Raila tells off MPs over Mwende Mwinzi citizenship row

Mwende Mwinzi during her vetting by the National Assembly Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations for the position of Kenya's ambassador to Seoul, South Korea, May 28, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The case, to be heard on Monday before Justice James Makau, has already attracted diaspora lobbies.

  • In 2017, she was allowed to contest for the Mwingi West parliamentary seat but was unsuccessful.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Saturday evening waded into the dual citizenship row facing envoy nominee Mwende Mwinzi.

Mr Odinga accused legislators of having “petty” beefs against her. Ms Mwinzi, nominated by President Uhuru Kenyatta to serve as Ambassador to South Korea, has faced pressure to renounce her US citizenship before taking up her appointment.

PARTISAN INTERESTS

Already approved by Parliament, she has instead sued to challenge the demand by arguing she is a citizen of both countries (Kenya and US) by birth and is unable to renounce any.

Mr Odinga said the legislators should allow Ms Mwinzi to take up her new appointment.

“Other than petty vendetta and a refusal by our Parliament to rise above partisan interests and act in the interest of the nation, there is no reason whatsoever for MPs to maintain Ms Mwende Mwinzi cannot be our ambassador abroad,” he said.

“I appeal to our MPs to always stand up for the nation. Both the law and the interest of the nation allow Ms Mwende Mwinzi to represent our country abroad,” Mr Odinga said.

Mr Odinga, a former Prime Minister at the time the new Constitution was passed in 2010, said Parliament’s stance risks discriminating the diaspora who he argued was a useful community to the country.

DIASPORA LOBBIES

His entry in the issue has increased the number of those opposing the legislators’ stance.

The case, to be heard on Monday before Justice James Makau, has already attracted diaspora lobbies.

On Wednesday, the Kenya Diaspora Alliance and the Diaspora Centre, both of who say they represent Kenyans abroad, applied to be enjoined in the case, saying its determination will affect the entire Kenyan community living abroad.

Now the judge will have to rule whether Ms Mwinzi can take up the job, while still holding on her two passports, something MPs have opposed. Parliament has also been enjoined in the case.

Last week, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission announced it will investigate claims some MPs have dual citizenships. Dual citizenship is illegal for MPs since they are state officers.

DUAL NATIONALITY

Mr Odinga, who is also the African Union Special Representative for Infrastructure and Development, said the Constitution allowed dual nationality to tap into the skills and resources the diaspora provide to the country.

He specifically vouched for her, saying she became a citizen by birth, which wasn’t her personal choice to make.

Ms Mwinzi was born in the US of a Kenyan father and an American mother in 1971. Her family later relocated to Kenya where she has two other siblings.

In 2017, she was allowed to contest for the Mwingi West parliamentary seat but was unsuccessful.

Last week, her lawyers challenged the demand that her name be removed from the list of approved ambassadorial nominees.

CONDITIONS

Prof Tom Ojienda and Associates say Parliament’s role stops at approving or disapproving, not giving conditions on nominees.

“The mandate of the National Assembly is to either approve or disapprove the nominees of the President. The National Assembly had accomplished its role as at that point and cannot purport to review it,” they argued in the motion.

“The move is sub judice (seeking to undermine the authority of the Court) and parliament should not try to usurp the power of the judiciary to rule on this matter,” they said in the motion.

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