As Kenyans eagerly await the results of the presidential elections by the IEBC, one question that lingers in the minds of many of us is what to expect from the new regime. While the candidates crisscrossed the country expounding their promises during the campaigns, it is the manifestos that have traditionally documented their envisioned plans should they win the elections. Accordingly, they are held accountable for promises made in these manifestos rather than the common roadside declarations. It is thus not surprising that the launch of the manifestos by the four presidential candidates were at prime time when usually a wide spectrum of voters can be reached. Understandably, the candidates have been concentrating their campaigns in Kenya while the diaspora has had to contend with the manifestos to know their fate after the elections.
With a current annual remittance of over $ 3.7 Billion, the contributions by the Kenyan diaspora have by far surpassed tourism and tea exports to cement their position as the main foreign exchange earner for the country. To put this into perspective, the 47 county governments were allocated an almost similar amount in the 2021/2022 financial year. It would thus be only fair if this section of Kenyans would be given the consideration they deserve in policy making as well as in provision of government services. Unfortunately, Kenyans in the diaspora have over the years been literally forgotten; Poor to non-existent consular services by the Kenyan Missions abroad is just one of the perennial challenges that the diaspora has had to contend with. It is due to this that the diaspora, just like other Kenyans, looks forward to the upcoming elections with the hope that the resulting regime change might lead to these challenges being addressed. The interest shown early this year by Kenyans abroad to register as voters for the first time despite the logistical difficulties underscores their attachment to their motherland. Moreover, it sends a message that this constituency should be considered as a serious player.
That said, what should Kenyans in the diaspora expect from the new regime? If the manifestos are anything to go by, only the Azimio la Umoja and Kenya Kwanza alliances seem to have taken the interests of the diaspora into consideration. Despite having several aspects in common such as tapping on the diaspora’s investment potential and improving the services offered by the national government, a deeper look at the manifestos shows that there are some significant differences between the two manifestos. A major promise by the Kenya Kwanza Alliance is probably the creation of the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs. This has indeed been a plea by various stakeholders due to the fact that diaspora affairs have been traditionally handled by a directorate at the Foreign Ministry. The plurality of institutions that come with such a ministry would certainly be a relief to this important constituency. On the other hand, the manifesto by the Azimio la Umoja Coalition underscores the importance of the diaspora particularly regarding its contribution to the Kenyan economy. It promises to push for the allocation of a diaspora representative in the National Assembly while retaining the status quo and retaining the diaspora issues with the Foreign Ministry. While representation in the National Assembly is significant, the capacity of Foreign Affairs Ministry regarding diaspora affairs should be significantly increased.
As Kenyans prepare to cast their votes and usher in a new regime, the Kenyan diaspora is keenly following the developments hoping to be no longer only a footnote in the country’s political landscape. While the manifestos are promising a paradigm shift, the next regime will be held accountable by the Kenyans in the diaspora. There is no doubt that a Ministry for Diaspora Affairs or even representation in the National Assembly as suggested by the leading parties are welcome developments. In the long term, however, the more that 3 million Kenyans in the diaspora expect a sustainable solution that will address their affairs. There is certainly no reason as to why institutions equivalent to the Kenya Tourism Board or Kenya Tourism Development Authority specifically dedicated to addressing the welfare of the diaspora cannot be created. Afterall, the Kenyan diaspora has proven to be a key and dependable pillar of the country’s economy.
By Cyrus K. Robiro
The author is a political scientist and political commentator based in Frankfurt, Germany.