Thursday, June 30, 2005

TOWARDS A NEW KENYA: Ujumbe to the KCA '05 Boston Kongamano

A Message to the 2005 KCA Conference from Onyango Oloo

The KCA annual general meeting and conference commences today, in Boston, Massachusetts.

My first words are:
Hongera! Pongezi! Kudos!

Hongera to all the KCA members and especially to the hard-working office-bearers who have volunteered their valuable time to ensure that this organization remains alive and vibrant over eight years into its formation.

As many of us know, this year's meeting happens sadly in the wake of a personal tragedy that befell the

KCA President Frank Mwaniki (seen here with Health Minister Charity Ngilu and the late Karisa Maitha at the 2003 Whippany, New Jersey KCA Conference)

who lost his beloved brother recently.

Once again to Frank, I extend to you my mkono wa tanzia.

Those of us who have been fortunate to meet face to face with Mwaniki, KCA Vice-President Mkawasi Mcharo, KCA Secretary Angaluki Muaka, and other members of the KCA executive like Ms. Lucy Kimani know that they are a team of hard working, patriotic and sincere Kenyans.

Some of us may not have always agreed with them on each and every topic broached under the sun, but we have NEVER DOUBTED their commitment and dedication in serving the membership of the KCA organization.

The theme for this year's conference, Engaging Kenya Community Abroad in Rebuilding Kenya is especially apt because it dovetails with the gathering storm of our national aspirations as a people inside and outside our beautiful nation.

The words of

Ms. Mkawasi Mcharo, the KCA Vice President and an accomplished writer/ theatre professional in her own right captures this theme in very evocative terms:

"The 2005 KCA Conference is aimed at continuing to seek ways of engaging Kenya Community Abroad in rebuilding Kenya through small business and investments, empowerment initiatives and social justice, policy making, and of course, celebrating all that continues to make Kenyans a people of pride and dignity internationally. We celebrate our very own Professor Wangari Maathai, the newest Nobel Laureate, also a former recipient of the KCA Excellence Award. And in the small ways that ordinary Kenyans make an extraordinary difference in others' lives, we celebrate the 2004 KCA Excellence Award winner, Mr. Hezekiah Nyaranga of Reach-Out Children's Centre, for his efforts in caring for hundreds of AIDs orphans in Kisumu. We will also honour our 2003 KCA Excellence Award winner, Ms. Asunta Wagura, for her efforts in establishing a voice for victims of HIV-AIDs."

Kudos and Pongezis also go to members of the KCA-New England chapter who have shouldered the heavy burden of coordinating the logistical arrangements of pulling the whole thing off- because they are after all residents with hands on knowledge of Boston with ties to the humongous community of Kenyans living in New England and the outlying areas. So my personal shukranis go directly to:

Chair - John Gachago
Secretary - Peter Ngunyi
Treasurer - Elizabeth Mumbi
Member - Wanjiru Ndichu
Member - Joseph Manthi
Member - Sali Oyugi

Who together comprise the Interim Committee of the New England Chapter of the KCA. You are blazing a trail for other Kenyan communities in North America and Europe to follow, providing perhaps, a template for future local editions of the KCA conference in other locales (hopefully outside the United States of America at some point in time). Apart from these named individuals I am sure there are dozens of other "faceless" individuals who are working very hard to ensure that this year's conference is a success.

Much appreciated too, is the role of the Kenya Christian Fellowship Association in leading the prayers. Perhaps, at future editions of the KCA conference such prayers will involve other faiths because Kenya is after all, a multi-faith, secular and diverse society that counts among its population millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, African Traditionalists and other believers (and non-believers).

Let me also join the rest of the KCA members and supporters in congratulating Hezekiah Nyaranga, the winner of this year's Excellence Award and Asunta Wagara who has become a house-hold name in Kenya because of her indefatigable labour of love working with Kenyans LIVING with HIV/AIDS.

We must also commend those politicians and ministers from back home who have recognized the CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE of organizations such as KCA by making time in their busy schedules to confirm their attendance at this year’s gathering. This is a welcome respite from the culture of arrogant aloofness that many of us have come to tag people connected to the nouveau regime that ascended to power after turfing out the 39 year-old dictatorship of KANU.

Hopefully, same said politicians will stick around as the NARC regime is roasted through what one expects will be frank and open Question and Answer sessions following their respective presentations.

There is therefore a lot to look forward to for all those who are going to make it to Boston for this year’s KCA conference.

Unfortunately, Onyango Oloo will NOT be one of those attendees at this year's KCA Conference.

