What is the Sinister Motive Behind the Mwende Mwinzi Probe?
How did the appointment of a Kenyan citizen as Kenya's Ambassador to South Korea become so embroiled in controversy, sometimes seeming like a personal vendetta?
Early in the year, Mwende Mwinzi, a dual citizenship holder, went through the vetting process administered by the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee as the law requires. From its onset, some Members of Parliament began to question her suitability for the post as they openly questioned the authenticity of her Kenyanness.
Some saw her as a foreigner, blatantly saying she does "not have any unique skills other Kenyans don't have." If this isn't the height of insult and discrimination on any Kenyan citizen you see as "other".
Some kicked off a vicious campaign to disqualify her on the false grounds that her appointment was unconstitutional under the Ethics and Integrity ACT. It turned out her appointment was indeed fully within the laws of Kenya as Ambassadors and High Commissioners are not considered State Officials. Further to this, under under Article 78 (3)(b), she is qualified as a Kenyan whose dual nationality is linked to the laws of another nation (in this case the US).
In a sustained campaign against her, Mwende's loyalty has been questioned, and at this point, gathered the most ardent supporters of the call to remove her even before she starts. Opinion-shapers have peddled loud doubts about not only her ability to be loyal to their country while holding another country's citizenship, but that of each of us.
This narrow thinking completely misses the point that diplomatic spies and sell-outs do not need dual citizenship to act out of greed, dissatisfaction or unpatriotic inclinations. A study of the history of espionage should be exciting and enlightening for those stuck on this sensationalist propaganda.
It also misses the point that there are other envoys in office who hold dual citizenship. That is because they are perfectly within the law, and there is no logical reasoning that would call for the amendment of the Constitution to disqualify them on grounds of being dual citizens.
Of noteworthy mention is the fact that it is a global standard procedure for countries to appoint dual citizens as high level diplomats. The United States has enough of these examples, starting with former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright who was/is an American-Czech. The generous Internet will yield some more good examples in several countries that have surrendered the self-defeating and parochial view that dual citizens are to be feared, shunned and their role in nation-building limited.
This fear of dual citizens and diaspora citizens has often translated to open disdain against Kenyans abroad by Kenyan legislators. When this disdain and dismissal translates to a suppression of citizens' rights and opportunities, then it becomes a legal battle.
Diaspora Kenyans have never shied away from any manner of battle for justice and inclusion. They have fought to make it clear that living a few more hours away is a silly and unjust reason to discriminate; and that legally having more than one passport in your wallet is not a measure of one's loyalty, qualifications or patriotism.
It takes smart leadership to recognize that using all able citizens regardless of their global residence is visionary and a no-brainer in the globalized 21st Century. Any effort that fights this becomes suspiciously personal and toxic to the nation.
It is also astonishing that the often quoted diaspora remittances stop counting as a mark of loyalty for Kenyan legislators' intent on dismissing diaspora's fight to belong and to serve. Let us be clear that recognized belonging is a right of every citizen. Kenyans in the diaspora actively show their belonging by planting their hard-earned sweat and tears in their home country. They do nation-building every day like any other Kenyan.
The familiar pettiness that surfaced about Ms. Mwinzi's accent during grilling is an example of what must cease if Kenya wants to use its citizens who have lived abroad. These irrelevant concerns undermine the relevant issues of character, leadership and accomplishments that might benefit our nation.
Mwende Mwinzi has served Kenya in many different capacities. In 2001 she started an organization, Twana Twitu, that has supported over 3,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in Kitui for 17 years. She was a columnist for Sunday Nation and for 3 years served on the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).
She was part of the team that devoted itself to improving Kenya's image in the US at a time when we had been branded negatively and were struggling to attract support for our security challenges, boost tourism and trigger investment in our nation. In this last election, she vied to be one of us; a Member of Parliament for Mwingi West. Her life is clearly one that has been focused on Kenya not in word but action. She is one of us, a Kenyan that walks the talk notwithstanding physical distance.
The Mwende case has been fraught with hypocrisy and dubious intention on the part of the vetting Members of Parliament who have now insisted that she must surrender her American citizenship in order to take office as Kenya's Ambassador to South Korea. As someone with family in the US, it's sinister and cruel to ask a fellow Kenyan to needlessly shoot themselves in the foot in order to serve their country.
This hunting down of one person is also a remarkably familiar pattern in the murk and mafia-ridden Kenyan politics where backdoor wheeling and dealing is done to secure high level positions. With the presidential strategizing already in place, political factions have been seeking to have their "person" in lucrative Missions. Diplomatic corruption is both an international and local reality. South Korea is a coveted station that requires someone who will not give in to grand corruption schemes.
Indeed, the Mwende drama started with a delegation that went to the President to whisper about the problem of a dual citizen nominee. They were informed that being a dual citizen for an envoy was constitutional. The war to dislodge this candidate only intensified, rising to threaten diaspora rights. It is this threat that has galvanized diaspora behind one of their own.
The sheer hypocrisy of the case has been exposed by the call to probe Members of Parliament who hold dual citizenship. The Kenyans for Justice and Development organization has named eight MPs and two Senators as State Officials who need to be probed. This alone places the vetting Committee's credibility into question. It demands that the all their recommendations against Ms. Mwinzi's candidature be thrown away and the Constitution that allows her to be nominated should reign supreme on this issue.
LET US STAND BEHIND Mwende because her loss is a statement against us and therefore our collective rejection. Please sign this petition as a declaration of your opposition to the discrimination against the Diaspora and particularly its female cohort. Today it is her and then tomorrow either you or your children. Sign the petition and then follow it up with a supportive call or text message to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi at +254-722-529-778.
Ms. Mkawasi Mcharo Hall: Lecturer, Howard University, Washington DC
Dr. David Otwoma: Chief Scientist, National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation
Dr. Warigia Bowman: Asst Professor of Law, The University of Tulsa, OK
For: Board of Trustees, Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA), Washington DC