UK’s Garissa Diaspora Engagement: The Verdict
By Guled Haji
Few nights ago there was what was dubbed a Garissa Diaspora Engagement meeting with local and national leaders from Kenya in the city of London. Firstly, it is important to meet, engage and involve members of the diaspora every so often to benefit from their investment or international exposure. While few and far between there are some diaspora members who have either the investment capabilities to advance the county’s development programs or the international exposure to enhance its socio-economic and political progress or both. It is therefore something to be encouraged for the leaders to meet with their diaspora members wherever they may live in the world to ask them to invest in the county or help in improving its politics and policies. If I were asked to rate the meeting which I attended, I would rate it a paltry and disappointing 3 out of 10. If I were to rate it in terms of organization, venue, quality of discussion (which was in deed missing), the speeches both by the leaders and those invited to talk, it was disappointing to be generous. The meeting was organized like a poorly planned wedding. It had no agenda, music was unnecessarily over played, venue was poor to say the least, communication system was pitiable, many of those given the opportunity to say a few words were either deliberately poorly selected or did not have the wherewithal and intellectual stamina to share the concerns of both the diaspora members and indeed those back in the county. There was indeed no planning or preparation to encourage those who attended the meeting to meaningfully engage with the leadership. In a nutshell it was very poorly planned.
The leaders did not have anything new to share with the diaspora members other than the same old empty rhetoric. It looked like they were in a Moi era baraza where they did the talking and no questions asked. They were an our late as if coming late to a meeting is a sign of power. Surprisingly a great majority of those attending did not mind how late the meeting started. It is like their international exposure and time management culture change was zilch or did not kick in. Just like we are instructed and strongly advised against saying our five daily prayers later than its prescribed times, arriving late for meetings or any other engagement is discouraged. In fact it is the first sign of leadership; to keep time. As Gandhi said be the change you want to see. If those elected cannot keep time they cannot indeed lead. Most of the western leaders who try hard to emulate our beloved Prophet without actually believing in him come on time for every and all meetings.
After a boring and sometimes little heard speeches devoid of any intellectual discourse the event planners asked the leaders to dinner and off they went. There was no further announcement of any further engagement for organized discourse between the diaspora members or question and answer session. It was disappointing. There was of course as always the exception. The well-informed and richly experienced Kamukunji member of parliament gave a short rich speech and excused himself. He shared his 20 years’ experience staying in Europe and America. He shared his lessons as a man who lived in both worlds and gave us valuable advice and the futility of staying in the diaspora for eternity. He implored us to come back home and share the ups and downs of the loved ones we left at home. He asked us not to dwell so much on the negatives of our home country and make plans to migrate back. We could not here the speech of the super senator Mohamed Yusuf Haji because of a failure of the speaker system but in any case oratory is not one of his specialty. Hon Duale regurgitated his same old cliché of representing Somalis from every nook and cranny of the globe whilst in Kenya. To his credit though he acknowledged that he is inaccessible when the same Somalis are in Kenya and seek an audience with him. He said he will change his approach.
The guest of honour Governor Korane’s speech was not inspiring to say the least. He gave a long speech that mainly dwelled on Al-Shabaab and Somalia as if all those sitting there were from Mogadishu. It is one think to declare solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the border but completely another when all you tell Garissa County dwellers and diaspora members is about Al-Shabaab. Poorly prepared, the governor just said in passing that land in Garissa will be free to those willing to develop and nothing about any mega projects his government is initiating or is in the process. If anything his Health CEC informed us that there is a fully functioning dialysis system that is currently helping 30 patients which is commendable although it is a project that the previous government initiated under the Medical Leasing Contract, a contract with its fair share of controversies as our counties pay 80 million shillings a year which given the disease prevalence in our counties could be termed as a waste but I digress.
Governor Korane had what NFD Dispatch termed as Korane’s Land Reform Policy. A brilliant, innovative policy that could go a long way to change the development face of the county. A flagship policy program of the then newly elected leader that indeed attracted the attention of all Somalis. I expected him to spend considerable time explaining to us if the program has stalled, if it is open to all Somalis as he said initially, at what stage is the program that really interests many, what are the challenges if any the program or his administration is facing regarding the implementation of the program? Many in fact think the policy has hit a snag and has been abandoned by the administration. Where for example does one who wants to develop get the land to build on? Who is responsible for it other than the Land’s CEC? How much does it cost and how long must one wait? What will the government of Governor Korane do about the age-old Garissa land challenge of territorial entitlement by many of its residents? I know of many people who bought land in Garissa but are in legal cul-de-sac after the original owners who sold the land deny sell after-all after receiving and spending the money or selling the same plot of land to different buyers and creating a legal nightmare for the buyers? In some Bulas of Garissa town only members of a sub-section can buy or build homes. How does the government plan to address this problem? All these are challenges and questions that ought to have been cleared with those of us who attended the meeting.
It is not a walk in the park to prepare and plan an event but it appeared there was paltry intellectual preparation expended in the preparation of this event. I overheard one of the organizers who was said to be a county public relations officer saying ‘’the more the people the happier the leaders will be’’ as if giving credence to our fears that the meeting was nothing more than a baraza or a campaign rally. This was in my opinion a lost opportunity both for many who attended and the leaders from the country. It is a given most of those who attend such gatherings are joyriders. It is a night out for them but a disappointment for the few who were looking forward to seriously engage the visiting leaders. It gets worse though when you realize that the visiting leaders, after traveling thousands of miles and probably under the taxpayers’ tap were not themselves willing or prepared for a serious discourse. The age old wide spread African leaders’ aversion to accountability and the seeming lack of balance between confidence and humility was indeed at play. I would hope other counties who may be planning such meetings in the future will learn a lesson or two in the engagement with the diaspora or those living in the country. Nothing will progress without objective and serious engagement between the leaders and the led. Leaders should come out of their hiding and balance humility and confidence to share with the electorate how and what they plan with the taxpayers’ resources they hold in trust. The leader-subject arrangement of the 19th century is over and is nothing to be proud about. It is the era of the Servant-Leader. It is good for the leader’s health and wealth in this world and in the hereafter.