The Star (Kenya)

Meet the six new diplo­mats, their strate­gies and chal­lenges in Kenya

- ELIUD KIBII @eli­ud­kibii Sube­d­i­tor and for­eign af­fairs writer Politics · Diplomacy · World Politics · Kenya · Uhuru Kenyatta · Nairobi · China · Switzerland · Denmark · Sweden · Netherlands · Tanzania · Nigeria · Congress of the United States · John Bercow · West Africa · Africa · Sierra Leone · Ghana · Xi Jinping · Beijing · United Nations · Geneva · Northeastern University · Copenhagen · Pakistan · Bolivia · Benin · European Union · Afghanistan · Somalia · LinkedIn · Sudan · Hague · John S. Horn · Femi Gbaja Biamila · Diplo · Kenya Airways · Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs · Lake Turkana · Lake Turkana Wind Power (LTWP) · Mali

Six new en­voys pre­sented their cre­den­tials to Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta on Septem­ber 2, com­menc­ing their tour of duty in Nairobi.

The diplo­mats are am­bas­sadors Zhou Pingjian (China), Valentin Zell­weger (Switzer­land), Ole Thonke (Den­mark), Caro­line Vicini (Swe­den), Marten Brouwer (The Nether­lands) and High Com­mis­sioner John Stephen Sim­bachawene of Tan­za­nia.

Pres­i­dent Keny­atta chal­lenged them to work to­wards deep­en­ing ex­ist­ing strong bi­lat­eral ties be­tween Kenya and their re­spec­tive coun­tries.

The Star in­tro­duces the new diplo­mats to you, re­views their pro­files, the fields of fo­cus and chal­lenges.

Am­bas­sador Zhou Pingjian (China)

You might have watched a vi­ral video in which Nige­ria’s Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Femi Gba­jabi­amila sum­moned the Chi­nese am­bas­sador and rep­ri­manded him over what he termed as abuse of Africans, par­tic­u­larly Nige­ri­ans, in China in the wake of Covid-19 out­break.

The diplo­mat in the clip was Am­bas­sador Zhou and served in Nige­ria from 2016. He suc­ceeded Gu Xiao­jie.

Zhou ar­rived in Kenya on Au­gust 31 and is the sev­en­teenth Chi­nese am­bas­sador to Kenya.

He is also the third Chi­nese am­bas­sador to be moved from West Africa to Kenya af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor Wu Peng, who came from Sierra Leone, and Sun Bao­hong, ar­riv­ing from Ghana.

The en­voy ar­rives in Kenya amidst Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit the econ­omy, dis­rupt­ing in­fra­struc­ture bud­gets, the key diplo­matic tool for China. There is an im­age he has to fix fol­low­ing claims of abuse of Africans, Kenyans in­cluded, as well as claims of racism in op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of the SGR.

But Kenya-china ties have been at the high­est level, af­ter Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pres­i­dent Keny­atta jointly up­graded the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions to a Com­pre­hen­sive Strate­gic Co­op­er­a­tive Part­ner­ship in 2017.

China has also been one of Kenya’s top trad­ing part­ners and a ma­jor source of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment for years.

Wu was pro­moted to the role of di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Depart­ment of African Af­fairs in China’s head­quar­ters, prob­a­bly hav­ing done a good job in Nairobi.

The new en­voy has the task of sus­tain­ing th­ese ties.

Upon pre­sent­ing his let­ter of cre­dence, Zhou said China will con­tinue sup­port­ing Kenya’s de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes, par­tic­u­larly Vi­sion 2030 and Big Four agenda aligned projects. This in­di­cates there is no pol­icy shift.

A re­view of his time in Nige­ria points to a suc­cess­ful tour.

Am­bas­sador Valentin Zell­weger (Swiss)

Zell­weger joined the Swiss For­eign Min­istry in 1991 and was un­til July the Swiss en­voy to the UN and to the other or­gan­i­sa­tions in Geneva.

Ac­cord­ing to Diplo, he also served as the head of the Direc­torate of In­ter­na­tional Law and Le­gal Ad­viser to the Swiss For­eign Min­istry un­til 2016.

Zell­weger is not new in Kenya as he served here as a le­gal ad­viser to the Swiss Mis­sion.

He suc­ceeds Am­bas­sador Ralf Heck­ner, a diplo­mat who was pas­sion­ate about de­vo­lu­tion in Kenya, es­pe­cially in the North­east­ern through the Fron­tier Coun­ties De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil.

It is also un­der Heck­ner, a great friend of the me­dia, that Kenya-swiss re­la­tions reached the high­est level with the two-day visit by Pres­i­dent Alain Ber­set in July 2018. A year later, Kenya Air­ways launched di­rect flights to Geneva, which Heck­ner said sig­nalled good tid­ings for Kenya-switzer­land ties.

“The new Swiss en­voy out­lined trade pro­mo­tion and strength­en­ing of Kenya’s de­volved gov­er­nance sys­tem as his im­me­di­ate pri­or­i­ties as he set­tles down in Nairobi,” State House said in a state­ment.

Am­bas­sador Ole Thonke (Den­mark)

The in­com­ing Dan­ish am­bas­sador is re­turn­ing to Kenya for the third time.

