Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 10:53 AM
Subject: DIASPORA INTERESTS- THE BUCK STOPS WITH PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA IN 2014 GOING FORWARD
Confederation Council Foundation for Africa Inc.,
Best Practices for Diaspora Organizations
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From: Maurice Oduor
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 1:53 AM
Subject: [wanabidii] Re: DIASPORA INTERESTS- THE BUCK STOPS WITH PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA IN 2014 GOING FORWARD
The first year anniversary of the Jubilee government is around the corner. The year 2013 was dramatic in many respects- good and bad; new elections and a new administration under a new constitution, ICC prosecutions, bombings, labor strikes, spike in crimes, a civil war in South Sudan, etc. It is almost a year since the President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were elected in an overcast of both domestic and international cynicism. Despite the odds and the encumbrances that have dogged them, primarily the ICC and menacing insecurity not the least of which are the terrorist assaults on the nation, the Kenyatta Administration has held its own.Let’s give credit where credit is due and in this case to President Kenyatta personally for conducting himself with poise, humility and calmness that has endeared many Kenyans to him. I’m not suggesting that the Kenyatta Administration has magically transformed Kenya, far from it. Some of these things take a while to manifest and we understand, particularly those of us who support this president and so as we begin 2014, perhaps we should take inventory of the administration’s performance and do a candid introspection if only to have a better year 2014 and beyond. We begin with the tone set at the top by the President and those in command. On this the jury is still out insofar as the President’s policy positions, appointments and announcements made by those in his inner circle, after all he is the president and the buck stops with him.For the record, I am one of the Millions who supported President Kenyatta’s bid for president and I am very happy that he won notwithstanding the overwhelming odds and obstacles against him not the least of which are the International Criminal Court charges. Kenyans repudiated the ICC at the ballot box primarily because the court’s agenda turned into a political ploy to impose a West handpicked regime as opposed to seeking justice for the PEV victims. Even after winning, the court has relentlessly pursued the President and his Deputy William Ruto but thanks to the efforts of many Kenyans and international friends, including my own I may add, sanity appears to prevail. The cloud that has hung over the President and encumbered his ability to govern may be dissipating, finally.That said, all Kenyans expect their government to serve them equally and to prioritize their interests and for the civil and uniformed servants to subordinate their own for the greater good of the country and therefore the President deserves an honest assessment devoid of the inner circle politics that usually keeps him in a virtual bubble while things get out of hand.In this installment, a first of analytic series of the Kenyatta administration, I start with that which is dear and close to me- the Diaspora- naturally of course. If you had an opportunity to sit across the table with President Kenyatta, what would you tell him? I am simulating a mock interview with the president and telling him directly and candidly what I think of his relationships with the Diaspora and the many other issues to follow; the good, the bad and the ugly- no sugarcoating:
DIASPORA AFFAIRS:President Kenyatta: What do you think of my administration’s handling of the Diaspora and what can we improve on?David Ochwangi: I am glad you asked Mr. President. This is dear and close to my heart as you can imagine because I am a part of the Diaspora and it is one area our patience is running thin. To your first question, perhaps we should start with what your Director for Diaspora Affairs, Dennis Itumbi, thinks of that. Your administration did poorly last year regarding the Diaspora. Just several weeks ago, after a spirited war of words on the Social media (Facebook) with the Diaspora including yours truly, Itumbi put up a brave fight for himself and your administration- essentially claiming that he and the administration had done a good job thus far with respect to the Diaspora. And our answer was emphatic No, no, no no- Mr. President- what Itumbi postulated was factually incorrect. In fact if I were to grade the administration’s performance on this issue, it would be an “F” as in Fail. What concerns me and most of us in the Diaspora is that a) Itumbi’s posturing about the Diaspora may actually reflect your own position and b) if indeed what he stated is your position as President, then clearly there is considerable disconnect between the Administration and the Diaspora and worse yet there appears to be nothing being done to bridge the gap. That is a big problem; the administration’s model is deficient and is not working. To his credit, Mr. Itumbi realized that he was wrong and did a quick 180 and admitted that the administration had failed the Diaspora in 2013; he tendered an apology on the same media and promised of great things in the works for the Diaspora coming up shortly. That was in early January 2014, we have not heard from or of him on this issue again notwithstanding the hundreds of his posts on everything in the book, including pastor’s moments and news reports, but the Diaspora. We are not holding our breaths for that moment but suffice to say we are frustrated in this area Mr. President and it is up to you to fix the problem.I am not trying to pile on Mr. Itumbi but I remember back when he was appointed and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga admonished the administration with respect to his appointment, he is quoted as saying, ” Odinga further said that Itumbi’s appointment was, “a clear indication that the government was not treating the diaspora with the seriousness it deserved.” http://www.thejackalnews.com/politics/state-house-defends-dennis-itumbi-invites-obdurate-raila-odinga-to-study-strategy Mr. President I would like you to hear from me as someone who supports you in more ways than I can reveal here, and in fairness to Mr. Raila Odinga, as it turns out, he was correct. The truth is Mr. President, Itumbi’s current role as Director for Diaspora Affairs, for all intents and purposes, is superficial and it is not serving the Diaspora’s interests much less your own.I don’t know Itumbi from Adam but I like