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Political envoy appointees frustrate career diplomats at Foreign Affairs ministry

Amb Macharia Kamau during vetting by Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee for position of Principal Secretary on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at County Hall. February 21, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor
Amb Macharia Kamau during vetting by Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee for position of Principal Secretary on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at County Hall. February 21, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor

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ack of clear structures on succession at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues to cause confusion, disquiet and infighting among senior directors and ambassadors at the headquarters.

It is emerging the recent push and pull over President Uhuru Kenyatta’s diplomatic appointees was a culmination of the discord.

Career diplomats, some whom have stayed at the headquarters for over 10 years, are feeling disfranchised as Uhuru continues to give diplomatic postings to political and civil servant rejects since 2014.

Analysis by the Star shows not more than 10 career diplomats have been posted as envoys since Uhuru came to power, further heightening tensions at the ministry.

“The recent information published by some newspapers was leaked to paint the nominees as unwanted, and probably a rethink of the nominations and the subsequent appointments,” a source who did not want to be named said.

Speaking to the Star on the phone, Foreign Affairs PS Macharia admitted the concerns are there and are legitimate. “We are, however, working on them in the context of successive management process targeting all cadres, from the senior directors and career ambassadors to the junior officers in a progressive manner. We are working with the Public Service Commission, and CS Monica Juma is leading this process,” Amb Kamau said.

He said the process will be complete in four to six weeks. In the strategic plan 201819-2022/23, the ministry notes lack of clear structures on succession, knowledge and information management as a weakness in its SWOT analysis.

Foreign Service Bill 2015, which is still before the House, states: “In the appointment of High Commissioners and Ambassadors, the appointing authority shall endeavour to maintain a fair balance in favour of serving career Foreign Service Officers, to ensure that professionalism and career progression are not compromised”.

Some officers appear to be making fast progress in their careers though.

June Ruto, who joined the ministry in 2014, is now a charge de’ affaires, and she received CS Juma in Poland when she visited for a Warsaw conference. Last year, she was a consular in Paris, Italy, and she hosted CAS Ababu Namwamba.

There have also been complains within the ministry that political appointees performance have been detrimental in furthering Kenya’s Foreign Policy. The documented policy was launched in 2014.

Most politicians resign and return after three to four years to run for office.

In the last General Election,

for example, former Ambassador to Tanzania Chirau Makwere and his UN Habitat counterpart Sam Ongeri resigned to run for political office.

Asked whether the ministry has a system to evaluate envoy’s performance, Kamau said that is done through personnel assessment reports within the public service system. However, Kamau said they are considering to have a different system because “of the unique roles at the ministry”.

“In many countries, the Foreign Affairs ministry is a special cadre in terms of recruitment and remuneration,” he said.

There are also directors and their deputies who are yet to be posted or promoted to ambassadors.

“There is a lot hopelessness. Some officers are almost retiring having stagnated in the same job group for years,” a source said.

“Sometimes dealing with political appointees is usually hectic ... it’s problematic,” another source said when asked why there was delay in departure of appointed envoys.

Among those who were recently deployed are former DCI director Ndegwa Muhoro (Malaysia), former Kasipul Kabondo MP Paddy Ahenda (Qatar), former Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lang’at (Namibia), ex-SRC chairperson Sarah Serem and former Air Force Commander Samuel Thuita.

The fate of former Sports PS Richard Ekai (Russia) and ex- Sports CS Hassan Wario (Austria) is yet to be known after they were charged with

corruption, and their passports confiscated by the courts.

Others appointed were former UNMISS boss Johnson Kimani Ondieki (Turkey), former director of External Intelligence Chris Karumba Mburu (South Sudan), Peter Nicholas Oginga Ogego (Saudi Arabia) and former State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu (the UK).

In 2014, Uhuru appointed former Ndia MP Njeru Githae to Washington DC, former Environment Minister Mwakwere to Dar es Salaam, Kitui governor election loser Kiema Kilonzo to Ankara and former Education minister Ongeri to UN Habitat.Richard Opembe (Dublin), Mohammud Mohammed (Riyadh), Lucy Chelimo – (Ottawa[swapped to Harare]), Dr George Masafu (Kinshasa), Professor Julius Bitok (Khartoum [later Pakistan]), Joseph Magut (Berlin), Major General Jeoff Otieno (Cairo), Galma

Boru

(Doha), Isaac Njenga (Windhoek), Sheikh Dor (Muscat), Dr Stephen Karau (WTO, Geneva), Sophie Kadzo Kombo ( Lusaka), Rukia Sugow (Tehran), Prof George Godia (Unesco)

Uhuru also transferred some career ambassadors to new stations.Mohamed Gello (Seoul), Lazarus Amayo (London), John Lanyasunya (Algiers[swapped to Ottawa], Ali Abbas (Kuwait), former head of protocol SK Maina (Tokyo), Moi Lemoshira (Harare [swapped to Algiers], Joseph Maikara (Luanda) and Jean Kamau (Bangkok [now in South Africa) While careers ambassadors should be re-posted

after two years, some have remained at the headquarters.

They include

Ruth Solitei ( 2008 ), Purity Muhindi ( 2013 ), Elphas Barine ( 2013 ), Simon Nabukwesi ( 2013 ), Tom Amolo ( 2015 ), Ben Ogutu ( 2015 ) and Mohammed Mohat ( 2016 ).

Sources said some missions abroad are also understaffed with no substantive ambassadors.

Kenyan embassy in Russia, for instance, has been vacant for nearly four years now, and the wait seems to get longer with Ekai’s prosecution.

In Nigeria, which has concurrent accreditation of 12 other countries in West Africa, had been vacant until Wilfred Machage, another former politician, took over on January 8, when he presented his credentials to President Muhammadu Buhari

There are also concerns that some envoys have

overstayed their four-year tour of duty.

These include Joseph Sang, who has been in Stockholm for since 2012

(replaced Muhindi) and Koki Muli who has been in New York for eight years.

However, Prof Maria Nzomo says the previous career doesn’t matter “so long as the person appointed is competent and understands his or her role”.

She is the director, Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi.

“There are rules of engagement for each country. Each country has specific interests it wants to advance in a specific country. For every country, we have an agenda, and the embassy works towards that.

It will depend on the rules of engagement, the foreign policy and interests Kenya want to advance abroad, she told the Star on the phone.

The role of the embassy is in the constitution and it is the prerogative of the President to know whom to appoint," she said.