What you need to know:
- The US diplomat raised eyebrows during the National Prayer Breakfast when he said Kenyan leaders were seeking repentance for corruption.
- This year alone, the US has pumped about Sh1.5 billion into programmes for governance and supporting civil society groups.
Diplomats are often seen as men and women of honour sent abroad to “lie” on behalf of their countries.
But Sir Henry Wotton, the British diplomat said to have made a variation of this observation, was actually referring to “staying” abroad, and not being dishonest.
For new US Ambassador Kyle McCarter, his new found way of working seems to be brutal honesty.
And taking a leaf from his predecessors like Smith Hempstone and Michael Ranneberger, but taking advantage of technology, Mr McCarter says it the way he feels.
With this “stop thieves” mantra, the US diplomat raised eyebrows during the National Prayer Breakfast when he said Kenyan leaders were seeking repentance for corruption.
“Kenyan leaders are praying and asking for forgiveness for the sin of thievery at the 17th annual National Prayer Breakfast. What a good start to take the nation on the path of prosperity the wananchi deserve. We must all do our part,” he wrote on May 30.
Later when the government launched new notes and announced October 1 as last day for the old 1,000 notes, he agreed with British High Commissioner Nic Hailey’s view that it could help tame money laundering.
“One more tool that can be used to stop the plague of thievery keeping the wananchi from the prosperity they deserve.”
There have been several other “stop-thieves” comments, including a pledge to work with prosecutors so that thieves found looting government funds are taken to jail.
But it was never this brutal for the son of a military chaplain. When he was nominated to be the next ambassador to Kenya, he wrote on Twitter of how he had left a legacy of “honouring God, serving others and saving lives of children in Kenya” the last time he worked here.
Back in the 1980s, the diplomat, 56, then worked as missionary for Each One Feed One International; a charity organisation started by his father.
In today’s Tharaka-Nithi County where he worked, locals named the place ‘Kwa Makata’, a corruption of his surname, but reflecting the positive impact of his missionary work.
“It is an honour to be asked to represent President (Donald) Trump and the USA in a country I have lived and served. I look forward to a closer relationship befitting both nations,” he wrote on Twitter.
The envoy is still most things, though. He is a former sales representative, a family man and father of two. He is also a politician, having been senator for Illinois as a Republican, according to a biographical note on the US embassy’s website.
When President Trump picked him, he was running the Custom Product Innovations, a company he formed in 1998 and which specialises in industrial cleaning.
Then he jumped into the world of protecting American interests in Kenya, sometimes using Twitter.
On Friday, an Embassy official told the Nation social media is the only one way the ambassador will use to engage with Kenyans.
“You will see the ambassador travelling throughout Kenya connecting with the people to discuss all issues that affect them,” the official said.
The focus will not just be corruption either, the official said. “The United States is fully committed to efforts by the Government of Kenya and the Kenyan people to fight corruption. The United States of America is a steadfast partner to Kenya and will continue to speak publicly in line with statements made by President Uhuru Kenyatta in his call to end the thievery that deprives the wananchi of the prosperity that is rightfully theirs.”
But, when President Trump released his Africa Policy last December, it was obvious issues of accountability would feature prominently.
“Under our new approach, every decision we make and every dollar of aid we spend will further US priorities in the region,” US National Security Advisor John Bolton said at the time.
"All US aid on the continent will advance US interests, and help African nations move toward self-reliance.”
In Kenya, part of the US programmes include training of Kenyan law enforcement agencies in order to “conclude corruption cases in the Judiciary in a timely manner, capacity building at the national and county level to prevent corruption, and ethics training through the Kenyan School of Government for civil servants, according to a bulletin from the Embassy".
Next week the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations will host Kenya’s Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, and several senior officials in the justice system, “to discuss anti-corruption efforts”.
This year alone, the US has pumped about Sh1.5 billion into programmes for governance and supporting civil society groups.
In the meantime, Ambassador McCarter will continue to meet with key politicians.
Last week, he met National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi who promptly proposed that church donations be capped at Sh100,000 per politician.
Later, he met Majority Leader Aden Duale where the envoy proposed “courageous” decisions on the Dadaab Refugee camp whose closure is imminent, according to officials at the Refugee Affairs Secretariat.