@StateDept Announces the Passing of U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Matthew J. Matthews

On May 20, 2020, the State Department announced the passing of  the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew J. Matthews.

Via US Embassy BSB:

Matthew J. Matthews was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam on March 29, 2019. Matt was most recently U.S. Ambassador for APEC and concurrently the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands from June 2015 to March 2019. From 2013 to 2015, he served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to Admiral Locklear, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and as the Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2013. Matt focused on multilateral trade agreements as the Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2007-10), and at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia (2004-07). His earlier postings include two tours in Beijing, two tours in Taipei, Islamabad, Hong Kong, and Washington, DC. He speaks fluent Mandarin.

Matt grew up in Portland, Oregon. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, attended the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Taipei, and earned a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is married to Rachel Lin Matthews and has two adult children who reside in the United States.

Ambassador Matthews is a career diplomat and a member of the Senior Foreign Service.  His deputy at the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam is Scott E. Woodard who arrived in Brunei in August 2017 to take up his current position as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan.

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Career Diplomat Jonathan Pratt to be U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti

Via WH:

Jonathan Pratt, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Djibouti.

Mr. Pratt, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs for the State Department.  Mr. Pratt has also held assignments as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Office Director for Pakistan Affairs in the State Department.  He served earlier as the Political Counselor at the United States Embassy in Islamabad, as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, and as the Political and Economic Section Chief at the United States Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.

Mr. Pratt’s other assignments include service at the United States Embassies in Angola, Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Mr. Pratt earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and an M.A. from the University of California, San Diego.  He is the recipient of the State Department’s James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence and the Director General’s Award for Reporting.  He speaks Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

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Career Diplomat Melanie Harris Higgins to be U.S. Ambassador to Burundi

 

Via WH:

Melanie Harris Higgins, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.

Ms. Higgins, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as Director of the Office of Central African Affairs at the State Department.  Previously, she was the Principal Officer of the United States Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand and was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Throughout her two decades of service, Ms. Higgins served as the Acting Director and Acting Public Affairs Advisor for the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  She also held a number of other positions at the State Department in Washington, D.C., Jakarta, Indonesia, Canberra, Australia, and Yaounde, Cameroon.

Ms. Higgins earned a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. from the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.  She is the recipient of the Sinclaire Language Award from the American Foreign Service Association.  She speaks French, Indonesian, and some Bosnian.

 

Career Diplomat Jeanne Marie Maloney to be U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Eswatini (Formerly Swaziland)

Via WH:

Jeanne Marie Maloney, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Eswatini.

Ms. Maloney, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Foreign Policy Advisor to United States Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy.  Previously, she was the Director of the Office of Security Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs.

Ms. Maloney has served in various leadership positions at the State Department over the course of her career, including as Career Development Officer in the Bureau of Human Resources, Director of the Office of Terrorist Screening and Interdiction in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, and Deputy Political-Military Counselor at the United States Embassy Baghdad in Iraq.  Ms. Maloney was also the Director of the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Ms. Maloney earned a B.A. from the College of William and Mary and an M.B.A. from the University of Tulsa.  She speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and basic Arabic.

On Eswatini, via state.gov:

The official name of the Kingdom of Swaziland was changed to the Kingdom of Eswatini, or Eswatini, in April 2018. The U.S. and Eswatini have had good bilateral relations since Eswatini’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1968 and establishment as a constitutional monarchy. Five years after independence, the country’s ruler, King Sobhuza II, repealed the constitution and began to rule by decree. In 2006, under Sobhuza’s son King Mswati III, the country implemented a new constitution that enshrined broader political freedoms, expanded the roles of the legislative and judicial branches, and established Eswatini as an executive monarchy ruled by Mswati alongside traditional parliamentary and bureaucratic structures. U.S. policy seeks to maintain and strengthen bilateral relations, and stresses Eswatini’s continued political and economic reform.

 

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Executive Secretary Lisa S. Kenna to be U.S. Ambassador to Peru

 

Via WH:

Lisa S. Kenna, of Vermont, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Peru.

Ms. Kenna, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, is the Executive Secretary of the Department of State and a Senior Advisor.  She previously served as a Political Advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and before that she was chief of the political section of the United States Embassy in Amman, Jordan.

Ms. Kenna was previously Director of the Iraq office in the National Security Council at the White House following a tour as Deputy Director of the Iraq Political Office in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.  She served as a political/military officer at the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.  Other assignments overseas included the United States Embassy in Mbabane, Swaziland, and the United StatesConsulate General in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Before joining the State Department, Ms. Kenna was an attorney in private practice.  A graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Connecticut School of Law, she speaks Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

 

 

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SCA Acting Asst Secretary Alice Wells to Retire After 31 Years of Service

 

Around the World in April: U.S. Ambassadors in the Time of Coronavirus

 

Trump to Nominate Career Diplomat Julie D. Fisher to be U.S. Ambassador to Belarus

On April 20, 2020, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat Julie D. Fisher, of Tennessee, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Belarus. The WH released the following brief bio:

Julie Fisher, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Europe and the European Union in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  She also served on special assignment as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

Previously, Ms. Fisher was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Mission to NATO; the Chief of Staff to the State Department’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources; and the Director of the State Department Operations Center.

