Image: Ms Pamela M. Tremont was nominated as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Zimbabwe | Department of State - Photo: 2023

Shakeup of US Ambassadors Headed for Africa

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK, 13 March 2023 (IDN) — Following the contentious election exercise in Nigeria, now facing court challenges by at least two of the parties unsuccessful at the polls, President Joe Biden has named new US ambassadors to four African nations where troubles also abound.

The four countries are on the radar of the new US Africa strategy.

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch introduced the new appointees, one of the US senators whose office was heavily damaged by rioters in the 6 January invasion of the US capitol on 6 January 2021.

To the nomination of Pamela M. Tremont as US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Risch added he was “appalled by the continued abuses of power, excessive corruption, and horrific human rights record under Zimbabwe’s leadership. These not only inhibit the US-Zimbabwe relationship but also deprive the region of benefitting from a prosperous Zimbabwe”.

“With elections expected this summer, we already see the Zimbabwean regime taking the country down a dark and familiar path of electoral violence, repression, and impunity.”

Tremont, from Virginia, has 30 years of experience in foreign service. She will arrive in Zimbabwe ahead of the general elections, which she said was an opportunity to “deliver on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s yet-to-be-realized commitment to hold a peaceful and democratic electoral process.”

On the nomination of Eric W. Kneedler as ambassador to Rwanda, Risch called it an important job where the US has critical priorities—where Rwanda can either be a constructive partner or an unhelpful constraint. 

He cited the regional conflict in Eastern Congo and the re-engagement of M23 and other rebel groups; the Rwandan government’s detention of US permanent resident and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Paul Rusesabagina; and Rwanda’s role in helping to stabilize northern Mozambique and the Central African Republic.

“I am keen to hear how Mr. Kneedler will confront these challenges while shaping a U.S. policy in Rwanda that requires greater clarity and direction.”

On the nomination of Kathleen A. FitzGibbon as ambassador to Niger, it was noted that Niger is central in the US fight against terrorism. Having worked in Nigeria, Chad, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Gabon, FitzGibbon has a wealth of experience in counterterrorism.

“I look forward to hearing how Ms Fitzgibbon will support the US-Niger security relationship while being a visible proponent for developing resilient, democratic institutions in Niger,” Risch said.

Finally, on the nomination of Richard Mills of Georgia as ambassador to Nigeria, Risch observed that recent elections in Nigeria still showed many of the technical and institutional challenges that plagued previous polls.

“The new government will be faced with many challenges,” Risch said, “such as how to beat back the threat from ISIS, Boko Haram, and other criminal elements in Nigeria; how to reduce intra-communal strife in the country that has claimed the lives of far too many Nigerian Muslims and Christians, and how to harness Nigeria’s vast oil wealth to improve the lives of its citizens.”

“It is critical that Nigeria find a path forward that serves the will of the Nigerian people,” he said.

While Risch called the elections “deeply flawed,” the US was the first to congratulate President-elect Bola Tinubu on 1 March.

“Lastly, the human rights record of Nigeria’s military gives us pause about how we provide the country with much-needed security assistance. Nigeria’s partnership with the U.S. must include lasting solutions to seemingly unending human rights abuses. I look forward to hearing how Mr Mills plans to approach these issues.” [InDepthNews]

Image: Ms Pamela M. Tremont was nominated as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Zimbabwe | Department of State

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