The complaint prompted Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to develop regulations and a code of conduct which would henceforth set the frequency and number of county officials who would be allowed to travel on a foreign trip, but the reaction was too late to save Kenya’s international reputation at a time when its President was attempting to enhance relations with foreign nations.
Both international incidences were rapidly followed by executive action and in mid-August, President Kenyatta shuffled his ambassadorial team. He appointed new heads at 17 stations, including Washington, neighbouring Dar es Salaam and Khartoum, and five key Middle East countries. He also transferred eight other ambassadors from major financial capitals such as London and Tokyo.
The late night announcement, described by local daily newspaper, Nation, as being more reminiscent of the Kanu era than the Jubilee government, was preceded by the announcement of the resignation of Intelligence chief Major-General Michael Gichangi.
The effect was that the rearrangement of Kenya’s diplomatic chess board went under the radar for many mainstream commentators – except for a passing observation that the President’s political allies and financiers in the last general elections were being rewarded through positions at key dockets.
The new appointments to the London and Washington missions meanwhile suggested a future willingness to engage more substantially with the West, coming as it did on the heels of Kenyatta’s successful attendance of the US Africa Summit in Washington.
Also notable among the list of appointments was the inclusion of two former Ministers from the finance and environment docket respectively – Robinson Njeru Githae and Chirau Ali Mwakwere – who will now head the Washington and Dar es Salaam missions. The new ambassador in London is career technocrat Lazarus Amayo, who previously served as Kenya’s envoy to Zambia, and before that India.
While the ambassadorial appointments have already been challenged by Kenya’s National Gender and Equity Commission for being unconstitutional, since they do not adhere to the one-third gender rule and are not ethnically representative, it strongly suggests that 18 months into his first term, President Kenyatta is re-evaluating his leadership style and, along with it, the members of his team.
The coming months may likely see additional announcements from State House as he consolidates his strategy and, alongside it, tries to recover Kenya’s tarnished reputation on the international stage.