By Mukurima Muriuki, Los Angeles
Kenyans living in the West Coast of the United State have challenged the government to rein in on insecurity, corruption and other ills that are tainting Kenya’s global image, and at the same time making it difficult for Kenyans in Diaspora to market Kenya as a safe and beautiful country to visit. Noting the recent stories appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, BBC, Associated Press (AP), and other international media regarding the intensity of graft in Kenya, the group of Kenyans living in California told a section of visiting Members of Parliament drawn from across the political divide, and part of parliament’s Defence and International Relations Committee, to put pressure on the respective arms of government responsible for investigating and prosecuting those suspected of corruption.
“Graft has become an epidemic, a plague, a vice, and a cancer that is adversely impacting all levels of the health of our republic; it is stymieing the country’s future; it is impeding the country’s growth; it is denying delivery of services to the intended beneficiaries; it is compromising security and a host of other consequences. The taxes generated by the common mwananchi and intended to benefit all and sundry-the public, are now going into the pockets of a few officials who betray public trust,” noted the Diasporans as members of parliament keenly listened.
The round table meeting, which demonstrated that members of parliament can go out of the comfort zone of their political parties and engage in a debate to discuss important issues affecting society, was held in Hollywood, in Los Angeles County, and was organized by the Los Angeles Consulate.
The Diasporans noted that living outside of the country does not in any way warrant special treatment above those living in the motherland who toil every day to make Kenya a greater country, but explained that Diasporans bring a distinct perspective to the discourse on Kenya because they have experienced both worlds and can serve as a bridge in fostering greater understanding between Kenya and their adopted country, by leveraging on the skills, ingenuity and resources that the Kenya Diaspora possesses.
While noting that enough is not being done to market Kenya, the Diasporans wondered why the government cannot utilize modern tools that other countries like India, Senegal, China and others use to brand their countries using their citizens living abroad. On this note, Annah Nyokabi Gathecha, who was the leader of the Kenyan delegation, challenged Diasporans to be on the forefront in dispelling myths and stereotypes about Kenya; “You will never hear an American speak ill of their country. Even when America is on the wrong, Americans will find a way to speak what is good of their country. I challenge you to speak of the good things that make up Kenya. We are not a perfect country. We are barely 53 years old as a country. You as Diasporans are our best brand ambassadors. When the world talks about Kenya through the prism of the three D’s-Death, Despair and Disease, show them they are wrong. You are the new face of Kenya-educated, optimistic and patriotic. You can help us transform and shape Kenya’s future.
The Diasporans, asked the parliamentarians to help rein in on cartels that make it impossible for Kenyans returning home from abroad, who with the professional qualifications attained abroad especially in engineering and Pharmacy, cannot be registered by the respective professional bodies. “Before attaining proper registration in the professional bodies in Kenya, returning professionals are being required to meet extraneous requirements that are quite stringent relative to those imposed on expatriate professionals. Engineering Board of Kenya has two sets of requirements; one for foreigners and one for locals. Foreign Engineers attain registration the same year they apply. To the contrary, registration for returning Diaspora is taking 4 years and longer. Pharmacists and dentists are facing similar hardships and frustrations.” Reacting to this, Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi said that parliament is aware of the situation and members are working on a bill that will ensure the requirements and procedures are streamlined so that everybody who has the qualification is registered and given the chance to operate. Leisamis MP, Joseph Lekutony, who lived in America for 13 years and attained a Master’s degree from Harvard University, noted that such cartels have been there for a long time, and it took a bill he sponsored in parliament to end cartels in the veterinary board which for a long time operated on the colonial dictates that a diploma holder could not do minor surgeries on an animal. He also noted that the plight of engineers is a big concern because Kenya has just about 3000 engineers registered with the board while there are about 26,000 engineers still waiting to be registered.
Kajiado Central M.P, Elijah Memusi, while noting that the contribution of Diaspora cannot be ignored, offered to be the contact point on all Diaspora issues and channel them through parliament, a move that won praise from across the aisle.
Turkana Central M.P Nakara Lodepe beseeched the Diasporans to consider investing in Turkana as the county stands to give maximum returns on any investment, given the presence of oil and the growth of educations sector, including two universities in the area-Kibabii University and Mount Kenya University.