The United States foreign relations committee last week held confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Rwanda and Niger ambassadorship nominees.
The four countries are on the radar of the new US Africa strategy.
Zimbabwe is expected to hold general elections later this year and Nigeria has just conducted elections of its own.
Meanwhile, relations between the US and Rwanda have been bumpy over human rights and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) rebel menace.
Biden’s nominee for Zimbabwe is Pamela Tremont from Virginia, who has 30 years of experience in foreign services. 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-realised commitment to hold a peaceful and democratic electoral process.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs, Robert Scott, ended his visit to Zimbabwe on Friday.
During his stay, he engaged with the Zimbabwean government about the upcoming general elections. In an address to journalists, Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs minister, Frederick Shava, confirmed this.
“We spoke about upcoming elections, and we all agreed on the need for non-violence, for leaders to continue to call for clear, transparent elections,” Shava said.
The US is one of the leading voices in condemning alleged Rwandan support of M23 rebels operating in the eastern DRC, a claim that Rwandan President Paul Kagame has openly denied.
The US is also at loggerheads with Kagame over the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina, the human rights activist who worked as the manager of the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali during the Rwandan genocide.
The US argued that Rwanda unlawfully jailed its citizen, but the latter has maintained that Rusesabagina will serve his 25-year sentence in Rwanda.
To deal with these fragile relations between the US and Kigali, Biden nominated Eric Kneedler of Pennsylvania.
Kneedler will press ahead with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomacy from his visit to Rwanda last year, when human rights were a major talking point.
Kneedler will also be expected to deal with the DRC question because instability in the east of the DRC will hurt elections on 20 December.
“If confirmed, I will use every tool at my disposal to help de-escalate tensions, promote respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and assist ongoing African-led mediation efforts,” he said.