U.S. Ambassador Nominee to Kenya Highlights Priorities for Elections, Security

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 11/29/2012

AMB Robert F. GodecBy Serge Yondou, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Washington, D.C. – With international attention focused on Kenya’s upcoming elections, scheduled for March 2013, Robert F. Godec, nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Kenya, testified before the U.S. Senate that “one of [his] top priorities will be to support Kenyan efforts to make the election free, fair and peaceful.”

Godec also addressed security, health, and development issues in his remarks during a confirmation hearing Nov 28, 2012, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Under the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Senate must approve presidential appointments to high offices such as U.S. ambassadors and Cabinet members.

“Kenya has made remarkable progress in recent years in reforming its constitution, building its democratic institutions, expanding press freedom and improving its economy,” said Senator Chris Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, in his written opening statement at the hearing. “Despite this very positive development, I remain concerned about the many uncertainties surrounding the elections and the chances that violence surrounding the elections could place Kenya on a difficult trajectory and present very real challenges for its future.”

Senator Richard F. Lugar, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in his written statement that he was pleased to welcome Godec as President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Kenya. Lugar recalled that Godec is already the U.S. charge d’affaires in Kenya. “[Ambassador Godec] has brought deft and experienced management to Nairobi and effectively sustained [U.S.] varied interest and priorities with Kenyans and the Kenyan government at a critical time,” Lugar said.

Godec said Kenya’s security is “ inextricably linked to our own, as was clearly illustrated in the 1998 bombing of our Embassy, carried out by al Qa’ida, which left 218 people dead and thousands injured.” Kenya also has been a troop contributing nation to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which, Godec said, has helped to establish security for the new Somali government in Mogadishu.

“In taking a higher profile in Somalia, however, Kenya increasingly has become a victim of violent attacks by terrorists,” Godec said. He added that, “if confirmed, I will continue to support Kenya’s efforts to secure its borders and to protect its citizens, while working to ensure that Kenya respects human rights and international law as its fights terrorism.”

Other topics discussed in the hearing included: Kenya’s involvement in Somalia through AMISOM, the humanitarian crisis in the Dadaab Refugee Camp; HIV/AIDS programs through PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief); and the morale of U.S. Embassy personnel in Nairobi.

Statements and a video of the hearing are posted on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website. See http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-11-28-2012