Ambassador to Togo: Who Is Robert Whitehead?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

On October 17, 2011, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint as ambassador to the small West African nation of Togo a veteran diplomat who has spent years focusing on Africa–US relations.

Born circa 1954 in Indiana, Robert E. Whitehead earned his B.A. at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and his M.A. in English Literature and Linguistics from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. From 1976 to 1980, he was a volunteer and a Fulbright lecturer at the National University of Zaire (Congo) in English and American History.
He joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and has served at ten overseas posts, all but three in Africa, although his first posting was to Guyana, in South America. Other early assignments included as Political Officer at the embassy in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo); Political Officer at the embassy in Belmopan, Belize, in 1988 and 1989; Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy in Bangui, Central African Republic; and Chargé d’Affaires at the embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, in late 1994, shortly after the end of the genocide that killed approximately 500,000 people there.
Whitehead’s only European assignment came from 1995 to 1998, when he was posted to the embassy in Bucharest, Romania, to serve as Political Officer. He was then promoted to Deputy Chief of Mission at embassy in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1999, and then served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe. Returning stateside, Whitehead served as desk officer in the Office of West African Affairs, and as a Senior Inspector in the Office of the State Department Inspector General. He then went back to Africa, first as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires at the embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, from 2004 to 2005, and then as the first Consul General in Juba, South Sudan, in 2006 and 2007.
Back in Washington, Whitehead served as the Director of the Office of African Analysis in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 2007 to 2009, and then returned to Khartoum to serve again as Charge d’Affaires at the embassy from May 2009 to 2011, during the time that South Sudan formally seceded from Sudan.
Whitehead is fluent in French and Romanian, and also knows some Arabic. 


Philip Mutaka 3 years ago
Hello This is Philip Mutaka. I was your student at ISP-Bukavu. I wish you could google my name so that you know what I have become. You and Luc De Vos have been my best instructors when I was at ISP Bukavu. If you google my name (Ngessimo Mutaka, or Philip Mutaka), you will see some of the books that I have written. I graduated at USC-Los Angeles with a PhD in linguistics (Phonology) and have been living here in Cameroon since 1993. I wonder if your wife will remember me. You sometimes took me on your bike to go to your place in Bukavu. I was in Bukavu two years ago and was able to see Kambale Muhyana Baha. Best. Philip
Cynthia Westmark 6 years ago
Mr. Whitehead: The situation with Mr. and Mrs. Wani is of great and grave concern to me and my family. I understand that Mr. Wani hasn't received the level or degree of help that an American citizen should expect. Can you change that? Please, we entreat you, help the Wani family. Bring them all home. Thank you for your help.

Leave a comment