By KEVIN J. KELLEY*
President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the State Department’s Africa Bureau told US senators on Thursday that leaders who extend their terms in office should be viewed as “corrupt dinosaurs.”
But the former US envoy to Ethiopia and Guinea did declare that US interests in Africa are best served by helping develop opportunities for young Africans, not by abetting aging autocratic rulers.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination, Ambassador Nagy specifically condemned misrule in South Sudan.
If confirmed as the top US diplomat for Africa, Ambassador Nagy pledged to “look for every pressure point possible, including ones not yet pushed, to make sure that those who are complicit in these tragedies have to pay.”
He promised to ensure that culpable South Sudanese “don’t have places to park their money, don’t have places where they can go and enjoy their vacations and go shopping while their people are dying, women are being raped, people are going hungry and chased from their homes.”
In general, however, Ambassador Nagy was upbeat in his assessment of Africa’s present and future.
He said conditions on the continent “have changed dramatically, mostly for the better,” since he last appeared before the Senate panel 20 years ago.
Responding to one senator’s request for an assessment of recent developments in Ethiopia, Ambassador Nagy said he is “extremely optimistic” about the country’s political direction.
Recently installed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed may prove to be the first Ethiopian leader to “actually allow himself to be voted out of office,” the long-tenured diplomat added.
Education in many African countries has become more accessible, especially for girls, while HIV infection rates have been reduced, along with corruption and instability, Ambassador Nagy said.
At the same time, “terrorism and violent extremism have increased in scope and intensity,” Ambassador Nagy added.
Senators taking part in Thursday’s hearing welcomed Mr Trump’s choice of an experienced Africa specialist to direct relations with a continent that has received scant positive attention from the White House.
Ambassador Nagy appears certain to win confirmation in the coming weeks as assistant secretary of state for Africa.