Building Bridges: An Ambassador Reflects on U.S.-Africa Relations

In the last blog entry, I wrote that Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger was visiting the University of South Florida as part of an event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies. Amb. Ranneberger gave a lecture titled “U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa: Lessons, Challenges, and Opportunities” through the center’s “Lecture Series on National Security.” This blog entry is an update after the lecture as Amb. Ranneberger shares his experience during his work in Africa.

While serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya from 2006 to 2011, Amb. Ranneberger was not a diplomat who spent all of his time hobnobbing with elites and clinking glasses at cocktail parties. In fact, during his time there he vocally criticized the Kenyan government on issues including corruption and poor governance. His outspoken views irked the political elite so much that there was even a bill introduced in the Kenyan parliament to censure him in 2011. He further bucked convention later that year when he met and married Ruth Konchellah, a Kenyan community activist who currently runs an NGO, Cherish Others. His term as ambassador ended last year and he has taken on a new role as a foreign policy advisor to U.S. Central Command based in Tampa.

In a one-on-one interview I asked Amb. Ranneberger about his time in Kenya with particular emphasis on his role in negotiating an end to the violence that engulfed the country following the contested presidential election of 2008. I also asked his perspective on the crisis in Mali given his service as ambassador to that country from  1999 to 2002.


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