We live in times when diversity and gender parity are key to Kenya’s development as an African pillar. One woman has set great standards for others in the society, from her political debut to empowering the neglected voices in society. Her name is Mwende Mwinzi, the ambassadorial nominee for South Korea.

President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated Mwinzi on May 2, to serve as Kenya’s ambassador to the Asian nation, with the National Assembly approving his choice at the time without any complaints. However, any story of growth comes along with challenges, with one being doubts on her work execution based on dual citizenship.

Before we continue, you can make a difference by doing two things:

  1. Sign this petition to oppose Mwende Mwinzi’s discrimination, (it will take you less than a minute).
  2. Call or Text the Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi at +254-722-529-778
Sign this petition to oppose Mwende Mwinzi’s discrimination, and Call or Text the Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi at +254722529778 Click To Tweet

Africa Killed Her ‘Son’ and is back for her Daughters too:

Africa Kills Her Sun: A play based on original text by Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995) who was hanged by the Nigerian dictatorship in 1995 for his activism on behalf of his Nigerian Ogoni people. Today, if we don’t do anything, Africa will  kill her daughter.

In the past, Mwende Mwinzi campaigned for Kenya’s positive image abroad behind the scenes. The philanthropist, famed for her Twana Twitu Children’s Orphanage, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of Kenyan parents. Mwinzi, who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1971, is also the founder of Twili Foundation, a charitable organization running programs for needy and vulnerable kids in Kitui County.

How many times will we allow Saro-Wiwa’s Story come true? – Africa  seems to nurture the worst, while killing her best children, as seen in Mwende Mwinzi’s case. We can put an end to this by signing this petition now.

Africa Kills Her Sun: A play by Ken Saro-Wiwa who was hanged by the Nigerian dictatorship in 1995 for his activism on behalf of his Nigerian Ogoni people. Today, if we don’t do anything, Africa will  kill her daughter. Click To Tweet
President Uhuru Kenyatta pictured appointed Mwende Mwinzi to serve as Kenya's ambassador to South Korea on May 2
President Uhuru Kenyatta pictured appointed Mwende Mwinzi to serve as Kenya’s ambassador to South Korea on May 2

Africa Kills Her Sun: A Play by “Ken” Saro-Wiwa

In Africa Kills Her Sun: A play based on original text by Kenule Beeson “Ken” Saro-Wiwa (a Nigerian writer), we have the theme of corruption, acceptance, connection, honour and love. Narrated in the first person in the form of an epistolary narrative the reader realises after reading the story that Saro-Wiwa may be exploring the theme of corruption.

Throughout Bana’s letter to Zole he mentions the corruption that exists in not only his own country but in Africa in general. It is as though Africa’s growth has been stunted by mankind’s inability to act accordingly and without lining their own pockets. Corruption if Bana is to believed is everywhere and due to his own honesty and refusal to accept bribes Bana lost his job as a government clerk.

Ken Saro-Wiwa was initially the spokesperson, and then president, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). At the peak of his non-violent campaign, he was tried by a special military tribunal for allegedly masterminding the gruesome murder of Ogoni chiefs at a pro-government meeting, and hanged in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.

Mwende Mwinzi profile summary
Mwende Mwinzi profile summary

I didn’t Choose where l was born – Mwende Mwinzi

A Kenyan student goes to the United States to pursue further studies. He leaves Kenya virtually penniless, but with hope and determination. He acquires a Bachelor’s degree and, thereafter, a Masters. In the process he falls in love, marries an American woman and they get a baby girl in 1971.

16 months later, he packs his family and returns to Kenya, his motherland, with the quest to give back. Both he and his newly-wed wife become teachers in Kitui. Their child becomes a thought leader, runs for office and then, today, she is blamed for being born in America. A victim of paid media and character assassination. Here is her story:

Mwende Mwinzi Dual Citizenship Dispute moves to Court:

Mwende, Kenya’s ambassador-nominee to South Korea on Wednesday, September 18, moved to court in a bid to stop Parliament from forcing her to give up her US citizenship.

In a case that could determine how Kenyans in the diaspora may get involved in government jobs in the future, Ms Mwinzi whom the National Assembly approved for the job on condition that she gave up her US citizenship, says it would be a violation of her rights to be forced out of something she did not choose.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki were listed as respondents in her petition. The lawsuit is expected to have significant implications on the thousands of Kenyans abroad, and how they’d be able to take up state jobs in the future. 

