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On eve of Obama summit, 20% of U.S. Embassies in Africa lack ambassador

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Barack Obama,State Department,Africa,Ambassadors,Sierra Leone,Ebola

When President Obama opens his three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on Monday, there will be a section of empty chairs reserved for U.S. ambassadors. That’s because the Senate left town for five weeks without approving nine of Obama’s picks, leaving one in five embassies in Africa without a top American diplomat.

According to the American Foreign Service Association, some of those without a U.S. ambassador include key nations in the middle of the war on Ebola, the fast-moving killer virus, which is expected to dominate the U.S.-Africa summit.

The nine career diplomats awaiting confirmation are:

• Thomas Daughton, Namibia.

• Matthew Harrington, Lesotho.

• John Hoover, Sierra Leone.

• Virginia E. Palmer, Malawi.

• Jim Zumwalt, Senegal/Guinea-Bissau.

• Eric Schultz, Zambia.

• Earl Miller, Botswana.

• Donald Heflin, Cape Verde.

• Erica Barks-Ruggles, Rwanda.

They are among the 59 ambassadors not confirmed by the Senate. Of those 34 are career diplomats, the others being supporters or contributors to Obama.

The association expressed concern that without the full battalion of American ambassadors deployed worldwide, Washington’s voice is absent in diplomatic affairs.

“The absence of a United States Ambassador in over 59 countries around the world will only damage America’s reputation and weaken our country’s national security interests,” said the group.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved many but the full Senate took no action before adjourning for recess. A Senate Republican booked action in retaliation for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid effort to limit the minority's filibuster strategy.

“Many of these individuals have been waiting for over one year. It is in the country’s best interest to have them at post, doing the job they have been asked to carry out,” said AFSA President Bob Silverman. “We also call on the Senate to confirm future nominees in a more expeditious manner, and to afford career Foreign Service nominees the courtesy of en bloc confirmations much as their career colleagues in the military are afforded. Our dedicated members of the Foreign Service deserve no less.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.