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Stephen Low

Stephen Low


Stephen Low served as an American diplomat to Zambia and Nigeria throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. His work as a diplomat led him to establish new schools to help codify and prepare aspirants for the profession. While Stephen Low did not possess a law degree, his work as a diplomat required him to frequently interact with lawyers to help handle many different situations.


When he was posted to Zambia in August of 1976, Stephen Low was eventually drawn into turmoil in Rhodesia, a neighboring country then under the leadership of Ian Smith. Smith, who was white, led a government whose policies discriminated against black citizens on the basis of their color. The opposition to Smith's campaign was led by Robert Mugabe, a black politician. As an American ambassador, Stephen Low attempted to lead negotiations between Smith and Mugabe.


Due to violent conditions as a result of political turmoil, the goal of Stephen Low and his fellow diplomats was to create a cease fire agreement. Initially, Mugabe and fellow opposition leaders were reluctant to accept the assistance of Stephen Low, since they believed that the primary responsibility for transitioning from Ian Smith's government to an independent Rhodesia lay with the British, who were formerly in charge of the colony. However, Stephen Low helped create an Anglo-American Resolution that laid the foundations for a government transition.


As part of his diplomatic efforts, Stephen Low was the liaison between a number of different state governments. During his time supervising Rhodesia's transition, Stephen Low was responsible for keeping government officials in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Botswana about the progress being made. At the same time, Stephen Low was also responsible for coordinating American and British participation in the negotiations.

From 1979 to 1981, Stephen Low served as an ambassador to Nigeria. While he continued to monitor negotiations in Rhodesia, Stephen Low also observed the election of Shehu Shagari, who was elected to serve as the country's president following the termination of its military regime. Under the new laws of Nigeria, the winning candidate had to receive both a majority of the popular national vote and two-thirds of states' votes. However, in 1979 the question of how to measure states' votes had been resolved. Stephen Low observed as the case was decided by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which determined that Shagari had garnered sufficient votes to legitimately attain the presidency.


In 1980, negotiations concerning Rhodesia were impeded by newly elected Senator Jesse Helms, who supported the Ian Smith administration. As a result, Stephen Low learned that he was shortly to be withdrawn from diplomatic service. When this occurred in 1981, he returned to California. The following year, he was appointed director of the State Department Foreign Service Institute, which handles the training of the diplomatic corps. Throughout the remainder of his career, Stephen Low served in a number of academic and diplomacy-related capacities.