Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Draft for Comments

This letter was submitted with 20 signatures on July 2, 2007 to Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter, Senator Chris Dodd and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer at the African Affiars Bureau, US Dept. of State.

We, the undersigned returned Peace Corps volunteers of Gabon, request an investigation into the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania’s revocation of the country clearance of Peace Corps Country Director Christine Djondo. Ambassador Michael Retzer sought to merge Peace Corps and Embassy programs in an attempt to save money. He pressured Ms. Djondo to co-locate the office that distributed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding at the embassy. Additionally, he wanted to combine the Embassy and Peace Corps Motor Pools and Health Units in order to reduce the budget of the United States Mission. Ms. Djondo did not support these proposals and the ambassador offered her no opportunity to compromise.

Only the Director of the US Peace Corps in Washington is entitled to appoint or dismiss a Country Director. Therefore, Ambassador Retzer's only means to remove Ms. Djondo was to take the drastic step of revoking her country clearance. Peace Corps has remained independent since its inception in 1961. However, the Ambassador's demands infringed upon its position as an autonomous organization. Furthermore, by disrespecting Peace Corps' independence in relation to the hiring and firing of staff members, some of Ambassador Retzer's actions may contravene the Peace Corps Act (Section 2509A).

While the United States government supervises the Peace Corps, the program was specifically designed to keep volunteers separate from U.S. embassies and their political affiliations. This is necessary to protect the safety and security of volunteers. In a country in which the U.S. embassy was one of the first targets of Al-Qaeda violence, it is crucial to separate Peace Corps from the United States Mission. Ambassador Retzer's agenda for PC/Tanzania could have a devastating effect on the safety and morale of volunteers and their relationships in their communities. We firmly believe Ms. Djondo made the right decision in resisting his intimidation.

Ms. Djondo was a superb Country Director in Lesotho from 2001-2003, Gabon from 2003-2005, and Tanzania from 2005 until her untimely exit on June 8, 2007. Throughout her tenure in the Peace Corps, she has demonstrated excellent leadership abilities, defended Peace Corps' independence, upheld the ideals stated in the Peace Corps Act, and tirelessly supported the needs of her volunteers despite the political pressures that ultimately forced her to leave Tanzania this month.

We believe Ms. Djondo has been punished by Ambassador Retzer for defending the security of Peace Corps Volunteers. We are writing today to express our strong concern at Mr. Retzer's audacious behavior as a public official. As former Peace Corps Volunteers and United States citizens, we kindly request investigation into his potential violation of Peace Corps policy and misuse of power.

Sincerely,

Gabon RPCVs:

Katherine Andrade, 2002 - 2004
Jan Boulingui, 2002-2004
Lori Brown, 2002-2004
Sara Bruya, 2002-2004
Jason Coleman, 2001-2003
Cassandra Filer, 2003 - 2005
Julia Fleuret, 2002-2004
Kelly Folliard, 2002-2004
John B. Griffin, 2003-2005
Erick Guerra, 2002-2004
Emily Hibbets, 2002-2005

Penelope Hucker, 2002-2004
Karen Martin, 2002-2004
Toni Moen, 2003-2005
Lauren Murphy, 2002-2004
Erin Parish, 2002-2004
Lindsay Partusch, 2003-2005
Rebecca Ricketts, 2002-2005
Shanna Rounds, 2003-2005
Jennifer Walker, 2002-2004

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Je Ne Sais Quoi

The job hunt is really driving me a bit over the edge, I think. Last night, I dreamt I met Bill Gates at a party. He had an African wife with an elaborately dressed entourage. He saw great potential in me and was certain I had a very promising future in business...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

PCVs Defend Country Director, Christine Djondo

Christine Djondo was the Peace Corps Country Director in Gabon before transferring to Tanzania.

