Career diplomats have special skills

In Summary

• Of 31 new ambassadors, only 12 are careers diplomats

• The argument in favour of career diplomats is they have work experience and understand the rules of the game

President Ruto has appointed 31 new ambassadors of whom only 12 are career diplomats. Of the 14 new deputy ambassadors, only six are career diplomats.

So is it good or bad to have political appointees as ambassadors?

The negative is is that these political appointees are mostly electoral losers (unlike the American system where they are normally big donors to the incoming President). The argument is that if they consider an ambassadorial appointment second-best, they will probably still be losers in foreign capitals. The counter-argument is that thy can use their political skill to more effectively represent their government.

The more serious caveat is that it can disincentivises career diplomats who hope to eventually get one of the big international postings. Career diplomats, the argument goes, know best the rules of the game and how governments cut deals. With career diplomats as ambassadors, the most knowledgeable people represent their country and the best and the brightest are attracted to become diplomats at entry level.

So Kenya can continue to have a hybrid system like the USA but let the bias be towards career diplomats who know what they are doing and who are committed to their profession.

Quote of the day: "Fiction is life with the dull bits left out."

Clive James
The Australian writer was born on October 7, 1939

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star