Frazer, Jendayi

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Jendayi Frazer



Jendayi Frazer, a senior U.S. diplomatic official, became assistant secretary for African affairs with the U.S. State Department in 2005. Frazer was appointed to the post by her mentor, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was her professor at Stanford University. Frazer's main role was to help formulate U.S. policy in Africa while working to resolve crises that threaten the growth of democracy on the continent. Following disputed 2007 elections in Kenya, Frazer worked to quell the troubles that arose, and she was also involved in monitoring the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. In early 2008 she appeared on the PBS program The Tavis Smiley Show and explained why Kenya's troubles have a global impact. The fighting among Kenyan ethnic groups allied along political lines, she said, "puts the United States' interests in harm's way because Kenya has been a country of stability for us and frankly a peace-keeping country, a peace-making county in Sudan and Somalia and other places. So our interests are directly affected by this election violence and the charges of rigging."

Frazer earned a total of four degrees from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Her undergraduate degree was in political science and African and African-American studies, and she earned a pair of master's degrees in international policy studies and international development education. She completed her doctorate in political science with her 1994 dissertation "Sustaining Civilian Control: Armed Counterweights in Regime Stability in Africa." One of her professors was future Secretary of State Rice, who taught political science at Stanford from 1981 to 1993 and then served as the university's first African-American provost.

Frazer held academic posts before entering government service. She taught at Rice's alma mater, the University of Denver, and was also a research associate at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. A visiting fellowship at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control provided the experience for her appointment as an international affairs fellow and director for African affairs with the Council on Foreign Relations in 1998. This independent think tank, based in New York City, helps set U.S. foreign policy and publishes the journal Foreign Affairs.

In 1995 Frazer had become an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. When President George W. Bush came to office in 2001, he appointed Rice his national security adviser, and Rice offered Frazer a job as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs with the National Security Council, the executive branch office involved with determining national security needs and setting foreign policy. Frazer held that job for three years, until Bush appointed her the U.S. ambassador to South Africa in 2004. Sworn in on June 17, 2004, after a Senate confirmation vote, Frazer held the job for the next fourteen months.

Returning to Washington in August of 2005, Frazer was named assistant secretary for African affairs with the U.S. State Department, now headed by Rice, who had become the U.S. secretary of state. Frazer's role was to help shape White House policy toward Africa, and when she took the job she described that policy as one of continuation of the previous four years. "Under President Bush's leadership, the U.S. has developed serious partnerships with African countries, more than doubled our development assistance and expanded our trade relationships," she said, according to a report by Tamela Hultman that appeared on the Web site "This deep engagement reflects the President's personal commitment to Africa, and his understanding that what happens in Africa matters to the U.S. It is key to our own pursuit of our global strategy."

Frazer's first year on the job was dominated by the crisis in Darfur, the region of Sudan where rebel forces were waging a war against the Sudanese government, which was resulting in a humanitarian crisis for thousands of civilians. She made several trips to the region for meetings with leaders in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, and with representatives of various factions and adjacent nations.

In 2007 one of the African continent's most stable countries, Kenya, erupted in violence over presidential election results that December. When Kenya's electoral commission declared incumbent Mwai Kibaki the winner in the contest that was perceived to have been deeply flawed, supporters of Kibaki's main challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga, began torching homes in Kenya's fabled Rift Valley. The area had long been the site of disputes between competing ethnic groups, among them the Luo, Kalenjin, and Kikuyu. The violence mainly affected the Kikuyu, who were forced out of their homes and in some cases slaughtered by Kalenjin. Elsewhere in the country, Kikuyus retaliated by forcing non-Kikuyus out of areas they controlled. In the space of just one month, the carnage had resulted in eight hundred deaths and an estimated three hundred thousand Kenyans displaced. Frazer used the term ethnic cleansing to describe the crisis. In January of 2008 she traveled to Kenya and met with many of those who had been displaced. "If they left, they were not attacked; if they stayed beyond the deadline, they were attacked," New York Times writer Jeffrey Gettleman quoted her as saying. "It is a plan to push people out of the area in the Rift Valley."

Frazer's voicing of the term ethnic cleansing was significant in itself, for it made her the first high-ranking diplomat from a Western power to use it when discussing the crisis in Kenya. Describing such acts as motivated by ethnic hatred is fraught with difficulty, as Gettleman explained in the New York Times. "Many diplomats have shied away from it, saying its use could increase tensions and give the impression that the diplomats were taking sides. The government accuses opposition leaders of orchestrating mayhem and engineering ethnic cleansing of groups that back the president; the opposition counters that the violence was spontaneous outrage over a rigged election."

At a Glance …

Born in 196(?); daughter of Ida Frazer. Education: Stanford University, BA, political science and African and African-American studies, 1985, MA, international policy studies, 1989, MA, international development education, 1991, PhD, political science, 1994.

Career: Affiliated with the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies; University of Nairobi, Institute for Development Studies, research associate; Stanford University, Center for International Security and Arms Control, visiting fellow; Africa Today, editor, 1991-94; Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, assistant professor of public policy, 1995-2001; Council on Foreign Relations, international affairs fellow, 1998-99; National Security Council, special assistant to the president and senior director for African Affairs, 2001-04; U.S. ambassador to South Africa, 2004-05; U.S. State Department, assistant secretary for African affairs, 2005—.

Memberships: Women in International Society, executive board.

Addresses: Office—U.S. Department of State, 2201 C St. NW, Rm. 6234A, Washington, DC 20522-0002.

Frazer appeared on The Tavis Smiley Show in early 2008 to discuss the looming crisis in Kenya. With a new parliament about to be seated, she told Smiley that "the worst that could happen … in parliament is they actually start fighting. I've seen that. I was in Kenya in 1982 when members of parliament were throwing chairs at each other because passions were so high."



New York Times, November 13, 2005; January 31, 2008.


"Former Ambassador to South Africa Jendayi Frazer," August 1, 2006, (accessed March 20, 2008).

Hultman, Tamela, Charles Cobb Jr., and Reed Kramer, "Africa: Jendayi Frazer Tapped for State Department Africa Post," April 21, 2005, (accessed March 20, 2008).


"Jendayi Frazer," The Tavis Smiley Show, PBS, January 14, 2008, (accessed March 20, 2008).

—Carol Brennan