I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to be included in the 2003 program of that year's KCA conference; I met lots of wonderful people and put faces to many of the cybernames I had seen in the various Kenyan online forums.

Since that time, and for reasons which need not detain us today, I ceased to be a member of the KCA organization- even though I have remained a staunch supporter of many of its objectives and initiatives, not hesitating to leap to the KCA’s defence whenever I have felt it is unfairly (or more accurately, IGNORANTLY attacked by strangers with personal and sometimes tribal axes to grind).

I would have loved to come to Boston.

A member of the New England chapter of the KCA can testify to this long expressed desire to visit with (to use the Southern US colloquial expression) with compatriot brothers and sisters in that American neck of the woods. One of the presenters at this year’s conference can also verify that I actively assisted with his arduous preparation and gave him my moral support to attend that conference. This year’s theme of engaging Kenyans abroad in rebuilding Kenya is very close to my heart.

However as you can see, the conference is just kicking off and I am still sitting here in Toronto, Ontario composing this waraka.

Ati "Circumstances Beyond My Control" is not only a cliché; it would be a fib, a fabrication if I attempted to employ that hackneyed expression to "explain" my absence from the gathering.

The reason I am not going to be present at the 2005 KCA Conference is disarmingly simple and straight- forward:

I never planned on attending so I did not budget for this occasion. Simple as that.

Why then, am I sending this message to the KCA Conference?

It is certainly NOT because I think Onyango Oloo has any unique perspective or "rare pearls of wisdom" to share with this year's attendees.


I am simply living up to the theme of engaging Kenyans abroad.

I have been writing digital essays and circulating these around the world for over ten years now and the subject of engaging Kenyans abroad has come up as a topic more than once, shall we say...

Here, for instance is an essay I wrote dubbed, Kenyans Abroad: Where is Your Democratic Conscience?

I have also leapt to the defence of Kenyans abroad when I felt this community of diasporic Kenyan communities was unfairly attacked by people like Jerry Okungu in Nairobi or well known Kenyan hecklers living in America and I have not really spared those neo-conservative Kenyans abroad who try to Out Republican the Republicans...

During the debate and international campaign to drum up support for dual citizenship for Kenyans abroad I sent this open letter to Wahu Kaara and Oduor Ongwen who were part of a crucial committee at the National Constitutional Conference taking place at the Bomas of Kenya.

I also penned this other opinion piece on why dual citizenship was a RIGHT not a "privilege".

Not too long ago, at the invitation of Al Kags, a member the Kenyan chapter of KCA, I wrote the following piece that explored the question of whether Kenya was taking full advantage of the members of its Diaspora outside our national borders- an article that was carried in the Standard newspaper in October 2004.

Before I offer my reflections on this year's conference, let me comment briefly on the program and line up.

I must say that it is a WELCOME RELIEF that the schedule is NOT TOO CROWDED. Conferences and AGMS are, outside the formal events, largely networking affairs where human beings meet other human beings to bond. It is also good to see that KCA has taken notes from the last conference in Whippany to involve Kenyans in Boston in the planning and core organizing activities this time around. When I was in New Jersey in the summer of 2003 I heard some minunguniko and malalamiko from Kenyans in Jersey City that they had been marginalized and shut out by the KCA leadership- a charge that was of course hotly disputed by the hard working office bearers who burnt the midnight oil before, during and after that conference, often digging deep into their own pockets. I can testify personally that they did go out of the way to try and accomodate many of us, despite some hoary mix ups that are better left in the past where they belong.


I was saying that it is good that the program is not too top heavy with too many concurrent sessions because that tends to disperse the focus- and of course when you disperse the focus you end up with an oxymoron.

Tomorrow's(Friday, July 1, 2005) themes are right on the money: Talent Abroad Pool, Kenyans Abroad Investment Fund, the launch of STOP and of course a report on the various KCA chapters. I am surely going to miss the presentation and discussion on new technologies, national development goals and milestones and Joseph Manthi's MDG Score Card. Having met and interacted with the Austria-based David Otwoma, I am sure that his shining intellect will illuminate his presentation of the KCA Think Tank rejoinder to the Blair Commision for Africa Report.

The other discussions: Biotechnology - The State of Biotechnology Basic Research:Goals and Milestones by Dr Wilson Endege,Senior Scientist, Harvard Institute of Proteomics, Harvard Medical School;eGovernment - A Peoples Access To Their Government by Jonathan Mueke, Joseph Manthi and Peter Ngunyi; Funding for eGovernment Initiatives by Mary Muiruri and the ensuing panel discussions moderated by Angaluki Muaka Secretary, KCA have all the ingredients of a very strong and solid opening day indeed. And I am certain that Milestones and Deliverables by Dr. Luvisia Bakuli will be quite insightful.

