By OSCAR OBONYO
After a relatively colourless one-year stint as the United States envoy to Kenya, Ambassador Scott Gration has thrown in the towel, citing differences with the Barack Obama Administration regarding his leadership style.
|The outgoing envoy at a past function.|
His untimely exit has opened up speculation over the nature of differences with Washington.
Gration, who leaves Kenya after serving for barely a year — having taken over from the outspoken Michael Rannerberger in May last year – is a religious man with a strong Christian background.
The son of missionary parents who incidentally worked in Kenya and present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gration made the big decision to quit just hours to an Embassy party for gays at Gigiri on Tuesday. He officially resigned on Monday.
Whether there have been simmering differences with Washington, it would appear the gay party on Tuesday triggered the current developments.
The Embassy did not play host to the gay community out of choice, but rather as an event that is part of the Obama Administration’s policy to fight prejudice against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Similar events were held at US embassies around the world. The communication from the US Embassy, a copy of which is in our possession, invited local embassies, LGBT activists in Kenya, and various local and international allies.
Obama himself caused a stir earlier this month following his public endorsement of same-sex marriages. The event in Nairobi was presided over by the Public Affairs Officer at the Embassy, John Haynes, who was the master of ceremonies.
Speaking to The Standard On Saturday on Friday, Haynes confirmed that Gration did not attend the event, but dispelled speculation that he (Ambassador) was “uneasy” with the meeting. “The Ambassador’s resignation is not related to his failure to attend the LGBT meeting,” said Haynes.
In a statement to the Press, Gration explained: “Differences with Washington regarding my leadership style and certain priorities led me to believe that it’s now time to leave. I submitted my notice of resignation last Monday to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States of America, to be effective as of July 28.”
Besides the gays event, which may not have been agreeable to Gration, Kenya has a special relationship with the US considering that President Obama’s father, Barrack Hussein Obama, is a Kenyan from Alego in Siaya County. That Kenya was going to be a special but delicate station is a fact that even Gration appreciated from day one.
Gration, who previously worked and lived in Africa, specifically in Kenya where he met his wife Judy in Kijabe, was upbeat when he took up his new assignment. During an exclusive interview with this writer days after he arrived, Gration exuded confidence that he was the “right man” for the job.
Owing to his good grasp of local political dynamics, the retired Major-General of the US Air Force said he not only understood Obama’s “second-home” better but that he also possessed crucial security credentials to handle the issue of persistent regional terror threats.
Asked whether President Obama was persuaded by his long working experience, and apparent knowledge of local issues to appoint him to the Kenyan station, Gration responded in the affirmative. “It is probably one of the reasons. The President knows my background in Kenya and having strong ties to this country, I think he wanted to be confident that somebody coming here understands the issues and would help in terms of promoting partnerships between our two great nations,” he said.
“Mimi ni rafiki wa Kenya, mimi ni kama mwananchi kwa sababu hii sio mara yangu ya kwanza kuja nchini. Ninapenda Kenya zaidi na nitajaribu kufanya kazi na wakenya na serikali. (I am a friend of Kenya and I am more or less a citizen considering that I am a frequent visitor.