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Why diaspora has little political sway




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The latest statistics from the Central Bank of Kenya indicate that the diaspora remittances jumped from Sh197 billion in 2017 to Sh274 billion in 2018. This translates to more than half of Kenya’s total export earnings which stand at Sh494 billion.

In fact, the government regulator noted, while releasing his report, that the spike in diaspora remittances is good for the economy as it helps stabilise the Kenyan shilling and spur investment.

Yet, despite this ever-growing size of remittances to Kenya, members of the diaspora have not been able to leverage this for any political or policy change.

Members of the diaspora the Sunday Nation spoke to blamed lack of political will and suspicion for the failure to leverage on the economic might.

“The main reason is the lack of political will and irrational suspicions by the political class in the country. This is not exclusive to those currently in power, as some opposition leaders are not any more eager, says Kenyan-born Henry Ongeri who practises law in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mr Ongeri says this has led to the failure of the Kenyan body politic to establish the institutional framework necessary for the full integration of Kenyans in diaspora.

“In some cases, they are simply scared of the potential influence of the diaspora. We no longer think that this intransigence is incidental or unintended.”

Mr Ongeri cites the elusive voting rights for a huge segment of the diaspora and the now “normal” acceptance of discrimination in the issuance of passports and national identification cards.

“Despite clear provisions of the relevant law and unequivocal pronouncement by the Supreme Court, a majority of Kenyans living in North America, Europe and Middle East have not voted in any election in Kenya,” he said.

When it comes to issuance of passports and Identification cards, Mr Ongeri argues that Kenyans in the diaspora are expected to pay more for the same services as one would get at Huduma Centres back in Kenya.

“Ironically, Central Bank of Kenya is never late in documenting remittance trends and politicians keep flocking to the diaspora to court us!” he added.

Mr James Sang, a resident of Washington, DC, is also perplexed by the fact that the diaspora remittances have surpassed Kenya’s traditional exports like coffee, tea, flowers and tourism and now account for the largest foreign direct investment in the country’s economy yet they have very little influence on what happens in Kenya.

Mr Sang, himself a heavy investor in Kenya after spending millions of shillings in 2017 to establish a clinic in Nakuru, says he believes one of the reasons the diaspora has been completely excluded from the country’s policy decisions is their negligible numbers, especially those who can vote.

The other, he says, is the government’s failure to develop methodologies that transform the remittances into an infrastructure development fund since remittances typically go directly into personal projects or to relatives.


“We play a huge part in our nation’s development. In 2017, my friends and I decided to set up healthcare clinics in Kenya as a way to give back to the community and also to participate in the government’s overall Big Four Agenda,” Mr Sang said.

However, Dr Ken Simiyu, formerly of Toronto, Canada, but now a research fellow at the University of Maryland, introduces an interesting take on why the diaspora are not mainstreamed in the Kenyan politics and policy-making. He lays the blame on the nature of the Kenyan diaspora.

Unlike most other African diaspora who were pushed into the diaspora by political activities in their countries of origin, he says, most of the Kenyan diaspora is composed of individuals who moved because of school or economic reasons.

“Because of this, they are naturally less inclined to take part in the political process in Kenya unlike other activists. The majority are aloof at the political happenings in Kenya and are content at looking at it from the side lines. Many are content with making investments such as buying plots and building houses,” he said.

He adds that Kenyans back home also don’t take the diaspora seriously because by nature the diaspora is not political and is only seen through an economic lens.

He argues that remittances to Kenya are mainly used for consumption but not for productive activities hence lack the ability to make a political impact.

“So despite the apparent cumulative large amounts remitted, the collective impact is not felt as the cash doesn’t directly influence any particular sector of the economy,” he said.

He says the only way the diaspora can be influential is if they pool the funds through investment vehicles in the diaspora and then making significant sectoral investments in Kenya.

Dr Simiyu also argues that most of the diaspora are not cut out for the rough and tumble of Kenyan politics.

“They are used to societies where politics is civil and people argue policies. In Kenya society doesn’t care about honesty, policy and service. Lies and thuggery are the order of the day which put off the diaspora. Most have given up with the system. The few who have dared participate in the political process have often learned that having clear policy arguments doesn’t matter,” he said.

Dr Simiyu also pointed out that many groups abroad are organised along tribal lines which narrows their influence. Groups that cross tribal boundaries eschew politics because they fear it will quickly divide them. “With lack of cohesion these groups cannot have any influence in Kenya,” Dr Simiyu says.

Mr Sang called on the government to implement the diaspora policy and speed up the dual-citizenship applications.

“With such vast wealth at its disposal, the diaspora is well positioned to be an even greater force in the country’s development. As such, the government must take the initiative to integrate it in its strategic policies,” said.



Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’




Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –




Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

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Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

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Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

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