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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

USA: Africa UN Funding

USA: Africa UN Funding
Date distributed (ymd): 000926
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains an action alert from the Washington Office of Africa, calling for immediate action to urge Congress to restore funds for UN peacekeeping in Africa. Congress is currently on the verge of cutting funds for Africa peacekeeping to zero, despite previous U.S. commitments and the $1.4 billion debt the U.S. owes the UN for past peacekeeping obligations. The posting also contains an eloquent tribute from Jeff Drumtra of the U.S. Committee for Refugees, for Mensah Kpognon, a UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) worker who was killed a week ago in Guinea, and a call for full funding of the UNHCR budget for this year, which has a 36% shortfall on its modest target of $976 million worldwide.

While the obligation for providing more adequate funding for these UN efforts is worldwide, the most glaring failure to fulfill the obligations is in Washington. [Since this posting contains action requests primarily relevant to U.S. citizens and residents, it is going only to U.S.-domain (three-letter suffix) e-mail addresses on the Africa Policy list.]

APIC/Africa Fund director Salih Booker, commenting on the proposed Congressional action, said: "Proposals for cuts like these specifically targeting Africa reflect the unashamed racism that still permeates U.S. foreign policy. The same mentality is at work in the failure to fund even modest cancellation of illegitimate debts of African countries or to address the global health emergency which is devastating Africa."

Additional background on UN Peacekeeping can be found in a posting earlier this month (>) and in a recent background briefing by Foreign Policy in Focus ( For more information on UN financing see:

APIC's most recent postings on Africa's debt are at:> and>

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Washington Office on Africa

September 25, 2000

Dear friends on the Washington Office on Africa's Rapid Response Network,

Urgent Action on US Support for Peacekeeping in Africa

We urge that you contact key Senate and House members asking that they restore funds for UN peacekeeping in Africa. Please contact the members listed below immediately and urge them to restore critical funds already promised and legally owed to the UN.

The situation

Congress is set to cut US funding for peacekeeping missions, particularly in Africa. Appropriations decisions are being made in these final days before Congress adjourns. Recent Congressional actions are jeopardizing the ability of the United Nations to be an effective vehicle for peace in some of Africa's most troubled nations. Not only is Congress trying to cut by one-third our overall legal obligation to the UN for peacekeeping operations, the House version of the Commerce, State, Justice and Judiciary Appropriations bill zeros out funding for each and every African mission, while fully funding missions in other parts of the world. The US has played an active role in the Security Council supporting missions in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Western Sahara, and Angola, and we have provided training and supplies. But with financial cuts like these, we will send a clear message that peace and security in Africa is not a priority to the US. This is unacceptable.

WOA recognizes, of course, that there have recently been serious problems in the Sierra Leone peacekeeping forces, and the viability of peacekeeping arrangements in the Congo remain up for question. Nevertheless, the presence of international peacekeeping forces can be a critical element in peace and reconciliation initiatives, and it is both right and pragmatic that the US meet its obligations.


While it is always valuable to let your own members of Congress know of your concerns, we recommend that you contact the following members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and their Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary, where this matter is being considered.

In the Senate:

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH)
393 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/224-3324
(Senator Gregg chairs the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations)

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK)
522 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/224-3004
(Senator Stevens chairs the Committee on Appropriations)

Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC)
125 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/224-6121
(Senator Hollings is the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee)

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV)
311 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/224-3954
(Senator Byrd is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations)

In the House:

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-5th KY)
2470 Rayburn House Office Building
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/225-4601
(Rep. Rogers chairs the Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Subcommittee)

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-16th NY)
2342 Rayburn House Office Building
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/225-2461
(Rep. Serrano is the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee)

Rep. C.W. Young (R-10th FL)
2407 Rayburn House Office Building
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/225-5961
(Rep. Young chairs the House Committee on Appropriations)

Rep. David Obey (D-7th WI)
2314 Rayburn House Office Building
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510
tel: 202/225-3365
(Rep. Obey is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Appropriations)

If these are not your members of Congress, you may also contact your own members by writing to Senators at the U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510 or calling 202/224-3121; or by writing to Members of Congress at the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515, or calling 202/225-3121.

If you have questions, call us at 202/547-7503; or write to us by e-mail at, or at 212 East Capitol St., Washington, DC 20003; or consult our website,

Thank you for considering these actions.

Presentation at Commemoration Vigil for Four Slain UNHCR Staff

by Jeff Drumtra, U.S. Committee for Refugees

September 25, 2000

Following is full text of comments prepared for the Commemoration Vigil conducted today in front of the White House at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. in honor of four UN aid workers slain this month:

My name is Jeff Drumtra, with the U.S. Committee for Refugees.

