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Booker, Flake, Coons Welcome Appointment of New Special Envoy for Great Lakes Region of Africa

Announcement comes ahead of key elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

November 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chris Coons (D-DE), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the appointment of Dr. J. Peter Pham to be the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Booker and Flake are the top lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.

“We welcome the appointment of a new Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Dr. J. Peter Pham. With elections next month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States must continue to engage at a high-level with all stakeholders to ensure the elections occur on time and are credible. We hope Dr. Pham will take up this important mission with urgency and work closely with regional leaders to make clear to the DRC government that delays and failure to take critical steps now to ensure the credibility of elections on December 23 will be met with condemnation and financial consequences from the international community.

“In the broader Great Lakes, it will be critical for the Special Envoy to engage multilaterally to address the ongoing conflict, displacement, and public health emergencies that have affected millions of people throughout the region. It is vital that the Special Envoy focus attention and resources on the containment of the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, which has been exacerbated by the conflict. In order to end these cycles of violence and instability, our focus must be on strengthening institutions and civil society. Citizens of the Great Lakes region deserve the safety and stability that transparent and accountable government can bring as well as economic opportunities to improve their wellbeing. We applaud the efforts of our previous Special Envoys for the Great Lakes Region and look forward to working with Dr. Pham to continue to address these important issues.”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, Booker has been an outspoken voice for addressing the turmoil in the DRC. In July, the Senate unanimously passed his bipartisan resolution urging the DRC to hold credible elections. That resolution followed a bipartisan letter he led to DRC President Joseph Kabila urging him to hold free and fair elections.

Last year, Booker led a letter to President Trump urging him to address the crises in the region and, following the suspicious deaths of two United Nations investigators in the DRC, he led a bipartisan letter to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley urging her to pursue an independent special investigation into the killings. In April 2017, he led a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pushing the agency to keep in place key parts of the bipartisan Conflict Minerals Rule, which addresses the illicit mineral extraction that has helped fund armed groups in DRC.