Local business representatives, who have been working with the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya to expand trade with East Tennessee, were stunned over the weekend to hear that former Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration has resigned his post over an issue of "leadership style."
Ambassador Gration is the son of African missionaries, grew up there, and speaks fluent Swahili. He was a military adviser to President Obama during his first presidential campaign. They met when Gration escorted then-Sen. Obama on a tour of Africa to examine water quality.
Kenyan newspapers have tied Gration's exit to his refusal to attend a Gay Pride reception at the embassy. Gration is a devout Christian; his son attended Lee University, a fundamentalist Christian college in Cleveland, Tenn. Gay Pride events were held at embassies around the world last week and Gration sent his public affairs assistant to host the reception.
Embassy sources told the Washington Post a report would soon be released criticizing Gration for his leadership style and his "my way or the highway" military attitude unsuited for embassy life. After reading an advanced copy of the report, Gration announced a difference of opinion in leadership styles and "a difference in priorities" and resigned. He will be leaving the post July 28.
DeRoyal Industries, a local manufacturer of medical supplies, has been working with BiRoyal International to open up a market in Kenya to export Tennessee products. They had scheduled another visit in August, to include a Gration-hosted embassy party, as part of the trade deal. Bill Owen, who is heading the trade mission, said the trip may be postponed for a month, but the company still looks forward to opening up a new market in Kenya.