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Citizen Weekly

Sunday 31 August 2014


As newly appointed ambassadors await the verdict on parliament as to whether they will proceed to their stations, it is emerging that the Westgate Mall attack by Al Shaabab terrorists caused the cancelling of the choice of Uhuru Kenyatta to Kenya’s embassy in Turkey.

According to sources at the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Uhuru had picked his cousin Catherine Mwangi to go to the new Kenya embassy in Ankara but as fate would have it, her son was killed in the Westgate raid. Because of trauma, it is said, she requested that she be posted near home and that is how she ended up in Cairo, Egypt, which is a hop from Nairobi.

Incidentally, that the post was earmarked for Uhuru’s cousin is being pointed out as meaning that Turkey is a key posting. The embassy was opened in 2012 but it has not had a substantial ambassador.

Kiema Kilonzo will be the lucky first occupant of the office. That Turkey is a key partner is illustrated by the fact that in 2009, the then President Abdul Gal visited Kenya on invitation of Mwai Kibaki. In 2012, then vice president Kalonzo Musyoka visited Turkey and in 2013 then Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited the country too.

Indeed, it is said that Raila had appointed a kinsman as ambassador to Turkey but the then powerful Nyeri mafia torpedoed it. The sixteenth largest economy in the world and the number six exporter of steel worldwide, Turkey is also strategically positioned as it straddles two continents-Asia and Europe. Once referred to as the sick man of Europe, Turkey is now competing with China in textile products and has now almost overtaken Dubai as Kenyan traders’ favourite spot for cloths imports. It is also a leader in construction and renewable energy industry which makes it a vital partner for Kenya.

A Nato member, Turkey is battling the Chinese head start in the region hence its keenness to have strong business ties with Kenya. On balance, however, the trade ties favour Turkey as it exports goods worth Sh1.3 billion while Kenya exports only Sh100 million worth of goods. It is against this background that Kiema has his work cut out for him. Lucky for him is that Kenyan tea and coffee are in top demand worldwide and a Muslim country like Turkey is just the right place to market it.

But by far, the most coveted post is that of Kenya’s ambassador to US that went to Njeru Githae who will be stationed in Washington. To say that whomever the president picks for America must be a real confidant is to belabour the point. Although there have been those who say that the appointees are politicians, it is worth noting that the practice is the same all over and cite the US secretary of state John Kerry who is the chief ambassador of America and who at one time contested the US presidency. Hillary Clinton who came before Kerry also contested the presidency and was once governor of New York.

By picking Ali Mwakwere as his man in Tanzania, Sam Ongeri at UN-Habitat, Kiema as his man in Turkey and Githae as his man in Washington, Uhuru is following that well-trodden path of rewarding loyalists who stood with him in the elections.

 This has not gone down well in certain quarters especially amongst politicians the new ambassadors lost to in the elections. In Kitui county for instance, Governor Julius Malombe who trounced Kiema and his senate counterpart David Musila reportedly went back to the drawing tables afraid that by flying a flag, Kiema has now overshadowed them and this might cause them problems in 2017.

In Kirinyaga, the man who floored Githae, Governor Joseph Ndathi has also reportedly become suddenly gloomy. After appointment, the politicians have reportedly been attending a short course on diplomacy. For Ongeri and Mwakwere it is like throwing fish in water as they have been diplomats before. As for Kiema, his masters degree in peace studies and conflict resolution will come in handy. He also served in the parliamentary  foreign affairs committee in the last parliament.

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