He's handsome, with hooded, sexy brown eyes, his lean track star's build packaged in impeccable three-piece suits. He's a man other men don't hesitate to call debonair. She's beautiful, wafer-thin in the Paris Vogue mode, usually dressed in Diors and St. Laurents, and one of the most admired hostesses in town.
They are Timothee and Germaine Ahoua, the ambassador and his wife from the Ivory Coast. After 11 years here, Ahoua, 45, is the third-ranking ambassador behind Nicaragua and the Soviet Union, and the ranking African diplomat. As such, he feel himself able to exert "cnsiderable moral pressure" on the formation of State Department policies toward Africa. And that status, given the heightened American interest in the politics of the African continent, has accelerated the growth of the Ahouas' prestige and importance.
Like many of the former French colonies, the IVory Coast has maintained a tone in embassy entertaining that is best described as "more French than the French": Candelight dinners with elephantine strawberries for a first course and strolling violinists; a black-tie optional New Year's Eve party with a lavish buffet and a disco until dawn; or the routine diplomatic receptions that subtly combine African and French influences.
"Just like Versailles," is the way Lynete Taylor, the executive director of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a predominately black women's service organization, describes the Ahouas' elegant affairs. Because they have a wide circle of friends, they have adopted a social versatility, drawing their guests from many levels of Washington life.
Last night the ambassador gave a reception at his home in Rock Creek Park for "Roots" author Alex Haley, for the men of the African diplomatic corps, because Mrs. Ahoua was expected to be out of town.
"Have you ever noticed that the diplomat is always pictured in the paper in his tuxedo, surrounded by beautiful girls? Rarely is he shown at work, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then taking paper work home," says Ahoua. He's not disgruntled because he knows the importanct of the Washington social network, but he's amused at the attention receptions and such receive. "I know a diplomat nees that interaction," he says. "The better people know you, the more rapport there can be."
Germaine Ahoua, 35, was preparing for a trip to the Ivory Coast and declined to talk about Washington, its politcal and social life. "They are of one mind," said the press attache, Anatole Visson.
Born in Martinique, a French-speaking Caribbean island, Germaine in Paris, wehre she met her husband. He had studied at several Paris, where she met her husband. He had including the University of Paris. In 1964 Ahoua was appointed first counselor to the embassy here, then served as ambassador in Rabat, Morocco, before returning here in 1966.
His wife is known as a warm and meticulous hostess who sometimes appears aloof but, accordng to one friend, "is not overtly vocal but doesn't hesitate to speak out on issues likt the women's movements and the arts." They have two children, Philippe, 11, and a daughter, Laureance, 4, who both attend private, international schools here.
Neither of the Ahouas had met Haley until the ambassador stood in line at a luncheon here on Wednesday to shake his hand. But both had read his first book, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," and Mrs. Ahoua suggested last night's reception after reading Haley's best-seller. "Roots" and watching the television dramatization of the book.
Like many other people, the Ahousas rearranged their schedules for the eight evenings when "Roots" was televised. "We managed not to have any social obligations for most of the time," said Ahoua, who chatted in French though his English was described by the press attache as "very decent." Ahoua categorized last night's gathering for Haley as "more a business meeting than a social reception."
The Ahouas were the first African diplomatic couple to give a reception for the French ambassador, and they once gave a luncheon for sould singer James Brown, who didn't show who up because of illness. But, mainly, Ahoua said they entertain at small suppers in a restaurant or at home. They also are invited to many private homes, most recently a dinner party given by Teddy Westreich, the regional public relations director of Bloomingdale's, for designer Scott Barrie.
As American concern over the social and political developments in Africa picks up Ahoua says appointments with congressmen, State Department officials and business interests are available more quickly than in the past. Recent events, particularly the Angolan civil war, says Ahousa, have awakened American officials to the strategic and political importance of the continent.
"It was in the aftermath of the Angolan civil war thaat an American Secretary of State went to Africa for the first time. From the point of Henry Kissinger's visit last year we felt the United States wanted to have a well-defined African policy," the ambassador says. He interprets the appointment of Andrew Young as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Young's early trip to Africa, as a sign that the Carter administration "has a commitment to Africa, as part of its global responsibility."
"If there is a civil war in Southern Africa, it would be more atrocious than World War II and much worse than the Algerian conflict or Vietnam," adds Ahoua. "America can not afford to stand by the sidelines. For Africa it's very late in the day, and history moves very fast."