Business, Finance & Economics

Congo News: US names Barrie Walkley as special representative


Congolese riot-policeman stand guard on the streets of Goma, in eastern Congo on December 6,2011. Across the country, in Kinshasa, police fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters as tensions were running high in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the announcement of the winner of last week's elections have been delayed until Dec. 8. The giant central African country is on high alert after a campaign that saw deadly police crackdowns on opposition rallies and a series of clashes between rival parties.


Simon Maina

As tension mounts in Congo over delayed election results, US President Barack Obama's government has appointed Barrie Walkley to be the Department of State's new Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which includes the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The official announcement is scheduled to be made on December 12 and Walkley is expected to travel to Congo and the region shortly afterwards.

Walkley is is a retired American foreign service officer with substantial experience in Africa. He served as the American ambassador to Guinea and to Sao Tome and Principe. Walkley was called back to service and appointed Chargé d'Affaires for South Sudan at its independence in July 2011. Walkley holds degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. He and his wife Annabelle were Peace Corps volunteers in Somalia from 1967 to 1969.

Walkley's new appointment was quickly praised by the influential advocacy group, the Enough Project, which said it is hopeful that Walkley will spur increased engagement and commitment from the US in working with African partners to reduce the violence, instability, and corruption that currently plagues the central African region.

“We welcome the appointment of Ambassador Walkley and hope that in his new capacity he will lead the administration in addressing the systemic drivers of conflict and poverty that plague the people of the region,” said John C. Bradshaw, executive director of Enough Project. “If given sufficient authority and autonomy, Ambassador Walkley could be the needed shot in the arm for the administration's efforts to make progress on the conflict minerals trade, dismantling the LRA, and tackling justice and security sector reform in Congo.”

John Prendergast, Enough Project co-founder, said that Walkley "will be most effective if he can focus his efforts, and those of the United States, on finally addressing the political and economic roots of instability in the Congo."

Looking ahead to the delayed results of the crucial elections, which were held early last week, Prendergast said that the US should encourage "post-election power-sharing, army and judicial reform, and efforts to clean up the deadly minerals trade.”

The Enough Project urged Walkley to take this opportunity to focus on the drivers of conflict and instability in the region by addressing four primary issues:

* Make human rights and strengthening democratic institutions a priority in Congo’s post-election transition and in the Great Lakes region.

* Increase domestic and regional support for justice and security sector reform in the Congo.

* Push for the demilitarization of the mining sector and the full implementation of the Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Provision.

* Strengthen efforts to end the Lord's Resistance Army.

The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army.