Many Kenyan celebrities living abroad have in one way or another faced the wrath of angry compatriots

Monday, July 5th, 2021 00:00 |
Victoria Kimani.

Many Kenyan celebrities living abroad have in one way or another faced the wrath of angry compatriots, who feel they haven’t done enough in giving back, as Harriet James writes.

Kenyans in diaspora have over the years put the country on the global map with their outstanding achievements in fields of music, athletics, modelling, politics, academics medicine to mention but a few.

For instance, renowned model Jared Okeyo who was born in Kisii, but raised in the US, has modeled for top-notch global fashion brands Fitch, Sean John and AKOO, and has also been featured on The Real Housewives of Atlanta reality TV show.

Actor Edi Gathegi has starred in films such as the X-Men, CSI Miami, House, Dr Geoffrey and Twilight.

Rapper Stella Mwangi is making waves in the music industry in Norway, having won awards and having her music used in various films including Save The Last Dance 2, CSI:NY and Scrubs. 

However, many of them have been accused of not giving back to Kenyans. Recently, Oscar-winning screen star Lupita Nyong’o was criticised for not being patriotic while she was on holiday in the country.

This is despite that she was posting on her social pages the destinations she travelled to.

Consequently, she posted a controversial photo in which she showed a middle finger, at Kenyans who were bashing her for that.

This came after her alleged snub by the Tourism ministry as the Magical Kenya International Tourism ambassador, a role that was given to British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Cyber bullies

A month ago, fast-rising comedian and 2021 Forbes Woman Africa Awards’ Entertainer of the Year winner Elsa Majimbo accused Kenyans of cyber bullying, racism and rubbing her talent the wrong way, during an interview with Saudi Arabian entrepreneur and online content creator Anas Bukhash. She also talked of her change of nationality to South Africa and Kenyans have since labelled her unpatriotic.

Musician Victoria Kimani has in the past criticised Kenyans on social media who have a habit of knocking down people, especially those who seem to be winning outside the country.

“I remember when a few Kenyans wrote me off for working elsewhere, the same way they are doing to Lupita and Elsa.

Just say you all hate Kenyan women who win outside of Kenya despite the never-ending shade and lack of support from home and go.

We still love you, even though you stay mad (sic),” she shared on her Twitter page recently.

In 2016, former Israel diplomat-cum-musician Gilad Millo applied to be a Kenyan citizen for his love for the country.

“I was invited to appear before the Citizenship Committee at Nyayo House some months ago, and after doing fairly well answering all of the questions of the committee and sharing openly my long standing connection to Kenya, I was even asked to sing a few lines, which I happily did and it gave me the feeling I had done well, though I haven’t heard anything, and this is a slow process,” he says.

Personal choices

He adds: “For many people, patriotism is a choice that needs to be respected. 

Can you demand that artistes or sports figures be openly patriotic? I do not think Kenya has anything to worry about.

I find famous Kenyans to be proud of their heritage and Kenyans in general maintaining a connection wherever you meet them around the world.”

Sauti Awards founder David Mbiro left Kenya in 2007, and after settling in the US, felt the need to have Kenyan gospel artistes in the US supported.

So bothered was he seeing that only white people assisted black people, reason why he formed a mentorship programme where more wealthy Africans are linked up to needy students from the slums in Kenya.

“I was brought up in Mathare and I know what it means to grow without food and shelter.

I almost became a thief because I didn’t have anyone to support me. I am right now who I am because people supported me and there’s nothing better than a child from Mathare seeing someone like me giving back.

They feel inspired to do better and become better people. It’s more of supporting and mentoring and finding out what other needs you might have apart from education including food and shelter,” he says.

However, despite the assistance that he is giving, there is a behaviour that he desires Kenyans to change.

“It is in our culture. Many of us think that if someone lives abroad, they are doing well and that you are entitled to what they have.

For instance, when I visit the country, you find that someone is ordering an expensive meal simply because they think I can pay for it.

Don’t just assume that we in the US are doing well, sometimes check on us,” he says.

False persecution

America-based fintech entrepreneur, public finance specialist and philanthropist David Wachira believes that the mentality that Kenyans abroad do not give back is false.

According to the latest data from Central Bank of Kenya, Sh3.9 billion was remitted in the country in 2020, despite the impact of the Covid-19.

“This remittance does not show a group that is misguided and is not assisting. To the contrary, it speaks of a diaspora that is a major drive for economic growth.

Of course, there might be a few Kenyans who make it big abroad but turn their back on the country, but majority of Kenyans abroad are giving back.

In fact, most feel sensitised to the problems at home,” David explains.

He adds, “Personally, I give because Kenya is home and you always come to build your home as a sense of duty and it’s the right thing to do.

I also believe in the scripture that to whom much is given much more is required.”

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