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:
This is an address created by the many PCVs in country in support of Christine! We will respond at our earliest convenience. Asante sana.

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