In the many years I have lived abroad, specifically the USA, I have witnessed the birth of several organizations and their respective deaths in infancy. Yes, very few survive their 3rd year of life.
And in almost all of them, members have clamored for a right to participate in electing leaders in Kenya. I have wondered about the criteria my fellow countrymen domiciled in the US hoped to use in electing the men and women that will serve their relatives. Could it be a) Heresy from the same relatives b) the infrastructure they saw half a decade ago in a week’s visit or c) the old dragon ethnicity?
I have questioned those I cared to join in forming these futile unions, and your guess is right, none had a coherent answer. Instead, I was met with emotional outbursts on the importance of voting. While I agree to that, my question is, why are you not voting or participating in your new host country? Your participation in the host country directly affects your life, and it can actually lead to policy changes that affect your native country. After all, it is the USA and when it sneezes, the world catches a cold.
I have no desire to participate in Kenyan elections and do not support any effort by diaspora Kenyans to do the same. I am convinced that a diaspora vote can only serve one purpose; skew the vote to favor ethnic divisions. Nothing important will come out of it. Take for instance the 2017 election, what exactly will a diaspora Kenyan be looking for in say presidential candidates? The high inflation, political party hopping, run-away corruption or extra-judicial killings? What will the comparisons be? Before you left Kenya or after the last Summer-Bunny visit? You have lived in a developed nation (and again I challenge you to participate in your host nations’ political processes, even if it means observing) and experienced how candidates go against each other. Town hall meetings are held and candidates questioned by all; from potholes, school lunches, deportations to marijuana. Candidates’ promises are noted and 2, 4 or 6 years later, they must answer to the results on the table. Anyone recall the first Bush telling voters to read his lips on taxes and what happened when he did not keep that promise? It is documented and can be found.
My prayer is that instead of focusing on casting votes for Kenya’s poli-tricksians, we should move our energies into transferring what we have acquired abroad (useful information) to our native nation, to help our it grow –manpower and technology. We are keen on making our voice heard in Kenya (because we send money to our relatives who help drive housing prices out of reach for the locals), while we remain dead in the places we live. We are unable to form action groups that can protect us from the indignities of being immigrants or influence Washington to view our nation favorably. The Ghanaians, Senegalese, Macedonian and Ethiopians have figured it out while we who arrive here with a better grasp of English and more polished mannerisms are caught in the archaic waves of tribalism that our parents bequeathed us at JKIA. We have willfully refused to change, learn or transform our narrow minds. Luhyas must find Luhyas, Kikuyus must find Kikuyu churches and Luos better have their own organizations. Unfortunately, some of these negative aspects are driven by the most mature of Kenyans abroad. Old is not gold in the diaspora, it is just old or worse.
Today Kenyan Doctors are on strike. The Diaspora Health fraternity has not raised as much as a finger to show solidarity or otherwise. Burger King threatens to continue using anti-biotics in its Kenyan market (READ: We Won't Cut Usage of Antibiotics in Chicken in Kenya, Says Burger King) (Thank you Mwakilishi for bringing this to our knowledge), even as scientists at Harvard worry that resistance to anti-biotics is worse than previously thought. Well, we are too busy making money to invest, buy a plot, Mwangi of Equity bank is coming to help us invest...that is what is important. What is the future of this country you are busy investing in? Will you have a country to return to?
Back to my big dilemma: How is your diaspora vote going to help Kenya? Tuchangamke with our own action groups here, tujisaidie tupate sauti ya kuwika. Unlike our countrymen at home, we can google Burger king Headquarters for instance and put in a 2-minute call that will be picked, to protest their callousness. It is easy to find who in the senate heads the committee on African matters and ask them to follow up that Muindi living in California that looted National Bank dry. I have since written to Burger King to either respect Kenyans as human beings (and stop using anti-biotics as it is doing in the US and Canada) or move shop elsewhere. I ask you to do the same, for our country. Let us show our politicians that they may be able to receive bribes and crook the nation, but we too can influence a few things by picking up a phone. Together we are formidable. And can do it.
By Unyakeki Sifuna