The Sad Case of the Errant African Diplomat

I can say without fear of contradiction that there is no Kenyan that doesn’t know who Michael Ranneberger was, or who Rob Macaire is. These are not just names of foreign envoys or figure heads of distant lands, these are people who Kenyans have come to know, hate them or love them. This is because Western envoys in this country do not just come to Kenya, settle in Muthaiga, move in to their plush Chancery offices, ship their kids off to the International School of Kenya then kick their feet up and say they have arrived. Western envoys go beyond the call of their diplomatic duties and actually take an interest in the affairs of the country. As for the African diplomats, many have been concerned with their loud silence on any major issue of national importance. It’s almost as if there is a silent agreement between our government and the African diplomatic corps to remain silent: Live and let live.

We’ve gone through a traumatic 2007-2008 post election period, constant political turmoil, constitutional referendum, ICC cases at the Hague, public outcries on rampant corruption and impunity. Meanwhile the Western diplomatic corps are shouting themselves hoarse pleading with the Kenyan political leadership to put the interests of their great country and its people first, while African diplomats remain by and largely mute.

Not to be overly harsh but I think its sad when the only time an African Envoy makes the headlines is when they’re battering their wives. Today the Star newspaper reports that Dr. C. W. Wigwe, the Nigerian High Commissioner to Kenya and Permanent Representative to UNEP and UN-Habitat thrashed his own wife to within inches of her life. The front page of the paper carries disturbing images of Wigwe’s wife battered and scarred face covered in blood. I applaud her for not remaining silent and engaging a competent Kenyan lawyer to make sure the appropriate legal action is taken against the Nigerian envoy, regardless of his diplomatic immunity.

This false sense of brotherhood and silent diplomacy between our government and the African diplomatic corps is not helping us move forward. On a regional scale, this is the same sort of thinking that has crippled the African Union (formely OAU whose birthday you all celebrated yesterday). The AU has been reduced to nothing more than a holiday resort where our leaders congregate with their fellow Heads of State at tax payers’ expense to pat each other on the back and return back to their respective thrones to continue plundering their countries to the ground.

As far as Western diplomats in Kenya go, you can call it whatever you want: flouting of diplomatic protocol, breach of the customary international law rule of non-interference or meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state but the last thing Kenya needs right now is soft diplomacy, we need tough talk and even tougher action. While Mrs Macaire, wife of British High Commissioner Rob Macaire is busy campaigning for the protection of Karura Forest, her Nigerian counterpart who happens to be a trained lawyer is being confined to household chores then beaten up by her husband over a food.

By comparing between overselves and the West, all I’m trying to say is that in situations as glaring as this, we as Africans only have ourselves to blame.

8 thoughts on “The Sad Case of the Errant African Diplomat

  1. I beg to differ, sir. This “speakerphone diplomacy” western envoys engage in is dangerous and motivated purely by self-interests. What in the world would make you think that these envoys care more about Kenya than our African diplomats?

    The West has invested and continues to invest heavily in Kenya given its strategic position in the region, so all they’re doing is protecting that investment.

    I took offence when Ranneberger and other ambassadors were busy going out campaigning for the New Constitution in the run-up to the Referendum poll last year and purporting to give civic education to rural Kenyans, if that is not the height of having your fingers in someone else’s Ugali, then I dont know what is!

    • Valid points raised. I certainly appreciate that there is a clear line between diplomacy and activism. I know for a fact that most African ambassadors in Kenya spend the majority of their time attending receptions, luncheons, dinner-parties, playing golf at Muthaiga/Windor and going on Safaris. Why not spend some of that time doing some community outreach or something? Really?

  2. just a thought, diplomacy is effective when backed up by cash/military force, African nations lack these (relative to the western nations) so its probably not going to have the same effect when an african ambassodor says something compared to when one from a western nation does and couples with discontinuance of aid, travel advisories etc.
    it could be that african ambassadors are being realistic when keeping quiet because they know the weight that they are opinion carries

    • I hear you, Tarama. But it’s like these African envoys dont live in the same Kenya as the rest of us. There’s so much advocacy and outreach work that can be done, even on behalf of their governments.

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