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Posted at 12:33 PM ET, 06/21/2010

In Ethiopia, U.S. Embassy's revolving door

By Jeff Stein

More than a dozen top American diplomats have come and gone at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia, a front-line nation in the battle against Islamic extremism, in less than a year, the State Department’s inspector general reported Monday.

The problem starts at the top, the auditors said.

“This situation reflects, in part, questionable personnel decisions by the previous leadership in the Bureau of African Affairs (AF) that also have impacted negatively on the political/economic section,” their report said.

With the added burden of an impending move to a new embassy and a sharp growth in personnel, the auditors said, the embassy operates “too often in crisis mode.”

The report was signed by Harold W. Geisel, the State Department’s deputy inspector general.

Blame for the spinning door in Addis Ababa seemed to be levied at Jendayi E. Frazer, a former assistant secretary of state who headed the Bureau of African Affairs under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, although she was not mentioned by name.

Now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, Fraser could not be reached for comment.

The latest American ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald E. Booth, a career foreign service officer and longtime Africa hand, arrived in Addis Ababa in April.

Despite the leadership turmoil, the senior embassy staff is doing a pretty good job, the auditors found.

“Executive direction at Embassy Addis Ababa is good for a front office in prolonged transition," they said, "with seven chiefs or acting chiefs of mission, five deputy chiefs of mission (DCM), and several office management specialists since July 2009.”

Morale has been helped by love bombs from the home office in Foggy Bottom, the report suggested, citing “evident Washington interest and a strong sense of task.”

Morale “has remained good, surprisingly so, given local conditions,” the auditors found during their inspection trip in February

“Employees work out of a dilapidated embassy in a construction zone, commute in chaotic traffic, fight a fusty bureaucracy to get cars, household effects, and consumables shipments delivered, and go without reliable Internet service at home,” the report said.

But help is on the way.

“A stellar project director overseeing the construction of a new embassy building has achieved exemplary coordination with Embassy [personnel],” the auditors said.

“This will facilitate the moving-in process scheduled for September 2010."

By Jeff Stein  | June 21, 2010; 12:33 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy  
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