Irony of a nation's open gates and unwelcome Kenyans abroad

Fred Matiangi has a knack for identifying and dealing with critical issues that are in the nation’s interest.

Love him or hate him, but the hands-on Interior CS eats, drinks, and sleeps Kenya. He has recently picked on the matter of immigrants that have flooded our nation. No nation in the world opens its borders to whomsoever wills. Indeed, the irony is that, the more the world becomes open, the more the nations become closed.

Our interconnectedness seems to be only in cyberspace. Whereas we may have thousands of “friends” from across the globe on Facebook, and whereas we easily and freely interact on that platform, it is a completely different matter trying to visit any of them in their home countries.

Though Kenyans are generally a very hospitable people, we have had the rude shock to discover that there are fewer nations where we are readily welcome. Some of our very close neighbours are very hostile to our people, especially when it comes to living and working there. While Ugandans seem to have no difficulty fishing in our waters – literally and figuratively – Kenyan fishermen have consistently been harassed, arrested and confined by the Ugandan government when found near the disputed Migingo waters.

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Likewise, Kenyan truckers have had challenges crossing the Tanzanian border, with constricting demands placed on them. South Sudan, a nation that was literally conceived, nurtured and midwifed in Kenya by Kenyans, was recently up in arms against Kenyans living and working in the nascent nation. The story is the same in several other African nations, and no better outside Africa.

When I first travelled to Europe in the 80s, I did not need a visa to enter most of the countries. Today, those who have ever tried to acquire visas to Europe or America know that these documents have become more precious than gold. I have witnessed Kenyans celebrate getting an American or Schengen visa like one who has been awarded a university degree. Getting a work permit to any of these nations is a long tedious process that takes much prayer and dogged determination.

In contrast, Kenyan gates seem to be ajar – fully open to whoever may desire to visit or even settle here. Our hospitable spirit seems to be consistently exploited by our own corrupt government officials, who readily sell our birthright for a morsel, and by ill-intentioned individuals who clandestinely sneak into the country. It is on record that after the 1999 and 2009 population census, the figures from the Northern and North Eastern regions were in serious dispute. The rise in population within two decades (1989-2009) were well beyond reasonable natural population growth.

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Thus, in February 2012, then Minister for Planning Wycliffe Oparanya tabled a revised post census figures in Parliament showing the population figures had been inflated in the 2009 count. While the census placed the population in the two regions at 2.35 million, the minister revised it to 1.3 million as the more realistic number of Kenyans in the area. If the census numbers were indeed correct – as some leaders from the regions vehemently argued – then there must have been an influx of over one million non-Kenyans from across the borders listed as Kenyans.

In a nation where the size of the national cake continues to shrink as the number of mouths increase, we can ill afford such illegitimate and illegal expansion of the population. The burden that this places on the national resources can be unbearable, especially as unemployment continues to grow.

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That is why Dr Matiangi’s efforts should not only be supported but also enhanced. Sadly, previous attempts to rid the nation of illegal immigrants have proved difficult.

In 2010, 2014, and 2016, the government moved to crackdown on illegal immigrants, with major swoops in Nairobi. The efforts were brought to nought as various groups and individuals arose in protest, alleging ethnic profiling.

The truth is, whereas such remedies must be conducted within the confines of the law, we must be careful not to become pharisaic in the application of the same laws. The socio-economic dangers accruing from unregulated influx of immigrants are real. In some nations, these have led to serious xenophobic confrontations between citizens and foreigners.

That is why during the constitution review, the Church raised a red flag about some clauses on citizenship that seemed to lend themselves to potential abuse. Sadly, few listened. Now, the chickens have come home to roost.

- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]

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Fred MatiangiInterior CSImmigrants