him; he comes across as grounded and religious; majority of his posts reflect a God fearing guy and I have already told him that he and I are on the same team- your team, but that is not an excuse for mediocrity. Obviously he has a good track record as a blogger but for our purposes in the Diaspora, we don’t see the value or usefulness this background/ activities add to our interests. Frankly I think that has he been thrust into a difficult position that he clearly neither understands nor knows much about and that perhaps out of abundant exuberance he felt or even still feels he can handle but Itumbi has no demonstrable grasp of the Diaspora. None whatsoever! At one point when responding to PM Odinga’s criticism, he said that he reports to a guy who used to live in the Diaspora and therefore that issue is “sorted out”!! Really? Just simple like that?! See Mr. President that is the kind of stuff that rubs Diaspora folks the wrong way, it sends us the message that the administration doesn’t take the Diaspora seriously and that it only pays lip service and this appointment was a token just for show. Frankly it makes former Prime Minister Raila Odinga look like a seasoned expert on Diaspora affairs.No framework or platform has been set up engage with the Diaspora, not a single stakeholders’ meeting, not a single town hall meeting despite numerous overtures and opportunities to do so, just nothing but sporadic social media posts. Not even a Diaspora page much less a webpage with basic information like Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), just nothing.By his admission in a TV interview in December, about six months into the job, Mr. Itumbi stated that he is trying to understand the Diaspora affairs from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before he can engage the Diaspora, seriously! The point is it that was quite a stunning revelation of the poor state of affairs with respect to the Diaspora. First of all, why do you have two offices handling the Diaspora with practically nothing to show for it? Don’t Itumbi and the Foreign Affairs Ministry ultimately report to you Mr. President? What is the purpose for the redundancy and duplication/overlapping of roles? In Mid-December, 2013 there was a Diaspora Conference in Washington, DC. Neither Mr. Itumbi nor anyone from the Foreign Affairs ministry attended, and yet two short weeks later Mr. Itumbi touted the Administration’s stellar performance in Diaspora affairs on Facebook. The truth is Itumbi doesn’t understand us, or our issues, or our language, doesn’t walk our walk and therefore cannot effectively represent us in this administration or any other for that matter unless in title, for show and tell only.The Diaspora is not a one size fit all humanity that one can study and serve remotely at the President’s office in Nairobi, Kenya. The Diaspora is more than dual citizenship, voter id or voter registration or voting but even on these basics, there has not been any noticeable movement by the administration to accomplish anything, nothing. The Diaspora is also about true representation at all level of government and legislative agenda, codification of Diaspora specific interests into law, ease of asset repatriation on a tax exempt regime, benevolence insurance programs, asset protection, legal counsel and representation as need arises, and many more.The person that serves as Director of Diaspora, in my opinion, should necessarily have requisite background key of which is to live or have lived in the Diaspora, so it is easy for the person to empathize and relate with the Diaspora, not by proxy as in the present circumstance. Our folks are spread all over the world and for those of us who live, walk and breathe the Diaspora, our interests vary widely just as our stations do and our expectations were and still remain that you would somehow take that into account when appointing folks to represent us in the Administration. We expect genuine interest and action from your administration in truly reaching out to the Diaspora. We are fully cognizant of your prerogative to hire folks to serve in the administration but we also reserve the right to criticize when we are being shortchanged.Additionally, Itumbi’s job description that he shared with us on Facebook is a twenty three (23) line item description and buried in lines 11 through 15 are five (5) lines dealing with the Diaspora at Director level. They are;xi. Liaising with Diaspora to allow constant interaction and exchange of ideas between the Presidency and the Diaspora;xii. Outline structures for diaspora engagement with the Presidency;xiii. Mobilize the diaspora to act as partners in the development of Kenya;xiv. Design policies and implement programs fundamental to diaspora relations;xv. Support the Presidency’s media outreach activities to include diaspora.
Evidently, there is saturation of responsibilities, personal and professional piled on one man that makes it practically impossible to be effective in any one of them. Even Superman has limitations and has to prioritize his missions. As if not enough, shortly after sharing his job description with us, Itumbi announced that he has been admitted to one of the Universities to pursue a Degree in Law.My point being Mr. President that a person to deal with a constituency as large and diverse as the Diaspora cannot have his plate so full that it become an impediment to efficiently and effectively serve the purpose. It defeats the purpose via a self-inflicted frustration of purpose, we are being shortchanged and it is not entirely Itumbi’s fault because he is clearly stretched thin. So this position as currently constituted is a disservice to your administration, the nation and the Diaspora.None of these job descriptions above have manifested themselves under Itumbi, and they will not for reasons stated above, and that is our concern, is your administration serious about the Diaspora? The Diaspora is a major engine of the economy that contributes in the upwards of KSHs.100 Billion to Kenya’s GDP before we count the multiplier effect and managing Diaspora Affairs is not a side job to be lumped up with social communication; it is a separate and more serious undertaking and we expect this administration to treat it as such.Finally, Mr. President, There is still time to remedy this. This you can only achieve if your administration truly and sincerely engages the Diaspora both in form and substance and not superficially. There are plenty of well suited Kenyans in the Diaspora willing and able to genuinely engage with the administration and other organs of government and I fully expect that efforts to identify and work with these folks are forthcoming.