A career diplomat with ties to St. Joseph took the oath of office this week as the new American ambassador to Rwanda.

W. Stuart Symington has served as ambassador to another African nation, Djibouti, since August 2006.

The native Missourian is married to Susan Ide Symington, formerly of St. Joseph.

The State Department ceremony had John Negroponte, deputy secretary of state, administering the oath to Mr. Symington.

The ambassador's wife and children attended the event Monday afternoon. Among the 100 or so guests in the Benjamin Franklin Room were representatives from the Rwandan Embassy and other State Department officials, according to a department spokesman.

Mr. Negroponte and Mr. Symington made remarks during the half-hour ceremony. The two men had worked together when Mr. Negroponte served as ambassador to Iraq and Mr. Symington helped oversee that nation's election process in late 2004 and early 2005.

In Rwanda, Mr. Symington replaces Michael R. Airetti, who has been ambassador there since late 2005.

Mr. Symington takes more than 20 years of experience to his new posting. After practicing law in St. Joseph and other locales, he became a Foreign Service officer in 1986, says his State Department biography.

He served in various capacities in Honduras, Spain and Mexico. As he developed an expertise in Latin American and African issues, Mr. Symington also traveled to hotspots like Sudan and North Korea while serving on a team negotiating the release of American captives.

A week before terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, Mr. Symington became the deputy chief of mission in Niger. In the predominantly Muslim nation in West Africa, he worked to build anti-terrorism cooperation.

Rwanda, a landlocked Central African nation slightly smaller than Maryland, held the world's attention in 1994 when ethnic tensions resulted in a genocide than took about 800,000 lives, according the "CIA World Fact Book."

Ken Newton can be reached

at kenn@npgco.com.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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