Africa in the news: US Ambassador to South Africa nominated, human rights in Tanzania, and American security presence

A U.S. special forces soldier trains Nigerian soldiers during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Sylvain Cherkaoui - GF10000305098

Trump nominates US ambassador to South Africa

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that Lana Marks, a luxury fashion and handbag designer, is nominated as the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Marks must now go before the Senate to be confirmed to the post. The South Africa ambassador position is one of dozens of diplomatic posts that have gone unfilled since the beginning of the Trump administration, something Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pledged to address since assuming the position in April 2018.

Marks currently resides in Florida and has no prior diplomatic experience. She was born and raised in South Africa and speaks Xhosa and Afrikaans, two of the eleven officially spoken languages of the country. CNN reports that Marks is a member of President Donald Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Global reaction to human rights abuses in Tanzania

Last week, a senior government official in Tanzania incited homophobic rhetoric and persecution, causing widespread panic among the country’s LGBT community. While the government has said the remarks do not represent the government’s official position, Tanzanian President John Magufuli has been criticized over his tenure for authoritarianism and intolerance.

In response, the global community has begun to take action, with Denmark—the country’s second-largest donor—announcing it would withhold $10 million in aid. Danish Development Minister Ulla Tørnæs in a tweet said, “I am very concerned about the negative development in Tanzania. Most recently the totally unacceptable homophobic statements from a commissioner.”

The Danish government’s announcement came the same day that the World Bank terminated plans to provide the country $300 million loan because of the country’s policy of banning pregnant girls from going to school. The BBC reports that the European Council will “conduct a comprehensive review of its policies” towards the country.

US to reduce size of security force in Africa

The U.S. Department of Defense has approved a reduction of the number of counterterrorism troops in Africa, a plan that has been in works for some time, CNN reports. U.S. defense officials says that the number of counterterrorism troops will be reduced over the next three years by 25 percent, bringing the total number of U.S. troops in Africa down by 10 percent.

The Pentagon has said that troop reduction in Africa is part of a larger realignment strategy that will focus on countering threats from China and Russia. While U.S. officials have not said what countries will have troop reductions, the Pentagon it made clear that the military operations in Libya, Somalia, and Djibouti would not be affected.