Ex-U.S. ambassador Carrington dies at 90

Former United States (U.S.) Ambassador to Nigeria Walter C. Carrington is dead.

He died on Tuesday at his home in Newton, Massachusetts, with his wife, Arese, and family members at his bedside.

The late envoy turned 90 on July 24 and he was celebrated in Nigeria.

His wife, who announced the death in an email on Wednesday, wrote: “It is with a heavy and broken heart, but with gratitude to God for his life of selfless humanity, that I announce the passing of my beloved husband Walter Carrington, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and Senegal.

“He passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones at the age of 90 years on Tuesday, August 11th, 2020.

“Further announcements will be made shortly.

“Walter was a loving husband, father, grandfather, cousin, uncle, friend and in-law.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson said…It is not the length of life but the depth of life.

“Walter was fortunate; his life had both length and depth.

“God Bless.”

When he turned 90, The Nation in an editorial described him as “an American hero of the Nigerian struggle for freedom and democracy”.

The newspaper recalled that the late Carrington supported the progressive cause and refused to hide behind the hypocrisy that marks diplomacy.

“In the nine decades, he has been consistent as a humanist; a fighter for equality, justice, equity and genuine democracy.”

In a tribute to him at 90, All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said of Carrington: “You stood unwaveringly for democracy, rule of law, truth and justice. To paraphrase the title of your collection, you refused to remain silent in a time of tyranny. You refused to be corrupted.”

The late Carrington served as the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal from 1980 to 1981. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 as the Ambassador to Nigeria, where he remained until 1997. His ties to Nigeria were deep; he married into a Nigerian family and had lived in three Nigerian cities since the late 1960s.

When the late Carrington clocked 80 years, he told reporters that the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, almost killed him because of his stance against his regime during the struggle for the revalidation of the cancelled June 12, 1993 presidential election.

According to him, “Nigeria was the country I had challenges. It was most tasking to have been here during the Abacha regime; it was not easy.

“The Abacha era was difficult; the U.S. imposed some forms of sanctions against the Abacha government and as the Abacha government became more and more dictatorial, it became necessary to speak out against it and the more I did, the more the Abacha government did not like it and tried to make things difficult for me.”

He recalled that there were two instances when Gen. Abacha’s men attempted to terminate his life, but never succeeded – one was when that government planned to shoot at his car while on a mission, but that the U.S. embassy got wind of it and saved his life.

Carrington added that the Abacha government also attempted to kidnap him, but that the attempt failed.

Carrignton graduated from the Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where one of his assignments was as an enlisted man with the Judge Advocate General Corps (Germany, 1955–57). Upon separation from the military, he entered into a private law practice in Boston, Massachusetts; during that time, he also served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the youngest person to serve until that date. He held various positions in the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1971, serving as Country Director in Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Tunisia and then as Regional Director for Africa (1969–71). From 1971 to 1980, he was Executive Vice President of the African-American Institute.

In 1981, he was named Director of the Department of International Affairs of Howard University. He published several articles on Africa. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria from 1993 to 1997. On 1 September 2004, Carrington was named the Warburg Professor of International Relations at Simmons College in Boston.

The late American diplomat was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 1997, he received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) from Livingstone College, North Carolina.

In 1991, he published Africa in the Minds and Deeds of Black American Leaders (with Edwin Dorn). In 2010, he published “A Duty to Speak: Refusing to Remain Silent in a Time of Tyranny”, a compilation of his speeches supporting democracy and human rights in Nigeria during the Abacha military dictatorship. He has written many Africa-related articles for national magazines.

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