President Kenyatta has signed the Foreign Service Bill, 2021 into law.
The Foreign Service Act bars Kenyans holding dual citizenship from serving in diplomatic positions unless they relinquish the foreign one. Section 23 of the new law stipulates 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,” it states.
National Assembly’s Defense and Foreign Relations Committee, which sponsored the bill, argues that the law will professionalize diplomatic service.
“The objective of the bill is to provide for the establishment, management, administration, accountability, and functioning of a professional foreign service,” the committee said.
The act states that ambassadors, special envoys, consular officials, and honorary-consuls will constitute foreign service which will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
It requires career diplomats to have served within the Foreign Affairs Ministry for a minimum of 10 years, and where one is not a career diplomat, they must have at least 10 years experience in public affairs or be suited for training.
The law also creates a Foreign Service Academy to undertake training and programs aimed at enhancing the skills, capacity, and professionalism of officers in the service.
The enactment of the law follows the controversial appointment of Kenyan-American Mwende Mwinzi as Kenya’s ambassador to South Korea.
MPs insisted that Mwende must relinquish her US citizenship before taking up the role, citing section 31(1) of the Leadership and Integrity Act, which bars persons with dual citizenship from holding State offices unless they renounce one.
But the High Court ruled that Mwende cannot be forced to renounce her US citizenship, with Justice James Makau noting that an ambassador is not a State officer, but a public officer.
Mwende assumed the position in February this year, nearly two years after her nomination by President Kenyatta. MPs maintain her appointment was irregular.