W. Stuart Symington has served as Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria since November 2016. At the time of his appointment, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and African Security Affairs. Previously, Ambassador Symington was United States Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Ambassador to Rwanda, Ambassador to Djibouti, and Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge’ d’affaires ad interim in Niger. In Nigeria, he leads the outstanding staff of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and Consulate General in Lagos. Together they support the people of Nigeria and the region in their efforts to achieve broad-based prosperity and lasting security by defeating terrorist and criminal threats and ensuring inclusive democratic governance and justice. In addition to his posts in Africa, Symington served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to the Commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command. There he worked with regional partners and other U.S. government departments and agencies to stop threats to our national and regional security. During his time in Rwanda, Symington’s Mission team increased regional security cooperation and economic integration, strengthened democratic institutions, and accelerated improvements in health care and agricultural production. In Djibouti, Symington focused his Embassy’s efforts on advancing regional economic integration, defusing humanitarian crises, and promoting democratic development and regional security.
Symington began his diplomatic career in Honduras, tracking protests and domestic politics. He then moved to Spain and worked on economic issues before serving as the Ambassador’s aide during Desert Shield and Storm. In Mexico, he cultivated the political opposition, worked anti-drug issues, helped congressional visitors looking at NAFTA, and reported from Chiapas during the Zapatista revolt. At the State Department, he worked for the Under Secretary for Political Affairs on Latin American and African issues, and also backed up his aide for Bosnia during the Dayton peace process. During a year-long Pearson Fellowship, he served on the staff of Congressman Ike Skelton studying U.S. military joint operations and education. He later traveled to Sudan and North Korea on teams negotiating to free American captives before finishing the year as an aide to the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. As a political officer in Ecuador, Symington forged ties to the political opposition, indigenous leaders, military commanders, and other government and private sector leaders. He joined efforts to end the century-old Peru/Ecuador border conflict, helped negotiate the agreement establishing an anti-drug Forward Operating Location, and, after protests toppled Ecuador’s president, pressed for a return to civilian rule.
As Deputy Chief of Mission in Niger, Symington dealt with military mutinies, terrorist threats, and civil unrest. He mounted an outreach effort to Muslim leaders, fostered anti-terrorism cooperation, and buttressed Niger’s democracy with a key food security program. He then returned to the State Department as the Deputy Director of West African Affairs in the Africa Bureau, working on the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative, humanitarian and development issues, and challenges to security and democratic stability.
From October 2004 to February 2005, Symington worked with Ambassador Negroponte in Iraq on the election process and political issues, managing pre-election political reporting from around the country and visiting reporting officers in six of our ten regional offices during the run-up to the election. On Election Day, January 30, 2005, Symington was based in Baqubah and observed voting there and in other cities of Diyala province in the Sunni Triangle. Before becoming Ambassador to Djibouti in 2006, Symington worked at the National Defense University’s Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, studying and teaching how America’s diplomats and warriors can cooperate best to advance U.S. interests abroad.
Ambassador Symington was raised in Missouri, earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, and a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University. He clerked for the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Missouri, then litigated and practiced corporate law in New York, London, Paris, and St. Joseph, Missouri, before becoming a Foreign Service Officer in 1986.