Envoy nominees struggle to convince MPs

President William Ruto’s ambassadorial nominees Monday had a tough time explaining their suitability for the positions.

Appearing before the Departmental Committee of Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations, National Intelligence Service Assistant Director Jeremy Laibuttah read a statement elaborating his life and career.

Laibuttah who has more than 30 years of experience in public service, struggled to convince the committee on his suitability as nominee for Kenya’s ambassador to Sudan.

Although he had a brief stint in London working at the Kenyan embassy, MPs questioned whether his current job, involving undercover operations and lacking direct contact with people, provided adequate experience for diplomatic roles.

They emphasised that diplomacy requires specific skills, temperament, and experience in dealing with foreign governments and international relations.

“I thought diplomacy is like nuclear science but I realised, everybody can do it,” argued Laibuttah.

“Your current job is an undercover operational job which does not involve direct contact with people. You haven’t said a single word about your inexperience in diplomacy. I was hoping you would tell us some of your hidden abilities in carrying out this job,” said Kamkunji MP Yusuf Hassan.

However, MPs challenged Laibuttah’s position arguing that the role of being Kenya’s face in another country, is not something just anyone can do.

“Not anybody can do diplomacy. It is an area that one needs to have the right temperament and experience in dealing with people,” said Kajiado Central MP Kanchory Memusi.

When questioned about the opportunities he would create for Kenyans in Khartoum, Laibuttah provided vague answers.

“When I go to a place, I want to know how the ground is. For example, in Rift Valley, I was there for 11 months but I was able to visit all the 14 counties and establish how my officers are working and the experience of the people on the ground,” he said.

However, his defence did not impress some of the MPs with Kitui MP Irene Kasalu openly expressing herself on the matter.

“To be honest, I am zero convinced that he is suited for this office,” said Kasalu.

The MPs also raised concern over Laibutta’s academic papers which showed that he had been awarded a first-class upper-division degree.

“I don’t know if it’s a typo error or the university can award first class honours upper degree. I’ve never heard of that. Can you shed light on this Mr Laibuttah,” said Kingangop MP Kwenye Thuku.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s Chief of Staff George Macqoye was queried about being mentioned in a case before the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over irregular payments.

MPs tasked ambassador nominee Joyce Khasimwa to explain how she will execute her mandate in Angola despite lacking knowledge of Portuguese.

Kamkunji MP argued that the language barrier would be a problem especially when discussing sensitive information that would be classified even for a translator.

“Without speaking Portuguese or a bit of French, you will be completely paralysed and will have to be accompanied by a translator to every important event which means you will not have an in-depth social political or diplomatic engagement because you’ll always be with someone to interpret for you,” said Yusuf.

Khasimwa acknowledged that it would be better to speak Portuguese but argued that the language barrier would not hinder her from executing her mandate.

The ambassador nominee said she will leverage on her experience working with the United Nations in Southeast Asia to carry out the new job.

The committee continues to vet other nominees today.

[email protected]