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Embassy Row: Envoy dishonored
Scott Gration invoked the Gospel of John, declaring that the "truth shall set me free," when he defended himself against charges of gross mismanagement as U.S. ambassador to Kenya.
However, a damning State Department report shows that the retired Air Force general will need more than prayer to save his reputation.
In less than a year as chief of mission of the largest American embassy in Africa, Mr. Gration managed to lose the "respect and confidence" of the diplomatic staff in Nairobi and demonstrate such poor management skills that he ranked among the worst of more than 80 U.S. ambassadors reviewed this year, according to the State Department's Inspector-General's Office.
"The ambassador has lost the respect and confidence of the staff to lead the mission," the inspector-general said in the report on Mr. Gration released Friday.
"Of more than 80 chiefs of mission inspected in recent cycles, the ambassador ranked last for interpersonal relations, next to last on both managerial skill and attention to morale, and third to last in his overall scores from surveys of mission members."
The report, based on embassy staff surveys in April and May, added that Mr. Gration's "greatest weakness is his reluctance to accept clear-cut U.S. government decisions." It said the ambassador also refused to read classified messages from Washington and used commercial, or unsecured, computers to send e-mails.
"He ordered a commercial Internet connection installed in his embassy office bathroom so he could work there on a laptop," the report said.
When staffers questioned his use of unsecured computers, "the ambassador compounded the problem on several occasions by publicly berating members of the staff, attacking them personally, loudly questioning their competence and threatening career-ending disciplinary actions."
Mr. Gration, a top national security adviser to President Obama during the 2008 election, had described his appointment as ambassador to Kenya as a "dream job" because he spent part of his childhood in the East African nation with his missionary parents.
The ambassador, who was aware of the report before its release, used an Independence Day speech in Nairobi to announce his resignation, which took place July 28.
He denied the allegations in the report and said he decided to resign to protect "my reputation and dignity."
"Eventually the truth will come out," he said, "and the truth will set me free."
The diplomat now in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya remembered his fallen colleagues last week by laying a wreath at a memorial to the 218 people killed 14 years in the al Qaeda terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Nairobi.
"We remember our friends and colleagues with fondness and regret and will never forget them and their lives cut short," said Steven Nolan, the charge d'affaires.
Twelve Americans were among those killed when suicide bombers attacked the embassy on Aug. 7, 1998. Thousands of Kenyans were injured. Terrorists killed 11 Tanzanians and injured 85 in a simultaneous attack on the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam.
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
Oscar Arias, a former president of Costa Rica; Vinicio Cerezo, a former president of Guatemala; and Eduardo Stein, a former vice president of Guatemala. They address a forum at the Organization of American States on the 25th anniversary of the Esquipulas Agreements, which pledged Central American leaders to work for peace and democracy in the region.
• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email email@example.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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About the Author
James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...
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