U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan: Who Is Molly Phee?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On September 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Mary Catherine “Molly” Phee to be the next U.S. ambassador to South Sudan. If she’s confirmed, it will be the first ambassadorial post for the career Foreign Service officer.


Phee is from Chicago and went to Indiana University, where she earned a B.A.


Before coming to the State Department, Phee worked for Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-New York) as his assistant press secretary. She played a role in a 1987 incident in which a Buffalo News reporter was barred from a Moynihan press conference because the reporter had written about the senator’s lecture fees and article payments. Phee told an Associated Press reporter about the incident, for which Moynihan later apologized.


Phee attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, earning an M.A. in law and diplomacy in 1989. While at Tufts, she went to Kenya on an internship with the United Nations Environment Program there.


Phee joined the Foreign Service in 1991. Some of her early posts were in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Amman, Jordan, and as a desk officer for Iran affairs at the State Department. She served in Cairo from 1996 to 2000, studying Arabic the first year and working as a political officer in the U.S. Embassy for the next three years.


Phee served as a desk officer for United Nations (UN) political affairs in the International Organizations Bureau but took a break to do a tour in al-Amarah, Iraq, as “governate coordinator” (a.k.a. senior civilian representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority) of Maysan Province for several months beginning in November 2003. This position was considered so dangerous that she was supplied with twenty bodyguards.


Phee moved to New York in 2005 as counselor for political affairs at the U.S. mission to the UN, where she sat in for Ambassador John Bolton on occasion.


In 2008, Phee went overseas again, this time to Italy as the regional affairs coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. She returned to the United States the following year to serve as director for Iraq at the National Security Council.


Phee was back in Africa in 2011 as deputy chief of mission and chargé d' affaires at the embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2014, she was named chief of staff in the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.


Phee speaks fluent Arabic.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Announcement

Live and Work in Africa? Why on Earth? 3 Women Explain Their Passion for the Dark Continent (by Ron Reason)

State Department Cables 2004-2009 (WikiLeaks)



Clement Maroor 9 years ago
God save here to bring peace to South Sudan and achieve here job among people in Africa. God bless you Molly and God bless America
aziz sarhan 9 years ago
my best regards and congratulation Senior Molly for best choice to this new post ,we never forget your kindness, shining smile and fluent Arabic language when you were tasked to my country in that dangerous time to help sincerely you had reworded by great respect and love of my people wishing you progress and success in you work -- yours Aziz Sarhan (interpreter )

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