Armed with a population of over 3 million people spread across 7 continents and about Ksh360 billion [$3.3bn] annual remittance back home, Kenyans abroad feel that they deserve more than just voting rights

IEBC Chairman Mr Wafula Chebukati [centre] poses for a picture with a section of Kenyans in Diaspora during the Diaspora Conference 2021 in Washington DC, USA. Photo credit: David Ogega/AKDOi.

WASHINGTON DC, the United States: Kenyans in the Diaspora are banking on their immense resource base which they consistently channel back home to sustain the economy and their growing numbers abroad to give them a solid leverage to engage the Government to allow them have their own separate 48th County with a full governance structure.

Armed with a population of over 3 million people spread across 7 continents and over Sh350 billion [$3.5 billion]in annual remittance back home, Kenyans abroad feel that they deserve more than just voting rights, which though is enshrined in the current constitution, is yet to be fully implemented 11 years after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, spearheaded by coalition Government of former President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Latest data from Kenya’s Central Bank (CBK) reveals that Diaspora cumulative remittance inflows in the 12 months to May 2021 totalled Sh363.3 billion ($3.365 billion). Education, healthcare, real estate and household needs are the main uses of remittances in Kenya.

THE IDEA

According to Mr Bernard Kavyu, Founder of Diaspora 48th County, the idea is to bring 3 million Kenyans in Diaspora under one Diaspora County 48 Kenya with a fully-fledged and functioning governance structure. Kenya has 47 Counties under the current Constitution.

To kick start the process, Mr Kavyu on Saturday presented an in-depth proposal to Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission [IEBC] Chairman Mr Wafula Chebukati and his team who were hosted by the Association of Kenyan Diaspora Organisation [AKDOi] at the Diaspora Conference 2021 in Washington DC – a hybrid virtual and in-person meeting which was also attended by Smart Africa Media.

He said, “The time has come for the Kenyans living abroad to be accorded the same rights and privileges as those living in Kenya. For the longest time Kenyan diaspora has been discriminated against when it comes to equal opportunities in voting and appointments into public positions.  

“The days of treating Kenyans living abroad as second class citizens must come to an end. Kenyan diaspora contributes massively to the Kenyan economy and our rights and privileges as Kenyan citizens must be guaranteed. The government of Kenya has totally failed to implement the Kenya Diaspora Policy of June 2014.”

In view of the prevailing circumstances, Mr Kavyu said, Kenyan Diaspora has decided to establish its own Diaspora County48 Kenya “to look after the affairs and interests of those Kenyans living abroad”.

THE PROCESS

Mr Kavyu who is also the Party Leader of the newly registered Party for Peace and Democracy [PPD] said, “Similarly in order to fully engage in Kenyan political process, the Kenyans in diaspora have registered their own political party.

“PPD Party is going to engage with ex-diaspora parliamentarians in Kenya to create a Diaspora Parliamentary Caucus which will be tasked with tabling a motion in parliament for the creation and establishment of the Diaspora County48 Kenya.”

But before Diaspora 48th Country is constitutionally established and for purposes of initiating push for recognition, he said that PPD is going to engage with the Government to ensure that the Kenyan Diaspora are given a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs headed by a Cabinet Secretary appointed from among Kenyans living in Diaspora.

The party will also seek for employment of Diaspora Attachés in all the Kenya Foreign Missions. These Diaspora Attachés must be appointed from among Kenyans living abroad who are conversant with the local needs of the Kenyan Diasporians.

During the meeting Mr Kavyu engaged IEBC to ensure that the Kenyan Diaspora are given the opportunities to exercise their universal suffrage rights to register and vote in general elections from Diaspora.

Further, he unveiled a detailed electoral framework for registering Kenyan Diaspora voters and establishment of polling stations in diaspora and presented it to IEBC Chairman Chebukati. Mr Kavyu said that given a chance, the Diaspora Community has what it takes to partner with Government to finance such arrangement.

THE PLEDGE

According to Mr Kavyu’s proposal, the governance structure of the Diaspora 48th County will be led by elected Governor with 8 Sub-Counties namely Africa, South America, North America, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Oceania – complete with Wards, Locations and Sub-Locations.  

Keynote speakers who echoed and supported the sentiments are Kenya’s 2017 Presidential Candidate Dr Jeff Kaluyu and Kenya Diaspora Conference Chairman Mr David Ogega among other Kenyan professionals, mainly based in the United States and United Kingdom.  

While responding to Mr Kavyu’s proposals, among other speakers’ queries, Mr Chebukati recognised and complimented Diaspora Community for their relentless commitment and patriotism towards their Country, far away from home.

After discussions at the Kenya Diaspora Conference 2021, the IEBC Chairman announced that six more Diaspora countries namely; UK, Canada, USA, Qatar, UAE and South Sudan would be able to register voters and carry out voting in Diaspora in addition to East Africa Community and South Africa. This has been heralded as a big win for both Mr Kavyu, his newly registered Party for Peace and Democracy PPD and the Diaspora County48 Kenya movement.

The IEBC boss pledged to take up the issues raised a notch higher but within the framework of the current laws governing the country.

Meanwhile, he encouraged Diaspora Community to register in large numbers for the upcoming General Elections 2022 in order to exercise their existing constitutional rights and make use of Kenya High Commissions and Embassies in their host countries as polling stations to vote.

The only countries where Kenyans in Diaspora participated in 2017 General Elections are Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa. IEBC data has shown that out of more than 3 million Kenyans abroad, less than 5,000 registered to vote.

Lead image: Bernard Kavyu, Founder of Diaspora County48 and PPD Party Leader.

Governance structure images, courtesy of Bernard Kavyu.

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Smart Africa Media [https://smartcompany.africa] is a pan-African online media convergence platform, developing to incorporate digital TV, ePaper and Podcast to amplify pro-development and success stories across Africa and the Diaspora, to inspire investment and growth.

The multimedia outlet is on the verge of cultivating smart partnerships, correspondences and audiences across Africa and the Diaspora, with a strong emphasis to deliver business and economic stories that are positive, constructive, and empowering.

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ABOUT THE JOURNALIST

Elvis Mboya, Founder and Editor of the Smart Africa Media, is a former Business Daily Journalist at the Nation Media Group, with a decade of media and communication experience in Southern Africa region, including service at the Kenya High Commission in Windhoek.

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