New Kenyan ambassador to US eyes partnership and trade

Ambassador Robinson Njeru Githae (Right) and US President Barack Obama. [Photo: Rocky Asutsa]

Kenya's new ambassador to the US Robinson Njeru Githae will not be focusing on aid and grants during his tour but will instead focus on developing partnerships and trade.

He outlined his vision at a reception Tuesday after presenting his credentials to President Barack Obama at the White House.

The reception, held at the Kenya Embassy, marked the official start of his ambassadorial duties.

“I will endeavor to work closely with all of you to ensure that even more Kenyan products enter the U.S. market, and conversely, more U.S firms invest in Kenya,” Robinson Njeru Githae said to a crowd of about 50 diplomats and Kenyans living and working in the U.S.

He and ambassadors representing Switzerland, Ghana, Zimbabwe, the European Union, Macedonia, Mali, Comoros, Angola and Senegal earlier in the day presented their credentials to Obama in the Oval Office.

“When I stood to read my speech, the president said, ‘I’m sure you know how to read. Say what is in your heart and I will say what is mine.’ I was really touched by that noble gesture,” Githae said.

In his short speech to those at the reception, Githae expressed his wish to have the diaspora as the 48th county – Kenya is divided into 47 counties. This is in reference to Kenyans in the diaspora’s push for the right to vote from their respective host countries in the 2017 elections.

“During my tenure, I hope to work closely with you to ensure that your interests are well represented, that you are well facilitated and that the full benefit of the Kenya’s hardworking, enterprising, well-educated and patriotic diaspora is felt back at home,” Githae said.

Before becoming ambassador, Githae served in parliament and was finance minister.

“The partnership between the United States and Kenya is long and deep. I am very confident that under your leadership here in Washington and the leadership of Ambassador Godec in Nairobi we will continue to grow from strength to strength,” Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department, said.

Robert F. Godec has been U.S. ambassador to Kenya since January 2013. He was not at the reception.

Kenya’s ambassador to Nigeria was there along with ambassadors to the U.S. from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sudan and Rwanda.

Mathilde Mukantabana, the Rwandan ambassador, said the two countries need to work together.

“Kenya is an extension of our country Rwanda. The stronger we are as a unit the better we are,” she said.

Kenyans working with the World Bank were also in attendance to express their support.

"Kenya is an important partner for us in the World Bank," Erick Fernandes, World Bank adviser on climate change and natural resources, said. He underscored the close working relationship with Kenya on development issues such as agriculture and climate change.