President Barack Obama remained tight lipped on why he has skipped Kenya on his visits to Africa while in office. Asked whether he feared increasing terrorist threats in Kenya, Obama responded strongly with “No, no, no, no,” but did not elaborate on his answer.
His response will keep Kenyans guessing why he has chosen to skip the land of his father that he so often speaks about. Obama was addressing the Press at the close of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC when he evaded the question that was asked by a Standard journalist.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has said Kenya has not turned its back on the US and other Western countries, contrary to speculations in the international arena.
The President said Kenya, like many other countries of the world, was taking advantage of business opportunities in the East and had at no time made a decision to turn away from its traditional allies.
“I want to reassure you concerning a rumour going round the international public sphere that Kenya and my Government have turned away from the West in favour of the East,” he said.
President Kenyatta said Kenya’s trade deals with countries from the East had not impacted in any way on the historic bonds it had with the US and other Western nations.
The President also announced a number of goodies for Kenyans in the diaspora.
For instance, he said those living in countries that use left-hand drive vehicles who were not allowed to move back home with their cars would benefit from a policy to be formulated to allow them import vehicles of similar value as the ones they own in their current countries of residence.
Kenyans returning from residence in foreign countries are allowed to move back with their cars without paying duty, but this has benefited only those from countries using right-hand drive vehicles.
The President also instructed Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, who was present, to fast-track a plan to float a Government bond specifically targeting the diaspora. “This is something we talked about when I was the Finance minister. Make sure it is concluded as soon as possible so that Kenyans in the diaspora can invest in it,” he said.
President Kenyatta also advised Kenyans working and living in foreign nations to organise themselves so they can engage the Government collectively. He said they should take advantage of their financial strength as a group instead of making individual small-scale investments.
The Head of State also said the Government would ensure that Kenyans in the diaspora vote in the next elections. “The diaspora must vote like other Kenyans to chart decisions that affect their destiny and we will give all the support the electoral body needs to ensure that they take part in the 2017 elections,” he said.
The President said the Government values contributions made by the Kenyan diaspora in driving the country’s economic transformation. He was addressing a gathering of Kenyans at Woodman Marriot Hotel and answered questions channelled through the Foreign ministry in advance.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said diaspora diplomacy was an integral part of the foreign policy of the Jubilee government. She announced that the Government has been working on measures to improve service to those living abroad.
The CS said some of the measures included opening up more missions in areas with sizeable Kenyan populations. She said the ministry would also launch an interactive web portal to provide services online and answer queries promptly. She said the Government would soon embark on a registration process for all Kenyans in the diaspora.