Dennis Itumbi Explains His Role as Director of Diaspora Affairs in the E.O.P

Dennis Itumbi

Dennis Itumbi, the Director Digital, New Media & Diaspora in the Executive Office of the President was last night on #theTrend with Larry Madowo together with some Kenyans from the diaspora. The Diasporans got a chance to pose questions to Dennis Itumbi about his job description, his boss and his plans with the diaspora. 

You can watch the full video below or read the transcript. The whole interview left me with more questions than answers regarding Dennis’ agenda in his position. Another issue I had was the fact that he went ahead to perpetuate the usual stereotype of assuming, “diaspora” means the USA.

How else would you explain him being asked about where the diaspora can get updates and more information about the implementation of his plans for the diaspora office, only for him to simply brush it off with “we’ll have a conversation on your platform (Radio Boston)”? In several other questions, instead of answering he brushed them off promising to discuss those issues at the Diaspora event in Washington/Virginia (he had a different venue as Susan) in the US.

So what happens to all other diasporans who do not listen to Radio Boston or aren’t in a position to listen in due to time difference nor won’t be at the event in the US? Does it mean they don’t need answers to these questions? I’m afraid I’m not convinced on Mr. Itumbi’s job description, his plan for the diaspora nor his understanding of what is affecting the diaspora.

Most of his answers sounded rehearsed and his plan was NOT FOR the diaspora but FOR the government.

1. The one stop shop websites and Huduma Kenya e.t.c are basically of more importance to the 40million in Kenya than the 3million in the diaspora. How many times do diasporans apply for birth certificates, business registration etc? Most of us either wait until our next trip home, use the embassies or ask relatives to do it. (He did mention in one comment that he was also sorting issues between the Embassies and the Diasporans in some countries, does that mean he’ll be a mediator for the Diaspora).

2. Having a skills inventory, how do you plan to do that when Kenyans in the diaspora have failed to give this information freely to the embassies through registration? (I think this goes together with the question asked on the show, How does Dennis plan to solve problems in 4years that Embassies have been unable to solve for close to 50years?)

3. Diaspora Councils, why reinvent the wheel? Most diasporans have already started their own organisations, why not use existing infrastructure instead of starting from scratch  then confuse everyone?

The interview didn’t help me understand his job description, I can hazard to say that even he doesn’t understand his role as the “Director of Diaspora”. He does understand a lot about digital & news media which I also noticed he was more comfortable answering questions about, than the Diaspora.

I hope he can use digital & news media to engage the Diaspora who would be willing to share what they would like him to handle in his office pertaining to this topic. It might be challenging but I’m sure it will chart a better way forward than having a team in Kenya that has never lived in the Diaspora planning what they should do for the Diaspora without asking the Diaspora itself.


Susan of Boston Radio: What is your actual job description as far as the Diaspora is concerned?

There are consulars and a diaspora unit under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which handle the diasporans. For our department, the President needed direct contact with the diaspora, so we began by going to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to understand their policy regarding the diaspora.

1. What do we want to achieve?

Challenge, how many Kenyans are in the diaspora?

2. Skill inventory. Know who is out there and what can they do?

3. Build trust. Create diaspora councils. Currently charting how to subdivide the different diasporan groups.

4. Mobilize them for government, investment and creative hub

5. Effective engagement of the diaspora

Paul in South Africa: How can the government tap diaspora skills?

Peter Kerre: A Page for Dennis to interact directly with the Diaspora?

Mobile app that connects you directly to the government services.

Fully fledged website and search engine to connect you directly to who is working on it. Online ticketing service that allows you to track progress.

Peter: Will Dennis fight for the right for the Diaspora  to vote?

The constitution gives that provision, but Dennis will be working on it.

Elijah Magutu: Why is Dennis there when the government is already working with the Embassies. How is Dennis able to do what the embassies have been unable to do?

Dennis will work together with the diaspora desk and the Embassies. Dennis’ office will be solving some of the issues the diaspora have with the embassies.

To whom does Dennis report?

Dennis was appointed by the President and reports to the president. He is employed by the public service commission.

Paul: Instead of focusing on bringing the diaspora back home, why not provide a channel of communication to tap into their ideas from where they are. On getting permits, people will always do it illegally

Considering you know more about education than I do. I would connect to top officials in the Education Ministry.

Susan: Dennis said he is still in the planning stage, when does the implementation begin? Where do people get updates. All this should have been a long time ago.

Dennis will plan a show with Susan on Radio Boston, until then you can send in your enquiries to diaspora@president.go.ke

Peter: How prepared in the government on cyber security? I sent you information on government websites that were compromised, how was that information channeled? How do you ensure this is looked into?

Previous governments didn’t invest much in cyber security but we will be doing more on that. We plan a modern data center and will be looking for people who can do that. That is where the skill inventory comes in but there are also people who do cyber security as a business we’ll foot the tender and all are welcome to tender.

Paul: The diaspora might not be interested in tendering, just to engage us share ideas on policies. We need to understand the progress and process when we chip in ideas.

Those are good ideas and I take them on board, you will see results in a few

Social Media Feedback: Dennis isn’t engaged enough

The diaspora unit it still being staffed.

What Has Dennis achieved so far in his position? Most say he only opens twitter accounts

We have a preliminary roadmap on what we want to achieve, We’re creating a one-stop government website.

We’ve set up departments (structures and preliminary roadmap), we’ve finished the first website modernised State House processes, developed social media presence.

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