When last October Government posted diplomats to missions abroad, there was uproar because most of them were either relatives of senior politicians or election losers.State officials are at it again and the secrecy this time round is higher than before and style of appointment and induction of the lucky few more questionable. For a start, our enquiries found out, only about five senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be privy to what is going on, the full list, as well as destination of the lucky lot and fate of those recalled. It turned out Government is training 14 people who will soon be posted to embassies abroad, through an arrangement with a local university that hosts an institute of diplomacy. Our sources, whose request for anonymity we respect because they were not cleared to speak on the appointments, said only Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura and Foreign Affairs PS Thuita Mwangi know the details of the upcoming postings. It is believed President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are the other two people in Government in the know.The confidential sources in Government revealed some of those undergoing training for posting include Dave Arunga, a former personal assistant to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, former Constitution of Kenya Review Commissioner Nancy Barasa, a respected lawyer, who is said to command professional respect from Wetangula; and Ken Osinde, a senior official at the College of Insurance. He was also at one time a member of former Cabinet Simeon Nyachae’s think-tank. Also said to have clinched one of the slots is Peter Salim Ndemo, a retired Public Service Commissioner said to be related to Information PS Bitange Ndemo. Bonding sessionIt is was, however, not clear if the senior politicians and State officials against whose names their appointment were being bandied, played any role in their appointments. The sources revealed the identity of those being trained was a closely guarded secret. So much that even senior officials invited to their induction, which first started in a Nairobi hotel before moving to Mombasa this week, were not aware who they were going to meet.
Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula.
Part of the excursion outside Nairobi usually is to allow bonding and getting them to know their country better, but in this case they are in a formal workshop whose hallmark is also secrecy and privacy. Little is said about how they were selected, where they are headed, and their special kills. It is believed their appointments were patterned along an agreement between the President and Prime Minister’s office that at least half of the envoys must be career diplomats and the other lot political appointees.Several career diplomats — including Benson Ogutu, Josephine Owuor, Anthony Andanje, Anthony Muchiri, Bill Kimaru, Josephine Ngeisa and Karimi Kaberia — could also be headed for foreign missions.The envoys are said to be awaiting President Kibaki’s return from China before they get their appointment letters and official send off. The new envoys are set to replace 14 ambassadors who were recalled recently. Over 115 junior staff were also recalled from missions abroad, but it was not clear if their positions have been filled or how it would be done.No responseEfforts to get official comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed. Even after being called and sent electronic messages, Wetangula and Thuita did not respond. The diplomats who were recalled include Sospeter Machage (Russia), Mutuma Kathurima (Germany), Ann Nyikuli (Italy), Mwakai Kikonde Sio (Spain), Lazarus Amayo (Zambia), and the vocal ambassador to the US Rateng Oginga Ogego. Sources said they should report back by May 17.An investigation by The Standard established the training venue for the new envoys was changed from Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi’s Upper Hill to Mombasa, when the training was mid-way.Inquiries at the ministry on why the training was shifted to Mombasa did not yield any answers, but it is believed it is because the media got wind of the upcoming diplomatic posting.On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka who was said to be on the way to Mombasa to close the induction said he could not discuss the issue when his comment was sought. Controversial postingsLast October’s controversial postings caused a stir because those who benefited included Raila’s sister Wenwa Akinyi, Consulate-General in Kenyan’s mission in Los Angeles, US. Elkanah Odembo, a brother-in-law to Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo was posted to France, while former Kilome MP Mutinda Mutiso, who is an ally of Vice- President Kalonzo Musyoka, was sent to Tanzania. Other beneficiaries of the October airlift included Party of National Unity and Kanu point man in Rift Valley in 2007, Stephen Tarus, and Julius Sunkuli, a former Kanu secretary general. It also benefited former Kiharu MP Kembi Gitura, who was posted as ambassador in Brussels, Belgium and the European Union. Former Nairobi PC Francis Sigei was appointed Kenya’s High Commissioner in Nigeria.Arunga is reportedly headed for Rwanda, Kaberia Brazil, and Muchiri Libya.Most of those recalled have served since 2003, when President Kibaki first took over power. Changes in the embassies were meant to increase efficiency in line with President Kibaki’s challenge to envoys that they aggressively market the country as an attractive and preferred investment destination in their countries of accreditation.While addressing envoys at Leisure Lodge Resort in Mombasa during the official opening of the 15th Biennial Kenya Ambassadors/ High Commissioners Conference last year, President Kibaki noted that an aggressive campaign to improve the country’s image abroad was important to accelerate the economic developmental goals as outlined in the Vision 2030. The Head of State told the diplomats to continuously promote the country’s image and strategic interests, particularly those that would catalyse the attainment of Kenya’s priority economic goals.NEW ENVOYS1. Dave Arunga2. Nancy Barasa3. Ken Osinde4. Peter Salim Ndemo5. Benson Ogutu6. Josephine Owuor7. Josephine Ngeisa 8. Anthony Andanje9. Karimi Mberia10. Anthony Muchiri11. Bill Kimaru