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Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States - Special Representative to Africa's Great Lakes Region

Moran Leads Bipartisan Call for Swift Action in Africa's Great Lakes Region
Special Representative would coordinate comprehensive U.S. policy in war-torn region

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), along with a bipartisan group of 15 senators, has urged President Obama to swiftly appoint a Special Representative to better coordinate U.S. foreign policy in Africa's Great Lakes region -- an area plagued by instability, brutal violence and human rights abuses.

In a letter to the president, the senators point to the ongoing and brutal violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the regional threat posed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) as key reasons for this appointment. The DRC continues to be plagued by the systematic rape of women and girls in the context of an armed conflict financed largely by conflict minerals. The LRA continues to terrorize civilians and abduct children in the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic -- which has led to massive displacement.

In 2009, then-Congressman Moran sponsored the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. Signed into law in 2010, the legislation called for the president to develop a strategy to support multilateral efforts to protect civilians and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA operating in the Great Lakes region.

A Special Representative to the Great Lakes region would coordinate with U.S. Ambassadors stationed in these and other affected countries to help make certain the president's strategy mandated by the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act is implemented.

May 9, 2011

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write today to encourage the swift appointment of a Special Representative to Africa's Great Lakes region. We share your long-standing interest in and concern for this troubled part of the world, and given its numerous and complex challenges, we believe the appointment of a high level representative who answers directly to the Secretary of State will help ensure that U.S. policy is coordinated, comprehensive and effective.

The violence that continues to plague the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including extrajudicial killings and the systemic and pervasive use of rape and sexual violence, has destroyed the lives of countless civilians. It is perpetuated by the ongoing struggle between armed groups for control of the DRC's natural resources, particularly minerals. With the DRC scheduled to hold its third elections on November 27, 2011, we fear that without sufficient international attention the already dangerous and volatile environment could significantly worsen.

The atrocities being perpetrated by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) also require high level, sustained attention. LRA attacks continue in the region, as rebels terrorize and attack civilians and abduct children from their homes and schools. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced as a result of this violence.

Each day, our Ambassadors in the countries of the Great Lakes region confront a multitude of challenges, and we appreciate their service. However, a Special Representative, empowered to travel frequently to engage the myriad actors in the region, would not be duplicative of these efforts. A Special Representative would build upon the work of the Ambassadors in a coordinating role, imparting focus on U.S. efforts in the DRC and the broader Great Lakes region. The appointment would also make an important statement that these issues are a high priority for your Administration.

In December 2006, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act, which you authored, was signed into law. That legislation called for the appointment of a "Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region" to help coordinate U.S. efforts in the region. We believe the rationale for that legislation is no less compelling today, and were therefore disappointed by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto's recent testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Administration was simply taking the appointment of a Special Representative "under advisement." We share the view of a wide range of human rights and humanitarian organizations that this position should be filled without delay.

Thank you for your consideration.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Jerry Moran
United States Senator

Michael Bennet
United States Senator

John Boozman
United States Senator

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Ben Cardin
United States Senator

Susan Collins
United States Senator

Chris Coons
United States Senator

Richard Durbin
United States Senator

Johnny Isakson
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Robert Menendez
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Mark Udall
United States Senator

Tom Udall
United States Senator

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