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New US Ambassador to Kenya dives into the deep end as she reports to work

United States’ new Ambassador to Kenya, Margaret Cushing Whitman, has arrived in the country at the height of tense succession politics.

The 66-year-old was received by the outgoing Charge d’Affaires and Interim Eric Kneedler who has served in the position since January 2021.

“Welcome to Kenya Ambassador Whitman!” the US Embassy in Nairobi tweeted.

Ms Whitman, an American executive and former governorship candidate for California, takes over from Kyle McCarter who served between 2019 to 2021. Two weeks ago, the US Senate approved her appointment and gave her the nod to assume her new role in the country.

It is worth noting that she was nominated seven months ago by US President Joe Biden. The nomination saw her become the first female ambassador to Kenya in the last two decades when Prudence Bushnell served in a similar position.

A full in tray awaits Ms Whitman especially in the next week when the country will be heading into the General Election that has been preceded by a tense presidential campaign with Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza Alliance and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya Coalition as the main protagonists.

The US has played a key role during Kenya’s past electioneering period, including civic education trainings and sending observer teams to monitor polls.

Ms Whitman was also have to address the US visa application process, which has lately been congested, as well as strengthening trade ties between to the two countries, especially given that during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency, Kenya appeared to look East for trade partners.