By Washington Osiro,
I have just signed a petition being circulated on Change.org to “End the Sinister Motive Behind the Mwende Mwinzi/Diaspora Rights Probe.” The petition is being circulated by the group Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA) to call attention to what I see as a multi-layered effort by some Kenyan legislators to strip Amb. Mwende Mwinzi of her ambassadorship (to South Korea).
(For Kenyans who have been living under a rock, Mwende Mwinzi is the American-born Kenyan dual citizen who was nominated by President Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya’s Ambassador to South Korea.)
The efforts to strip Amb. Mwinzi of her position is multi-layered because it combines hypocrisy, sexism, and outright fear towards achieving that end.
To be clear, I have a litany of serious, long-standing, and explicitly stated policy and ideological differences with Uhuru Kenyatta and his tenure as president. However, I can set aside the man’s incompetent and corrupt stewardship of the country and respect his prerogative as the elected President of Kenya to appoint someone to represent his government in a foreign country. I am also willing to hold my nose and overlook the repeated contempt Kenya’s fourth Executive has had for the other supposedly co-equal branches of the country’s government – including in this case, the legislature.
The hold-my-nose-at-the-malodorous-stench-of-the-incumbent-government-and-recognize-its-prerogative brings me to May 2019. This is when Mr. Kenyatta nominated Mwende Maluki Mwinzi along with other candidates for various ambassadorship positions. Thereafter, it was up to Parliament to vote in support of or opposition to these nominees.
This, the country’s National Assembly did – with the caveat that Ms. Mwinzi “must renounce her second nationality before taking up the position.” In an ensuing lawsuit, Kenya’s High Court ruled that Mwende “cannot be forced to renounce her US citizenship as it was acquired by birth…..” – in Wisconsin – to a Kenyan father and American mother.
The Court however, rightfully questioned the national security implications of appointing a dual citizen as the country’s representative abroad. Ms. Mwinzi addressed those concerns, not only when they were raised by the National Assembly, but importantly, throughout her life of true public service and humanitarianism.
In short, Mwende “Kelitu Kaitu” Mwinzi has been more of a public servant to Kenya and Kenyans than those now questioning her commitment to serving either in Seoul. The idea that a national legislature whose corrupt and self-dealing membership has repeatedly compromised the country’s national security is now worried that Ms. Mwende’s dual citizenship may do just that, i.e., compromise Kenya’s national security, is laughably hypocritical.
Kenya’s Members of Parliament do not care about the country’s national security because if they did, their decisions would reflect that concern – including holding themselves to the same ethical and moral standards they are now holding Mwende Mwinzi to. Thus far, very few, if any of the country’s parliamentarians can claim that they are “fully committed to serving Kenya….” Conversely, this majority male coterie of lawmakers has repeatedly shown that they are more committed to serving a president who in turn has showered them with goodies in recognition of their toadyism and sycophancy. Let’s not forget that some of the people questioning Mwende Mwinzi’s incorruptibility have reportedly been bought, some for as little as $100 (10,000/=).
Last I checked, nothing even remotely close was unearthed during Ms. Mwinzi’s confirmation hearings. She was vetted by Parliament’s Defense and Foreign Relations Committee, a group comprised of members of the very body now questioning her competence and patriotism to serve as Kenya’s Ambassador to S. Korea. If this sub-committee had reservations about the national security implications of her nomination or questions about her allegiance, I am sure they would have raised them then and as far as I know, none of them did.
Let me pointedly address the flippancy, sexism, and xenophobia embodied in the gripe that Ms. Mwende does “not have any unique skills other Kenyans don’t have.”
The harsh reality is that in fact, she DOES have skills other Kenyans do not have: Mwende Maluki Mwinzi’s professional acculturation is in an American system (of government, governance, and public service) which for all its fault as recently observed, holds its public servants to ethical standards that Kenyans can only intellectualize about; standards her local detractors continue to run roughshod over.
I would rather take my chances on someone with Ms. Mwinzi’s professional pedigree and background than someone marinated in the system that gave us foreign service professionals such as Moses Wetangula, Thuita Mwangi, Anthony Muchiri, and Allan Mburu. Last I checked, Mr. Wetangula was among those who recently paid a visit to State House and Thuita Mwangi and others were acquitted of corruption charges stemming from the 2010 Tokyo Embassy scandal where the Kenyan taxpayers were stuck with an inflated purchase price for buildings housing the embassy.
Kenyans should not be hoodwinked into believing that the ongoing efforts to short-circuit Mwende’s tenure as Kenya’s Ambassador to S. Korea is because of national security concerns. The efforts are shameless power-grab by persons whose selfish and parochial interests Ms. Mwinzi’s appointment thwarts. They are calculated attempts by a political class whose avarice has hollowed out the country’s economy and weakened its ability to ameliorate internal and external security threats. The ongoing machinations by Kenya’s National Assembly should be seen for what it is:
An effort to continue stockpiling critical positions of Kenya’s bureaucracy with persons whose professional and personal conduct are steeped in traditions antithetical to near-everything Ambassador Mwende M. Mwinzi brings to the role – and this scares them to the core.