Washington, DC — Howard Wolpe, 71, a former chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Africa Subcommittee and senior adviser for Africa to two Democratic presidents, died on Tuesday at his home in Saugatuck, Michigan.
Wolpe, who represented Michigan in Congress from 1979-1992, was a leading anti-apartheid campaigner and advocate for Africa. As Subcommittee chair for 10 years, he sponsored the Comprehensive Anti-apartheid Act of 1986, which imposed sanctions against South Africa, passing despite President Ronald Reagan's veto. Wolpe also spearheaded a comprehensive overhaul of American assistance to Africa, winning passage of the African Famine Recovery and Development Act and creating the African Development Foundation.
"Howard Wolpe's unexpected and untimely death is a deep loss for all of us who work on African Affairs today," Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told AllAfrica. "It is also a deep personal loss for me because of my close association with him during his tenure as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa and his recent service as the State Department's Special Advisor on the Congo and the Great Lakes."
After an unsuccessful 1994 run for governor in Michigan – with current U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow as his running mate – Wolpe served as President Bill Clinton's special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region. He helped mediate an end to conflicts in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which killed and uprooted large numbers of civilians. He served as director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and returned to government service as special adviser to President Barrack Obama.
"For over four and a half decades - - as a scholar, a college professor, a congressman and a diplomat -- Howard devoted his life to Africa, promoting economic development and political change in Africa and in strengthening U.S. relations with the continent," Carson said. "We will miss Howard's presence, but we will always remember his many contributions and achievements."
Howard Wolpe was born on November 3, 1939. He graduated from Reed College and earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He taught at Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan; was a Visiting Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program of the Brookings Institution; and a consultant to the World Bank and to the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department.
"Howard contributed most of his life to bringing civility to government relations and making this world a better place," U.S. Representative John D. Dingell (Democrat-Michigan) said in a statement.
Steve McDonald, current director of the Africa Program at the Wilson Center, who has worked with Wolpe for three decades, said in a statement: "There has been no greater advocate for peace or friend of Africa in the United States than Howard. He will be sorely missed by hundreds of Africa leaders, campaigners for peace and justice, and everyone who came into contact with this warm and caring human being."