US ambassador to Kenya Jonathan Scott Gration yesterday announced that he was leaving his post amidst strained diplomatic relations with Nairobi over a travel advisory issued by his government over terrorism threats at the Coast.
Gration cited differences in "leadership style" with Washington as the reason for his abrupt resignation just a year into his posting in Nairobi. He leaves the post on July 28, having served since May 2011.
Gration, a retired Major General of the United States Air Force, took over from the outgoing Michael Ranneberger but took a lacklustre diplomatic approach. Previously, he served as the Obama's representative in Sudan and oversaw the secession of Juba from Khartoum. "It has been a great honour and a profound privilege to be a part of the US State Department team for the past three years and to serve as the US Ambassador to Kenya and as the CEO of Team Kenya since May of 2011. However, differences with Washington regarding my leadership style and certain priorities lead me to believe that it's now time to leave. Accordingly, I submitted my notice of resignation last Monday to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States of America, to be effective as of 28 July 2012," the ambassador said in a personal statement to newsrooms yesterday.
The announcement by the American diplomat comes just days after the US Embassy in Nairobi issued a travel advisory to Kenya warning of imminent terrorist attacks in Mombasa, which angered authorities in Nairobi who considered the warning economic sabotage. A day after the US issued the advisory, a grenade attack in a night club killed two people in Mombasa.
The advisory, the Star understands, was issued even after Gration and the Kenyan authorities had met and agreed not to make any public announcement that could scare tourists from travelling to Kenya on grounds of insecurity. Kenya protested to the US through the diplomatic channels but Gration maintained the advisory would stay in place when he addressed the media after visiting a Kajiado hospital.
The US also hosted the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender pride event recently, the first of its kind in the country even though Kenya does not legalise homosexuality. His predecessor Ranneberger was an outgoing envoy who spoke openly to the chagrin of his hosts, a section of who considered him to interfere in the country's internal affairs. But Washington seemed to love Ranneberger's abrasive style and kept him in Nairobi for an extra year after his four-year tour of duty ended.
Gration served as the US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary - the highest-ranking diplomatic posting outside one's country - a position he described as "a dream job for my wife and me." "This assignment has been the perfect opportunity to use my deep-rooted knowledge of Kenya - its people, its language, and its culture - and my diplomatic, development, security, and humanitarian experience.
Judy and I have been extremely honoured to lead Team Kenya, and we wish all of you the very best as Kenya implements its constitutional reforms, holds elections next year, and proceeds with the devolution of political and economic power," Gration said. "Judy and I are looking forward to returning to the work about which we are so passionate. But as we depart, we will deeply miss Kenya, the Kenyan people, our partners in the diplomatic corps, and our colleagues in the US Mission. Our hearts will remain here with you and with the true friendships that will endure until death," he said.
The son of missionary parents, Gration spent his childhood years in the now Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and Kenya. He has been in public service for 35 years, including a two-year assignment with the Kenya Air Force as a pilot instructor. He was a national security adviser to the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign and served as a Special Assistant to the President. He also served as the President's Special Envoy to Sudan from March 2009 to April 2011. On February 10, 2011, President Obama nominated him to serve as the next US Ambassador to Kenya. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 14 and sworn in on April 19, 2011.