- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The death of Osama bin Laden brings a “measure of justice” to the relatives of those killed in a 1998 terrorist attack in Nairobi, U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger said this week at his last reception in the Kenyan capital.

Mr. Ranneberger, who is due to leave Kenya on Wednesday, noted his meetings with many of those relatives, as well as victims injured in the bombing, when he commemorated the 10th anniversary of the attack in 2008.

“Those victims and their families and loved ones have now received a measure of justice,” he said, according to Kenyan news reports.

“I well recall the somber commemoration. … Thus, for me personally and, of course, more importantly for the Kenyan people, the killing of bin Laden provides a sense of closure.”

The bombing targeted the U.S. Embassy and killed 12 staff members. But the total carnage claimed 200 Kenyan lives and injured another 4,000.

Mr. Ranneberger, the longest-serving U.S. ambassador to the East African nation, made many friends and a few enemies, especially among corrupt politicians, during his nearly five years in Nairobi.

He also found love.

The divorced father of two adult children last week confirmed that he and a crusading Kenyan woman, Ruth Konchellah, are more than friends.

“I have been fortunate to become a king to a certain lady, and she became a queen to me,” he told the Nation newspaper last week.

He promised he will return to Kenya but declined to discuss marriage plans.

Ms. Konchellah was less restrained.

“The nation of Kenya loves you, and I love you,” she said at another farewell reception, as she and the ambassador embraced and kissed in front of their guests.

Mr. Ranneberger met Ms. Konchellah, head of the Cherish Others charity, as she was campaigning against female genital mutilation.

The ambassador remains popular with a significant portion of the population. Youth leader George Nyongesa praised him for his work with young people, and many reform-minded politicians applaud his advocacy of democratic constitutional changes and opposition to corruption.

However, other politicians, often linked to graft, routinely tried to get him kicked out of the country.

Mr. Ranneberger’s advocacy for reform won him a State Department promotion to the coveted rank of “career minister,” one of only 35 in the U.S. Foreign Service.

He told one politician that he would not have received the promotion if Kenya’s political leaders had been more honest.

The ambassador recalled thanking the politician: ” ‘If you had been behaving yourself,” ‘ he said, ” ‘I would never have been promoted.” ‘


The U.S. ambassador to Sweden is leaving diplomacy to take up politics again.

In June, Matthew Barzun will join President Obama’s re-election campaign as chief fundraiser.

“I am honored to be asked to serve in this new capacity and am accepting the president’s call,” he told the Local, a Swedish newspaper, last week.

“However, because of the nature of American presidential elections, it means I will have to leave this post all too soon, at the end of May. … Until then, I remain ambassador to Sweden with my full attention devoted to this vital work.”

Mr. Barzun arrived in Sweden in August 2009.

During the 2008 campaign, he served on Mr. Obama’s National Finance Committee. He will become the committee chairman June 1.

During the last campaign, Mr. Barzun first suggested going after small donations, as well as the large ones.

“The idea was: Don’t just go after people who can write $2,000 checks, let them write checks for $25,” he said.

Mr. Barzun helped raised more than $500,000 in the campaign.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            202/636-3297      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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