Kenya’s envoy for South Korea begins work and settles the issue of dual nationality

FROM AGGREY MUTAMBO

The Kenyan ambassador to South Korea, Mwende Mwinzi, presented her credentials to the host’s head of state on Wednesday and closed a debate that raged for nearly two years over her nomination.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that Ms. Mwinzi was one of the eight foreign diplomats who presented their credentials to President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House in Seoul, signaling their full start to their work as ambassadors.

A photo later released by the ministry showed Ms. Mwinzi posing with President Moon and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong.

Dual nationals

Ms. Mwinzi has closed a long debate on dual nationals, particularly Kenyans born abroad to Kenyan parents.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated her in May 2019 – along with other candidates for ambassadorial nominations – the question of her US citizenship had not arisen.

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However, the National Assembly, which approved her qualification, said she must give up her second citizenship before taking office.

“Look at my life, everything has been linked to Kenya from adulthood,” she told Parliament during the review.

MEPs, however, kept the reservation proposed by the Committee on Defense and External Relations, chaired by Mr Katoo ole Metito, and the report approving other candidates meant that Ms. Mwinzi’s letter of appointment, as others approved and on theirs respective stations were sent, the subject was parliamentary control of their nationality. However, South Korea had already accepted her appointment.

National Assembly sued

The tug of war would reach the High Court. Ms. Mwinzi sued the National Assembly, trying to prevent MPs from forcing her to renounce a nationality that she said was acquired without her control.

Ms. Mwinzi, 50, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, and told the court that the birth of a Kenyan father and American mother in the United States meant that she was technically a national of both Kenya and the United States . She couldn’t log out.

In November 2019, she appeared to have won the day after the High Court ruled that she could not be forced to give up her U.S. citizenship as it was acquired from birth. However, the same judge said Parliament had the legal right to question its obligation to defend the country’s security interests, given that the ambassador is the president’s representative abroad. Judge James Makau ruled that the court could not force the government to install them as their review process involved parliamentary approval.

“It is in the public interest that the process can be completed,” the judge then ruled.

In its ruling, Justice Makau said the candidate falls into the category of Article 78 (3) (b), which exempts people who have become citizens of another country under the law of that country without having the option of deregistering.

All this time the State Department had insisted that she was not yet a diplomat.

Not among civil servants

The Kenyan Constitution does not list ambassadors or high commissioners among civil servants, the category of civil servants who must give up their foreign citizenship before accepting Kenyan government appointments.

However, the National Assembly argued that the portfolio held by ambassadors required them to remain completely loyal to Kenya. Ms. Mwinzi had told MPs that she was fully committed to Kenya and served the president who nominated her.

Her deployment was on Wednesday night when she upset other Kenyans who were staying or working abroad.

Prof. Makau Mutua, Sunday Nation columnist and SUNY Distinguished Professor, said he was delighted to have her in the position of “a great asset to Kenya and its diaspora”.

MPs had previously vowed to appeal the High Court’s decision, arguing the verdict was vague.

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