The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 37 The whole project was well over a year, including bringing over a whole crew of fellows from Oak Ridge, who lived up at the site while they did what they had to do to package up the uranium in what almost looked like little beer kegs. They are lead and make it possible for you to move it in a safe way. Then, flying in C-5s, huge cargo aircraft … they flew straight to the States with midair refueling. … They landed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The material was transferred onto a truck convoy, highly protected, and taken straight to Tennessee and put deep underground. Once that was announced Secretary [of State Warren] Christopher, Secretary [William J.] Perry of the Defense Department, and Secretary [Hazel] O’Leary of the Energy Department all did a press conference. It was very late at night already in Kazakhstan, but we all converged on a colleague’s house and brought some vile, sweet Kyrgyz champagne from the champagne factory there. It really was one of those moments in your career when you felt like, “I actually did a concrete thing that made the world safer.” Five hundred kilograms of highly enriched bomb-grade uranium is stuck away where whoever in this neighborhood, or whatever rogue elements, cannot get at it. That was a wonderful thing. … It was old-fashioned human diplomacy. It was the fact that one of our guys was out skiing with the science minister, because they had developed a very friendly relationship and they liked to ski together. The science minister had developed enough confidence over time that he felt he could pose this question on behalf of his government. 1996 Supporting Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa In the wake of Ambassador Edward Perkins’ work to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa (read the FSJ’s interview with Ambassador Perkins in the December 2020 issue), Aaron Williams became one of USAID’s mission directors in Pretoria and led programs supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the core of South African efforts to deliver transitional justice. Beginning his career as a Peace Corps volunteer, Williams retired after 22 years with USAID and returned to the Peace Corps in 2009 as the first Black man to serve as director. For an on-the-ground view of the fall of apartheid in South Africa, see also the oral history of six-time Ambassador William “Bill” Swing on ADST’s website. We funded a portion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s budget, as did other donors, e.g., the British, the Canadians. … We contributed significant funding to cover some of the operating costs. … And I traveled and observed the TRC hearings all over South Africa. The commission was national in scope, so they had regional hearings in every region. Archbishop [Desmond] Tutu, as chairman, would often travel to chair a specific hearing of national importance. The hearings were very complex and well-planned sessions. SIPA USA/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO President of South Africa Nelson Mandela (right) with Bishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1994.