Cutting the cake at the ceremony for the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps are from left: PC Tanzania Country Director Christine Djondo, Minister for Regional Administration & Local Government Mizengo Pinda, Returned PC Volunteer who served in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, 1962-64 Susan Proctor and Current PC volunteer, Morogoro 2004-2006 Photo: Dianna English

We are US Peace Corps volunteers serving in the United Republic of Tanzania. We are writing this letter because the US Ambassador's recent involvement in Peace Corps Tanzania has outraged us and inspired us to seek answers from our elected officials back home. Tanzania's United States Ambassador, Michael Retzer, recently chose to curtail the country clearance of our Peace Corps Country Director, Christine Djondo, after she refused to resign her position and leave voluntarily. The Ambassador illegitimately removed Ms. Djondo from her position for defending the rights of Peace Corps. We as Peace Corps Volunteers in Tanzania are appalled that a public official used his office to coerce a federal employee into advancing his political agenda. This is a formal expression of our opposition to Ambassador Retzer's decision, and we request an investigation of this matter.

While the United States government supervises the Peace Corps, the program was specifically designed to keep us volunteers separate from US Embassies and their political affiliations. Disregarding this precaution, Ambassador Michael Retzer pressured our Country Director to merge the operations of Peace Corps/ Tanzania and the US Embassy by co-locating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) office at the Embassy. Furthermore, he wanted to combine the Embassy's and the Peace Corps' Motor Pools and Health units in order to reduce the budget of the United States Mission. In these situations, Ambassador Retzer allowed Ms. Djondo no opportunity for compromise.

Peace Corps has remained independent since its inception in 1961 and it is indisputable that the Ambassador's demands infringed upon its sovereignty as a unique and autonomous organization. Furthermore, by disrespecting Peace Corps' independence in relation to the hiring and firing of staff members, some of Ambassador Retzer's plans may be considered in contempt of the Peace Corps Act (Section 2509A).

A United States Ambassador does not have the power to fire a Peace Corps Country Director: only the Director of the US Peace Corps in Washington has the entitlement to appoint or dismiss a Country Director. Consequently, Ambassador Retzer's only means to remove Ms. Djondo was to take the drastic step of revoking her country clearance. The Ambassador claimed to have little confidence in Director Djondo's leadership ability and therefore made this decision in order to "save" our program.

Ambassador Retzer's agenda for PC/Tanzania could have had a devastating effect on our safety, our relationships in our communities, and on our morale as independent volunteers. We firmly believe Ms. Djondo made the right decision in resisting his intimidation. Ms. Djondo worked diligently to effectively and safely direct our program and continually demonstrated excellent leadership. We thank her for adamantly defending Peace Corps' independence, for consistently upholding the ideals stated in the Peace Corps Act, and for tirelessly supporting the needs of her volunteers despite political pressures that ultimately forced her to leave the country.

On June 8, 2007, the date designated by Ambassador Retzer, Ms. Djondo and her family left Tanzania for Washington DC where she will retain a position at Peace Corps Headquarters. We believe Ms. Djondo has been punished by Ambassador Retzer for defending the security of Peace Corps Volunteers. We are writing today to express our disbelief and indignation at Mr. Retzer's audacious behavior as a public official.

As current and former Peace Corps Volunteers and citizens of the United States of America, we kindly request investigation into his potential misuse of power.

Sincerely, Peace Corps Volunteers – Tanzania

If questions or comments, feel free to contact:
pcvsbehindchristine@yahoo.com
This is an address created by the many PCVs in country in support of Christine! We will respond at our earliest convenience. Asante sana.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Back to Hawai'i?

Puu O Hoku
Who would have thought, after that bizarre stint in Hawai'i last winter, that I'd be going back so soon? I thought I might never see Hawai'i again!
But I've been invited to cater a birthday party on Moloka'i in mid-July. That should be a lot more fun than harvesting galangal and peeing on trees!
Meanwhile, the dreadful "real" job search continues...


Monday, June 11, 2007

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Master Class

Your chance to learn from the master! (Pavarotti, of course.)