Kenya has enacted a new law that bars people holding dual citizenship from serving in the foreign service.
President Uhuru Kenyatta's assent to the law, which sponsored by the Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations of Kenya’s National Assembly, means people who hold two citizenships must relinquish the foreign one before being eligible for appointment as ambassadors.
In the past, controversy arose after a dual national was nominated to be Ambassador to South Korea. The National Assembly in 2019 had approved the nomination of Mwende Mwinzi, but imposed a caveat that she could not report to duty until she renounces her American citizenship.
She then went to court, which ruled she could not renounce either of her citizenship as it was acquired by birth. The High Court, however, said ambassadorial positions were sensitive national assignments. Ms Mwinzi has since been appointed ambassador to South Korea.
The new law now seems to have closed the door on any other dual national from holding a similar position.
Section 23 of the new law says that heads of missions abroad or consuls-general must not hold dual or multiple nationalities.
“A person nominated for appointment…shall be a citizen of the Republic of Kenya and shall not during the duration of their appointment be a citizen of another country,” says the new law.
“The Kenya Diaspora Alliance-USA has expressed its concern with the law saying it is an attempt to undermine the dual citizenship of Kenyans in the diaspora and the constitutive Act of the African Union.
The Committee said the law will also professionalise diplomatic service, giving credit to career diplomats while making the service accountable.
Ambassadors, special envoys, consular officials and honorary-consuls will constitute foreign service which will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
Heads of missions will hence be appointed from a pool of career diplomats with over 10 years of experience or other professionals with a similar duration of experience in public affairs seen as part of the wider scheme to lock out political appointees from the positions.
According to the committee, the only way to effectively implement the Foreign policy is by making the service professional.