Diaspora Kenyans to PS Njogu: Stop engaging 'cons' to represent us

Principal Secretary Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Roseline Njogu

Principal Secretary Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Roseline Njogu during a press conference in Nairobi on Monday, April 17, 2023. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenyans living in the Diaspora have accused the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Ministry of dealing with 'cons' based in Nairobi on matters affecting them.

In a heated exchange on Twitter between the Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, Roseline Njogu, and a group of Kenyans living overseas, the ministry was thrust in bad light after it emerged that the government had nominated individuals who are not based abroad to a technical committee to engage the Capital Markets Authority on Diaspora Investment Promotion.

In a leaked memo, the Principal Secretary for Investment, Trade and Industry, Abubakar Hassan Abubakar, acknowledges nominees who had apparently been seconded from the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, purporting to represent Kenyans in the Diaspora, into what he described as a Technical Working Group—TWG—to discuss with Kenya Markets Capital Authority on Diaspora Investment Strategies.

The memo in question was circulating on Twitter, with the reference, “Mobilizing Diaspora Remittances for Investments”.

“Reference is made to the following letters from State Department for Foreign Affairs Ref. MOFA. DIAS/6/Vol.1 dated 27th March 2023, Kenya Investment Authority Ref. No. KenIvest/IP/11/1 dated 24th March 2023 and Capital Markets Authority Ref No. CMA/CONF/01 dated 24th March 2023 on the above subject matter..”

The memo further states, “This State Department has constituted a Technical Working Group comprising of your nominees with the inclusion of two members from Kenya Diaspora Alliance and this State Department.”

“The mandate of this Technical Working Group is to immediately convene and embark on recommending diaspora investment promotion strategies to channel the 50 percent diaspora remittance into investments under the Medium-Term Plan.” 

Kenyans in the Diaspora were outraged to see the government roll out such a serious plan without including any of them but preferred dealing with what they described as questionable groups operating in Nairobi yet masquerading as representatives of the Diaspora.

Ms Margaret Rulhoff, from Germany, questioned how Kenya Diaspora Alliance, an entity that operates in Nairobi, under former Rangwe MP, Shem Ochuodho, qualifies to represent the Diaspora in discussing its investments without consulting or including anyone from abroad.

Ms Rulhoff also questioned the gender imbalance in the appointments, pointing out that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acted contrary to the expectations of those living overseas.

The debate broke out on Saturday after the Daily Nation reported a civil case initiated against the African Union Commission and its head by Dr Ochuodho after he was suspended as a member of the continental body’s Economic Social and Cultural Council for allegedly contravening the AU’s code of ethics and conduct.

“Months ago, some Diasporans protested when an organisation representing the Kenyan diaspora was selected to be part of a technical team that is to help mobilise diaspora investments. This team was appointed by the government’s permanent secretary. Many diasporans had their reservations, they mainly complained about lack of transparency in this selection, gender imbalance and the fact that this organisation sits in Nairobi and not the diaspora. It is now being reported that the @_AfricanUnion has now suspended the chairman of that organisation. The reasons for suspension are cited to be a breach of code of AU’s code of ethics and conduct,” said Ms Rulhoff.

Ms Njogu responded, “Mudge, this is unnecessarily alarmist. Diaspora investments are not channeled through a government entity, not even the committee you referenced. The committee (being reconstituted as I indicated earlier) is mandated to advise, not invest or take anyone’s money.”

Former IEBC Commissioner, Dr Roselyn Akombe,  now based in New York, USA, pointed out that it is “interesting that while Kenyans in the Diaspora have their own active organizations and leaders, the government chooses to work with some non-Diaspora based individuals of questionable repute. And expect that we will then channel our hard-earned money through such mechanisms.”

The PS’ response seemed to outrage many other Diasporans with the Chair of KDA-USA, Saisi Marasa, based in Maryland, USA, expressing his frustrations with the government’s failure to have its priorities right.

Dr Marasa quipped, “What a bad start on this noble effort with our government. Who is advising the PS? Where are the representatives of various diaspora organisations including the Christian communities, and diaspora Sacco?”

Peter Makori from Missouri, USA, accused the ministry and the individuals they were working with of capitalising on poor coordination of the various diaspora groups to cause confusion and advance their own selfish interests.

David Ogega from Georgia, USA told Ms Njogu, “Madam Secretary, I appreciate your response to this…there is a major disconnect between the government’s approach to the Diaspora with the Diaspora itself. You guys seem to believe you have this figured out on your own, not so.....”

Other Kenyans pointed out that the individuals being engaged by the ministry do not have clean hands to represent the Diaspora at any level, stating that there are ongoing criminal prosecution cases Ms against them.