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Could A Great Lakes Envoy Be Lucky Number 8?

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Could A Great Lakes Envoy Be Lucky Number 8?

Posted by Laura Heaton on April 23, 2009

The Obama administration announced the appointment of another special envoy this week, bringing the tally of special advisors and envoys up to seven.

Congratulations to Ambassador Richard Morningstar for being appointed the new Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy. But I have to admit that, here at Enough, we were rooting for a different envoy this round.

Africa’s Great Lakes region is in desperate need of the kind of attention that a high-level U.S. envoy would bring. Eastern Congo holds the unenviable distinction of being the world’s most destructive conflict since World War II, with a death toll of 5.4 million and counting. It is the scene of horrific sexual violence perpetuated in part by an illicit mineral trade that links the country’s valuable natural resources to every corner of the globe. Congo is the playground for predatory groups from across region that each see an opportunity to capitalize from the country’s waves of chaos.

Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee this week, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) emphasized the unrivaled importance of strengthening the U.S.’s diplomatic presence in Africa, pinpointing Congo.

Much of the information our country needs on Africa, on everything from civil conflicts, instability and potential terrorist safe havens, can be obtained overtly, through increased diplomatic reporting.  I have been concerned for a long time that we have little to no political presence in key parts of Africa, such as the Central African Republic, northern Nigeria, or eastern Congo. As a result, we lack ‘eyes and ears’ to gather information and anticipate emerging crises, or fully understand existing ones.

The recent appointment of retired Major General Scott Gration to the post of Sudan envoy has brought renewed and much-deserved attention to Sudan, which is particularly timely given the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Darfur region.

Now, President Obama should appoint a Great Lakes envoy who can provide the round-the-clock attention that Congo and its neighboring countries require. With numerous peace deals on the books, unexpected alliances between longtime rivals Congo and Rwanda budding, and the world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping force on hand, the potential for peaceful resolution to the conflict exists. What’s needed is a strong commitment from the United States to lead a peace process that comprehensively confronts the complex array of factors that have spoiled attempts at peace in the region for so long.