President Donald Trump made waves when he announced that all politically appointed ambassadors from the then outgoing Barack Obama Administration would have to resign on the very day he was sworn into office.
Some in Kenya understood this to mean that US Ambassador Robert Godec would soon be packing his bags. But Godec is with us still – a reminder that he is a “career diplomat” who has risen to his present position over many years at the US State Department, and not a "political appointee" ambassador.
So what is an example of the kind of ambassador President Trump had in mind? Well, by far the most famous of these “political appointees” among the US ambassadors who were appointed under Obama is the (now former) US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former US President John Kennedy.
In Kenya too, much the same system applies. There are ambassadors who rise to this office through many years of hard work in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gradually climbing up the ladder. And then there are people who, as Kenyans love to say, “just the other day were idlers” and are suddenly elevated to key diplomatic appointments.
That uniquely unkind Kenyan term, “idlers”, refers to the fact that many distinguished Kenyans who formerly held high office, when their term comes to an end – when the chauffeured limousines and SUVs are no longer at their disposal – will often be seen in leading hotels and restaurants, lying in wait for the power-brokers.
A certain five-star hotel very close to Parliament Buildings is famous for the sheer numbers of former MPs and parastatal executives who are to be found there, sipping endless cups of tea or coffee, looking nervously around them in case they miss the man or woman they are hoping to ambush into some kind of negotiation over a job which is soon to be filled.
There is one golden rule for lobbying your way to the kind of diplomatic jobs that the former IEBC commissioners are said to be angling for: It is imperative that you must have quit your former position quietly, and not gone out roaring defiance and talking about the secrets you will soon reveal of the corruption in the corridors of power, or some such thing.
They did not fight the system – they played along. And their reward is a massive gratuity plus a good job.