By. Henry Ongeri
I have taken a good look at the notice from the Kenyan Embassy in Washington D.C. dated May, 2018. A number of observations come to mind:
1. It is addressed to “All Kenyan Diaspora Associations in the U.S.” While the authors may have had specific intents and purposes, one is left wondering if the notice applies to businesses, corporations, partnerships or any other “associations” of and by Kenyans. The notice does not mention the perceived problem that this “solution” seeks to address and why.
2. The meaning of MOFA will “ONLY engage with properly registered and recognized Diaspora Associations” is hard to decipher. Does it mean that unregistered groups of Kenyans somewhere in the U.S. will not be eligible for Embassy services? If an association made up of Kenyans and non-Kenyans complies with a state or local registration requirement only, is it then recognized by MOFA? Why are the Kenyan taxpayers footing the bill for these associations’ compliance with local rules?
3. The notice advices the associations to register both with local authorities and the Embassy by July 31, 2018. What are the consequences of non-compliance with this requirement – deregistration, denial of service, increased scrutiny, blacklisting or all the above? Would it not be more cost-effective for MOFA to recommend that Kenyans comply with the laws of their local authorities wherever they are?
4. The wide-ranging nature of the registration requirements (which exceed most States I am aware of), raises some not unfounded concern. To attempt to alleviate this, perhaps the Embassy can:
a. Provide the rationale for this sweeping requirement, explaining its value proposition. The threat of “non-engagement” (yet to be defined and vague) seems to me, inadequate and unconvincing. Otherwise, assumptions and innuendoes will reign.
b. Offer detailed information on how the directive advances the interests of the people of Kenya and possibly, benefit Kenyans living in the diaspora. If MOFA is seeking to expend resources in this regard, it is only fair that Kenyans know what they are getting for the investment.
c. Give adequate assurances that the personal and group information sought will not end up in nefarious hands for political purposes. In the current environment, some skepticism of the true motives is understandable. How secure is the information and who will have access to it?
d. Attempt to overcome the credibility gap among a huge chunk diaspora Kenyans. MOFA and by extension many embassies, have a dismal record of engaging Kenyans meaningfully. Cases in point are the despicable denial of the constitutional right to vote by millions of Kenyans since 2010 and the disastrous roll-out of the promised honorary consulates in the States. Many are yet to see a genuine commitment and desire by MOFA to assure compliance with fundamental rights and Supreme Court orders.
In absence of clear, unambiguous information, the notice risks flying into the dustbin of the many pre-2022 election machinations we are seeing at home and abroad. Patriotic Kenyans can only hope that this is not the case.