The Kenyan embassy in Washington, DC early last week sent out a circular asking Kenyans living abroad to fill out some forms disclosing their skills for a variety of reasons.
The information is to be captured in a matrix provided by the embassy and submitted on or before Tuesday, May 15.
The circular said that as part of the implementation of the Diaspora Policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had initiated a programme to develop a skills database of Kenyan professionals, academicians, experts and successful businesspersons in the diaspora.
“This exercise is not only aimed at collecting information for planning purposes but also take stock of key skills available outside the country that the ministry can leverage for national development as envisaged in the Diaspora Policy and Kenya Vision 2030.”
Because the request was released without any prior explanations or ceremony associated with the release of such information, the circular has been received by its targeted group, the Diaspora, with suspicion and mistrust at best and outright scorn at worst with many suspecting sinister motives.
“A request like that targeting people’s personal data especially in a place like the US where many people fear such data could end up in the wrong hands should have been preceded by an elaborate civic education in terms of why the government would need such information.
"As it is, this thing just started circulating on the internet,” Johnson Sakwa, a postgraduate student at Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware, said.
Many Kenyans in the US are asking pointed questions like, why doesn’t the government utilise local skills in Kenya in view of the fact that there are many Kenyans with different skills who are currently unemployed?
They are wondering why is it that the government seems to view the Kenyan Diaspora only in terms of what it could mine from them but when it comes to their rights to vote for instance, the government is silent?
These are the questions that Kenyans in the Diaspora are asking online since the circular came out.
Kenyan born New York City resident Peter Kerre said the embassy should first share with the diaspora any data indicating that the skills the government is seeking from the diaspora are not available back in Kenya.
“To the best of our knowledge, there are thousands of very qualified Kenyans with both work experience and advanced degrees within Kenya seeking employment. Have you announced to them the opportunities for which you want to recruit us?” he asked.
Mr Kerre said that on June 2014, after years of battle in the courts between the Kenyan diaspora and the Kenya government, the Kenyan Court of Appeal ruled that the government was to immediately facilitate the diaspora to vote as per the Kenyan constitution. They did not do so.
Richie Nyabuto doubts the government’s sincerity saying he is one of those who relocated to Kenya from the diaspora with multiple degrees thinking they’ll land big jobs only to get there and be disappointed.
“We who came back to Kenya with all the acquired skills tried to get into the civil service but we were never called upon. With three degrees, I wonder what kind of educated people they needed,” he said.
But Mkawasi Mcharo-Hall, former Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA) president, said the undiplomatic way in which the government is approaching the issue notwithstanding, the information sought is important.
“Why the duplication of efforts?” she asked adding, “For years, we’ve been at this fruitlessly knocking on Embassy’s doors to support mutually beneficial efforts. It needs a partnership with diaspora groups that have been championing the same effort for years.”