answering a question from Congresswoman Karen Bass, a Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa.
Given the length of the crisis and the loss of lives since it started in 1996, this appointment is long overdue. On December 10, 2012 AFJN was a signatory on a letter asking President Obama to appoint a presidential envoy to the region who would be responsible for developing a unified policy toward the regional crisis in collaboration with the UN Envoy.
This happened a day after by Federico Borello, Director of Investments at Humanity United, told the US Senate during a hearing on DRC: “The Administration and Congress must reevaluate the current approach by the United States and move away from ineffective and short-term policies towards a long‐term strategy.” Also that “deep and sustained political and economic engagement is sorely needed by the U.S. Government, the UN, the African Union (AU) and the donor community, to gradually but radically change regional, national, and local dynamics and incentives for governments and communities in the region.
In mid-March the United Nations Secretary General appointed former Irish President, Mary Robinson, as the new UN Special Envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes region.
Furthermore, on March 21, 2013, Congresswoman Karen Bass introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives, H.RES.131: Concerning the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the need for international efforts toward long-term peace, stability, and observance of human rights. This resolution calls for:
the region’s leaders to urgently address root causes of the M23 conflict and previous crises, to immediately halt and prevent any and all forms of support to the M23 and other non-state armed groups,
“calls on the Obama Administration, including the Atrocities Prevention Board, in close coordination with international and regional partners, to develop and make actionable recommendations to address, prevent, and ensure accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses by all actors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including by fully implementing sanctions outlined in section 1284 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, notwithstanding transactions that are customary, necessary, and incidental to the provision of critical, life-saving aid to civilian populations, and the policy goals set out under the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, introduced by then-Senator Barack Obama.
Currently, the US has a special advisor to the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ambassador R. Barrie Walkley. He was appointed to this position in December 2011 by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.