Earlier assignments include service as Deputy Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General of NATO and, before that, as Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Ms. Fisher earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.P.P. from Princeton University.  She speaks Russian, French, and Georgian.

According to history.state.gov, the last Senate confirmed ambassador to Belarus was Karen Brevard Stewart (1952–)  who served from October 24, 2006–March 12, 2008.  Between then and now, we had six chargé d’affaires who served in Belarus, with CDA Michael Scanlan who served  almost four years from 2009-2013. If confirmed, DAS Fisher would be the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008.

 

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Just Security: Legacy of Late State Department Human Rights Champion Tex Harris Reverberates Today

 

Martin Edwin Andersen, a former professional staff member on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is the author of Dossier Secreto: Argentina’s Desaparecidos and the Myth of the Dirty “War.” Below is an excerpt from his piece, Legacy of Late State Department Human Rights Champion Tex Harris Reverberates Today via Just Security:

Harris began working in Buenos Aires in June 1977, 12 years after joining the Foreign Service and a year after then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made comments in a closed-door meeting that Robert C. Hill, a Nixon ambassadorial appointee, later revealed served as a “green light” to the Argentine junta for its campaign of disappearances, torture, and state terror.
[…]
Harris put himself at risk almost daily at his post with the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. He tried to help thousands of families seeking news about those kidnapped, tortured, and clandestinely executed as part of a delusional bloodfest by Argentina’s generals. Harris’ work demonstrated that the junta’s drive to eradicate the much-exaggerated, if vicious, leftist terrorist movement also killed or “disappeared” thousands of innocents, including children, pregnant women, senior citizens, and handicapped individuals. According to an Argentine Foreign Ministry statement last week, from 1977 to 1979, Harris filed some 13,500 official complaints on human rights violations.
[…]
The tensions became so acute that Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David D. Newsom, who sympathized with Harris’ plight, brokered a previously unheard of agreement between the embassy country team and the human rights officer. The pact was meant to ensure that critical information and analysis was included as “official-informal” letters sent to Washington, even if the country team disagreed. Harris was required to share a copy of his reporting with Castro, but in return he was able to get unfettered information and analysis into the right hands without fear of censorship from his Buenos Aires office mates.

The agreement was frequently broken by Harris’ embassy foes. In one instance, a misleading performance evaluation jeopardized his career advancement, as critics claimed that he was not producing enough human rights reports even as they prevented the many he produced from being sent to Washington. A now-forgotten political counselor lectured Harris on the importance of “working for those who had more experience and wisdom.”
[..]
An unforgettable mentor as well as role model for many of those who fought to make Carter’s human rights revolution a reality, Harris will be remembered as a real hero, especially at this particularly troubled time abroad for American democracy and leadership.

Read in full below:

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Rest In Peace, Tex

 

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of F. Allen “Tex” Harris last Monday, February 23, 2020.  He died at a hospital in Fairfax County, VA. He was 81 years old. We bear a  tremendous sense of emptiness in our hearts at his passing. Tex has been a friend and a tireless supporter of this blog. We are devastated by this sudden loss and extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
Godspeed, Tex.
Buenos Aires Times  cited Argentina’s Foreign Ministry in paying tribute to Tex:
“The Argentine Government and its people deeply regret the death of former US diplomatic official Allen ‘Tex’ Harris, who played an essential role in denouncing the disappearances and violations of human rights during the last civic-military dictatorship,” the Ministry, headed by Felipe Solá, said in a statement.
“Tex Harris was assigned to Argentina from 1977 to 1979, during which time he opened the doors of the United States Embassy to relatives of the disappeared and tried to help them find their loved ones. During this period, he filed 13,500 complaints about serious human rights violations,” it continued, noting that Harris had been decorated with the Orden del Libertador San Martín by late president Néstor Kirchner in 2004.
Graciela Palacio de Lois who joined the Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas (“Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons”) after the dictatorship’s death squads had kidnapped her husband, Ricardo Lois, told the Buenos Aires Times, “He prevented me from being kidnapped by the dictatorship.”
Robert Cox, the Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1968-1979) called Tex “the man who did the right thing.” In Buenos Aires Times, he writes, “We will never know how many lives ‘ Tex’ Harris saved by his decision to confront the radical evil of the 1976-1983 dictatorship. But I do know that Tex, then a newly arrived junior diplomat at the US Embassy, halted mass murder, simply by keeping a record of the people who were to be obliterated from existence under the military’s plan to wipe out subversion. It was an extraordinarily brave act of conscience and a supreme act of courage that almost cost Tex his career, while endangering his life and that of his wife Jeanie.”
In A Great American, Mario Del Carril writes “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear him reflect on his Argentine experience, saying he believed the human rights policy had not been effective. I believe he was wrong. True, it took four years to stop the killings, but this was in part due to vacillations and infighting. The policy had an impact in an area that is very important and often overlooked: it stopped the method of disappearances from becoming a new norm in the fight against terrorism. Some in the Argentine military government were proud of the methods they employed. It was considered a success, to be presented to the world as an achievement in warfare. A method that could be exported and taught. In the long run, this did not happen.”

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