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Ambassador says adieu to East Africa

By Cpl. Matthew J. Apprendi | | June 13, 2003

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Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's key person to relations here said his farewells to ambassadorship to the Republic of Djibouti during a ceremony held here June 12.

U.S. Ambassador Donald Y. Yamamoto, along with his family, is heading to Washington, D.C where he will hold the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa.

Approximately 100 guests attended the evening gathering to include Brig. Gen. Mastin M. Robeson, commanding general, CJTF-HOA.

During his tour, Yamamoto played a critical role in addressing Djibouti's developmental needs in education, health, energy and security. He noted that Djibouti's stability is important to the region's security and ability to defeat terrorism.

His diplomatic efforts, foresight and active leadership were key components in the development of the U.S. military presence here, CJTF-HOA's base of counter-terrorism operations in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and coastal waters of the Indian Ocean.

To this end the Ambassador conducted negotiations for base access, lease, facility usage and diplomatic status of military personnel during the build up of the U.S. presence.

"Instability serves as a platform for terrorist activities. The U.S. presence has helped to promote regional stability -- key to fighting terrorism," he said.      

Yamamoto explained CJTF is the "glue" that binds the region together.  The region faces difficulties from internal conflict in Sudan and Yemen, collapse of order in Somalia, tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia and terrorism throughout the region.  CJTF promotes regional integration, coordination and cooperation to alleviate and strengthen the countries as one to defeat terrorism.

"The U.S. military has succeeded in detaining suspects, disrupting operations, and, most importantly, getting the regional states to focus on counter-terrorism and to cooperate with the U.S," he said.

This working relationship between the embassy and the task force continued to flourish through combined efforts resulting in numerous medical team visits to local communities and distribution of much-needed supplies to outlying villages.

From the beginning, the embassy opened its doors to service members. It served as the troops center for recreational activity until the camp completed facilities. Additionally, the Ambassador and his family opened their doors to approximately 30 service members for dinner on a weekly basis.

"My wife and I cherish our relations with the military men and women who pass through our home on their way to other destinations," Yamamoto said. 

They have spent approximately seven years in the region working for the State Department.  Prior to his appointment to Ambassador on Oct. 6. 2000, he was the Deputy Director for East African Affairs from 1998 to 2000.

He has also served at the U.S. Embassy Beijing as the Ambassador's staff aide and Human Rights officer during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. Later, he attended the National War College in 1996 for senior training and received a congressional Fellowship in 1991.

During his Foreign Service career, he has received three individual Superior Honor awards and two group awards.

"After seven years living and dealing with East Africa, it will be difficult to leave Djibouti," he said. "We pray for the safety of the Embassy and U.S. military personnel in Djibouti, as well as success in the war on terrorism and enhancing regional stability."

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