Parliament on Tuesday started vetting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s nominees to different embassies and high commissions abroad, with his nominee to South Korea facing headwinds, as it turns out she holds dual citizenship.
Ms Mwende Mwinzi, who is married to a Nigerian, carries both Kenyan and American passports.
Ms Mwinzi still has African and Caucasian blood flowing in her veins and she considers herself Kenyan, having spent her formative years learning English, Kiswahili and vernacular.
However, Article 78 (2) of the constitution on citizenship and leadership says that a state officer shall not hold dual citizenship.Ambassadors are state officers.
The only categories of people excused from the requirement are judges and members of commissions; or “any person who has been made a citizen of another country by operation of that country’s law, without ability to opt out”. It is not clear if Ms Mwinzi falls in the latter category.
Ms Mwinzi has told NTV that she is confident that her nomination would be approved adding that the law that bars state officers from holding dual citizenship does not cover ambassadors.
In an interview with Daily Nation in 2010, she said she was culturally Kenyan, and views her roots as one thing and heritage another.
“My roots are my grounding; my identity is Kenyan. Growing up in Ukambani, I lived with my paternal grandparents, who taught me to view myself as a Kamba,” she said.
“That notwithstanding, I was always emotionally close to both sets of grandparents, including my maternal (white) grandmother,” she added.
The mother of two has been running the Twana Twitu (Our Children) home based orphanage for vulnerable children as the director for almost two decades.
The foundation is straddled across the breadth and width of the Mwingi West constituency and beyond.
Writing in the Sunday Nation (August 29, 2010), Mwinzi recalls an immigration officer asking: “I thought you were one of us,” a remark that made her feel ashamed, guilty and even anxious every time she entered Kenya and “lined up behind tourists and painfully forked out Sh2,500 ($25) to enter my own country.”
In 2017, Mwende whom the locals call her “Kelitu Kaitu” (our girl) became a Jubilee elections agent after she was defeated by Charles Nguna of Wiper who won to become the Mwingi West Member of Parliament.
She is among the 18 nominee’s diplomats recently named by the President.
The president, in a communiqué to Speaker Justin Muturi, has sought the MPs’ approval for the nominees.
Those set to be vetted include Kariuki Mugwe (Abu Dhabi), Peter Katana Angore (Algiers), Michael Mubea (Dublin-Ireland), Flora Karugu (Lusaka-Zambia), Mwende Mwinzi (Seoul-South Korea), Diana Kiambuthi (Stockholm-Sweden) and Njambi Kinyungu (UN-Habitat).
Mubea, the outgoing Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) deputy chief executive officer, will replace Richard Opembe who will move to the Kenyan mission in Madrid, Spain.
Severine Luyali headed Madrid before the changes were made.
If approved, and according to tradition, new entrants will have to be trained on diplomatic courtesies, a process that often takes at least 60 days.