President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate Illinois Senator Kyle McCarter as US ambassador to Kenya, citing legislator’s long history of charity ties with the East African country.
According to a White House news release, Mr McCarter would be “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the United States of American to the Republic of Kenya.”
White House noted that McCarter “served as a field auditor, missionary and international director of Each One Feed One International, based in Lebanon, Illinois, with an office in Mukothima, (Tharaka-Nithi County)".
The charity has worked with a K-8 elementary school, helped hundreds of abandoned, abused and orphaned children, and provided a medical clinic that serves about 15,000 people a year.
The congressman took to his Twitter to welcome his nomination, saying he is ready to go back to a country he has lived and served.
“Hono (u)r to be asked to represent Pres Trump & USA in country I have lived & served,” he said.
“Look forward to closer relationship benefiting both our nations. Left legacy of hono(u)ring God, serving others & saving lives of children in Kenya.”
According to US media, Mr McCarter and his wife are conversational in Swahili, the national language of Kenya.
McCarter, who did not run for re-election, applied for the job a year ago.
According to Belleville News-Democrat, McCarter, is preparing for a confirmation hearing with the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, which he hopes to take place within the next two to three weeks.
“We have a great love for that country and the people,” McCarter is quoted as saying .
“This is the highest of hono(u)rs to represent the United States and show the generosity of the people of the United States to a people we know well and love.”
Mr McCarter was also recommended for the position by all seven Republican members of the Illinois congressional delegation, including Mike Bost (Murphsyboro), John Shimkus (Collinsville) and Rodney Davis of Taylorville.
Mr McCarter said he isn’t worried about dealing with criticism for Trump’s alleged “shithole” comment about immigrants coming from Africa.
“No democracy is without some messiness. Every democracy has some messy parts. Sometimes to become the country you’re going to become, you go through some struggles,” McCarter is quoted by Belleville News-Democrat as saying.
“It’s no different anywhere in the world. I know the country I’m going to. And I know how generous our country is, and I think the people of Kenya do, too.”
According to his Facebook page, his father passed away on Saturday, with services pending in Oklahoma.
“It is bittersweet that I am now preparing for the funeral of my father who leaves a legacy of serving others and saving the lives of thousands of children in Kenya,” said.
The US ambassador post requires Senate confirmation.
If confirmed, Mr McCarter will replace Mr Robert Godec whose tenure in Kenya has been scolded by the opposition.
Early this year, Mr Godec called on the opposition to abandon Nasa leader Raila Odinga’s ‘swearing-in’ plan, saying the move would not augur well for Kenya’s stability.
Some Nasa MPs petitioned the US government to recall Mr Godec for what they termed as “exhibiting extreme bias” when discharging his duties.
“His pretentious brokering for dialogue could not be taken seriously. He lost the moral authority to be a neutral arbiter,” Nasa said.
But Godec dismissed claims by the opposition Nasa that he is meddling in the country’s political affairs.
The State Department also defended him, saying US government “has our full confidence and support”.
A source at the US Embassy in Nairobi on Thursday denied claims that Mr Godec had been recalled.
However, he said the ambassador had already served beyond the allowable term period and is being redeployed.
Having been in Nairobi since 2012, Mr Godec is currently the longest serving US ambassador to Kenya and anywhere on earth.
He was initially Charge d'Affaires in Nairobi.
He was hired during the Democrat government of Barack Obama and was expected to be replaced when Donald Trump, a Republican, took over in 2016.
"He was asked to extend his tour of duty twice because of elections. Now it is good time to transition to another level. Mr Godec will be moving back to Washington to perform other roles," the source told the Nation, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"It is also uncertain when he will leave because the new ambassador needs approval of the Congress.
"We can confirm that the Ambassador is committed to a smooth transition."
Prior to his assignment in Nairobi, Mr Godec was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Counterterrorism in the Department of State.
From 2006 to 2009, he served as US Ambassador to Tunisia.
He has also served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and was deputy coordinator for the transition in Iraq, charged with organising the transition of policy and operational elements of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the stand-up of US Mission Iraq.
It is not the first time US is sending someone familiar with Kenya as ambassador.
Mr Scott Gration, a retired army man and who spoke fluent Kiswahili having lived here and Sudan, was nominated by Obama in 2011.
But he resigned a year later citing "differences with Washington, saying “my leadership style and certain priorities led me to believe that it is now time to leave."
Additional report by Harry Misiko.