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Yesterday, my State Department daily digest included the transcript of a Facebook chat on April 25th with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto.

While this sounds like an interesting idea, the grammatically error riddled electronic  conversation did not serve to avoid any of the vague diplomatic speak that permeates Washington DC.  I highly doubt that any of the questioners felt satisfied with the answers.  The most interesting nugget came from a question as to what the US was doing to help Nigeria address security challenges.  Yamamoto mentioned that Obama had failed to honor a pledge to visit Nigeria (presumably a large secret service detail would have lasting positive security implications?) and said that the US needed to do “something fast” to maintain the Nigeria – US partnership.

A few of my favorite non-answers:

  • In response to a question on conflict prevention/resolution in the DRC, Yamomoto mentioned the importance of “bringing all parties together”
  • In response to a question about general strategies to tackle corruption, Yamamoto said that the US “work(s) closely with local communities and government institutions”.  This followed an extremely similar question about corruption in Uganda.
  • In response to a question about sustainable peace in the Ivory Coast, Yamamoto stated that he would like to see reconciliation.

While Yamamoto’s predecessor, Johnnie Carson, made some silly comments, particularly on the Kenyan elections, his forthright nature was admirable.  Hopefully his permanent replacement will not be prone to these types of vague platitudes.