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Diaspora, Kenyan Leadership & Our Country Beyond 2013

NB: Part of my remarks to a Town Hall meeting hosted by President Mwai Kibaki for Kenyans in the Diaspora – September 25, 2012, New York City, NY.

Your Excellency President Mwai Kibaki, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Honorable Ministers of the Government of Kenya, Kenyan Ambassadors and the entire diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen.

Mine will be a few remarks and I promise to be brief as we engineers are taught.

I concur with the issues raised by earlier speakers on matters of the Kenyan Diaspora. Let’s recognize that Kenyans remain Kenyans (and perhaps even more so) when they stay abroad. They are the true ambassadors of the country in communities they live in, in churches and mosques they frequent for worship, in workplaces where they earn their keep and in many more places. We need to treasure this resource beyond remittances.

Indeed, it is in recognition of the importance of the Diaspora that we now have full conferences orchestrated by the government of Kenya to coordinate affairs of the Diaspora. It is a trend we started back in the late 1990s when I was president of the Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA). At the time, Your Excellency, the government of the day was hostile to this community organizing and was always suspicious that we were onto matters of the opposition.

But as they say things change.

And there are many Diaspora organizations (from diverse nations) that look up to us Kenyans and who seek our counsel when readying themselves to establish themselves. In one way or another, we Kenyans are trailblazers in matters of Diaspora mobilization.

As Kenyan missions abroad seek greater participation of the Kenyan Diaspora, so also does the Diaspora need to participate in Kenyan national affairs. Critical among the issues is the coming election which we have urged the government and its entire organs to make possible for full and effective participation of this segment of Kenyans. And not simply that it is a matter of rights, but that it is the right thing to do. Our Diaspora’s impact on the coming elections will be for the good of our country. Indeed the realization of full citizenship  benefits and rights for the Diaspora is a fundamental right and a cog of a just society.


A while back, a Canadian Prime Minister was asked who he would like to meet before leaving office. Paul Martin said he would like a chance with Mwa Kibaki the president of Kenya. Why? He was asked. Because this president of Kenya by one stroke of the pen had caused change in the education system that allowed more than one million kids to join the school system. These are kids who now have an opportunity to realize their potential and, more so, have a chance to contribute to the Kenyan nation. Thus instead of potentially ending up in lives of crime, most of these kids could become productive members of society: work and create jobs and do nation building as taxpayers and nurturers of the future generations.

Mr. President under your leadership Kenya has shown consistent positive economic growth, which means there are more Kenyans getting work to do and doing nation-building.

In addition, Your Excellency, we have seen infrastructure expansion like no other before. Thika Road Superhighway and the Nairobi bypasses promise to ease the challenges faced on our roads. Indeed, across the country there is evidence of infrastructure expansion. The opening of the Northern Corridor linking Southern Sudan to the port of Lamu will open up an entire Northern Kenya for development. As retired President Daniel Arap Moi would say: Hayo ni maendeleo.

In information communications technology (ICT) Kenya leads the pack and we are witnessing innovation like never before. A case in point is M-PESA that has become synonymous with Kenya and which remains a subject of study by many distinguished academic institutions like MIT and others.

Under your term Mr. President we have a new constitution and a new dispensation that adds to your legacy. The opening up of the democratic space has increased citizen engagement and continues to advance the cause of just society.

Hayo yote ni maendeleo.


As you retire, I am sure you are thinking of safeguarding this legacy. And it is our hope that the leadership that comes after you will build upon this legacy and ensure that it survives for the good of the nation; and indeed assure our country’s posterity.

That leadership needs to be in tune with the times and realize that we Kenyans are in a global village and that our kids in Muranga, Narok, Siaya or Nyamira are really competing with kids in South Korea, China, USA, and Japan and indeed anywhere in the world.

When IBM recently settled on setting up a research facility in Kenya, it is because of the potential the company sees in our nation. Many companies are doing the same. It will mean jobs for Kenyans. However, IBM could have gone to Mozambique or South America or Singapore or anywhere else if we didn’t offer the advantage.

The new leadership must place us Kenyans steadily on the global map.

The new leadership must unite Kenya as a country of people called Kenyans no matter where they live, what they earn or which ethnic group they were born into. Kenyans must become known as Kenyans first rather than Luos, Kikuyus, Kambas, Kisiis and the like.

That leadership must unite Kenyans and create Kenyans. Period.

That leadership must protect the new constitution and ensure its dispensation is implemented to the letter and spirit of the document.

In this respect, it must fight impunity, fight corruption and ensure that the rule of law prevails.

Your Excellency the building blocks for a new Kenya exist for that leadership.

Examples include the firm economic management structures initiated by you, the new constitution, the human capacity we have, the education reforms underway, the land, the Kenyan brand and more.

If for instance all the 40 million Kenyans are fully deployed to work, do we realize how much we can attain? For instance if we had in place village polytechnics and polytechnics to take care of those that cannot proceed past grade school or university, we could increase labour market participation substantially, increase the tax base and even realize further development.

If for instance we realized proper governance at county and national levels we would realize proper ugatuzi and our mashinanis will boom, taking benefits to our people on the ground.

Our nation’s brand image remains positive; what with us producing some of the most outstanding athletes across the world? As a sporting nation we could create millions jobs! We just need leadership with the right vision that would nurture entrepreneurship and encourage investment in this human potential.

As well, Kenya is the land of MPESA and technological innovation. It just requires good leadership to take us to the next level, building upon the legacy that you leave for us Kenyans.

One more thing: the leadership beyond 2013 needs to be true generational change. Why? Because the demands of the leadership of the future are going to be more and more complicated; it is a changed world and that it takes way more to lead effectively into the future than it has been in the past. Some of us are committed to be part of that leadership that represents generational change. Indeed, in my case, the people of Nyamira County have asked that we take part in competing for county leadership. It is a proposal we are taking very, very seriously. … but let’s’ leave that for another day.

Your Excellency, my fellow Kenyans in the Diaspora and  at home in Kenya, my urge to you is to think seriously about the nation of the future, i.e. the Kenya we would like to see beyond 2013 and the nation we would like to live into the future.

In my community of Gusii, it was traditional for the old to nurture the young. In addition, it was common for the retiring elders to bequeath the community both the legacy and a pointer to the leadership that would carry forward that legacy and secure the gains realized so far.

At an appropriate time, Your Excellency, you may consider signaling to the nation that leader who would best safeguard your legacy and beyond. Kenyans will benefit from your wisdom and assessment in that respect.

I want to close by wishing Your Excellency and Mama Lucy the very best in your retirement.

And as you retire, I would suggest you consider doing your memoirs so that we Kenyans can learn from your experiences and thought processes. Your memoirs would be a recollection and articulation of your legacy and achievements in your long service in the political arena since 1961.

I say this because I am keen on preserving our legacy which we shouldn’t lose. Failing to do so will make us leave to the adage that when an old man dies, it is like burning a whole library!

And at a personal level, I can commit (through our publishing business Nsemia Publishers – to help bring your memoirs to the public.

Thank you very much.
And may God bless Kenya.


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