Ambassador to Lesotho: Who Is Matthew Harrington?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The tiny Southern African nation of Lesotho—poor and struggling with one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection—is getting a new ambassador from Washington. Nominated August 1, Matthew T. Harrington has been the director of the Office of Analysis for Africa in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department since 2012. If confirmed as expected, Harrington would succeed Michele Bond, who has served in Maseru since September 2010.


Born circa 1966, Matt T. Harrington earned a B.A. in History at Washington and Lee University in 1988. Harrington recently credited his parents, who “took [him] to Tanzania at the age of one and later to Zambia when [he] was eleven,” because the travel “instilled in me a respect for other cultures and drew me to a career in the Foreign Service.”


After graduating Washington and Lee, Harrington served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zouerate, Mauritania, from 1988 to 1989, and worked as a program associate with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities from 1990 to 1991.


After joining the Foreign Service in 1991, Harrington served as a consular officer at the embassy in Accra, Ghana, from 1992 to 1994, and as a political officer at the embassy in Brasilia, Brazil, from 1995 to 1997.


In Washington Harrington served as a watch officer in the Operations Center from 1997 to 1998, and as the Sudan desk officer in the Bureau of African Affairs from 1998 to 2000. 


Returning to Africa, Harrington served as a political officer at the embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 2000 to 2003, and as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Lomé, Togo, from 2003 to 2005. While serving at Harare, Harrington wrote a diplomatic cable dated February 27, 2003 (released by Wikileaks in March 2012) in which he characterized a letter sent by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to Australian Prime Minister John Howard recommending the lifting of Commonwealth sanctions on Zimbabwe as reading like “a press release from [Zimbabwean] propaganda chief Jonathan Moyo whose reputation for intellectual dishonesty and vitriolic diatribes against all those who do not share his views is firmly established.” Harrington went on to claim that “conversations with Nigerian diplomats based in Harare… show that they do not believe the GOZ [government of Zimbabwe] line reflected in the Obasanjo letter.”


Harrington then served his only European posting, as counselor for political and economic affairs at the embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, from 2005 to 2008, returning to Africa as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Windhoek, Namibia, from 2008 to 2010. 


From 2010 to 2012, Harrington served as a foreign policy advisor to the Commander of United States Army South, the army component of U.S. Southern Command. 

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

W&L Alumnus Nominated as Ambassador to Lesotho (by Jeff Hanna, Washington & Lee)

Obasanjo hoodwinked by Mugabe: US Embassy (by Kingstone Ndabatei, The Zimbabwean)


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