In addition, Mwinzi’s lawsuit could be instrumental in determining whether Parliament is supposed to stop at approving or disapproving candidates. Ms Mwinzi’s lawyers argue that this insistence is illegal given that her position is not a State office and that she cannot be forced to abandon citizenship acquired by birth.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi (pictured) ruled-FILE
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi (pictured) ruled-FILE

Mwinzi argues that forcing her to relinquish her US citizenship amounts to a violation of her constitutional rights. In June, the National Assembly approved Ms. Mwinzi’s nomination but on condition that she gives up her US citizenship before taking up the position.

“My US citizenship was acquired by birth and as such, my citizenship or the process of opting in was a consequence of circumstances out of my control,” Mwinzi argues in an affidavit. “I did not participate in the decision to be born in the US and I cannot “opt-out” of that decision. Article 78(3) (b) would only be applicable to people who opted in by applying for citizenship and renunciation would be the process of ‘opting out’,” she adds.

Mwende listed Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki as respondents in the case.

In court papers, Ms. Mwinzi’s attorneys argue that MPs have no power to add conditions to approved nominees.

Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma at a past function. She was given 10 days to find out if South Korea ambassadorial nominee Mwende Mwinzi is set to renounce her American Citizenship
Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma at a past function. She was given 10 days to find out if South Korea ambassadorial nominee Mwende Mwinzi is set to renounce her American Citizenship

What the Kenyan Law and Constitution says about Dual Citizenship and State Officers:

Article 234 (3) of the constitution distinguishes ambassadors and diplomatic officers as unique ‘public officers’, with very distinct attributes to those of ‘state officers’. The same Constitution, in Article 80, mandates Parliament to come up with a law – Leadership and Integrity Act, on the effective administration of Chapter Six, which binds all State and public officers.

Section 52 of the Act stipulates that the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution and part II (general leadership and integrity code) shall apply to all public officers as if they were State officers. The same law, in Section 31 (1) as enacted by Parliament, provides that a State officer who acquires dual citizenship shall lose the position.

Article 234 (3) of the constitution distinguishes ambassadors and diplomatic officers as unique ‘public officers’, with very distinct attributes to those of ‘state officers’. Click To Tweet

Subsection two says “a person who holds dual citizenship shall, upon election or appointment to a State office, not take office before officially renouncing the other citizenship in accordance with the provisions of Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act, 2011″.

Equally, Article 78 (1) of the Constitution says a person is not eligible for election or appointment to a State office unless the person is a citizen of Kenya. It also says a State Officer or a member of the defence forces shall not hold dual citizenship.

Twana Twitu project and work departments by Mwende Mwinzi
Twana Twitu project and work departments by Mwende Mwinzi

Renowned Human Rights Lawyer Paul Muite has come to the defence of Mwende Mwinzi

Muite called on the Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi to rally Members of Parliament to scrap off a constitutional provision that requires ambassadors not to hold dual citizenships. The veteran activist-cum-lawyer called the condition unconstitutional and sought to remind Speaker Muturi that President Kenyatta was in Canada to promote the rights of women.

Section 31 (1) of the Leadership and Integrity Act provides that a State officer who acquires dual citizenship shall lose the position.

Subsection two says that a person who holds dual citizenship shall, upon election or appointment to a State office, not take office before officially renouncing their other citizenship in accordance with the provisions of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act. However, the definition of a state officer doesn’t seem to encompass ambassadors.

10 MPs could lose seats over Dual Nationality:

Even so, “There are State officers such as judges and even MPs who are serving as such despite being holders of dual citizenship, it is therefore unfair to single out the petitioner herein and treat her unfairly in blatant violation of her constitutional right to equality and freedom from discrimination,” her lawyers argued.

At least 10 MPs could lose their seats in a dual nationality storm after an activist convinced the national anti-graft watchdog to investigate their foreign allegiance.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) said it was checking claims some MPs were holding foreign passports, which could be illegal under the law.

