How Quietest American Ambassador Performed
The curtain has fallen on Ambassador Jonathan Scott Gration’s one year tour of diplomatic duty in Kenya. What is on his Performance Score Card?
What about a simulation of a possible pre-posting briefing at the State Department back in 2011, against which his achievements may be measured? Robert Sinclaire, not his real name, looks at Scott Gration like a charging ram and says, ‘You are appointed the next Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Kenya, RoK. This is one of the most coveted postings of any American Ambassador anywhere in the world. This is even more so for you as you are going to serve in a country that has given us the first African-American President.
As Head of Mission, you will have an eight point to-do-list. One, deal with high level corruption, head on; it permeates every sector. Far too many cases remain unresolved and not a single high ranking official has been prosecuted. Two, tame the tide of terror and piracy, we have a military presence, Operation Enduring Freedom, Horn of Africa, to assist you. In 1998, we lost 12 of our nationals in the twin Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The Ambassador at the time, Prudence Bushnell, clung on to life by the skin of her teeth. As luck would have it, she was making a courtesy call on the Trade Minister in the building next door! Being an Air Force General, you are most qualified to tackle this menace.’
‘The third point. Our first ambassador there, back in 1964, William Attwood, wrote a book The Reds and the Blacks in which he described the influence of Communism in Africa. The book was banned in the RoK. The Reds are making a come-back competing for minerals, oil, and have gobbled up contracts in building roads, railways, airports, harbours. You must halt this trend in its tracks. Our interest in Africa is under siege. If you think the Cold Political War is over, we have a Hot Economic War in our hands!
‘Your fourth mandate is to water and nurture the tree of democracy and multi-partyism, planted by one of your predecessors, Smith Hempstone, of The Rogue Ambassador fame, who served from 1989 to 1993. He handed back sovereignty to the people of the RoK from the firm grip of a totalitarian one party regime.’
‘My fifth point. The US is a custodian and steward of fundamental freedoms, democratic values, good governance, security and human rights, everywhere…remember gay and lesbian rights are part and parcel of human rights…basic freedoms as embodied and immortalized in the Statue of Liberty. These values are enshrined in our constitution, and must be in all constitutions of our friends and foes alike.
The sixth point should probably have come as the number one. It’s the projection, promotion and protection of the national interest. There are over 10,000 of our citizens resident in the RoK, about a hundred thousand others visiting every year, over 200 Peace Corps Volunteers and we have enviable investment interests valued at an estimated $300 million.
You must grow these figures and in so doing, widen and deepen our influence. Be cautious, extremely cautious when issuing travel advisories. It’s a double-edged sword that may harm our interest and that of the host country. A good, mellowed diplomatic sense and sensibility, should I say sensitivity... and a Solomonic judgment is required here. Use a scenarios approach. Weigh your options. Choose your words most prudently. Speak on this if and only if you really must.
The seventh point. East Africa has become the transit point for drugs, narcotics and people trafficking. This activity has sucked in a cartel of untouchable well-placed crème de la crème of the ruling elite. You have a solemn mandate to detect, disrupt and destroy this trade. Your predecessor Mike Ranneberger did a pretty good job of this. You must push it to an end game, to a checkmate.
‘My last point,’ said Bob Sinclaire, taking off his glasses and giving Jonathan a stern and severe look. ‘Remember you will not be in military uniform General! Socialize, mix with the people, let them install you as an elder of one or more of the forty two tribes there; put your ear to the ground; keep a diary; collect intelligence and inform the State Department through regular diplomatic cables, as every good ambassador plenipotentiary and extraordinary would do.’
Then with a rather wicked twinkle in his eyes Bob raised his voice, ‘Beware of their women, General. They can be bewitchingly beautiful…eh, enchantingly charming, particularly those from the warrior tribes. They can be irresistible…they certainly can be useful in diplomatic espionage, but beyond that…Remember Cleopatra came from Africa and Mark Anthony, a noble Roman, could not resist her! Some of those who came before you said that the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak! The General, and the pater familias that you are, I am sure you will have none of it!’
Here then is the score card for an extraordinary ambassador and the quietest of them all, on a ten point scale for each of the eight indicators. Tackling high level corruption... ‘containing and draining a flourishing and festering swamp of corruption,’ no marks; taming the tide of terror, five marks; keeping the Reds at bay, two; watering the tree of democracy, four; custodian of fundamental freedoms and the constitution, two marks; protection of the national interest, five; naming and shaming suspected drug traffickers, zero marks; socialization and the award of the Order of a Kaya Elder, zero. Total score is 18% and the inevitable verdict is a recall back to Washington.
Amb. Dr Hukka Wario is the Director of the National Anti-Corruption Campaign Steering Committee. Opinions expressed are not necessarily that of the Committee.