Saturday, April 28, 2012

Should Kenyans in Diaspora give their hard earned dollars to Presidential Candidates?

Should Kenyans in Diaspora give their hard earned dollars to Presidential Candidates?
It is that season again when Kenyan Presidential candidates flock to the Diaspora, particularly UK and USA in search of assistance (casually labeled as any assistance you can give, volunteering etc. and then after some talk the real assistance is mentioned, “Any financial assistance you may want to give”. Some are even more tactful and they will  convince the Kenyans in the Diaspora that financial assistance guarantees political support, for they will argue, if you put  your money down, you really want that candidate to succeed! What a gimmick?
In the past Election Years, (1997, 2002, 2007)   we have seen them all from the current President to most of the other names featuring in the newspapers. In this piece, I want to address fellow Diaspora’s on the importance of not being taken for a ride by almost sweet nothings and empty promises that we will be getting from these smooth talkers who are really   first and foremost interested in your money, secondly your vote, assuming all systems go for Diaspora’s to vote in the next elections. All the potential candidates of course will promise they are   coming to the US, for example,   because they think highly of those abroad and they want to incorporate them in nation building. They will all try to outdo each other in what they can do--. They will even take government policies to sound like their parties agenda! In previous   elections, Party leaders promised “Dual Citizenship” as if it was their agenda while clearly it was a GOK agenda with many activists, among them  civil servants and those in the Diaspora. Today, party leaders will come promising so much at the expense of contradicting IEBC, the official  body entrusted to discuss election rules, dos and don’ts! We have already seen this happening with the politician, Assistant Minister of Foreign  Affairs promising that there  will be  various  registration and voting stations in the US only to be corrected by IEBC chairman that voting for example, only  for the President  will only be  at the  Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates!

My suggestion for those in the Diaspora is to be cautious when hosting the politicians who are already coming particularly to the UK and the USA.  In Kenya, when such politicians meet the prospective voters, they entice them with real goodies and actual promises. Those in the Diaspora do not expect such goodies nor cheap promises but clearly neither are they interested in financing your campaigns! You can have good dialogues and debates but do not come with a basket expecting to collect   pounds and dollars to enable you to buy another helicopter, campaign buses etc. It is the high time those in the Diaspora show the Kenyan politicians flocking abroad that their earnings are for more serious kinds of development in Kenya but not campaign loot! I also think it would be wise if those in the Diaspora identified their own (one already in the Diaspora but interested in going to contest in Kenya). They could vet them and see that they could fight for the interests of the constituency they will stand for as well as the Diaspora). It might be dollars better spent in such a situation that these politicians who we start seeing or hearing of their sightings in the US and the UK when elections are about to happen in Kenya.
For those politicians who have been in the US/UK and those planning to come, you are welcome to seek the votes of the Diaspora but do not make your trips fundraising missions as these sometimes has been seen as an insult to those  in the Diaspora, especially going by the past whereby those assisted financially have shown no appreciation after the elections are over.  A few have also been known for raising funds that they are contesting in a certain constituency but you  don’t see them on the ballot, yet they pocketed the money!  Any politician who can pay for their ticket and finance their hotel expenses for a few weeks in the USA should   uses his/her funds campaigning and not seeking to exploit those in the Diaspora—some who may be simply excited (hence vulnerable) to meet Kenyan leaders—not knowing this has been a scheme many politicians have preyed on those in the Diaspora every election season!
 Kinuthia Macharia is a Sociology Professor in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, USA.
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