I hope you are alive. I am and therefore, I have every reason to be grateful. The days ahead are full of anxiety, trauma and uncertainty, but we must remain hopeful. Be still and know that He is God. One day at a time. We are worried about our families, relatives and friends. We are more concerned about those abroad, especially those in China.
Last week, Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Kenya through a press briefing gave a status update on Kenyans abroad during this COVID-19 era. I made my remarks concerning his handling of the press briefing, from a Public Relations perspective. While most of my fellow Kenyans were quick to agree with me, it was clearly impossible to see the good side of what the Ambassador had done following continuous claims of ill-treatment of Kenyans stranded abroad. Many accused the Ambassador of being insensitive and unapologetic and so Kenyans were quite unhappy with him. There have been claims that the Government has not done enough to rescue those being mistreated in foreign countries.
Well, I can only speak about my situation as a Kenyan who is in the United Kingdom (UK) at this time. The Kenyan High Commissioner to the UK, Ambassador Manoah Esipisu has made all efforts humanly possible to reach out to all Kenyans. His office through the Educational Attache Mrs. Dorothy Kamwilu has touched base with all student representatives to check on us. The students’ representatives have, in turn, reported and assisted other students to speak out and reach the High Commission in the rare cases of distress. Ambassador Manoah has time and again made it possible for all of us to reach him, through constant communication from his office that is posted on his social media pages, website and the High Commission’s social media pages. He has also held virtual meetings with various community representatives from the various cities in the UK. As I write this, the High Commission has released information on evacuation flight from London.
“We are working on logistics for a possible evacuation from London’s Heathrow to Nairobi. Kenya Airways has given 211 as the minimum number of passengers for whom a chartered flight can be arranged,” read the statement.
Well, we are grateful that we have a choice to stay or go home. My housemates and I discussed the possibility of going back, but, it is evident that the idea of being quarantined for 14-28 days upon arrival is a deal-breaker. Since we are students and with deadlines to meet, we are ok being here for now. Besides, we have assignments and dissertation to work on.
However, like many other Kenyans out there, I am concerned about my sisters and brothers in China. One of the Ambassadors that has received heavy criticism is Sarah Serem.
“Kenyan Government must take responsibility. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to do something to evacuate Kenyans facing anguish in China.” These and more, are some of the frustrations being expressed concerning our fellow countrymen in China.
PS Kamau Macharia had a tough time explaining the situation in China and having to defend Ambassador Serem following the constant castigation. Well, being in a foreign country at this time is quite frustrating for citizens as well as government officials working in various capacities. We are in a new era, one that we have never experienced before and so it is unfair to imagine there is a Government official who is not spending sleepless nights working to protect those under his/her watch.
However, we must try to understand how the Government works. While we choose to make, Ambassador Serem carry all the blame because she sits at the helm of power, calling her names, castigating and criticizing her isn’t solving the problem. All decisions she has to make, have to be made in consultation with the very Government that sent her to China. MFA should be able to explain why it has been hard to evacuate Kenyans from China. We must hold our Government accountable, though with some dignity. In my opinion, insulting people and calling them names, solves nothing.
As Kenyans, regardless of wherever we are, maybe it is time to change tactics. This is the time to have real conversations with our brothers and sisters in China. Find out from them and challenge them to speak the truth. How many of them can prove that indeed they have not been able to reach the Embassy? How many of them have registered with the Embassy in China? How many of them are willing to go home at their own cost and get quarantined for 14-28 days upon arrival? Let’s be realistic. Expecting the Government to evacuate people at the Governments’ expense is expecting way too much from the same Government that should be trying to save a nation from the impact of COVID-19, especially when we do not know how long this situation will last.
We have seen British nationals from Kenya and across the world go back to the UK. How did that happen? The British High Commissions issued statements, and of course, the citizens paid for their travel costs. So why are we pushing the Government to give us free tickets back home at such a time? Are we reasonable? Is it possible that we can fundraise for a ticket back home? Instead of looking at what the Government can do for us, is it possible for us to do something for ourselves? Maybe it is time for Kenyans to contribute to a kitty that will buy tickets for those who genuinely feel they need to return but are totally unable to. That way, we have a kitty ready when the window of opportunity opens, we grab it. Everyone else pays for their tickets, but those in dire need can be supported.
Ambassador Serem, like all other ambassadors during this time, will do their best if we gave them the support they need. For those with creative ideas and since it is now possible to get in touch with our ambassadors, why not decide to be of value instead of posting another demeaning insult or slur. #TogetherWeCanDoMore. Shall we encourage our brothers and sisters to register with embassies, make themselves known and declare their status? Part of the greatest predicament facing COVID-19 evacuations is the fact that many foreigners abroad are incognito. Illegal immigration is an emotive topic across the world. But it is in situations such as these, that our illegality is tested.
“I am here praying and asking God to keep me safe. I cannot dare go to the embassy because my papers do not show that I am a Kenyan. Do not ask questions but you know this is the situation for a number of us living abroad. So I am staying at home. I am doing everything to stay alive,” remarked a friend.
So, while we chant ‘Bring back our Kenyans’ shall we pause and ask ourselves what role can we play towards achieving this? Looking forward to your thoughts.
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