On Friday, April 8, students from Saint Michael’s College, in Colchester, VT, came down to the nation’s capital to rally in front of the State Department to demand the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to the Greater Lakes Region of Africa. While it turned out to be a gloomy, and at times rainy, afternoon, the atmosphere in the crowd couldn’t have been more different. With the crowd chanting and holding signs saying “Join Hands for Congo” and “Eastern Congo is the Worst Place in the World for a Woman,” and African drums beating in the background, the impact and enthusiasm well exceeded the numbers present at the small gathering.
St. Michael's College students traveled from Colchester, VT to the State Department to rally for the appointment of a special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa. (Photo: Nick Taylor/Enough)
Saint Michael’s College created the “Dear Hillary Campaign”. Last fall, they sent 17,000 birthday postcards to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging her and the State Department to take stronger roles in creating peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In a second attempt to influence her, or what the campaign calls “Phase II”, the students of Saint Michael’s rallied at the State Department urging supporters to sign a petition asking the U.S. to appoint a Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region. A Special Envoy would be able lead the strategic planning and coordination of donor aid flowing into the region, as well as help implement the Dodd-Frank Act, which calls for tighter regulations on conflict minerals from the region.
It was easy to get caught up in what turned out to be an exceptional display of student and youth involvement. The rally even garnered the attention of several State Department officials, including Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, who testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights last month. In the hearing, he stated that he would take the appointment of a Special Envoy into advisement after several members of Congress strongly urged the Ambassador to consider the issue. It remains to be seen whether or not the State Department or the administration will take this necessary step which many groups including Enough have been calling for in a new petition on change.org (which we urge you to sign!), but one thing that is certain is that the students of Saint Michael’s and the “Dear Hillary Campaign” aren’t giving up anytime soon. And neither are we.