On Friday, Johnnie Carson became Obama’s official nominee for US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the State Department (via allAfrica.com). A number of observers have worried about how long it took him to name someone to this post, that it is an indication of Africa’s low priority in the Obama administration. But the choice itself demonstrates that Obama has decided to select someone with a long diplomatic history with the the continent (beginning as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and including ambassadorships to Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda).
What, exactly, does Carson’s nomination signal? At least one blogger has mused that Carson could be tough on Museveni in Uganda, perhaps promoting a pro-democracy agenda there. Yet another observer seems concerned that the choice signals a lack of intention on the part of the Obama administration to effectively deal with the crisis in the DRC.
Carson seems to me to be a strong choice. He has great experience with the continent and will likely be respected by most African leaders. But he is also a safe choice. It is unclear that the Obama administration is making any significant move to change US policy in the region. It would be nice, for instance, if we saw (as one of the observers mentioned above has opined) a special envoy for the crisis in the DRC.