STATEMENT BY RT. HON RAILA ODINGA ON THE NOMINATION OF Ms. MWENDE MWINZI AS AMBASSADOR TO THE REOUBLC OF KOREA:
In the negotiations for the Constitution that we promulgated in 2010, Kenyans in the diaspora put a convincing case for our country to allow dual citizenship. Among other reasons, they demonstrated that they were unable to progress beyond certain grades in employment in foreign countries unless they become citizens of those countries. Until 2010, they could not take citizenship of those foreign countries unless they renounced Kenyan citizenship, which many were not prepared to do.
From the cries of our sons and daughters abroad, we, as a country, agreed to allow dual citizenship, seeing clear advantages that would come with it.
On the development front, the figures bear our diaspora out. Data from the World Bank data indicates that Kenyans living abroad sent home more money last year than the rest of the East Africa Diaspora combined, partly an indication of the changing earnings for our citizens abroad. Kenya’s Diaspora remittances in 2018 stood at Sh280 billion, way more than the Sh242 billion sent to the rest of Eastern Africa — Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Furthermore, remittances from Kenyans in the diaspora currently constitute the country’s single largest source of foreign currency, ahead of major crops and tourism. The Central Bank of Kenya reported that in the 12 months to June 2019, the remittance inflows rose to an all-time high, amounting to Sh285.4 billion from Sh251.4 billion last year, representing a 13.6-per cent growth.
It is against this background that I find the treatment of Ms. Mwende Mwinzi by our Parliament extremely disturbing and dubious. The whole debate around whether she qualifies to be Kenya’s ambassador has cast her as a criminal and reduced her to being less Kenyan than the Members of Parliament while the spirit of letter of the law should protect her. Opposition to Mwende’s appointment amounts to killing the spirit and necessity of dual citizenship trough which Kenyans sought equal rights abroad and at home to enable them contribute to the development of our nation.
But it is not just about the remittances. Mwende Mwinzi was born in the US. That made her an American citizen. But she was born of a Kenyan father and that made her eligible to claim Kenyan citizenship, which she did when her father migrated to Kenya with the family. She thus ended up with being a citizen of two countries. However, she cannot denounce any because both have been acquired not by application and naturalization but by operation of the law. She cannot undo her birth in the USA; neither can she undo her sire by her father or his Kenyan citizenship.
The Constitution protects her from jeopardy by making a proviso for people like her that the bar from holding a State Office by people of dual citizenship will not apply where they cannot renounce it because it is obtained by operation of the law.
Furthermore, under the constitution today, anyone borne of a Kenyan parent is automatically a Kenyan citizen regardless whether they are born in Kenya or not. Under the current constitution she is a citizen of Kenya by birth even if she was born in America.
Article 14 of our Constitution stipulates that:
1) A person is a citizen by birth if on the day of the person’s birth, whether or not the person is born in Kenya, either the mother or father of the person is a citizen.
(2) Clause (1) applies equally to a person born before the effective date, whether or not the person was born in Kenya, if either the mother or father of the person is or was a citizen.
Other than petty vendetta and a refusal by our Parliament to rise above partisan interests and act in the interest of the nation, there is no reason whatsoever for MPs to maintain Ms. Mwende Mwinzi cannot be our ambassador abroad. I appeal to our MPs to always stand up for the nation. Both the law and the interest of the nation allow Ms. Mwende Mwinzi to represent our country abroad.
RT. HON RAILA ODINGA, EGH.
October 5, 2019.