Anyone who has ever listened to or read a piece by our national planning minister will want to find to follow closely the key note speech on The Role of Kenyans Abroad In The Economic Reconstruction of Kenyan by

Prof. Peter Anyang Nyong'o happening on Saturday morning.

Given the publicity given to rising cases of child abuse, rape, sexual violence and similar outrages, the STOP Presentation by Mkawasi Mcharo comes at a very appropriate time. This will of course segue smoothly to the mid-day Presentation of The KCA Excellence Awards by Frank Mwaniki followed by some words from 2004 Award Winner Hezekiah Nyaranga and the afternoon Panel Discussion On AIDS Initiatives with Moderators Wamuhu Gichuki and Abdul Yakub.

The State of The Republic speech by Hon. Raila Odinga, Minister for Roads will hopefully not last forTHREE HOURS as indicated in the program.

Canada is well represented by Ottawa-based Wanyee Kinuthia speaking on Local Ownership: What Does It Mean To Kenyans - The Tiomin Mining Scandal and who would want to miss either Mutahi Ngunyi's take on Kenya National Elections 2007 or the Panel Discussion on The State of The Republic featuring Hon. Raila Odinga, MP, Hon. Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, MP, MP, Mutahi Ngunyi and moderated by US-based Kenyan Profs.Vincent Khapoya & Ronald Edari.

One question though:

Why is Peter Anyang' Nyongo speaking TWICE?

Last time(Whippany '03) Dr. Fulbert Namwamba aka "Papa F" was preempted from presenting a paper he had worked on for a very long time to make room for Trade and Industry minister Mukhisa Kituyi for giving a second rendition of a speech he had already delivered.

Sunday, July 3, 2005 is basically a wrap up day with prayers, evaluations, report backs and forward looking visioning.

So what is missing if anything?

Well, as usual, critical engagement on BURNING POLITICAL QUESTIONS of the day stated UNEQUIVOCALLY and UNAMBIGOUSLY.

It is slightly disheartening that three years into NARC's mandate, the KCA does not want to grapple, head on with representatives of the Kibaki regime like

Anyang' Nyongo and Raila Odinga on what to me is the KEY QUESTION facing Kenyans today:

WHY IS IT, that in 2005, NARC has NOT YET delivered on its main pre-election pledge of a DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUION?

I have no problems per se with the rather technocratic and economistic bent of the conference, but sooner or later SIASA will show up on the menu, whether we like it or not.

Rather than sneak it in, surreptiously via a panel discussion on the State of the Republic, I would have felt more comfortable if KCA had invited one of the many Kenyans abroad(and NO, NO and ONCE AGAIN NO: I am not talking about Onyango Oloo and Adongo Ogony) to lead a SPECIFIC PRESENTATION offering a candid critical riposte to NARC's spin doctoring about this crucial issue.

Perhaps I am too hasty and someone is planning to do this; in which case I stand corrected and offer my apologies in advance.

My point however remains:

NARC should understand in clear terms that Kenyans everywhere- at home and abroad- feel betrayed and greviously violated by the Kibaki regime. This is a message that should be delivered DIRECTLY to those cabinet ministers present so that they can pass it on at the very next cabinet meeting in Nairobi.

Another message that should be conveyed to the NARC regime is that Kenyans Abroad should NOT be taken for granted. We are a crucial and indispensable partner if the Kenya government expects any movement internationally on the question of debt relief. We should NOT be BEGGING for our spot at the national table. Even when it comes to business conversations, somebody should ask the NARC government representatives what is up with their policy of seeking partners for development from all over the world while bypassing the experienced and highly trained pools of Kenyan professionals abroad.

Since we live outside the country, I also think that Kenyans abroad should be widely consulted now that we hear that there is going to be a review of our foreign policy. This review process must not be limited to technocrats and mandarins lurking in Foreign Affairs ministry offices in Nairobi- there should be town hall meetings coordinated by organizations such as the KCA and KCO to gauge the views of Kenyans abroad about what new directions our international relations should take.

I would ask any person reading this who will be in the audience to put up their hand and ask a swali for me:

What is NARC planning to do with the Goldenberg thieves, the war lords mentioned in the Akiwumi Report, the torturers of Nyayo House, the killers of Ouko, JM, Muge, Karimi Nduthu and Odhiambo Mbai? When will the Anglo-Leasing culprits be brought to book?

The more I write the more I wonder whether I should change my mind and go to Boston after all...

Let me pause here, because I tend to go on and on and on and on, ama?

Onyango Oloo


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