At least 10 MPs could lose their seats in a dual nationality storm after an activist convinced the national anti-graft watchdog to investigate their foreign allegiance. Click To Tweet
Kenya's ambassador-nominee to South Korea, Mwende Mwinzi. She has filed a lawsuit against Parliament accusing legislators of violating her rights. FILE
Kenya’s ambassador-nominee to South Korea, Mwende Mwinzi. She has filed a lawsuit against Parliament accusing legislators of violating her rights. FILE

The Kenya Community Abroad (KCA) – Kenyans in the Diaspora back Mwende Mwinzi

Diaspora lobby backs Mwende Mwinzi’s appointment as envoy. The Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) wants Ms Mwende Mwinzi appointed Kenya’s ambassador to Seoul, South Korea, regardless of her dual citizenship.

The lobby’s appeal comes after the National Assembly’s Defence and Foreign Relations recommended the approval of Ms Mwinzi’s nomination alongside six others but on condition that she renounces her US citizenship. KDA’s global chairman Dr Shem Ochuodho has written an open letter to Speaker Justin Muturi, saying the citizenship condition is punitive.

The Kenya Community Abroad (KCA) has criticised MPs’ move to compel Ms Mwende Mwinzi to renounce her American citizenship before she takes up her new appointment as Kenya’s ambassador to South Korea.

The Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) wants Ms Mwende Mwinzi appointed Kenya’s ambassador to Seoul, South Korea, regardless of her dual citizenship. Click To Tweet

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon in Washington DC, the group that spearheaded the fight for the inclusion of dual citizenship clause in the Kenyan Constitution in 2010, said the way the legislators have treated Ms Mwinzi is a reflection of the contempt the law makers have for Kenyans living abroad.

Sinister Move against Ms Mwinzi

The group, which vowed to stand by Ms Mwinzi as she fights the case in court, claimed that her case had been marred with hypocrisy.  

“As someone with family in the US, it is cruel to ask a fellow Kenyan to shoot themselves in the foot in order to serve their country,” the statement said.

“This is a familiar pattern in Kenyan politics where backdoor schemes are done to secure high level positions. With the presidential strategising already in place, political factions have been seeking to have their “person” in lucrative missions. Diplomatic corruption is both an international and local reality. South Korea is a coveted station that requires someone who will not give in to grand corruption schemes,” added the statement.

“As someone with family in the US, it is cruel to ask a fellow Kenyan to shoot themselves in the foot in order to serve their country.” Kenya Community Abroad (KCA) Click To Tweet

Mwende Mwinzi Vetting Before the Defence & Foreign Relations Committee

MPs engage in a heated debate discussing the nomination of Mwende as High Commissioner. Other nominees names sail through without mention but Ms Mwinzi, dual citizenship draws the most attention.

Mwende Mwinzi’s take on her dual citizenship as MPs await the denouncing of her US citizenship after the appointment. Guided by Speaker Muturi resolve that a public officer is also a state officer and can’t hold dual citizenship.

How Mwende Mwinzi responded on question if she could renounce her US citizenship:

A heated debate in the National Assembly on Thursday culminated in the approval of seven individuals nominated as ambassadors, paving the way for their formal appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

They are Mwende Mwinzi (Seoul, South Korea), Kariuki Mugwe (Abu Dhabi), Peter Angore (Algiers, Algeria), Flora Karugu (Lusaka, Zambia), Michael Mubea (Dublin- Ireland), Diana Kiambuthi (Stockholm, Sweden) and Njambi Kinyungu (Un-Habitat).

The Case of Dual Citizenship: How it all begun…

Early in the year, Mwende Mwinzi, a dual citizenship holder, went through the vetting process administered by the Defense and Foreign Relations Committee as the law requires. From its onset, some Members of Parliament began to question her suitability for the post as they openly questioned the authenticity of her Kenyanness.

Some saw her as a foreigner, blatantly saying she does “not have any unique skills other Kenyans don’t have.” If this isn’t the height of insult and discrimination on any Kenyan citizen you see as “other”. Some kicked off a vicious campaign to disqualify her on the false grounds that her appointment was unconstitutional under the Ethics and Integrity ACT.

Lawful Appointment:

It turned out her appointment was indeed fully within the laws of Kenya as Ambassadors and High Commissioners are not considered State Officials.  Further to this, under under Article 78 (3)(b), she is qualified as a Kenyan whose dual nationality is linked to the laws of another nation (in this case the US).

