In the early month of September 2018, His Excellency Amb. Mohammed Gello was invited over to Arirang TV for the Diplomat interview series. The following interview ensued and  this is what he had to say.

So you started your tenure in Korea from 2015. How has your life been in Korea?

I have enjoyed every bit of my stay in S. Korea. 3 and half years so far. While preparing to come here I had read a lot about Korea but upon settling everything became a thrilling surprise; the history and its multicultural aspect. The transition from a poor country to a rich country is nothing short of fascinating. The culture is indeed unique; the character of people, their welcoming nature, and the desire to always express and share their culture. I have enjoyed my stay.

Looking back on this stay what was your most memorable moment?

Many things have been memorable. First was when I went south in Jeonju, a region famous for making Bimbimbap. I had my first Bibimbap there and it was great. Bibimpap is one of my favorite Korean foods alongside Bulgogi. I also love Korean Barbeque. I can’t go for two weeks without trying out Korean barbeque.

Second is the Pyeongyang Winter Olympics. It was a first for me. Also, my other memorable experiences have had to do with the everyday contacts I make with people, especially Koreans; whether in a hotel, in a shop or when going to the market. It has been a wonderful experience. So basically I have enjoyed everything in this country.

H.E. Amb. Gello and Amb. Gathoga Chege join other Kenyans in drumming support for Ms. Sabrina Simader, Kenya’s sole representative in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

I feel like Kenya and Korea share a lot of similarities. Can you elaborate.

Yes, we do share quite a lot of similarities. Not many years back Korea was where Kenya was but then it chose a different path on development. I also think where a significant similarity lies is from the fact that both countries put a lot of premium on human resource. Kenya is not a very rich country in terms of natural resources. Our development is because of the fact that we spend more money on education.

It is not surprising that Kenya was among the first countries for Korea to open its Embassy. Less than two months after our independence, Korea opened its embassy in Nairobi. This is because of the fact that the two countries share some similarities. Then again transitioning from an Agriculture led economy to an industrial power base it is today is what we are trying to do now. Trying to understand how Korea got it right, why we did not follow their path and what we can do.

I heard that the Kenyan embassy was opened in 2007 and you mentioned that it should have opened earlier. Why?

I regret that we did that in 2007. The reason for opening an Embassy in Korea was very clear. We have had a very strong relationship since Kenya became independent and we believed that there was a lot we could learn from Korea.

Going back to why I felt we should have been here before.

We were both developing countries nearly at par in terms of GDP and we decided to take different paths that we all felt were right. But I guess if we were here and saw your development path, we would have learnt from your experience and would probably be somewhere near you. That is why we are now here. We are working with Korea to emulate the path that they took. Right now we are working with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Energy of Korea (MOTI) to develop a Korea style industrial park. So you can imagine if we were here long time ago. We would be very far.

I heard that the Embassy of Kenya has been making great efforts to spread Kenyan culture in Korea. Can you elaborate.

Yeah, we do that. We do that in many events that we participate in like the Seoul friendship festival. We have the Seoul Africa festival and it usually takes place during Africa day. We go as far as Busan and other cities to participate in cultural activities, through dance, through music, spreading of artefacts and food. Through this we are able to bring people together.

I think the most important thing is bringing people together and giving them space to know each other. When people know each other better, then they get to understand what is good in each other’s culture.

The Kenyan Embassy booth at a past Busan International Travel fair. The embassy uses such fairs to promote Kenyan culture in Korea.

What would be the best way to bring the two countries even closer in your own opinion.

Strengthening the areas of cooperation. Fast is to continue with the political process of ensuring that our leadership is more closer, there is exchange of high level visits and support for each other in many ways, not only at the bilateral level but also at the multi-lateral level.

Sustainability of relations also depends so much on economic cooperation. This could be achieved by ensuring that more Koreans are able to do business in Kenya and that Kenya is able to export and sell more in Korea. When countries trade more, they become closer. Of course cultural cooperation is very critical because through culture people understand and appreciate each other better. And therefore when more Koreans know about Kenya and more Kenyans know about Korea, our relations will be strong.

So, this will be my last question for you. What word or phrase could describe your philosophy as an Ambassador.

As an Ambassador my philosophy is always to make sure that wherever I go, I leave it a better place in terms of relationships. That I broaden and deepen that relationship. I am glad that in UAE and in Korea, I have achieved those. Promoting relations, strengthening relations and ensuring that there is an exchange of high level visits.

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