President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Kenya announced his resignation on Friday ahead of the publication of a U.S. government audit that will be critical of his leadership of the most important embassy in East Africa.
A former two-star Air Force general, Ambassador Scott Gration appears to have been forced to step down by how critical the audit will be. Gration said he was resigning because of differences in priorities between him and Washington.
State Department officials said an internal audit of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi to be released next month will be highly critical of Gration’s leadership and management of the embassy, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the audit is still being prepared and is confidential.
Gration resigned after seeing a draft of the report, the officials said.
Three U.S. Embassy employees told The Associated Press that Gration led the embassy using a “my way or the highway” military leadership style that didn’t translate well in the civilian embassy world. The employees asked not to be identified, fearing retribution.
The U.S. Embassy statement announcing Gration’s departure laid bare the disagreements the former military leader had with his civilian bosses at the State Department and other U.S. agencies. Gration — who spent time as a child in Kenya and spoke the local language — said being ambassador to Kenya was “a dream job.”
“It has been a great honor and a profound privilege to be a part of the U.S. State Department team for the past three years and to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and as the CEO of Team Kenya since May of 2011,” Gration said.
“However, differences with Washington regarding my leadership style and certain priorities lead me to believe that it’s now time to leave.”
Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy and has strong ties with the U.S. The two countries cooperate on military affairs and have a shared interest in containing militant threats from Somalia.
Gration spent his childhood as the son of missionary parents in Congo and Kenya, and speaks the dominant local language, Swahili. He served in the Air Force as an F-16 fighter pilot instructor, and spent two years in Kenya on assignment with the Kenya Air Force.
Gration was a national security adviser to Obama’s first presidential campaign and served as a special assistant to the president. Before being named ambassador to Kenya, he was Obama’s special envoy to Sudan from March 2009 to April 2011.
The resignation announcement Friday appeared to show a deep love for Kenya by Gration and his wife, Judy. Gration said the assignment was the perfect opportunity “to use my deep-rooted knowledge of Kenya, its people, its language, and its culture, and my diplomatic, development, security, and humanitarian experience.”
He added that “as we depart, we will deeply miss Kenya, the Kenyan people, our partners in the diplomatic corps, and our colleagues in the U.S. Mission. Our hearts will remain here with you and with the true friendships that will endure until death.”
Gration’s last day as ambassador will be July 28, just over 15 months after his swearing in. It is likely the post would be filled by a charge d’affaires until a new ambassador is named after November’s U.S. presidential election.
Associated Press reporter Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.