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Obama said to plan new envoy for Kenya

Monday September 13 2010

US President Barack Obama in Oval Office meeting with his special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration. Obama plans to nominate Mr Gration as the next US ambassador to Kenya, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Photo | FILE. US President Barack Obama in Oval Office meeting with his special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration. Obama plans to nominate Maj Gen Gration as the next US ambassador to Kenya, the New York Times reported on Sunday.  

By KEVIN J KELLEY, New York

President Barack Obama plans to nominate his special envoy to Sudan as the next US ambassador to Kenya, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Major General Scott Gration's current diplomacy concerning South Sudan's scheduled secession referendum in January is “likely to be his last major effort as special envoy,” the Times reported in a dispatch from Washington.

“Officials said Mr Obama, with whom [General Gration] has personal ties, plans to name him as ambassador to Kenya,” the report continued.

“Administration officials said Mr Obama had long wanted to post the envoy in Nairobi, where General Gration spent part of his childhood and later helped train the Kenyan Air Force.”

Interviewed by telephone from Juba in South Sudan, General Gration was noncommittal about a possible posting to Nairobi.

“If the President decides to move me to another job, that’s his prerogative,” General Gration told the Times. “I’m committed to this job until I’m given a new job.”

Josh Rogin, a blogger for Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine, reported last month that General Gration was in line to replace Ambassador Ranneberger, who has held that job since 2006.

The son of Christian missionaries, General Gration spent part of his childhood in Kenya, where he became fluent in Kiswahili.
He served in the US Air Force for 32 years until his retirement in 2006. In the 1970s, General Gration spent two years as a jet fighter instructor of Kenyan Air Force pilots.

In his report last month, Mr Rogin suggested that General Gration could face “contentious” confirmation hearings in the US Senate if he is nominated as ambassador to Kenya.

Some advocacy groups in Washington have criticised General Gration on the grounds that he has been too conciliatory in his dealings with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

General Gration's future role will probably hinge on the outcome of the secession vote. If Sudan dissolves into renewed civil war, he will likely be seen as having failed in his current job.