They work hard to send money back home for development only to be conned by close relatives, writes BASIL TULESI
They came âhomeâ for Christmas â to eat ârealâ food, drink ârealâ beer, hitch up a daughter or son of the soil and inspect development projects. They arrived with excitement in their hearts but flew back enraged, some in tears.
These are Kenyans who live in perpetual distress overseas. They battle chilling winters, loneliness, racism, cultural and economic setbacks. They do anything and everything to put âdevelopmentâ on the ground back home, only to get conned by relatives.
That was never the case. In the days following Independence, our fathers left the comforts of their villages for Nairobi â to look for jobs. They religiously sent monthly cash remittances via clansmen who worked on commuter buses. The money always got home and was prudently saved by relatives because within a short period of time, they could afford to pay dowry, buy pieces of land and sometimes build homes.
Not today. Omari was born and raised in Mombasa. By a stroke of luck, he landed a valid working permit in the USA. Before he left for the States, his parents swiftly arranged a marriage for him to Fatmah, a pretty girl of modest education. Upon arrival in the States, Omari landed a comparatively lucrative job that accorded him relative comfort and money to spare.
He, however, experienced many moments of anxiety with his American line managers and colleagues who routinely made him an object of ridicule. In addition, he was subjugated by ethnocentric managers who verbally insulted him, wrote him memos with racist undertones and, on several occasions, denied him his official holiday leave.
He endured all this and routinely sent part of his income to Fatmah, his wife in Kenya.
In three years, his contract was controversially not renewed. But he was not a worried man since he knew he had been remitting money to his wife regularly and that she had bought several plots in Mombasa and was now building apartments for rent. In fact, she had been updating him with photo images of the project.
Last Christmas holiday, with no work and lots of time to spare, he packed his suitcase and travelled to Kenya. He was, however, shocked beyond imagination to discover that Fatmah had âinvestedâ his money in a tiny plot of land in the crowded Mishomoroni area.
The piece of land had no title deed and the only legal âpaperâ signifying land ownership that Fatmah had was an âagreementâ signed by a village elder. On the plot, Fatmah had built a Swahili house and had installed four tenants. In one of the rooms, she had set up her little duka selling groceries and paraffin.