Why Obama ally quit as Kenya ambassador
Posted Friday, June 29 2012 at 23:30
US ambassador Scott Gration’s quiet diplomacy has cost him his job after bosses in Washington decided that the Nairobi station had suddenly become too quiet.
Mr Gration, a retired Air Force major-general, had stayed in Nairobi for only a year when his tour of duty was cut short.
The Nairobi embassy was recently evaluated by a team from Washington under a programme carried out every five years.
The assessment in May by officials from the Office of the Inspector-General measured the embassy on the three “Ds” — Democracy, Defence and Development.
Staff interviewed for this story believe the mission, one of the largest in Africa, scored poorly on democracy and defence.
He will leave his diplomatic posting at the end of next month.
Mr Gration came to Nairobi promising a different style of diplomacy from that of his predecessors.
He replaced Mr Michael Ranneberger, whose five-year tenure was characterised by major clashes with the Kibaki administration.
Even in diplomatic circles, Mr Ranneberger had a reputation for stealing the limelight during joint news conferences.
This style proved embarrassing for the ambassador when diplomatic cables were leaked through WikiLeaks and it emerged the station had dispatched unsavoury comments about top Kenyan politicians, including some thought to be close to the embassy.
The ambassador’s boss in Washington, Mr Johnny Carson, is a former ambassador in Nairobi.
Mr Gration, who grew up partly in Kenya, promised to adopt a more behind-the-scenes approach to his work, coming out in the open only when this failed.
True to his pledge, Mr Gration did not adopt the activist style of some of his predecessors. His style also contrasted with that of NGOs and lobbyists who wanted a more activist role for Washington’s representative in Nairobi.
Despite this, the ambassador still found himself in trouble with authorities when the government complained about Washington’s travel advisories on Kenya.
Just last week, the embassy issued a warning to American citizens to leave Mombasa because of a pending terrorist attack.
The government complained that the advisory was unnecessary and would hurt tourism.
The acting head of the Civil Service, Mr Francis Kimemiah, said Kenya’s security agencies had alerted the Americans over the threats, with agreement that no travel advisories would be issued.
“They (US embassy in Nairobi and State Department in Washington) work together. We cannot issue anything without the State Department approving the statement and the wording,” said the embassy spokesperson Katya Thomas.