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.


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


Anonymous said...

Rebecca Ricketts 2002-2005

jf said...

Julia Fleuret 2002 - 2004

Lori said...

Lori Brown 2002-2004

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Walker 2002-2004

Toni Moen said...

Toni Moen 2003-2005

John B. Grifin said...

John B. Griffin 2003-2005

Anonymous said...

Kelly Folliard 2002-2004

Karen said...

Karen Martin 2002-2004

Penelope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jan Boulingui said...

Jan Boulingui 2002-2004

Kathy said...

Katherine Andrade 2002 - 2004

Anonymous said...

Cassandra Filer 2003 - 2005