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US explains relocation of embassy staff

Wednesday July 9 2014

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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The US government says it is only cutting staff in its Nairobi embassy who were working on programmes targeting areas outside Kenya.

US Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters on Wednesday the move was a temporary step to reduce the focus of its programmes outside Kenya.

This may change should the security situation in the region improve.

“We are looking at removing those individuals who are involved in programmes that focus outside of Kenya. We have a huge regional operation in Kenya and we are looking at how we can reduce that foot print.

“But more importantly, we are looking at how we can be more proactive in countering the acts of terror that are taking place on the continent,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said via video-link from Washington, DC.

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The diplomat, whose docket is on US-African relations, was speaking on the US government policy on sub-Saharan Africa, which is currently facing terrorist threats from the Boko Haram in the west and Al-Shabaab in the east.

In May, the Nairobi Embassy, the largest US mission in Africa, announced it will cut down its staff because of the mounting threat of attacks in Kenya suspected to be masterminded by Al-Shabaab.

At the time, a statement from the US ambassador to Kenya Mr Robert Godec said the mission was “continuously reviewing and updating its security measures, and expects to take additional steps in coming days, to include on US staffing”.

On Wednesday, Ms Thomas-Greenfield argued the ultimate solution would be how to deal with the militants, after all.

“This is, for us now, a temporary move but we are hoping that we can work with the Kenyans to change the security situation, not just for Americans who are working and living in Kenya but also for Kenyans.”

“We have a strong relationship with the Kenyan government and a strong partnership in terms of working with the governing in fighting terrorism that has really been prevalent in Kenya over the past few months and over the past year.”

The US mission in Nairobi handles divisions for Somalia, the Seychelles as well as controlling humanitarian efforts targeting major emergency situations in the region.

It has about 1,300 employees who include at least 400 US direct hires working for 19 federal agency offices.

Last week, the US government announced it may reopen its embassy in Mogadishu after more than two decades.