Presidential candidates can't afford to ignore diaspora voice

Roots Political Party Presidential Aspirant George Wajackoya right with IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati when he appeared to present his nomination papers. [Samson Wire. Standard]

The Government has now and again recognised the role of its citizens working abroad, terming them a key cog in the country’s political and economic growth. On Labour Day, the Government said remittances from diaspora Kenyans had increased by Sh250 billion since 2013.

The remittances now stand at an impressive Sh375 billion annually compared to Sh117 billion some 10 years ago, with development agencies singling out the Kenyan diaspora as among the most versatile.

Apart from the positive contribution to the economy and betterment of their families back home, Kenyans living in other countries have sustained a positive portrayal of the brand Kenya.

Considering the central place of the diaspora Kenyans in the future of the nation, it is imperative that those aspiring for office in the August 9 elections engage them fully. They have a stake and leaders ignoring them can only do so at their peril.

Other than Azimio leaders Raila Odinga and ‘Iron Lady’ Martha Karua, I am yet to see the other contenders commit themselves to working with diaspora Kenyans, not just for the purpose of the forthcoming vote, but for posterity.

Could it be that other parties think the diaspora is inconsequential given the low voters numbers registered abroad? Forget the numbers. Focus should be on the estimated two million diaspora population active on social media with financial means and influence. Their liberal views define them as powerful opinion shapers.

Raila and Karua teams have appreciated the influence of the diaspora and through visits and virtual meetings, they have been mobilising the diaspora to use their influence back home to encourage people to vote for change.

The diaspora live in big metropole cities that are multicultural. They have different opinions on women in leadership, equality and diversity which those eyeing political office should tap into.

Raila promised the diaspora a country that works like the nations they live. He promised a quick realization of e-voting, diaspora representation and unmatched investments

Karua, Charity Ngilu, Hassan Joho, Sabina Chege, Peter Kenneth, James Ongwae, Sally Kosgey and Moses Kajwang who accompanied Raila on a recent UK trip were unanimous on the need for enhanced diaspora engagement. The continued neglect of diversity, equity, and inclusion creates serious national security vulnerabilities such social unrests as witnessed in 2007. Africa is replete with examples like Ethiopia and many Francophone nations.

Kenya Kwanza strategists seem to have slept on the job. Apart from failing to fully engage the diaspora Kenyans, they forgot women are a key constituency. The diaspora have a stake in the country future. 

The writer is Azimio-UK official and member of Chatham House and Woodrow Wilson think-tank