Kenya’s Citizenship is up for Sale as Africa Searches for Nation Builders

In a bid to lighten the nation’s huge debt burden, the government of Kenya recently announced a commercialization of its citizenship and immigrant status. Going forward, wealthy and interested members of the global public can pay cash into the coffers of the Kenyan Government in exchange for conferment of immigration privileges, including citizenship. 

Claiming to borrow the idea from the United States, Canada and other developed nations, the Government of Kenya is reported as stating that selling its citizenship will, “potentially wean the government of addiction to loans and increase the prospect of moving the country from its current middle-income status to the upper middle economy.”

Ridiculing whoever might still be holding on to the sentimental aspects of what it means to be Kenyan, the government is reported to have stated that such “detractors or hardcore nationalists,” should “accept the fact that old doctrines of sovereignty and national honor are on the death bed because states have surrendered some of their authority and power to a web of international laws…”

For starters, it is necessary to begin by stating that as far as the nations that Kenya is purportedly drawing inspiration from are concerned, it is not cash that is exchanged for citizenship or permanent resident status. In the United States, for instance, only investment in certain tightly regulated aspects of the economy holds the possibility to grant the law abiding, hard-working, entrepreneur access to some form of recognized immigrant status. 

It is, therefore, somewhat unsettling that Kenya is hoping to pile up cash to pay off its huge external debts and transform from a middle income to an upper middle-income economy – not through better governance, industrialization, a knowledge-based economy or by carving a niche for itself in manufacturing or production – but through the peddling of her citizenship.

Further, it is intriguing how Kenya could compare herself to the United States in commercializing citizenship and immigration status. Does Kenya have the massive covert and intellectual network, like the CIA, needed to conduct background checks and validate the claims of would-be citizenship buyers? Or is Kenya ready to open her borders to drug dealers, smugglers, money launderers, terrorists, fake-goods manufacturers and persons of questionable character?

Even more, in the countries Kenya gives as examples, corruption is not rife, the gap between the rich and the poor is not as pronounced as in Kenya and in fact on very few yardsticks should Kenya place itself side by side to those countries by way of making comparison.

Kenya’s step in the direction of reducing her citizenship and what it means to be Kenyan to Shillings presents some discomfort even to the most ultra-capitalist minded person.

First, the message being passed to the younger generation of Kenyans is that it is not character, values, a sense of shared consciousness, a deep desire to ensure the progress of the territorial entity known as Kenya, that makes one Kenyan. Rather, the simplistic possession of millions of dollars is all it takes to qualify one to be Kenyan.

Perhaps, if rich people can easily acquire Kenyan citizenship, the poor might as well so easily lose out on their citizenship sooner than later.

These ambitions will give rise to questions of safety, security, equality and social cohesion of citizens of Kenya. Indeed, corruption has thrived in Kenya as a result of citizen disenchantment and lack of faith in the Kenyan state.

Importing more people of wealth, with little emotional investment in Kenya’s national space,  will mean that more Kenyans will remain marginalized, which will contribute to building discontent, a growing crime rate and a porous, even fragile nation state.

Perhaps, what Kenya should consider doing at this time instead is to take the long, arduous but necessary route to capping her borrowings, whittling down government expenditure according to what the nation can afford and addressing corruption.

Governance and democracy as practiced verbatim by the West is simply unaffordable for Kenya and most African countries. In a desire to copy and appease the West, however, Kenya and many African countries have established governance structures, systems and processes that are unaffordable and unsustainable.

What happens is the constant borrowing by government to fund even recurrent expenditures, and often times outright dependence on benevolence to fund capital expenditures.

Perhaps the African Union should also consider stepping-in to stop what will soon become a free-for-all sale of citizenship of African countries to the highest bidder. If the African Union has refused to recognize any borders outside of those handed over by colonial masters, should national governments of African countries then be allowed to, at will, exchange the nation’s citizenship for cash?

If territories are sacred and sacrosanct then becoming a part of that territory should also be a sacred and sacrosanct exercise.

African countries should focus on dismantling the colonially entrenched barriers to the free movement of persons and property within the continent.

The East African community is already on an accelerated path to realizing this ideal by allowing the free movement of citizens, irrespective of social class or economic status. The opening of borders to hard working, invested and loyal Africans holds the key to the continent’s drive towards self-sufficiency, sustainable advancement, technological growth, and a just and equitable society for all Africans.

You may follow Dr. Chika on twitter @chikaforafrica or visit her blog www.chikaforafrica.com

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