Tom Sheehy is a distinguished fellow in USIP’s Africa Center. Sheehy examines the role of China in Africa and supports USIP’s work to strengthen the Sudd Institute, a research organization in South Sudan that promotes national reconciliation.

Previously, Sheehy served on the USIP senior study group that produced the report “China’s Impact on Conflict Dynamics in the Red Sea Arena.” He is a member of the International Advisory Council of Afrobarometer, the leading survey organization focused on gauging African attitudes toward democracy, governance, and society.

Prior to joining USIP, Sheehy held several positions on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including most recently as staff director, responsible for its overall operations, and as staff director of its Africa subcommittee, which focused on conflict resolution, economic development, and natural resource conservation, among other issues. The subcommittee actively pressed for the successful apprehension and trial of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor and promoted peace and stability in war-devastated Liberia and Sierra Leone.

With the committee, Sheehy worked on several pieces of legislation that have defined U.S. policy toward Africa, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Electrify Africa Act, the BUILD Act, and the Global Fragility Act. He served as an international election observer for national elections in Kenya and Nigeria.

Sheehy served as an Africa policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation before working in Congress. At the think tank, he co-developed the Index of Economic Freedom, an annual survey of national economies worldwide now in its 25th edition. He frequently appeared in national media and testified before several congressional committees.

He holds a bachelor’s in political science from Trinity College (Hartford) and a master’s in international relations from the University of Virginia.

Publications By Thomas

Regional Security Support: A Vital First Step for Peace in Mozambique

Regional Security Support: A Vital First Step for Peace in Mozambique

Thursday, June 23, 2022

By: Andrew Cheatham;  Amanda Long;  Thomas P. Sheehy

Over the last year, Mozambique has seen a marked improvement in security conditions in its troubled Cabo Delgado region. The military intervention of Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states and Rwanda has disrupted an Islamist insurgency that emerged in 2017 and has since inflicted an enormous toll on the region. Security in key areas of Cabo Delgado and neighboring provinces has stabilized, giving the Mozambican government — and its international backers — an opportunity to foster reconciliation leading to an enduring peace. The Mozambican government should immediately take advantage of this exceptional regional commitment, which won’t last forever.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Countering Coups: In Africa, Use Investment to Build Rule of Law

Countering Coups: In Africa, Use Investment to Build Rule of Law

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

By: Joseph Sany, Ph.D.;  Thomas P. Sheehy

Policymakers are urgently seeking ways to reverse the erosion of democracy in fragile states exemplified by the past year’s surge in military coups in and around Africa’s Sahel region. To halt this decline, it’s vital to listen to African voices urging that international partners make the most of a powerful pro-democracy tool: increased foreign investment built upon the rule of law.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceFragility & ResilienceGlobal Policy

Countering Coups: How to Prevent Armed Seizures of Power

Countering Coups: How to Prevent Armed Seizures of Power

Thursday, February 17, 2022

By: Thomas P. Sheehy;  Edward A. Burrier;  Ena Dion;  Emily Cole

Armies have seized power in five states of the greater Sahel over nine months, cementing this African region as the most pronounced center of a global crisis. The Sahel’s military coups d’état are an acute symptom of poor and authoritarian governance that is breeding extremism and transnational criminality, igniting violence and undermining efforts to build democracies. These crises highlight widening security risks for the Sahel’s 135 million people and ultimately for Europe and the United States. Congress has begun urgently needed policy changes that analysts say should now be accelerated to prevent further coups and to buttress stability and democracy.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceGlobal Policy

Despite High Stakes in Ethiopia, China Sits on the Sidelines of Peace Efforts

Despite High Stakes in Ethiopia, China Sits on the Sidelines of Peace Efforts

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

By: Joseph Sany, Ph.D.;  Thomas P. Sheehy

Since November of 2020, Ethiopia has been suffering from a deadly internal conflict that has claimed an estimated 50,000 lives and displaced over two million. The United States, the African Union and others in the region have attempted to secure a cease-fire between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) but have made little headway. In contrast, China has remained mainly on the sidelines of peacebuilding efforts even though Ethiopia — the second most populous country in Africa — is a centerpiece of its Africa policy. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyPeace Processes

In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: Gustavo de Carvalho;  Paul Nantulya;  Thomas P. Sheehy

Even as the United States draws lessons from its unsuccessful, 20-year effort to build a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, it is shaping policies to engage the political and economic rise of Africa. Both the shortcomings in Afghanistan and the opportunities of Africa underscore the imperative of building policy on a full appreciation of local conditions. Yet on Africa, China’s growing presence has seized Americans’ political attention, and scholars of African politics say this risks distracting near-term U.S. policymaking. A requisite for U.S. success in Africa will be to focus on Africans’ desires—which include an ambition to build their futures by democratic means.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyDemocracy & Governance

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