The Kenya Kwanza government has recalled several ambassadors from their respective diplomatic assignments, creating a stir amidst speculation of political realignment.
The sudden recall of these ambassadors, who were primarily deployed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta, has raised questions about the motives behind these actions and the potential impact on diplomatic relations.
The immediate former Kenyan ambassador to Egypt, Maj General (Rtd) Ayub Guantai Matiiri faced a double tragedy.
Matiiri, a retired Kenya Army Deputy Commander who played a significant role in leading the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, was recalled from his diplomatic post but tragically passed away shortly after his return to Kenya in March of this year.
Reports indicate that Matiiri collapsed in his house in Nairobi and was pronounced dead upon arrival at AAR hospital along Kiambu Road.
Surprisingly, his death was not publicly announced by the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the customary practice in such situations.
Sources suggest that the envoy may have faced repercussions for a ‘logistical miscalculation’ he made during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) summit held in Sharm el-Sheikh City, Egypt last year, which Kenyan President William Ruto attended.
Despite the lack of an official government announcement, government officials especially his comrades-in-arms and fellow diplomats attended Matiiri’s funeral and expressed their condolences to his family.
Neither Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua nor PS Korir Singoe’i attended the funeral ceremony at All Saints Cathedral or his burial in Meru.
The circumstances surrounding his recall and subsequent passing underscore the challenges and potential complexities involved in diplomatic assignments and the impacts they can have on individuals’ lives.
Another casualty- Mary Muthoni, the Kenyan ambassador-designate to China, had served less than a year since her posting alongside 21 others in May 2022.
The envoy who had only presented a copy of her credentials to Hong Lei, Director General of the Protocol Department of the China Foreign Ministry was among the first envoys to be axed.
President Ruto seems to be looking west on his economic-centered foreign policy leaving China on the sidelines.
An ambassador’s tour of duty is usually four years but the President can recall at will even before that time lapses.
Similarly, Judy Wakhungu, Kenya’s envoy to France, has also been called back to Nairobi after the expiry of her term. She was posted in Paris in 2018 by then-President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Clement Nzomo, the Kenyan ambassador-designate to Angola just like Muthoni was recalled less than a year after his posting to Luanda.
Nzomo’s diplomatic stay in Luanda was short-lived. He arrived in Angola in August after parliament approved his appointment in May 2022, but didn’t get an opportunity to present his credentials to the Angolan President.
His first huge assignment was in December 2022 when he received Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua for the Great Lakes summit.
According to credible diplomatic sources- Mike Oyugi, a career diplomat serving as the ambassador to Spain, has also received recall orders.
He has served in various capacities at the foreign ministry including heading the Africa and the African Union Directorate, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Kenya in Addis Ababa, and served as Consul General of Kenya to Switzerland among others.
Additionally, Thomas Kwaka alias ‘Big Ted’, Kenya’s Consul General in Los Angeles, Kenya’s Deputy High Commissioner to Belgium Dennis Makobu, and Kiarie Kamere, Deputy High Commissioner in London, have been instructed to return home, further fueling speculation about the government’s intentions.
The recall of these ambassadors, who were largely appointed by former President Uhuru Kenyatta, has led to speculation about a political realignment under the administration of President Ruto, who was a political rival of Kenyatta.
The lack of public information regarding the new diplomatic appointments by President Ruto has caused anxiety and uncertainty.
For Ruto, the openings in diplomatic jobs will give him yet another opportunity to reward close allies who missed out on the cabinet and principal secretaries’ appointments, an issue that may spark bad blood between career diplomats and political appointees.
Last year, in September, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua announced that all newly appointed ambassadors and high commissioners will have to shape up in terms of helping the country unlock export markets or ship out.
The DP said the envoys would be required to sign an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) outlining deliverables and would be held accountable for meeting them within two years.
Gachagua further added that Kenya was going to have a paradigm shift in its foreign policy.
“…seventy percent of envoys who will be appointed will be to look for new markets for agricultural products while expanding the existing markets,” said the DP
This has raised expectations for the upcoming diplomatic appointments and the emphasis on performance-based criteria.
Foreign Policy Sources say the recall of ambassadors and the potential implications it may have on diplomatic relations can send negative signals to countries like China, Angola, and Egypt, where the ambassadors’ tenures were cut short.
They argue that such abrupt changes could disrupt ongoing diplomatic efforts and strain bilateral ties.
Additionally, the issue of cost is a significant consideration. The expenses associated with sending and maintaining ambassadors abroad can be substantial. These costs encompass housing, staff salaries, travel, security, and other logistical arrangements.
Recalling ambassadors and potentially appointing new ones can add financial burdens to the government, especially if frequent changes occur.
The financial aspect becomes even more significant when considering the possibility of recalling ambassadors who had been appointed relatively recently.
Short-lived ambassadorial tenures raise questions about the efficient utilization of resources and the effectiveness of diplomatic strategies employed during their limited time in office.
As the Kenyan government contemplates its diplomatic reshuffling and potential new appointments, finding a balance between continuity, cost-efficiency, and strategic effectiveness will be crucial.
Maintaining stable diplomatic relations while addressing any concerns or issues associated with previous appointments will be essential for a smooth transition and fruitful engagement with partner countries.
As the recalled ambassadors make their way back to Kenya, the government has yet to provide a detailed explanation for the recalls or announce the replacements.
Foreign Policy observers are seeking insights into President Ruto’s diplomatic strategy and the potential changes in Kenya’s global partnerships.
The focus remains on how these changes will shape Kenya’s international relationships and whether they will contribute to a recalibration of the country’s foreign policy objectives.
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