I did not have the privilege of knowing the three UNHCR aid workers who were killed in West Timor earlier this month. But I did have an opportunity to meet Mensah Kpognon, a UNHCR worker who was killed a week ago in Guinea. I would like to tell you about Mensah and the work he was trying to do.

Almost exactly one year ago this week, I met Mensah Kpognon. Mr. Kpognon was working in the West African country of Guinea. Guinea is not a well-known country, but in fact Guinea is hosting more refugees than any other nation in Africa. Mr. Kpognon was in a town called Macenta because about 30,000 refugees from Liberia had fled to that town. The refugees needed assistance and protection, and Mensah was working there on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

You have to understand this is a very remote place. It is surrounded by one of the world's last great tropical rainforests. The nearest airport with a dirt runway was almost a 3-hour drive away.

I had a chance to talk with Mensah over several days. He discussed with me the challenges he was facing.

+ New refugees were still arriving from Liberia. + The government in Guinea was closing the border and was harassing new refugees. + A town just a few miles away from where Mensah was working had just been attacked and many people had been killed. + Refugees needed protection, and yet Mensah and UNHCR did not have a single protection officer on location because donor governments refused to give UNHCR enough funding. + Mensah was trying to move the refugees to a safer location, but he needed funds from the international community to build a new refugee camp a safe distance from the border.

Those were the daily problems that Mensah Kpognon was facing at this time last year, as he entered what was to be the last year of his life. When I learned last week that Mensah had been killed in the line of duty, I remembered immediately what he told me exactly a year ago. It is written in my notebook:

"The situation here in Macenta is that we are only 15 km from the Liberia border," he told me. "We have tensions at this border between the two governments of Liberia and Guinea. We don't have any funds for Liberian refugees now. We are using other parts of our budget to feed them. We have real financial constraints."

And to make matters worse, Mensah was concerned that he and his UN colleagues were losing the confidence of the Liberian refugees. "They don't trust us anymore," Mensah told me.

The slogan on these T-shirts today is "Enough." Enough violence. Enough killing of innocent aid workers and the people they are trying to help. But the slogan could just as appropriately be, "Not enough."

Not enough support from major governments for the good work that Mensah Kpognon and other relief workers are trying to do. Not enough funding to give aid workers the resources they need to accomplish the job they went out there to do. Not enough attention to the world's humanitarian needs. Not enough people who care about the risks that relief workers are asked to take on behalf of the international community.

When humanitarian workers like Mensah Kpognon are asked to work in dangerous conditions to help refugees, the international community should be willing to give them the resources they need to do the job they have been asked to do. There is something fundamentally immoral about a world community that asks talented, committed men and women to put their lives on the line for a higher humanitarian cause, and then betrays them by all but abandoning that cause.

If you go back to Guinea today, back to the same town where Mensah Kpognon was killed last week by a cross-border attack, what would you find? You would find refugees facing harassment. You would find cutbacks in refugees' food rations. You would find frightened refugees.

Mensah Kpognon was not killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was exactly where he should have been. He and UNHCR were exactly where they were supposed to be -- here refugees are in distress.

But the world's full support was not there with them. The UNHCR program in Guinea -- the same humanitarian program for which Mensah Kpognon worked and died -- has received less than half the financial support it needs from donor governments. Less than half the money it has requested to address the refugees' humanitarian needs.

And if you walk down the street to the U.S. Capitol, you will find a Congress that at this moment is ready to pass a foreign aid bill that would cut U.S. funding for refugee assistance in Africa to its lowest level in 10 years. And you would find a House of Representatives that recently passed a bill to cut American funding for all UN peacekeeping in Africa to zero dollars. Zero dollars.

Pay nothing to end violence. Pay the smallest possible price to aid the victims of violence. And then expect relief workers like Mensah Kpognon and his colleagues to pay the highest price of all -- with their lives.

My condolences go to the family and colleagues of Mensah Kpognon who was killed last week in Guinea. And his UNHCR colleague Sapeu Djeya, who was kidnapped and has disappeared. And his three UNHCR colleagues who were brutally murdered in West Timor earlier this month. It is all very sad.

In my travels to refugee sites, I have seen that many people who work in the field for UNHCR and for other aid organizations are willing to take extraordinary risks to do outstanding humanitarian work. What they need from the rest of us is a whole-hearted commitment to their effort. The risks these people take are risks worth taking - but only if we give them the support they need to do the humanitarian work they are sent out there to do.

Thank you.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC provides accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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