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MPs question envoy nominees academic qualifications

 Ambassadorial nominee Isaac Keen Parashina for Abuja, Nigeria when he appeared for vetting before the National Assembly Committee on Wednesday, October 25, 2023. [National Assembly of Kenya Committees - Twitter, @NACommitteeKe]

An ambassadorial nominee plans to undertake a diplomatic course at the "quickest opportunity possible."

A parliamentary committee raised concern that Isaac Keen Parashina, President William Ruto's pick to lead Kenya's mission in Nigeria, lacked the experience to take up the role.

Parashina, who has no training in diplomacy or international relations, is the current deputy head of Kenya's mission to Israel, a job he has executed for the last three years.

The Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Belgut lawmaker Nelson Koech, yesterday, learnt that the nominee is a trained urban planner and had worked with several county governments.

Kinangop MP Kwenya Thuku raised concern about Parashina's lack of training in diplomacy.

"You have served as deputy head of mission, which essentially makes you a spare wheel. A spare wheel is only useful when one of the other wheels is deflated, only when the boss is not around. I urge colleagues that we should not be rubber stamps. We need to see competence and ability," argued Thuku.

The committee's vice-chairperson Bashir Abdullah wondered why Parashina had not attended diplomacy classes.

"You have not taken any interest in learning international relations... Will it impede on your performance as an ambassador?" posed the Mandera North MP.

Parashina said that the three years he has served within the diplomatic field was sufficient experience and he was willing to sharpen his skills.

"We learn in different ways and speeds. Three years is enough to learn on the job and understand diplomacy, which is constantly expanding to include strands like urbanisation and the digital economy. I will put my best foot forward to ensure success. I'll be in class at the quickest opportunity possible," said the nominee for Kenya's Ambassador to Nigeria, a matter that Koech would put to rest.

"We will evaluate all the nominees when we retreat to write our report," said the committee's chair.

Parashina promised to seek partnerships to enhance trade between Kenya and Nigeria, as well as talent exchanges in the creative industry, where Nigeria thrives.

MPs also wanted to know Kenya's position on Israel and the Palestine conflict.

"Kenya's foreign policy is very clear. We advocate for the two-state solution emanating from the African Union's position. We don't advocate for inhumanity against any particular person," Koech said.

Janet Mawasi-Oben, the prospective ambassador to Rwanda, also faced questions about her suitability as she, too, lacked training in diplomacy.

"Having worked at the United Nations, I gained a considerable amount of experience in international relations. I also studied international law and this could be a chance to put it into practice," she said.

The nominee was questioned about her consistent switching of jobs, having worked for several organisations.

Mawasi-Oben is a former Taita Taveta County Executive Committee member, who was sacked by former Governor Granton Samboja, raising concerns by MPs.

"The governor laid off 10 members of his cabinet after initially laying off his entire cabinet, which he thought was to blame for his wars with Members of County Assembly," she explained.

MPs questioned Mawasi-Oben's history of seeking political office, from vying for Taita Taveta Woman Representative seat and county assembly Speaker, to establish her motivations.

"You have developed a career out of vying for positions. Why would you be rejected in all the positions?" Posed Saboti MP Caleb Amisi.

"My decision to seek elective office was borne out of the passion to uplift the people of Taita Taveta," Mawasi-Oben said.

Sabatia MP Clement Sloya wanted to know how she would improve tea and coffee exports to Rwanda, with the nominee stating she would push to ease non-trade barriers between Kenya and Rwanda.

Mawasi-Oben declared her net worth as Sh60 million, comprising of family savings and earnings from her various jobs.

"My husband puts money in my accounts... that's part of family savings," she added.

Peter Maina Munyiri, the nominee for Kenya's High Commissioner to India, said the government could leverage on India's huge population as a market for Kenyan products, promising to enhance partnerships that would secure significant investments.

"There is still too much we can get (from our partnership). We need to step up in terms of engagements," the former Family Bank CEO said, noting that Kenya's neighbours were securing better bilateral deals with India courtesy of enhanced partnerships.

Munyiri also served in the Co-operative Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays Bank Barclays Bank of Kenya, now Absa.

Earlier, Jane Wairimu Ndurumo, the nominee for ambassador to South Africa, also promised to enhance trade and cooperation between the two nations.

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