Former British High Commissioner to Nairobi Sir Edward Clay was among several people who were sent emails advising them not to attend a diaspora investment conference in London addressed by President Mwai Kibaki.
Clay had been nominated to attend the forum by Kenya Society Club where he is a member. The Kenya Society club had been requested by the Developing Market Associates (DMA), the company organizing the event, to nominate a few members to attend the forum which was held at the Kenya House.
Brand Kenya has set up Kenya House on the sidelines of Olympic Games in East London to show case Kenya abroad. The forum was organized by DMA on behalf of Brand Kenya, which is under the Ministry of Information and Communication. Protocol demands that the list of invited guests is run through by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs especially in an event where the President is the chief guest.
Yesterday, Clay expressed 'slight disappointment ' at the last minute cancellation of his invitation. 'I accepted the invitation because I wanted to learn how Kenya was promoting its development and investment opportunities to its own people in the diaspora and friends of Kenya and to show support. I am slightly disappointed, after my registration was welcomed by the organizers, only to be turned away at the last moment," said Clay when the Star sought his comment.
Clay seemed to have worn out his welcome when he criticized the Kibaki government for allowing the mega Anglo Leasing scandal in which billions of Kenya shillings were lost to shady security communication deals. At the height of the scandal, Clay issued a scathing attack on the government saying the 'gluttony' of senior government figures in the Kibaki government were causing them to vomit all over the shoes' of donor countries.
The speech, delivered during a luncheon hosted by the British Business Association of Kenya endeared Clay to Kenyans and earned him enemies in government. He was declared persona non grata three years after he completed his tour as the British High Commissioner for his continued criticism of the Kibaki government.
Yesterday, Foreign Affairs permanent secretary denied Mwangi Thuita denied that his ministry was involved in canceling the invitation to Clay. Speaking from the sidelines of the conference, Thuita noted that everyone was welcome to attend as the forum was to encourage investors to Kenya. An email sent by the DMA project coordinator canceling Clay's invitation said in part: "We have been instructed by the Kenya High Commission to select only Kenyans in diaspora and are placed in the uncomfortable position of having to communicate this to many dignitaries, British businesses and Kenyans from Kenya who had intended to travel to London for the event."
Attempts to get a comment from the Kenya HighCommission were unsuccessful as they had not responded to our queries by the time we went to press despite assurances that they would do so. Concerns about the forum, its organization and objectives were being raised even before the event. Many Kenyans in the diaspora said the firm organizing the event did not have a data base to reach Kenyans in the diaspora or even in those living outside London in the UK.
Clay hardly misses Kenyan events in London. Yesterday, he dismissed suggestions that his invitation had been cancelled at the last minute due to his blunt outspokenness when he served as a diplomat in Nairobi. "I am fine and still there are other ways of celebrating Kenya in London in the next two weeks, when their runners will earn medals at the Olympics. I look forward to seeing that," he said.
The diaspora conference is an attempt to combine sport and business and many nations will be pitching to attract investors across various venues in London. Kenya, already struggling with diaspora policy and problems encountered in its management of sports will have to lobby hard to woo investors from among the Kenyan diaspora.
President Kibaki was expected to deliver the keynote address before the 600 guests at the forum which was to conclude with a gala dinner attended by the the World Bank Africa president, Makhtar Diop. Diop,who previously served as the bank's country director in Kenya had a run in with First Lady Lucy Kibaki who accused him of making noise during his farewell party held at his house which was adjacent to the First Lady's Muthaiga residence.