A letter on Ambassador Retzer's conduct from current PCVs in Tanzania

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Message Center for Tanzania RPCV's: A letter on Ambassador Retzer's conduct from current PCVs in Tanzania

By Anonymous (tz.peacecorps.gov - on Thursday, June 14, 2007 - 1:56 pm: Edit Post

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.

By Zambia RPCV (wl-dhcp140-126.mines.edu - on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - 10:14 am: Edit Post

What the lay public (and this ambassador) sometimes don't seem to understand is that while Peace Corps is wildly popular where it serves, the US Government is often quite disliked. Any overt association between Peace Corps and the US embassy or its programs (or worse, any association between Peace Corps and any arm of the US military) jeopardizes the safety of volunteers and makes them potential targets.

Fortunately, Ambassador Retzer is now Former Ambassador Retzer and an Africa hand, Mark Green, a former teacher in East Africa, is slated to take over the job. Perhaps he understands the unique place of Peace Corps in the US government structure. Perhaps he can rebuild the trust that formerly existed between volunteers and the larger State Department. But Peace Corps Tanzania has still lost a competent and well-loved country director in this fiasco. And that's a shame.

By Tanzania RPCV (pool-71-112-82-104.sttlwa.dsl-w.verizon.net - on Wednesday, June 20, 2007 - 7:43 pm: Edit Post

Honorable Senator Cantwell,

As a young Washington state resident I have voted for you since turning 18. I have recently returned from the United States Peace
Corps after serving two years teaching math in a rural village of Tanzania. Unfortunately a great disservice to the Peace Corps Tanzania program has occured within the last few months.

Ambassador Michael Retzer, a political appointee, revoked the country clearance of a highly skilled and qualified Peace Corps Tanzania Country Director to further his political agenda. This was in contempt of the Peace Corps Act (Section 2509A) and highly innaproriate. The Peace Corps is operated separately from the US Embassy- this distances the volunteers from US policy (something very important for volunteer safety as the US isn't the most popular country in the world right now). More information on this issue is available at peacecorpsonline.com

Fortunately after this incident the State Department was wise enough to replace Mr. Retzer with Mark Green from Wisconsin. On paper Mr.
Green seems well qualified and I am optimistic.

Honorable Senator Cantwell, while you are not on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I do ask you to communicate to your Senate peers who are on the committee (Russ Feingold, etc.) the damage that has been done to the Peace Corps Tanzania program by a rogue US Ambassador. During his Senate confirmation hearing Mr. Green should be made fully aware the autonomy of the US Peace Corps and discuss how he plans to mend the broken relationship between the US State Department's Tanzanian Embassy and the US Peace Corps Tanzania program.

The United States Peace Corps is a rare government program beloved by populations around the world; US citizens assist some of the most
disenfranchised people on the planet through sustainable capacity-building activities. The Peace Corps also builds character, cross-cultural understanding, and leadership abilities in a diverse array of Americans from all backgrounds. It would be a shame if the sanctity of the Peace Corps image were contaminated by US politics and Mr. Green must be made fully aware of this during his Senate confirmation hearing.

I would appreciate and expect being informed of actions you have taken to address this issue.

Your Washington State Constituent,

Tanzania 2004-2006

By Wisconsin citizen (adsl-75-8-55-17.dsl.applwi.sbcglobal.net - on Friday, June 29, 2007 - 10:59 am: Edit Post

Last year Mark Green ran for Governor of the state of Wisconsin and the voters soundly rejected him. He was known as a Bush and Republican rubber-stamp because he has followed conservative and Republican ideology so blindly instead of looking at reality and basing his actions on it. He actually visited Iraq, then reported to his constituents that it was going very well and that we should "stay the course". He hasn't worked to make anything better but he has attempted to lower taxes and limit spending without regard to actual need. He fails to see reality. However I don't think that he will be in a position to hurt the peace corps at this time because the previous ambassador's actions were so so disliked by the Democrats who now hold a majority of US Congress. I truly hope that he works WITH the people in Tanzania and doesn't use the Republicans usual tools of threats of force or sanctions to get some sort of ideological or political gain.

By Anonymous (c-71-227-229-21.hsd1.or.comcast.net - on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 4:55 pm: Edit Post

No one, to my knowledge, has posted anything describing WHY the ambassador acted to revoke the country clearance of the Peace Corps Country Director in Tanzania.

All I have seen so far are generalizations and cries of "foul". These comments may have merit, and they may not.

Without further information about motivation for the ambassador's action, I cannot tell whether these allegations should be given any weight at all.

From a 1964-1966 Peace Corps Volunteer.

By Brent Hepburn (adsl-153-35-26.chs.bellsouth.net - on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - 10:03 pm: Edit Post

Right on, brothers and sisters!

Brent Hepburn, RPCV Mauritania 90-91

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