Episode 134: Tom Periello

credit: Jamelle Bouie

Tom Periello is President Obama’s special envoy for the great Lakes Region of Africa. This includes the countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Now, this is usually the part of the intro in which I briefly tease my guests career. But in Tom’s case he’s had many different careers. He’s served in the United States Congress for one term representing Virginia, he was a human rights lawyer for the war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone and he was a co-founder of the global grassroots advocacy movement Avaaz among other things. And in this conversation Tom describes how and why he’s alternated between pursing positive social change at home and abroad.

We kick off with a very topical conversation about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And just to set the scene a bit: on December 19th, the second and constitutionally mandated final term of the president Joseph Kabila expired. He did not leave office. There have been subsequent protests on the streets of the capitol Kinshasa and elsewhere that left at least 20 people dead. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church, which is a societal pillar,has been trying to mediate a less violent resolution to this conflict. Tom discusses his role in this effort what the United States is doing to ensure the democratic transition of power in the DRC.

Image credit: Jamelle Bouie 

Episode 132: Cameron Munter

Cameron Munter was the US Ambassador to Pakistan when US Special forces conducted the midnight raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. He watched the raid live and hours later was dealing with the diplomatic fallout.

Munter had a career in both academia and the diplomatic corps, serving in a wide variety of posts. He’s now the president of the East West Institute. And this is arguably the first podcast ever in the history of the universe in which both Otto Von Bismark and Lou Reed are each discussed.

We kick off with a brief discussion of the ways that Chinese domestic politics influence its foreign policy and what the future holds for US-Chinese relationship in the Trump era. And then of course, as we always do, we pivot to a longer conversation about his life and career with some fun digressions along the way.

Episode 131: Mark Tokola

resized_5694_0Mark Tokola is the vice president of the Korea Economic Institute of America. He’s a long serving American diplomat with postings around the world and we discuss a few of them in this episode, including his first posting to Turkey where his main job was helping Americans sent to prison on drug trafficking charges. He also compares his work in the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq after the fall of Saddam and I think makes an important point about the value of multilateralism to American interests.

We spoke a day after the Security Council passed new a sanctions resolution on North Korea following a nuclear test in September and we kick off discussing the implications of those sanctions before pivoting to a longer conversation about his globe-spanning career. Mark’s last posting was to South Korea and we end with some discussion about the political upheaval underway there and whether or not my man Ban Ki Moon may run for president next year.

Mark is an alumnus of the Salzburg Global Seminar which is a podcast sponsor this month and at the top of the episode we also reference a seminar about North Korean human rights in which he participated

Episode 129: Maina Kiai

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Maina Kiai has some profound insights into how governments abrogate the rights of people to freely assemble. He is a Kenyan human rights lawyer and activist who currently serves as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

His career was born in opposition to an oppressive government in Kenya and in this episode he discusses the kinds of tactics and strategies he used to advance human rights under an authoritarian government. He also recounts his role in helping to mediate during the disputed 2007 Kenya elections, which turned very violent and resulted in his own life being in danger.

We kick off discussing the potential impact of a Trump presidency on human and civic rights around the world and, based on his experience, here in the United States.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn (and find inspiration) in how activists can promote human rights in the most difficult of situations, have a listen.

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Episode 128: Brian Katulis

katulisBrian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress where his work focuses on US National Security and Foreign Policy.

He’s had a long career working and living in several middle eastern countries at key junctures in their history, including Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Egypt and we discuss many of these experiences in this conversation.
We kick off discussing a new report he helped write about some of the key challenges facing the next administration as it navigates an ever evolving political and security landscape in the Middle East.  If you want a deeper understanding of some of the key challenges the next administration will face in the middle east, have a listen.
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