The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2017
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land. In 2016, President Barack Obama

laid a wreath in that peaceful place.

What if no one had said, “You can’t do


Could we have picked up warning

signs of a pending genocide in Rwanda

had we asked good questions and

listened? For my part, I was delivering

démarches in the country until two weeks

before the slaughter began; and I can

attest that we and other foreign govern-

ments were continuing to press our poli-

cies as plans for the slaughter unfolded.


Grow teams and develop trust through meaningful


When violence erupted in the streets of Kigali,

the interagency crisis team in Washington worked night

and day to help American citizens leave Rwanda safely. We

had concrete goals, realistic evacuation strategies designed by

the people on the ground and a worldwide team. Once Ameri-

cans were out and U.S. interest evaporated, we morphed into a

cantankerous policy working group without goals, direction or

authority. As thousands of people died, we tasked one another

with reports.

In Nairobi, before the

bombing, the country team

had set challenging goals

to address corruption and

promote peaceful presiden-

tial elections in 1997. The

experience of interagency

and Kenyan and American

work teams pursuing those

goals together literally saved

lives on Aug. 7-8. For the first

48 hours, we were on our

own. As rescuers dealt with

transport problems, Kenyan-

American teams tended our

wounded, assisted devas-

tated families and combed hospitals, morgues and neighbor-

hoods to locate the missing. When the senior team developed

mission goals after the bombing, we published them in the

embassy newsletter. “Put people first” headed the list of objec-

tives, and we accomplished all of them.


Nurture a culture of leadership and mind your lead-

ership business with passion.

My business was to mul-

titask the issues that helped others get their jobs done.

If I got my job right—from getting the resources to overseeing the

many moving parts of our reconstruction, policy and law enforce-

ment efforts—everyone else did, too. Decisions got pushed down,

and leaders emerged at every level. Amilitary post-office team

that was in town to reconsider our mail privileges on the day we

were blown up stayed to re-establish mail services in our office

parking garage. No one asked

them; they just did it. With not

a dime of extra money—Con-

gress was very specific about

this—our U.S. Agency for

International Development

colleagues took on the creation

and management of $30 million

in assistance to Kenyan victims

of the bombing even as they

themselves were recuperating

from it.

I could not heal a wounded

community, but I could help

create an environment in

which healing was possible.

That was a good part of my

business. So was visibility. I could not take away anyone’s anger

or loss—Kenyans experienced both—but I could validate it. That

meant showing up. To rebuild our organization and commu-

nity, we asked for a lot of outside help and got it. Another piece

of business was to ensure that “they” became “we.” Reminders

of what we were accomplishing and celebrating milestones

After 1998, the failure to review

intelligence practices and

policy failures meant that

nothing would change in

the way we were collecting

and sharing intelligence—

until al-Qaida attacked the


The Memorial Park at the site of the embassy bombing in Nairobi was opened in 2001 to honor those

who were injured and killed in the terrorist attack.