W. Stuart Symington

Photo of W. Stuart Symington
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Africa and African Security Affairs
Term of Appointment: 07/2015 to present

In July 2015, Ambassador W. Stuart Symington was named Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and African Security Affairs. Ambassador Symington and his colleagues in the Africa Bureau work with our missions and partners throughout the continent to support the people of Africa in their efforts to achieve broad-based prosperity and lasting security by ensuring inclusive democratic governance and justice. He served as U.S. Special Representative for the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2015. From 2011-2014, Symington was the Foreign Policy Advisor to the Commander, North American Aerospace Command and U.S. Northern Command, working with foreign partners and with other U.S. government departments and agencies against threats to our national and regional security. From 2008-2011 he was U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda. His Mission team there helped to increase regional security cooperation and economic integration, strengthen democratic institutions, and accelerate improvements in health care and agricultural production. From 2006-2008, Symington served as Ambassador to Djibouti, leading Embassy efforts to advance regional economic integration, defuse humanitarian crises, and promote democratic development and regional security.

He was raised in Missouri, earned a bachelor's degree from Brown University, and a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University. He clerked for the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Missouri, then litigated and practiced corporate law in New York, London, Paris, and St. Joseph, Missouri, before becoming a Foreign Service Officer in 1986. After beginning his diplomatic career tracking protests and politics in Honduras, he moved to Spain and worked on economic issues before serving as the Ambassador's aide during Desert Shield and Storm.

In Mexico, Symington cultivated the political opposition, worked anti-drug issues, helped congressional visitors looking at NAFTA, and reported from Chiapas during the Zapatista revolt. At the State Department, he worked for the Under Secretary for Political Affairs on Latin American and African issues, backing up as his aide for Bosnia. During a year-long Pearson Fellowship, he served on the staff of Congressman Ike Skelton studying U.S. military joint operations and education. He later traveled to Sudan and North Korea on teams negotiating to free American captives before finishing the year as an aide to the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. As a political officer in Ecuador, Symington forged ties to the political opposition, indigenous leaders, military commanders, and other government and private sector leaders. He joined efforts to end the century-old Peru/Ecuador border conflict, helped negotiate the agreement establishing an anti-drug Forward Operating Location, and, after protests toppled Ecuador's president, pressed for a return to civilian rule.

From 2001-2003, Symington served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Niger, West Africa, and as Chargé d’affaires, a.i., dealing with military mutinies, terrorist threats, and civil unrest. He mounted an outreach effort to Muslim leaders, fostered anti-terrorism cooperation, and buttressed Niger's democracy with a key food security program. He then returned to the State Department as the Deputy Director of West African Affairs in the Africa Bureau, working on the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, humanitarian and development issues, and challenges to security and democratic stability.

From October 2004 to February 2005, Symington worked for Ambassador Negroponte in Iraq on the election process and political issues, managing pre-election political reporting from around the country and visiting reporting officers in six of our ten regional offices during the run-up to the election. On Election Day, January 30, 2005, Symington was based in Baqubah and observed voting there and in other cities of Diyala province in the Sunni Triangle. Symington also worked at the National Defense University's Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, studying and teaching how America's diplomats and warriors can cooperate best to advance U.S. interests abroad.