US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 

Mike Brand

Mike is Director of Advocacy and Programs at Jewish World Watch.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told Congress he plans to eliminate the offices of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Over the years, as a supporter of Jewish World Watch, you have played an essential role in advocating for the staffing of these positions. During our “Special Envoy Now” campaigns, you signed onto petitions, sent letters, and posted photos on social media urging our government to pay special attention to the crises in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, and South Sudan. The result of your efforts was the establishment of high-level presidential appointments that would ensure these crises received top-level attention in the U.S. government. Now, Secretary Tillerson and President Donald Trump are sending the message that these crises are no longer a priority for the United States.

This decision could not come at a worse time.

The DRC is currently facing a constitutional crisis. President Joseph Kabila has held onto power beyond his constitutional mandate, and he shows no signs of stepping down. The limited progress made in coordinating an exit strategy for Kabila, negotiated last year, was due in part to the efforts of the U.S. Special Envoy. Those efforts are quickly unraveling, and engagement from the highest levels of the U.S. government would be helpful right now.

In Sudan, the U.S. government must decide by October whether the genocidal regime has made enough humanitarian progress to warrant sanctions relief. The Special Envoy’s office would normally take a leading role in providing intelligence and policy recommendations, but without that office in place, it’s unclear if the same attention will be paid by a less-involved office.

With regard to South Sudan—the world’s newest country, whose independence the U.S. government helped achieve—the highest levels of the United Nations have warned of genocide, and the ongoing civil war has created the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. War-related famine was declared earlier this year, and widespread food insecurity persists throughout the country.

These issues have always received bi-partisan support in Congress, even as, to date, the President and Secretary of State have remained mostly silent. Their decision to dismantle these special envoy positions speaks volumes about the administration’s priorities.

Please take a minute and send a message to your Senators and Representative. Tell them not to let the Secretary of State dismantle these critical positions!


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