By Mukurima Muriuki, Los Angeles
“Why is it that Kenyans in America Diaspora” like to kill the dreams of other people?” My friend asked me the other day. “I have observed that most you Kenyans in America like to criticize ideas when you are not the originators” my friend summed it.
This discussion was ignited by a list of “Diaspora government” generated by a group calling itself Diaspora National Assembly (DNA). The group had designated a number of Kenyans in America Diaspora as “Cabinet Ministers” with posh titles of “Honorable” and supposedly representing the “interests” of Kenyans in America.
The reaction, as you would expect, was varied; there were a few supporters of the idea, while for the most part, the group was criticized for the self-anointment as representatives of Diaspora interests, without the mandate of vast majority.
I do not know whether this is a bad or a good idea. What I know is that the voice of Kenyans in Diaspora should be amplified to be heard loud and clear by Americans who have an adulterated view of Kenya and Africa, American Congress that has allowed a president to designate Africa as a ‘shithole’ continent without consequences, and across the borders, including our motherland where the government has cooled off appointing to office the Diaspora Council that is supposed to co-work with key stakeholders in harnessing the contribution of Kenyans in Diaspora in the development of the country.
If the Diaspora National Assembly amplifies that voice, and in the words of Kobe Bryant, “So what!”
See it is not easy executing an idea, more so in the America Diaspora- It is a Herculean task bringing together a diverse group of people with different interests. It also requires resources and personal sacrifice to implement ideas. The challenge is always in knowing that no matter what you do, how you do it, the vast majority will have a differing opinion. In a country defined by double shifts and overtime, where missing a paycheck for most people could be disastrous, at the very least, let us give credit where due-that an idea has seen the light of day. Those involved with DNA have at least brought something to life.
Community service in America Diaspora can be an expensive, yet thankless undertaking. See, we are criticizing a group that has developed a concept using their own resources-because it is rare for us in the Diaspora to make donations-monetarily or in kind, to organizations that promote community wellbeing.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are about 150,000 Kenyans in America Diaspora. When grouped and classified, we are a mosaic of different tribes, thousands of traditions, varied world views, diverse languages, and different careers; Some are very successful, some not. A majority are in the healthcare industry, some are engineers. A good number are in transportation and logistics, some are in academia. Yet, there are many in the Ministry of the Lord. Some identify as Kikuyus, Many speak Dholuo, and there are Kisii speaking Kenyans as well. There are Kenyans who are happily married, most are divorced, and some are still searching for love. This diversity should be our strength, however, for the most part, it continues to be our weakness.
Let us look at one underlying theme in opposition to the Diaspora National Assembly idea; “Who elected you?”
In July 2012, The Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) the umbrella body of 34 lobby groups of Kenyans living abroad-including many in America, went to the High Court seeking a declaration that Kenyans abroad have inviolable rights to vote in Kenyan elections.
The High Court dismissed the petition but KDA contested the verdict in the Court of Appeal. The appellate court agreed with Kenyans in Diaspora. IEBC appealed that decision in the Supreme Court which in turn said the Commission should ensure comprehensive registration of voters abroad.
It is on this strength, that IEBC started to register Kenyans in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda as voters. Because of this court decision, Kenyans in America Diaspora have hope of one day participating in the electoral process.
Pray tell me, who designated KDA as voice of the Diaspora? Under what conditions will we-Kenyans in America Diaspora, accept others to speak on our behalf? Must we always be consulted-individually for “Diaspora representation” to qualify as so?
Let us learn to support one another. No group or organization will have perfect membership or the ultimate idea that stands for what everyone wants because our interests are varied and diverse. In addition, if you know a Kenyan owned business, support it-do not start looking at its shortcomings. When such businesses thrive, it means there is potential to employ and empower other Kenyans-whether chini ya maji or otherwise.
Our should be to help the group implement the agenda they have. If we doubt their capacity, or abhor the make-up of the group, the best we hould do is provide an alternative. Otherwise, merely criticizing without doing something about it doesn’t help anyone. It just mutes our collective voice as Diaspora.