New US ambassador Kyle McCarter speaks Kiswahili, opposes gay unions

Incoming US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter./ COURTESY
Incoming US Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter./ COURTESY

On Wednesday, the United States Senate approved the appointment of former Senator Kyle McCarter as the new Ambassador to Kenya.

McCarter comes to a familiar territory with a promise to support the handshake and engage the LGBT community despite his strong views against gay marriages.

Born on June 27,

1962, the Illinois politician is married to

Victoria and live in Lebanon, Illinois, with their two children Zach and Austin.

Their daughter Amber died in 2006 at the age of 21 from what was described as a heroin overdose.

The fluent Swahili-speaking McCarter and his wife

Victoria,

lived and worked in Kenya for Each1Feed1, a Christian ministry that gives care and education for orphans and widows, in 1987-1988 and built Faith Medical Clinic.

The charitable organisation to date has its offices in

Mukothima, Tharaka Nithi County, where Carter is currently its international director and Victoria is the director.

In May 2017, seven Republican congressmen from Illinois, including John Shimkus who beat McCarter in the 2016 primary, encouraged President Donald Trump to nominate McCarter as the next United States Ambassador to Kenya.

The delegation wrote that McCarter's work in Kenya with Each1Feed1 has provided him "heightened insight into the governmental operations and other political, economic, and social realities of both Kenya and the larger region of East Africa."

A few days later, President Trump announced he had nominated McCarter to the position.

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Nine months later, on January 2, 2019, the Senate confirmed McCarter by voice vote.

At his confirmation hearing last year, the Democrats pointed questions about McCarter’s socially conservative religious views, expressed in his past votes against LGBT rights.

On the issues of

same-sex

marriages, McCarter has remained one of the vocal senators who has opposed such.

Despite the US having legalised

same-sex

marriages, McCarter has continuously tweeted opposing the laws.

During his

grilling,

he said he supported decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

Though the current Kenyan Constitution does not recognise

same sex

marriages, President Uhuru Kenyatta has also reiterated that Kenya would not bow down to pressure to legislate such unions as a condition to receive donor funding.

Read:

McCarter said despite his personal views he is ready to help Kenya take on its challenges and promised to meet with the members of the LGBT community.

“I will use my experiences in business, public service, and philanthropy to build on the already strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Kenya," he told the committee.

He said he would use his expertise to demonstrate the goodwill and generosity of the American people to the

republic

of Kenya.

Asked about the Building Bridges Initiative and the handshake between Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga, McCarter said ethnic divisions have been the biggest issue in the country.

He added that he was optimistic that through such partnership the country can overcome challenges.

“These things don't get better overnight. Devolution may help reduce tensions and I am hopeful that new leadership will emerge at local levels through the initiative,” he said.

The senators also grilled McCarter about a post-election tweet suggesting that the former Secretary of State in Barack Obama’s administration Hillary Clinton be sent to prison.

After Trump's shock win, McCarter had tweeted: "Hillary for prison. No, really."

This was in reference to the 'Lock her up' chants popularised by Trump supporters against Hillary Clinton whom they wanted

to be prosecuted

over a highly controversial trove of emails

However,

McCarter in his response told the senators admitted that the tweet was not his finest moment.

"There is hype in an election that was perhaps not called for. It was perhaps not the wisest of tweets...It is one of those tweets you’d like to reel in but can’t," he stated.

The 56-year-old politician graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1984 with a degree in accounting.

The former senator was a member of the St Clair County board from 2000 until 2009, when he was appointed to the Illinois State Senate.

He has also served for six years on the O'Fallon Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, including two years as President and four years as Chairman of the Economic Development Committee.

McCarter is said to also own and operate Custom Product Innovations and Custom Coating Innovations in Lebanon, Illinois.

His companies outsource parts of their production to China.

McCarter was appointed in February 2009 as Illinois State senator after Republican State Senator Frank Watson resigned, shortly after suffering a stroke.

After the Senate redistricting, parts of the old 51st, 54th, and 58th districts were combined to create the new 54th Senate District.

Incumbent Republican, John O Jones, was also drawn into the 54th district but failed to adequately meet the petition filing requirements and did not appear on the ballot.

After Jones ruled out an independent bid, McCarter ran successfully for the 54th district.

He chose not to seek reelection in 2018 where he was succeeded in the Illinois Senate by Jason Plummer.

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