Government cancels Kenya Diaspora “Homecoming” conference

kiccThe government has called off the much publicised Kenya Diaspora Conference which had been scheduled to take place on Dec 18th to Dec 19th at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) citing lack of adequate time to prepare for the event.

Speaking to the Nation by phone Thursday, the Director of Diaspora and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Washington Oloo said the cancellation was necessitated by “the need for proper planning, inclusivity and adequate participation of all stakeholders.”

The forum dubbed Diaspora Homecoming Conference will now be held sometime in March next year, according to Mr Oloo.“We would like all genuine Diaspora organisations from all corners of the world to be represented. So far, we haven’t mobilised them effectively,” he said.

At the same time, Mr Oloo lashed out at the chairman of Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA), Dr Shem Ochuodho, for what he termed as ‘fraudulent activities and usurping the role of the Directorate of Diaspora Affairs.’
“It has come to our notice that KDA is soliciting for funds through registration fees to attend the Conference. We would like to inform the Diaspora that this collection of funds is not sanctioned by the Government,” he said in a statement emailed to the Nation.

“Whereas the Government is in partnership with various Stakeholders, both from the Public and Private sector to organize a Diaspora Conference, it has not taken a subsidiary role, rather it is spearheading the process and is fully responsible for the event,” added the statement.

Mr Oloo’s statement comes in the wake of numerous concerns by leaders of various Kenyan Diaspora organisations over the criteria used to pick those participating in the planning of the event.

Last month, Mr John Kamau, an Arizona based community organisertook issue with theForeign Affairs Ministryfor “not reaching out to all stakeholders.”

Wednesday, the Chairman of the Kenya Diaspora Confederation (KDC), Mr Comfort Munoru Mwangi, wondered why Dr. Ochuodho purported to represent Diaspora organizations under the umbrella of KDA “without consulting us first.”

“He has been fraudulently registering people for the Diaspora HomecomingConference without authorization from the government.” Said Mwangi who is based in Florida, USA.

Mr Oloo said the Foreign Affairs Ministry was investigating allegations leveled against Dr Ochuodho which included directing Kenyans to the KDA website and charging Kshs 5,600 to prospective attendees of the conference.

“We as a Ministry are not charging any fee to those wishing to attend the forum,” he said.

But even as the Diaspora Affairs Director was explaining why the meeting was called off, it emerged that there has been intense lobbying by some of the Diaspora organisations keen on influencing the agenda of the proposed conference.

The Nation has learnt that there have been incessant fights among groups purporting to represent Kenyans in the Diaspora.

Attempts to reach Dr Ochuodho for comment were unsuccessful. By Wednesday evening however, the said website had been pulled down.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade announced that the conference aims were to reach out to the Diaspora, introduce investmentopportunities and sensitise Kenyans living abroad on the benefits of using the Diaspora web portal.

– By BMJ Muriithi, Daily Nation

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