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Obama wants Gration to replace Ranneberger

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – Ambassador Michael Ranneberger\’s tour of duty in Kenya is coming to an end, after President Barrack Obama formally announced his intent to nominate the US special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, to take over in Nairobi.

President Obama\’s announcement confirms indications since late year of the possible nomination.

Mr Gration was appointed Special Envoy to Sudan in March 2009.

Last month, Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the North and the results were this week officially finalised and endorsed.

The smooth and peaceful vote was considered an accomplishment for the US administration and its special envoy, who initially came under heavy criticism for the perception that he was too soft on Khartoum.

"We would like to stress that his departure in no way indicates that this administration is walking away from the many challenges we still face in Sudan, particularly in Darfur," a statement from the White House said.

Mr Ranneberger who was confirmed by congress in June 2006 and began field duties three months later, has had a share of controversies and most recently caused a stir after US diplomatic cables were exposed by WikiLeaks.

In the leaked cables, Mr Ranneberger accused President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Raila Odinga of being impediment to reform agenda of the country, prompting an MP to file a censure Motion against him.

Last week, Parliament however withdrew the Censure Motion which was filed by North Imenti MP Silas Ruteere.

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Mr Gration will now face the US Senate which has to endorse his appointment before he can assume the post although it is not expected that he will face any major hurdles with lawmakers.

According to the statement on White House website, Mr Gration previously worked at the White House as Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel.  General Gration served in the United States Air Force from 1974 to 2006.

After retiring, General Gration served as the CEO of Millennium Villages, an organisation dedicated to reducing extreme poverty. He then joined the Safe Water Network where he helped to provide potable water to vulnerable populations in India, Bangladesh, and Ghana.

His staff positions in the Air Force included tours in the Pentagon, NATO, and a White House Fellowship.

From June 2004 to October 2006, he served as Director of the Strategy, Plans, and Policy Directorate of United States European Command.  In August 2003, he was appointed Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs.

From January to June 2003, he commanded Joint Task Force-West during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

From 2000-2002, General Gration served at the Pentagon, first as the Joint Staff Deputy Director for Operations and then as Director of Regional Affairs for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs.

During his early years in the Air Force, General Gration served as an F-5 and F-16 instructor pilot, including a two-year assignment with the Kenyan Air Force.

General Gration speaks Swahili and has an MA from Georgetown University in National Security Studies and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University.

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No replacement for Gration has been named but the Obama administration has in recent months added to its team in Sudan, naming veteran diplomat Princeton Lyman to help the north and the south work out key remaining issues including the division of oil profits and Dane Smith, another longtime US envoy, to work on the Darfur issue.

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