by Linn Washington Jr.
The outrage internationally that erupted after the terse termination of an outspoken, popular ambassador by the chairman of the African Union Commission will accelerate following issuance of the first written statement from that ex-ambassador.
Details contained in that now ex-ambassador’s statement raise disturbing questions about the veracity and very integrity of AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.
That five-page statement from now former AU Ambassador to the United States Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao is captioned “Rebuttal of the Malicious and False Allegations” made by Mahamat. The Quao statement declares Mahamat “embarked on a smear campaign” against her that includes charges of various improprieties.
Those charges against Quao – not cited in the early October 2019 termination letter Mahamat sent Quao – appeared after the launch of an online petition seeking Quao’s reinstatement that’s garnered over 100,000 signatures, the launch of a separate petition seeking removal of Mahamat and criticism of Quao’s termination inside and outside the African continent.
The African Union is the organization that represents 55 countries on the African continent. The African Union Commission is the AU’s operational arm. The commission’s chair is CEO of the African Union and serves a four-year term.
Dr. Quao, a physician, wrote in her rebuttal: “I took a virtually unknown Mission and turned it into a vibrant well-respected Mission in Washington DC. I accomplished all this with limited staff and resources.” (Spokespersons for Mahamat did credit Quao for fulfillment of a mandate of her ambassadorship: to increase support for the African Union among the African diaspora in the Americas.)
Prior to issuance of Mahamat’s charges in a Nov. 15 communique, he proclaimed that Quao’s removal was not a reaction to her public critiques of ravages across Africa from European neo-colonialism. Quao particularly pinpoints policies and practices by France that siphon billions annually from the African continent. France’s former African colonial empire included Chad, the country where Mahamat once served as prime minister.
Curiously, Mahamat did not claim Quao had engaged in numerous instances of misconduct until nearly 40 days after he terminated Quao in a letter issued on Oct. 7.
Mahamat’s belated charges against Quao conflict with the praise and “deep appreciation” for her tenure as AU’s American representative contained in his Oct. 7 letter.
Curiously, that letter contained no explanation for the termination. That reinstatement petition initiated by the U.S.-based African Diaspora Congress bashed Mahamat’s unilateral “unjust” dismissal conducted without “any hearing or explanation.”
And, curiously, Mahamat’s charges against Quao were not mentioned upon completion of a 10-day audit review of Quao’s office in Washington, D.C., conducted in mid-October by a six-member transition team Mahamat sent.
That team issued a clearance form, signed by team members and Quao, that listed no problems.
“The Clearance Form specifically indicated there were NO pending issues,” Quao stated in her rebuttal. “If the Team thought they had found anything credible, why was it not indicated on the Clearance Form?”
Quao’s rebuttal stated that in “hindsight” the Nov. 15 communique “now gives the impression that the Transition Team actually came to find a reason retrospectively as to why my contract was terminated.”
A representative at the AU’s Mission in D.C. stated she was “not in a position to answer any question” about the clearance form. When questioned further about specifics of Quao’s termination, that person did not reply.
Mahamat’s Nov. 15 communique criticized Quao for launching initiatives and programs without his awareness and approval. Those activities, the communique stated, were “conducted … without prior knowledge or consent of the African Union.”
However, Quao’s rebuttal stated she informed Mahamat’s office of all her activities in quarterly reports. “I fail to understand why the Chairperson was not aware of the activities taking place at the Mission as I reported them to him quarterly as required.”
The many items listed in that communique included a charge that Quao collected donations and funds “in the name of the African Union Mission with no evidence that any amount collected was deposited in AU accounts.”
Quao’s rebuttal stated she “never” received any donations for the AU during her tenure. “The Mission could not accept any funds.”
That communique, before delineation of Quao’s alleged misconduct, stated her termination resulted simply from expiration of her three-year ambassadorship appointment.
Dr. Quao, born in Zimbabwe, earned two science degrees from Fisk University before her medical degree from Meharry Medical College. She practiced medicine in Tennessee for decades.
Quao held a few AU posts before the ambassadorship. In 2009, for example, the AU’s then ambassador in America appointed her to chair the African Diaspora Health Initiative (ADHI).
Ironically the ADHI is one of 12 entities Mahamat’s communique claimed Quao initiated without the required “formal approval.”
Quao’s rebuttal noted, “If [the ADHI] was not an AU approved program, why was this not raised during my predecessor’s tenure? I did ask the Transition Team this question, but they did not give me an answer.”
Dr. Quao, unlike many high-ranking Blacks, opted to initially release her rebuttal to the Black Press instead of the white corporate media. She released that rebuttal during a meeting in Philadelphia with a few Black Media journalists organized by local representatives of the Final Call newspaper.
Quao said the Black Press in America has a vital role to play in providing accurate coverage of events in Africa.
“There is a need to highlight information on Africa,” Quao said. “Too often what we hear is not what is going on.”
Among examples Quao provided are constant reports of Africans killing Africans with no reportage of the facts that multi-national corporations often fund such carnage to facilitate easier extraction of valuable resources.
“We hear about genocide in the Congo. What we don’t hear about is multi-nationals paying Africans to kill other Africans to get access to minerals by clearing the mining areas of people,” Quao said.
“Stories about killings without the context of the involvement of corporations makes it appear that governments are ineffective. It’s easier to blame governments than to dig deeper to find the real story.”
Linn Washington, a professor of journalism at Temple University and award-winning columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, can be reached at email@example.com.