Kenyatta’s Government Has Failed the Diaspora

Kenyans from Germany posing with the Deputy President and his wife Rachel
A section of Kenyans from Köln taking a picture with the Deputy President and his wife Rachel in Brussels for the Mashujaa Day Celebrations in 2013

The Jubilee administration has come under fierce criticism from a section of Kenyans living in the United States over what they term poor representation.

Members of the Kenyan diaspora in the United States accused the government of neglect. A statement sent on Friday to Sunday Nation by the chairman of Kenyan Community in Atlanta Association (KCAA), Mr David Ochwang’i said a majority of Kenyans in the diaspora feel let down by their government which “has totally failed to address pertinent Diaspora issues which could immensely contribute to the welfare of our motherland.”

Mr Ochwang’i said the Kenyatta administration appears not to have a clear Diaspora blueprint prior to taking office. “The Diaspora is not just about dual citizenship and remittances. It is also about true representation at all levels of government and formulation of programmes that attract investment in the home country,” said the strongly worded statement in part. “There is a need for codification of specific diaspora interests into law, ease of asset repatriation on a tax-exempt regime and a legal framework on asset protection,” said Ochwang’i. Kenyans in North America interviewed by Sunday Nation said the Kenyan government has not taken the diaspora as seriously as it should. But acting Kenyan Ambassador to the US Jean Kamau said the embassy was at the forefront in engaging with Kenyans.  “It is one of the mandates spelt out in our service charter, and we take it very seriously. Those complaining should visit our website to have an understanding of how the embassy works,” she told Sunday Nation by phone.

Diaspora policies

However, taxation, asset repatriation, citizenship and representation stand out among issues raised by people Sunday Nation spoke to. A Washington DC-based lawyer told the Sunday Nation she was surprised Kenya had not emulated progressive countries in formulating mutually beneficial diaspora policies. “We are yet to see anything to write home about,” said Ms Reginah Njogu in a telephone interview.  A professor at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, Dr Kefa Otiso said the Kenyan Diaspora has been advocating substantive representation both in the Legislature and the Executive. “We are now remitting upwards of Sh100 billion a year. Any group of people with that kind of economic clout must enjoy reciprocation through representation. This is all we have been saying.”

Otiso urged the government to immediately act on the diaspora policy document which was being circulated last year, adding, “We should follow the model of France which has a cabinet secretary representing the diaspora in the Executive.” But Ambassador Kamau explained that the diaspora policy paper is being discussed “at very high levels of government.” Mr John Kamau, an Arizona-based Kenyan community organiser, took on the director of Diaspora Affairs, Mr Dennis Itumbi. “We are totally disappointed by what the Diaspora Desk is or is not doing,” he said.  Last year, Mr Itumbi urged for patience as his office laid out strategies to effectively deal with the estimated three million Kenyans living outside the country.

– Daily Nation

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