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President Obama’s senior envoy is not stuck on formality, after all

By | August 6th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By Dann Okoth

She vied for the most powerful seat in the world.

She is the United States Secretary of State and wife of former President Bill Clinton.

But Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama’s top diplomat, is as down-to-earth as they get as many noticed at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi yesterday.

Having arrived in style, and despite the tight security in and around the hotel, where she is staying, Mrs Clinton mingled freely with guests and hotel staff, easing tension usually associated with such dignitaries.

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"I was pleasantly surprised to see Clinton shaking hands with hotel staff and attempting to speak to them in Kiswahili," said the hotel’s Public Relations Manager Kavi Mwendwa.

She added: "Going by her profile and rank in the US Government, her easy-going attitude was simply amazing."

Access room

She said Clinton also spent time talking to other guests at the hotel lobby, greeting them by hand before proceeding to her room.

It was not clear if any of the hotel staff were allowed into Clinton’s room, but sources suggested the US Secretary of State is more accessible than some dignitaries.

"Often it is not easy to access rooms of such dignitaries but with Clinton it was different as I suspect a few colleagues got in to serve her in one way or the other," a source who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the hotel, told The Standard.

The source said there was a rush by clients, especially business people to book a table at the hotel, perhaps in anticipation of catching a glimpse of Clinton and probably exchange business cards.

The relaxed atmosphere at the hotel was a stark contrast to the rigid, albeit fairly reasonable security measures, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) when she arrived on Tuesday evening.

Journalists were kept at a ‘safe distance’ as Clinton landed at the airport to attend eighth African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) and other regional meetings.

Condolleexa Rice

However, Clinton’s warm attitude started to show earlier in the day, as she defied the tight security and attempted to move closer to the journalists at the airport.

But was prevented by the quick action of the security detail around her.

Hers contrasted the visit by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright in Kisumu in 1998, when journalists were kept some 800 metres from her plane.

They could also not take pictures, even during a recent visit by former Secretary of State Condolleexa Rice, following the post-election violence.

Details were scanty as to why Clinton settled for the Intercontinental Hotel. But business pundits pointed to the dexterity of the hotel management.

"This is big business not only because there was a huge entourage, but it was the US Secretary of State visiting," a source said.

- Additional reporting by agencies

President Obama Hillary Rodham Clinton Kavi Mwendwa Intercontinental Hotel African Growth Opportunity Act Agoa
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