Linda Thomas- Greenfield was sent to Rwanda on an official visit to assess refugee conditions, but two days after she arrived, the plane of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down, and the Rwandan genocide broke out.
Six-feet tall and Black, Thomas- Greenfield was mistaken for a Tutsi. Hutu soldiers held a machine gun to her head, while she begged for her life, emphasizing her Loisiana accent: " I don't have anything to do with this. I'm not a Rwandan. I'm an American." She then watched as soldiers killed a Tutsi gardener. A few days later, she was allowed to leave Rwanda. The genocide claimed a million lives.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield's last day in office is today, after four years as assistant secretary of state. She was appointed by former president Obama in 2013. She is leaving behind a legacy of hope in role at the State Department.
At dinner in her honour last night in Washington, she revealed "Tomorrow will be my final day as Asst Sec for the Bureau of African Affairs."
"I leave with tremendous pride in what we have accomplished and humbled by the challenges I leave behind for my successor."
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s 38-year Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-20120), and foreign postings in Switzerland (at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In addition to the Bureau of Human Resources, her Washington postings include the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008) where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (2004-2006) where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary.
(Thomas-Greenfield with President Buhari)
Thomas-Greenfield, a friend of Nigeria worked alongside, late Prof Adebowale Adefuye, and former Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, in ensuring that Nigeria was removed from the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Nigerians will also not forget her role in pressing for gay rights in the country, according to her in 2014, “As a policy, we will continue to press the government of Nigeria as well as other governments who have provided legislation that discriminate against the gay/lesbian community.” She further stated that “So we will continue to press the government, to press the legislature to change these laws and provide human rights for all Nigerian people regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Thomas-Greenfield also ensured that the 2015 elections in Nigeria was free and fair by leading the U.S monitoring team to the country.
(Thomas-Greenfield as an observer during the 2015 elections)
Her sojourn in Kenya was not without incident. After just nine months there, in 1995 she revealed, that her home in Nairobi had been burglarized five times. An electric fence failed to stop intruders so the local police agreed to station two officers on her grounds. But then the officers began demanding side money for their services. “I've gotten to the point where I'm more afraid not to give them money,” she said. “They're sitting outside with automatic weapons.”
Meanwhile, a number of career Foreign Service officers in the State Department have been informed that they will not be asked to stay on in senior or sensitive posts that are under direct White House control, Per Second News gathered.
Although the diplomats were not technically fired, the Trump administration opted to remove a number of top officials in charge of the State Department's 13 divisions responsible for policy and other matters. Officials at the level of assistant secretary and above were affected.
At the State Department, all career diplomats running those offices, called bureaus, had submitted pro forma resignations that were effective upon the end of the Obama administration, former spokesman Mark Toner said.
"These positions are political appointments, and require the president to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments, but of limited term," Toner said.
"No (Foreign Service) officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the president may choose to replace them at any time.