In a sustained campaign against her, Mwende’s loyalty has been questioned, and at this point, gathered the most ardent supporters of the call to remove her even before she starts. Opinion-shapers have peddled loud doubts about not only her ability to be loyal to their country while holding another country’s citizenship, but that of each of us.

This narrow thinking completely misses the point that diplomatic spies and sell-outs do not need dual citizenship to act out of greed, dissatisfaction or unpatriotic inclinations. A study of the history of espionage should be exciting and enlightening for those stuck on this sensationalist propaganda.

Other Envoys in Office who hold Dual Citizenship

It also misses the point that there are other envoys in office who hold dual citizenship. That is because they are perfectly within the law, and there is no logical reasoning that would call for the amendment of the Constitution to disqualify them on grounds of being dual citizens. 

Of noteworthy mention is the fact that it is a global standard procedure for countries to appoint dual citizens as high level diplomats. The United States has enough of these examples, starting with former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright who was/is an American-Czech. 

The generous Internet will yield some more good examples in several countries that have surrendered the self-defeating and parochial view that dual citizens are to be feared, shunned and their role in nation-building limited.

Fear of Dual Citizens and Diaspora Citizens:

This fear of dual citizens and diaspora citizens has often translated to open disdain against Kenyans abroad by Kenyan legislators. When this disdain and dismissal translates to a suppression of citizens’ rights and opportunities, then it becomes a legal battle. 

Diaspora Kenyans have never shied away from any manner of battle for justice and inclusion. They have fought to make it clear that living a few more hours away is a silly and unjust reason to discriminate; and that legally having more than one passport in your wallet is not a measure of one’s loyalty, qualifications or patriotism.

The Mwende case has been fraught with hypocrisy and dubious intention on the part of the vetting Members of Parliament who have now insisted that she must surrender her American citizenship in order to take office as Kenya’s Ambassador to South Korea. As someone with family in the US, it’s sinister and cruel to ask a fellow Kenyan to needlessly shoot themselves in the foot in order to serve their country.

What is the Hidden Agenda behind the Mwende Mwinzi’s blockade?

This hunting down of one person is also a remarkably familiar pattern in the murk and mafia-ridden Kenyan politics where backdoor wheeling and dealing is done to secure high level positions.

With the presidential strategizing already in place, political factions have been seeking to have their “person” in lucrative Missions. Diplomatic corruption is both an international and local reality. South Korea is a coveted station that requires someone who will not give in to grand corruption schemes.

Indeed, the Mwende drama started with a delegation that went to the President to whisper about the problem of a dual citizen nominee. They were informed that being a dual citizen for an envoy was constitutional.

Diaspora Rights:

The war to dislodge this candidate only intensified, rising to threaten diaspora rights. It is this threat that has galvanized diaspora behind one of their own.

The sheer hypocrisy of the case has been exposed by the call to probe Members of Parliament who hold dual citizenship. The Kenyans for Justice and Development organization has named eight MPs and two Senators as State Officials who need to be probed.

This alone places the vetting Committee’s credibility into question. It demands that the all their recommendations against Ms. Mwinzi’s candidature be thrown away and the Constitution that allows her to be nominated should reign supreme on this issue.

Mwende Mwinzi Contribution to the Community:

Mwende Mwinzi has served Kenya in many different capacities. In 2001 she started an organization, Twana Twitu, that has supported over 3,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in Kitui for 17 years. She was a columnist for Sunday Nation and for 3 years served on the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

She was part of the team that devoted itself to improving Kenya’s image in the US at a time when we had been branded negatively and were struggling to attract support for our security challenges, boost tourism and trigger investment in our nation.

In this last election, she vied to be one of us; a Member of Parliament for Mwingi West. Her life is clearly one that has been focused on Kenya not in word but action. She is one of us, a Kenyan that walks the talk notwithstanding physical distance.

Twana Twitu: What Mwende does for the community…

Orphaned by HIV/AIDS, these children of Mwingi, Kenya were forsaken, refused homes and turned away. A local group of women, however, stood their ground, opened their hearts, and held out their hands. #TwanaTwitu Click To Tweet

Orphaned by HIV/AIDS, these children of Mwingi, Kenya were forsaken, refused homes and turned away. A local group of women, however, stood their ground, opened their hearts, and held out their hands. Watch as a community once segregated by such stigma learns to redefine what it means to be family.

