US Envoy to Rwanda Kneedler set to begin duties almost a year after nomination

Tuesday August 22 2023

US Ambassador to Rwanda Eric Kneedler. PHOTO | NMG


Eric Kneedler, President Joe Biden’s nominee for US Ambassador to Rwanda who was recently confirmed, is expected to arrive in the country soon to commence his duties almost a year after his nomination.

The EastAfrican has learnt that following his confirmation by the US Senate on July 28, 2023, Ambassador Kneedler will soon report to work.

“The US process is complete; the nomination process is complex and doesn’t have set timing.  We’re thrilled that Ambassador Kneedler is fully confirmed and look forward to his arrival.” a US Embassy official confirmed to The EastAfrican

While the US Embassy in Kigali didn’t give details as to why the confirmation hearing was delayed, CNN had earlier reported that some of the members of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee had been reluctant to confirm several ambassadors including Italy, Jordan, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Niger, Rwanda and Ethiopia due to an impasse between the State Department and Senate linked to releasing information on the origins of Covid-19.

Read: US gets Kigali to toe the line again

The confirmations came after Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told CNN earlier in the evening that he was close to a deal with the State Department to release holds on nominees in exchange for records on the origins of Covid.


The impasse was a challenge for the State Department which indicated that the delays in confirmation had created a leadership vacuum occupied.

“As we’ve long said, when we don’t have an ambassador in place, our adversaries fill the void, making the confirmation of these individuals for posts in Africa, the Middle East, and the Pacific a victory for US leadership and democracy,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said in a statement to CNN.

“We are thankful to the Senators who worked in good faith to confirm these qualified nominees, including the leadership of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Menendez,” Miller said.

Kneedler, a career diplomat, who served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Nairobi has his work cut out.

His immediate task is to navigate relations between the US, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) amid repeated counteraccusations of supporting rebels accused of causing instability in both countries.

Read: KNEEDLER: Biden-Harris govt committed to stronger Kenya ties

M23 rebels in Eastern DRC and the presence of remnants of the 1994 genocidaire army, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), responsible for the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Congo.

On Tuesday, this week, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said top diplomat Antony Blinken had a "productive" call with Rwandan President Paul Kagame about the "volatile situation", along the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“Secretary Blinken updated President Kagame on the recent visit of Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland to Kinshasa to meet with President Felix Tshisekedi. The Secretary relayed US advocacy for a diplomatic solution to the tensions between the two countries and request that each side take measures to de-escalate the situation.” according to the press statement released by the US Department.

During his confirmation hearing on March 1st 2023 before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kneedler pledged to “ work tirelessly” to promote freedom of expression, democratic governance, and access to justice if confirmed, he reiterated the need for Rwanda’s support to M23 to end.

“If confirmed, I will use every tool at my disposal to help de-escalate tensions, promote respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and assist ongoing Africa-led mediation efforts…” Kneedler said.

Kneedler replaces Peter Vrooman, who served as America’s ambassador to Rwanda from 2018 to July 2021, when he was deployed to Mozambique.