By: ISAAC ONGIRI
Kenyans living abroad will on Tuesday hold a convention in Nairobi to discuss their participation in elections.
The forum will also tackle their involvement in the expansion of investment initiatives into the 47 counties.
More than 100 representatives of the Kenyan Diaspora Alliance from across the world are in Nairobi for the conference to initiate new approaches to electoral issues and investments.
The convention follows a voter mapping launched by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) targeted at identifying the location of some 1.5 million Kenyans abroad.
The mapping fell flat after majority of the Kenyans boycotted it on grounds that “bad questions” were being asked.
Just about 190 Kenyans had registered their details in the portal largely boycotted for asking detailed immigration issues seen as a “nuisance” by the Kenyans abroad.
By end of June, only 31 Kenyans living in New York had participated in the IEBC survey, London had eight, Pretoria registered seven while Lagos and Melbourne had both registered five.
SUPREME COURT RULING
A Supreme Court ruling requires IEBC to facilitate Kenyans living abroad to vote in all the six elections, including for Members of County Assemblies from their locations around the globe.
Kenyans in the US are expected to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta later next month in an anticipated trip to the US to further seek his intervention on the representation issue.
IEBC Chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan, Vice-Chairman Mahiri Zaja, Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero, Nyandarua Governor Daniel Waithaka and Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga are among key speakers expected to participate in the convention.
The chairman of the Diaspora Workshop planning committee, Chris Njenga, said the investment agenda would focus on how Kenyans abroad can engage with counties to tap investment opportunities in the devolved units.
“This workshop gives us an opportunity to find ways to take the modest efforts so far by state and non-state actors a step further and deepen diaspora engagement with major stakeholders enumerated above,” said Mr Njenga.
He also said the event would be used to strengthen the diaspora’s social economic and political engagement on key policy areas including representation and voting in 2017.
Many Kenyan abroad are now seen as major pillars of the country’s economy due to their huge annual remittances that help hold the country’s economy together.
Dr Shem Ochuodho, who is one the conveners of the alliance, said on Sunday that the event, to be hosted at Silver Springs Hotel in Nairobi, would seek to address some of the pertinent issues around representation and investment.
“The Supreme Court ruled that we as Kenyans living abroad should participate fully in the next elections. We are seeing lopsided preparation towards the implementation of the court ruling and we may use this event to follow up,” Dr Ochuodho stated.
The former Rangwe MP, who now leaves and works in South Sudan, said Kenyans living abroad were organising themselves through the alliance to ensure structured engagements moving forward.
The diaspora remitted Sh 113 billion into the Kenyan economy, making up for 2.98 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2013.
But the money largely reinvested in real estate and other opportunities could be shared with the 47 county governments if new opportunities open up in the regions.