Serving abroad, it is tempting to forget that the Embassy works for Washington and not the other way around. The local knowledge one develops at post is not infrequently absent from centralized decision-making inside the Beltway, causing some within the Embassy community to gripe when policies that make sense from the perspective of those at post are summarily rejected back in DC. Fortunately, policy-makers are not opposed to travel…there is nothing like a VIP visit to remind everyone at post that the tail does not wag the proverbial dog.
As the largest Embassy in sub-Saharan Africa and a hub for East Africa, Nairobi gets more than its fair share of visitors, both from the various agencies that are represented here and from the Hill. Last summer, we were inundated with VIPs who wanted to assess the situation in Somalia, discuss the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, meet with Kenya’s political leaders to express their support for the ongoing political reforms, and squeeze in a quick safari if their stay in Kenya happened to encompass a weekend. The deteriorating security conditions put a stop to VIP travel towards the end of last year, but the visits are once again starting to pile up this year. Her first week on the job, for example, S found herself working full-time all three days of the long MLK weekend, supporting the visit of the CDC Director.
While the substantive aspects of a VIP visit are important, it is oftentimes the logistics that make or break the trip. A visitor is much more likely to remember misplaced luggage or an overbooked hotel than a nondescript meeting with no concrete outcome. As a result, embassies devote a good deal of energy to VIP planning. It is a ton of work, but on the upside, it means that we have had lots of practice planning for visitors, which should serve us well as quite a number of you have expressed interest in visiting us. In fact, just this week we hosted four of S’s friends who were transiting through Nairobi, and next month these visitors will overlap with one of D’s friends. So, if you’ve talked to us about visiting this year, please confirm your dates with us soon, as 2012 promises to be a busy year for the D&S hotel.