US Ambassador to Angola, Tulinabo S. Mushingi comes to campus, gives address

Photo of audience asking Mushingi questions
Leo Bernstein Newman / The Mossy Log

On Monday, March 13 U.S. Ambassador to Angola and Sao Tome y Principe, Tulinabo S. Mushingi, Ph.D., arrived on campus as the third annual Ambassador Edward J. Perkins Distinguished Speaker. Mushingi is the first guest in the series to visit while in active service as a foreign diplomat.

The official address was Wednesday, March 15 at 5 p.m., but Mushingi spent four days on campus beginning on Tuesday. In addition to his speech, he lectured two International Affairs classes — International Political Economy and Global South — attended a meeting for the French Club and the inaugural meeting for the new Afrikan Diaspora Club, had an open lunch with the law school students, ran a panel for the Middle East and North African Studies Symposium and more.

Having come from Angola, Mushingi decided to make the most of his trip. In order to leave his country of service he needed to request permission from his superiors in Washington D.C.

Despite the packed schedule in which he taught the LC community about his field, Mushingi enjoyed learning from the student body.

“The group I’ve seen on campus, just to observe them and to talk to some of you individually, I’m hoping to get a sense of what the college students, at least for this college, what they are talking about what they are interested in,” Mushingi said. 

The Ambassador’s visit was largely thanks to an old friendship, dating back nearly five decades: Mushingi and Former U.S. Ambassador and LC’s Diplomat in Residence Niels Marquardt ’75 are old friends. In 1977, Mushingi was Marquardt’s French teacher for  a class Marquardt was taking to train for service with the Peace Corps while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, Mushingi married Rebecca Marshbanks, a classmate of Marquardts’, and so the now-retired Ambassador attended his teachers wedding in D.C. in 1981.

They lost touch for eighteen years, until in 1999 — nine years after Mushingi joined the foreign service — when he emailed Marquardt.

“Mr. Marquardt, I am a… foreign service officer due to transfer in 1999, I wanted to express my interest in the CDA (Career Development and Assignments) entry level position,” Mushingi said to his former student via email.

In response, Marquardt asked whether or not they knew each other.

“Tuli, are you the same person who taught me French in Bukavu in 1977 and then married my Peace Corps comrade?” Marquardt said via email. “I recall attending your wedding.”

They went on to work together at the State Department for a year before parting ways, but managed to keep in touch after that meeting. Thus, when Marquardt was placed on the selection committee for the Perkins Speaker, Mushingi came to mind.

Mushingi was thrilled to speak as a guest lecturer in a series honoring the late U.S. Ambassador and LC alumnus Edward Perkins, who was a rolemodel for him.

“Ambassador Edward Perkins, who is an African ambassador — one of the most distinguished ambassadors in our business — who came here a long time ago, when it wasn’t that acceptable for people who looked like him,” Mushingi said. “But he was able to study here and live here and go out of here, join the military, come back and get this very successful career that we all aspire to have in the diplomatic corps of the United States of America.”

That legacy is not an easy thing to live up to. Ambassadors are busy with complicated jobs, as they must represent the interests of divided countries. However, this task can become simpler in more constrained contexts.

“When we are in the country, I am there as the United States. . . my Russian counterpart is there for the same thing for his country,” Mushingi said. “. . .the way we reconcile that is each one of us make our case to the Angolan. . . ‘you are better off siding with me sometimes’”

Allies tend to fall on similar sides of issues, and therefore Mushingi’s work day resembles a sample of global politics permformed on the Angolan stage.

“For us, for example, we have our allies: the United Kingdom, France,” Mushingi said. “. USA, The UK, France, each group want Angola to be on their side, then the other friends North Korea, Russia, China also want Angola to be their friend.”

Despite the complexity of his task and the predictable disagreements between alliances, Mushingi has defined objectives in Angola that help him ground his work in doing good for Americans and Angolans. As based on President Jospeh R. Biden’s foreign policy, Mushingi’s three objectives are: prosperity, security and good governance. 

Prosperity is important as the world is still reeling from the pandemic’s effect on the global supply chain. Mushingi is working to get U.S. companies contracts to outsource manufacturing to Angola, which creates jobs for Angolans, spreads technology and builds the US economy through reciprocity. 

In terms of security, Mushingi aims to contribute to the effort of dismantling the terrorist network.

“It’s clear to us that it takes a network to defeat a network,” Mushingi said. “And nowadays, we are Americans, from here we cannot fight all those terrorists, because you don’t know where they are. So, you need these other countries, including Angola, to bond with you and address that issue that affects the whole world.”

The last pillar is good governance, which is the spread of democratic ideals. 

“When you look at the US, we change president — we’ve been doing that for 246 years — but some other countries, they don’t have that luxury,” Mushingi said. “. . . the idea of elections, the idea of empowering the citizens to be able to elect and choose their leaders and after a few years, be able to choose again another leader and peacefully without killing each other. So to get that idea across is another satisfying area.”

Through his various diplomatic positions, Mushingi has gotten to a point where he can see the commonalities in humanity and human struggles.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, we are looking for the same thing so we might as well work together,” Mushingi said. 

To hear an extended interview with Ambassador Mushingi listen to The Mossy Pod on Spotify, Apple Music or other places podcasts are found.

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