Confusion as Kenyatta's new envoys yet to report to stations

Thursday February 7 2019

Hassan Wario

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario in court. He is facing charges related to the misuse of funds during the Rio Olympics. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Confusion has hit the posting abroad of the ambassadors vetted by Parliament last year amid a push-and-pull between the Executive and Parliament.

There are also reports that they have been rejected by the receiving countries.

But sources in the executive say the diplomats have not reported to work because President Uhuru Kenyatta is yet to commission them.

The ambassadors were endorsed by the legislators although the character of some of them were called into question, with Opposition members walking out in protest.

The National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations has held emergency meetings with senior officials in the Foreign ministry, to no avail.

“We are aware of the matter but there is little we can do,” a member of the committee said.

PROTOCOL

Meanwhile, the chairman of the committee, Mr Katoo olé Metito, said he was not aware of developments since the ambassadors were vetted, adding that their posting involves more than just the House's approval.

“My committee vetted them based on the available documentation from authorised agencies — EACC, DCI, and KRA, among others. I am not aware of any developments after the parliamentary approval,” he told the Nation.

But Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said the ambassadors will report to their stations anytime now, dismissing claims that they had been rejected by the host countries.

“They have all been accepted and they will be going (to their stations) in the next few weeks. We are simply observing protocol and that is normal,” Mr Kamau said.

Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, his PS Richard Ekai and former DCI boss Ndegwa Muhoro are among those facing uncertainty over their postings.

GRAFT

Dr Wario and Mr Ekai are facing charges related to the misuse of funds during the Rio Olympics. They were to serve in Austria and Russia respectively.

Dr Wario had already sent his family to Vienna, and the Austrian government had scheduled his reception for October.

But he missed the appointment since he was still in Kenya fighting to be released on bond. Mr Muhoro was posted to Malaysia as High Commissioner but is also still in the country

The procedure Mr Kamau referred to involves the President affirming and hosting the appointees to a dinner, where they are briefed on the expectations and channels of communication.

By then the Foreign Service Academy will have trained the envoys on how to conduct themselves during their tour of duty.

CREDENTIALS

Hosting states also conduct independent assessments of the appointees, and can accept or reject them.

And they are not even obliged to inform the sending state of their reasons for rejecting an appointee. In most cases, they simply delay accepting credentials.

Sources said the President might have delayed granting them official briefs to serve as ambassadors.

The documents, commonly known as credentials, are taken by the appointed envoys and given to heads of the hosting states who, once they accept them, allow the diplomats to serve as representatives of the Kenyan President, with full diplomatic immunity.

The other ambassadors affected are Benjamin Langat (Namibia), Johnson Kimani Ondiek (Turkey), Sarah Serem (China), Paddy Ahenda (Qatar), Samuel Thuita (Israel), Chris Karuba Mburu and former State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu (United Kingdom).

Mr Esipisu has reported to London but is yet to present his credentials.

AUTHORITY

Last evening, sources told the Nation that senior officials at the Ministry were jolted after Mr Muhoro was rejected.

And when Dr Wario and Mr Ekai were implicated in graft charges, some people suggested that the President withhold their appointments for a while.

“All ambassadorial appointments are made by the President, he is the only one who can change, withdraw or replace an appointee,” observed a senior diplomat who asked not to be identified, but who admitted to the difficulties in having the new envoys report to work.

At the moment, the affected embassies are being run by the senior most diplomats working there.

They may do all the work ambassadors do, like administration, hosting guests and managing staff, but they are not allowed to ride in the ambassador's car or fly a flag on theirs.

EXPERIENCE

This is not the first time diplomatic postings have run into trouble. In 2015, the President sent John Lanyasunya, then Director of Australasia Affairs, to Canada after Ottawa rejected Lucy Chelimo ostensibly because she had no diplomatic or civil service experience.

Mr Lanyasunya had initially been assigned to launch an embassy in Algiers. Instead, the President reassigned Mr Moi Lemoshira to Algeria from Zimbabwe.

Ms Chelimo, a former HR executive at DHL, was then be sent to Harare.

But the problem persisted last year after former EAC Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie was refused at the EU headquarters in Brussels. She was sent to Unesco, Paris, and was replaced with former Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi.