Franscisa-Odero-Chris-Omollo-James-Mwangi-Marko-Kühn

Kenyan Scholars in Germany Gather in Weingarten to Talk About Unity and National Identity

(l. to r.) James Mwangi, Flavian Waiswa, Dr. Marko Kühn and Chris Omollo at the Kenya Seminar at the Weingarten.

The annual Kenyan seminar was held in Weingarten, Ravensburg in the outskirts of Stuttgart. The forum brings together Kenyan scholars, professionals and Germans in Germany with a connection to Kenya. The connection to Kenya can either be through social networks or philanthropic organisations.

For example, Malaika, an organisation supporting a home and school for street children in Kakamega county or Tukutane, a social engagement platform with projects in Nairobi and the coastal region.

It was encouraging to see Kenyans in Germany working together as a united front. They brainstormed on the way forward to unite their visibly divided homeland.

On the backdrop of the meeting, Kenyans in the Diaspora had followed keenly the swearing of President Uhuru Kenyatta which had come after the August elections were nullified and the October election boycotted by the opposition being upheld by the Supreme court. Despite the incidences preceding his reelection, many had hoped that the President would initiate dialogue to unite Kenyans.

 

Kenyans in the forum recognised that while both elections had been embattled, time had come for  political leaders in Kenya to critically look at the root causes of electoral disparities, and find lasting solutions.

In his presentation, Dr. Marko Kuhn, head of the African Department at the Katholischer Akademischer Ausländer Dienst (KAAD), a Catholic academic scholarship institution, where most participants were drawn from, gave a comparative view on the current and past political situations in Kenya. Dr. Kuhn who had worked in Kisumu with the Pandi Pier youth project in the 90s, and lived in Kenya for five years of his doctoral research, detailed how Kenya’s political history continues to construct the national identity.  He argued that Kenya still has a good outlook, in terms of gains made in the economic and ICT sectors.

On the question of Kenya’s national identity, and how it affects the society, James Mwangi, a PhD candidate researching on promotion of agriculture for sustainable development at Julius Kuhn Institut- Braunschweig, noted that Kenyans dwelled on negative ethnicity, and less on positive aspects such as cultural heritage and diversity.

“We should not be afraid of our ethnicity, which is a marker of our African identities. However, we must not let these affiliations divide us”. He urged.

During his presentation, Chris Omollo another PhD scholar at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen also affiliated to the Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA)- Directorate of Regional Integration, detailed how the East African Community (EAC) must endeavour to harmonize regional partnerships.

“Integration, cannot be ignored if countries in the block are to gain their competitive advantages”. He noted.

Omollo, whose research touches on regional integration in Africa and conflict transformation, reiterated that members states can commit to EAC’s vision “one people, one destiny”, to achieve unity among its citizens.

The seminar also discussed issues on child development, where Flavian Waiswa a doctoral researcher in early child development at the Berlin Freie Universität noted the need for parental involvement in the upbringing of children.

“Pushed by demands of a modern life, parents both in Kenya and Diaspora have relegated the development of their children to social media and video games”. He quipped.

While Francisca Odero a scholar in Germanic studies at Haale Saale echoed the need to protect children from political violence. According to the Kenya National Human Rights report on violence during and after the election seven minors; three girls and four boys, and the youngest was six-month-old Samantha Pendo, succumbed to due to injuries inflicted during police aggression in the election period.

Participants also recognized the role of Diaspora communities in transferring experiences and knowledge from Germany, to jumpstart Kenyan formal and informal sectors. Diaspora scholars and professionals were encouraged to contribute to nation building and in the reconstruction of the Kenyan society.

Other topics discussed included: responsible use of social media in the era of fake news, the role of religious and intellectuals in dialogue to end social injustices and impunity in Kenya.

While the seminar focused on Kenyan identity and ways to bring Kenyans together, there were also participants from Tanzania and Nigeria. The conference is held every year and half in different cities of Germany.

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