Ambassador Johnnie Carson was sworn in as assistant secretary of state for the bureau of African affairs, on May 7, 2009. Prior to this he was the national intelligence officer for Africa at the National Intelligence Council, after serving as the senior vice president of the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. (2003-2006).

Ambassador Carson's 37-year foreign service career includes ambassadorships to Kenya (1999-2003), Zimbabwe (1995-1997), and Uganda (1991-1994); and principal deputy assistant secretary for the bureau of African Affairs (1997-1999). Earlier in his career he had assignments in Portugal (1982-1986), Botswana (1986-1990), Mozambique (1975-1978), and Nigeria (1969-1971). He has also served as desk officer in the Africa section at State's bureau of intelligence and research (1971-1974); staff officer for the secretary of state (1978-1979), and staff director for the Africa Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives (1979-1982).

Before joining the Foreign Service, Ambassador Carson was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania from 1965-1968. He has a bachelor's in history and political science from Drake University and a master's in international relations from the School of Oriental and Africa Studies at the University of London.

Ambassador Carson is the recipient of several Superior Honor Awards from the Department of State and a Meritorious Service Award from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The Centers for Disease Control presented him with its highest award, "Champion of Prevention Award," for his leadership in directing the U.S. Government's HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in Kenya.

Publications By Johnnie

Ask the Experts: What’s Next for U.S. Policy in Africa

Ask the Experts: What’s Next for U.S. Policy in Africa

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

By: Ambassador Johnnie Carson;  Andrew Cheatham

USIP’s Andrew Cheatham spoke with Ambassador Johnnie Carson — the newly named special presidential representative for U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit implementation — to discuss the Biden administration’s post-summit goals, what African leaders hope to take away from the talks, and why this moment offers a unique chance to reframe the U.S. approach toward Africa.

Type: Blog

Global Policy

Ethiopia’s civil war is raging. How can it get on track toward peace?

Ethiopia’s civil war is raging. How can it get on track toward peace?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

By: Ambassador Johnnie Carson;  Ambassador Alex Rondos

In August, the devastating conflict in northern Ethiopia resumed, effectively ending the March 2022 humanitarian truce between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan forces, which many hoped would pave the way for a negotiated cease-fire and peace talks. This week, the African Union’s chairperson called for an immediate cease-fire and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called on the parties to cease hostilities and participate in talks organized by the African Union. What comes next in Ethiopia will have major implications for its people, the strategically vital Red Sea arena and for U.S. interests in the region. Stepped up, senior-level U.S. engagement is direly needed to get Ethiopia on a path toward peace.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Surprise Election Ruling Raises Tension Over Kenya Vote

Surprise Election Ruling Raises Tension Over Kenya Vote

Friday, September 1, 2017

By: USIP Staff;  Ambassador Johnnie Carson;  Susan Stigant;  Aly Verjee

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for calm after the country’s Supreme Court annulled his re-election, citing “irregularities.” He said he would accept the court’s order for a new election, similarly to the decision last month by his opponent, Raila Odinga, to challenge the election results in court...

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceElectoral ViolenceJustice, Security & Rule of Law

Nigeria Attacks Flare, Highlighting Fragility Before Elections

Nigeria Attacks Flare, Highlighting Fragility Before Elections

Friday, January 9, 2015

By: Ambassador Johnnie Carson;  Susan Stigant

A recent flare of attacks in northern Nigeria by the militant group Boko Haram illustrates the potential for more widespread unrest, especially as the country nears elections next month, and the trend highlights the need for political leaders to take action to prevent further violence, USIP experts say.

Type: Blog

Violent ExtremismJustice, Security & Rule of LawElectoral ViolenceFragility & Resilience

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