The White House sent several State Department and diplomatic nominations to the Senate on Thursday, including two prominent Africa positions that were sitting unfilled.
Tibor Nagy, recently a vice provost at Texas Tech University and former ambassador to Ethiopia and Guinea, was tapped to be assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Illinois state Sen. Kyle McCarter was picked as ambassador to Kenya.
The announcement came the same day that the Pentagon released a summary of its final U.S. Africa Command report on an October ambush attack in Niger that killed four U.S. troops and others.
The Trump administration has come under fire for what critics called a lack of diplomatic engagement with Africa. Major countries like South Africa and Tanzania remain without an American emissary. President Donald Trump provoked an uproar in January when he reportedly called African and other nations “shithole” places. And the rising threat of terror groups in West Africa, along with ongoing conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia, has sparked calls for the U.S. to do more.
The White House was reported to have selected J. Peter Pham for the assistant secretary post last year, but Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) reportedly threatened to scuttle that choice over a Western Sahara disagreement.
McCarter’s selection was first announced in March. He has long been involved with charitable causes in Kenya, lived there in the 1980s and speaks Swahili conversationally.
The White House also sent to the Senate the nominations of Gordon Sondland to be ambassador to the European Union and Randy Berry to be ambassador to Nepal.
Berry, an openly gay career officer, worked under the Obama administration as the State Department’s first special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons. He became a deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in January 2017.