Thonke started his ca­reer in the for­eign ser­vice as an in­tern in 1997 at the Em­bassy of Den­mark in Kenya and later re­turned as the deputy head of mis­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Dan­ish em­bassy, Thonke has pre­vi­ously headed three de­part­ments at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs in Copen­hagen: Con­sular, Green Diplo­macy and Growth and Em­ploy­ment.

“Prior to that, he was the am­bas­sador to Pak­istan from 201617 and to Bo­livia 2013-16. Be­fore his am­bas­sado­rial ap­point­ments, Am­bas­sador Ole Thonke served as the Deputy Head of Mis­sion at the Em­bassy in Kenya and as a First Sec­re­tary at the Em­bassy in Benin,” the em­bassy said in his in­tro­duc­tion state­ment.

Thonke has also been the deputy head of the African Depart­ment and head of sec­tion in the depart­ment of EU co­or­di­na­tion at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs. Clearly not new to African af­fairs.

He suc­ceeds Mette Knud­sen, who was since been posted to Afghanista­n.

Un­til her de­par­ture, she was among EU diplo­mats who had taken the lead in sup­port­ing Kenya’s fight against Covid-19.

In a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with this writer, Knud­sen said Kenya is one of the largest Dan­ish em­bassies “be­cause we have strong and long-stand­ing re­la­tions with Kenya and So­ma­lia”.

Among Den­mark’s projects dur­ing her time was the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which is ex­pected to be Africa’s largest.

Thonke said his fo­cus will be to en­hance his coun­try’s sup­port for Kenya’s Covid-19 in­ter­ven­tions, deepen sup­port for cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts and part­ner with the pri­vate sec­tor in em­ploy­ment cre­ation ini­tia­tives.

Am­bas­sador Caro­line Vicini (Swe­den)

A so­cial me­dia post by the Em­bassy of Swe­den said Vicini joins the mis­sion from Afghanista­n as am­bas­sador.

The post in­di­cated she will fo­cus on Swe­den’s key pri­or­i­ties – gen­der, democ­racy and en­vi­ron­ment – as well as grow­ing Kenya’s dis­tinct pro­file as a re­gional hub for in­no­va­tions and busi­ness start-ups.

She suc­ceeds Am­bas­sador Anna Jard­felt, who moved to the UN in Geneva.

Her bi­lat­eral gains dur­ing her fiveyear ten­ure in Kenya would in­clude gov­er­nance and democ­racy, women em­pow­er­ment and trade and busi­ness. Seem there is no shift in pol­icy as well.

Am­bas­sador Maarten Brouwer (The Nether­lands)

Brouwer, 52, is an econ­o­mist by pro­fes­sion and his Linked In ac­count shows he joined the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs in 1988.

Since then, he has worked in Tan­za­nia and Su­dan, both in the field of de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance.

He has held the po­si­tion of am­bas­sador, De­vel­op­ment Co­op­er­a­tion within the man­age­ment team of DGIS. Be­tween 2011 and 2016, he was the Nether­lands Am­bas­sador in Mali and prior to ar­riv­ing in Kenya, he worked as in­spec­tor at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs in The Hague.

Brouwer out­lined ex­panded ac­cess of Kenya’s ex­ports into Europe through his coun­try as his top pri­or­ity.

His pre­de­ces­sor Frans Makken largely fo­cused on agri­cul­ture, wa­ter, and en­ergy.

In his farewell in­ter­view he said for the last five years in a row, the Nether­lands has been ranked as the largest ex­port mar­ket for Kenyan prod­ucts in Europe, the main des­ti­na­tion for Kenya’s cut flow­ers, veg­eta­bles and fruits.

High Com­mis­sioner John Stephen Sim­bachawene (Tan­za­nia)

Sim­bachawene was sworn-in on May 21 to suc­ceed Pindi Chana, whose of­fi­cial tour of duty ended in De­cem­ber 2019.

But praises heaped by Pres­i­dent Pombe Magu­fuli on Kenya’s High Com­mis­sioner to Tan­za­nia Dan Kazungu led to spec­u­la­tion that Chana had bean re­called.

“When he saw there are some prob­lems, he came out clearly in the open to speak and de­fend his coun­try. Those are the kind of am­bas­sadors I need. I wish he could move to Tan­za­nia for me to ap­point him to a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion. He is a good am­bas­sador,” Magu­fuli said.

Tan­za­nia’s Min­istry of For­eigns Af­fairs, how­ever, later said the re­place­ment de­lay was caused by nor­mal diplo­matic pro­ce­dures.

Re­gard­less, Sim­bachawene comes in at a time the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries is low, which is not good en­vi­ron­ment to ad­vance his na­tional in­ter­ests.

He has said his fo­cus will be en­hanc­ing cross-bor­der trade and in­creased peo­ple-to-peo­ple in­ter­ac­tions be­tween the two East African states.

 ?? /PSCU ?? Swe­den Am­bas­sador to Kenya Caro­line Vicini presents her cre­den­tials to Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta at State House on Septem­ber 2
/PSCU Swe­den Am­bas­sador to Kenya Caro­line Vicini presents her cre­den­tials to Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta at State House on Septem­ber 2
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