STATEMENT BY RT. HON RAILA ODINGA ON THE NOMINATION OF Ms. MWENDE MWINZI AS AMBASSADOR TO THE REOUBLC OF KOREA:

In the negotiations for the Constitution that we promulgated in 2010, Kenyans in the diaspora put a convincing case for our country to allow dual citizenship. Among other reasons, they demonstrated that they were unable to progress beyond certain grades in employment in foreign countries unless they become citizens of those countries. Until 2010, they could not take citizenship of those foreign countries unless they renounced Kenyan citizenship, which many were not prepared to do.

From the cries of our sons and daughters abroad, we, as a country, agreed to allow dual citizenship,seeing clear advantages that would come with it.

On the development front, the figures bear our diaspora out. Data from the World Bank data indicates that Kenyans living abroad sent home more money last year than the rest of the East Africa Diaspora combined, partly an indication of the changing earnings for our citizens abroad. Kenya’s Diaspora remittances in 2018 stood at Sh280 billion, way more than the Sh242 billion sent to the rest of Eastern Africa — Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Furthermore, remittances from Kenyans in the diaspora currently constitute the country’s single largest source of foreign currency, ahead of major crops and tourism. The Central Bank of Kenya reported that in the 12 months to June 2019, the remittance inflows rose to an all-time high, amounting to Sh285.4 billion from Sh251.4 billion last year, representing a 13.6-per cent growth.

It is against this background that I find the treatment of Ms. Mwende Mwinzi by our Parliament extremely disturbing and dubious. The whole debate around whether she qualifies to be Kenya’s ambassador has cast her as a criminal and reduced her to being less Kenyan than the Members of Parliament while the spirit of letter of the law should protect her. Opposition to Mwende’s appointment amounts to killing the spirit and necessity of dual citizenship trough which Kenyans sought equal rights abroad and at home to enable them contribute to the development of our nation.

But it is not just about the remittances. Mwende Mwinzi was born in the US. That made her an American citizen. But she was born of a Kenyan father and that made her eligible to claim Kenyan citizenship, which she did when her father migrated to Kenya with the family. She thus ended up with being a citizen of two countries. However, she cannot denounce any because both have been acquired not by application and naturalization but by operation of the law. She cannot undo her birth in the USA; neither can she undo her sire by her father or his Kenyan citizenship.
‌The Constitution protects her from jeopardy by making a proviso for people like her that the bar from holding a State Office by people of dual citizenship will not apply where they cannot renounce it because it is obtained by operation of the law.
Furthermore, under the constitution today, anyone borne of a Kenyan parent is automatically a Kenyan citizen regardless whether they are born in Kenya or not. Under the current constitution she is a citizen of Kenya by birth even if she was born in America.
Article 14 of our Constitution stipulates that:
1) A person is a citizen by birth if on the day of the person’s birth, whether or not the person is born in Kenya, either the mother or father of the person is a citizen.
(2) Clause (1) applies equally to a person born before the effective date, whether or not the person was born in Kenya, if either the mother or father of the person is or was a citizen.

Other than petty vendetta and a refusal by our Parliament to rise above partisan interests and act in the interest of the nation, there is no reason whatsoever for MPs to maintain Ms. Mwende Mwinzi cannot be our ambassador abroad. I appeal to our MPs to always stand up for the nation. Both the law and the interest of the nation allow Ms. Mwende Mwinzi to represent our country abroad.

RT. HON RAILA ODINGA, EGH.

October 5, 2019.

How you can speak on behalf of Mwende Mwinzi:

LET US STAND BEHIND Mwende because her loss is a statement against us and therefore our collective rejection. Please sign this petition as a declaration of your opposition to the discrimination against the Diaspora and particularly its female cohort.  Today it is her and then tomorrow either you or your children. 

  1. Sign this petition to oppose Mwende Mwinzi’s discrimination, (it will take you less than a minute).
  2. Call or Text the Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi at +254-722-529-778

Signed,

  • Ms. Mkawasi Mcharo Hall: Lecturer, Howard University, Washington DC
  • Dr. David Otwoma: Chief Scientist, National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation
  • Dr. Warigia Bowman: Asst Professor of Law, The University of Tulsa, OK
  • For: Board of Trustees, Kenyan Community Abroad (KCA), Washington DC