Ruto's ambassador nominees to know their fate this week

Dubai Consul-General nominee David Iboko Lokemer before the Foreign Relations Committee on April 11, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

President William Ruto’s nominees for ambassador, high commissioner and permanent representative will know their fate this week.

The National Assembly Defense, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee is currently on retreat in Nairobi, drafting a report on the suitability of the candidates and is expected to table the same before the House in the week.

Speaking to The Standard, the Committee secretariat confirmed that following a successful and rigorous vetting, the House team was currently in the process of determining the suitability of the 27 candidates to serve in the foreign missions.

The Belgut MP Nelson Koech-led committee is expected to table the report between Tuesday and Thursday.

Speaking during the conclusion of vetting on Thursday, Koech said: “We thank all the nominees for their presentations and pitches to this committee. We shall be retreating from tomorrow Friday for report writing which will then be tabled before the House.”

The vetting was characterised by individuals who demonstrated their grit and yet there were those who the committee felt lacked the gravitas to propel them onto the international stage as Kenya's envoys in select countries across the world.

Most intriguing, perhaps, was Charles Githinji Keiru, the nominee for Kenya's consul-general in Goma, DRC. His presentation of a Form Four certificate and a driving license as credentials piqued the interest of the committee.

Despite the fact that a degree or diploma is not mandatory for an ambassadorial role, the committee was concerned over his suitability and throughout the session questioned him on what they termed as “lack of ambition.”

This came, after Githinji, during questioning, failed to give the meaning of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and claimed that Malawi bordered DRC. He also failed to explain the role of a consul-general and what his tasks would be if given the nod.

Inconsistencies on his net worth –which he claimed to be Sh19 million but indicated as Sh9 million on his submission documents- also put him at loggerheads with the House team.

The committee was also taken aback on learning that despite having enrolled for college in Kasarani, Githinji did not complete his studies after it emerged that the institution had not been certified by government.

"It is very disappointing that given an opportunity to come before this committee, you did absolutely nothing, from filling out the documentation to responding to questions from honourable members, and it is becoming extremely difficult to interview you," Koech said.

Committee vice chair Elijah Memusi said: ”This position has a lot of competencies required which you are not demonstrating…if approved, you’d be dealing with PhD holders and I feel, academically, you would be a dwarf.”

But in his defense, Githinji said he would endeavour to go back to school and acquire the requisite skills for the position.

“I’m a believer of learning, once approved by this committee I intend on attending school at the Foreign Affairs Academy and learn more,” he submitted.

On the flip side, committee members heaped praise on Kenya’s ambassador nominee to Morocco Jessica Muthoni Gakinya during vetting.

Gakinya, who is a Business Development Manager at Safaricom, articulated her intentions to market Kenya as an investment destination; she submitted that her first move would be to lobby the Kingdom of Morocco for the establishment of a fertiliser factory in Kenya which would facilitate ease of access to agricultural products for farmers.

“The people of the Kingdom of Morrocco are consumers of green tea. I will partner with stakeholders and market Kenya's green tea and coffee, taking advantage of Africa's Continental free trade area and utilising the Ports of Tangier and Mombasa,” she said.

“Morocco's population also takes coffee. They get their coffee from Indonesia and Vietnam, and with the AfCFTA, I will encourage very much if approved for Morocco to source their coffee from Kenya,” she added.

Committee chairperson Koech lauded Muthoni’s presentation and complimented her for having done due diligence as far as the vetting was concerned.

“I am not approving of you but you’re the first nominee to appear having thoroughly researched and understood the intricacies of the host country,” he said.

Kenneth Milimo Ng'ang'a, nominee for the ambassador to Abu Dhabi, however, got in trouble after the committee pointed out his lack of knowledge about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after he referred to Dubai as UAE’s capital.

Milimo is a former Bungoma South Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) official.

Kenya’s high commissioner nominee to Zambia, Lilian Tomitom also had an interesting “run-in” with the vetting committee. She was questioned on Kenya’s relationship with Zambia, how to strengthen ties and how she would protect the country’s interests.

On the relationship between Kenya and Zambia she said, “I know Zambia is a former British colony which is the same as Kenya. They also share a similar ugali name which is sima in Kenya and nsima in Zambia.”

She promised to strengthen Kenya’s agricultural ties with Zambia if approved.

As plenary resumes next week, all eyes will be on the Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee’s report which will be interrogated by the House either for adoption or rejection. President Ruto will be forced back to the drawing board should any of the nominees be rejected.