By: The Friday Bulletin
NAIROBI—Muslim leaders have urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to consider nominating a Muslim for the position of Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
The leaders drawn from the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM),Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) and Jamia Mosque said it would be in the best interest of the country to appoint a Muslim as Kenya’s envoy to Saudi Arabia.
The call came in the wake of the appointment of Peter Oginga Ogengo as Kenya’s new envoy to Saudi Arabia to replace Muhammad Abdi who is currently the Governor of Wajir.
The SUPKEM national chairman Dr Yusuf Nzibo noted that it was unfair to have both the ambassador and his deputy who are not Muslims to serve as Kenya’s top diplomats in Saudi Arabia. “The postings
to Saudi Arabia are unfair to Muslims. We just can’t have both Balozi (ambassadors) and the number two as Non- Muslims,” said Nzibo.
In a letter addressed to the Principal Secretary in the Foreign Affairs ministry Macharia Kamau, the chairman said a non-Muslim will be constrained in his work as he will not be able to access some of the important cities in the country whose entry is forbidden for non-Muslims. “My friend Ogengo is an excellent diplomat, but he will face a lot of challenges,” he said.
On his part, the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK)national chairman Sheikh Abdalla Ateka stressed that the appointing authority should have considered the inherent Islamic culture in
Saudi Arabia and appointed a Muslim to serve in the ambassadorial position.
The same sentiment was echoed by Imam of Jamia Mosque Sheikh Muhammad Swalihu who appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to nominate a Muslim forthe position of Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
In his Friday sermon last week at Jamia Mosque, Nairobi the Imam said having a Muslim envoy will ensure that the national interests of the country are aptly taken care of.
On matters related to hajj-the annual pilgrimage, he said a Muslim ambassador will be better placed to handle hajj affairs as he will be better placed to coordinate issues facing pilgrims from Kenya.
Giving a parallel to the Vatican, he said diplomatic postings made by several countries to the Vatican State are mainly reserved for Catholics due to its religious importance and the same principles should be applied to Saudi Arabia due to its religious significance to Muslims.
In response to the appeal by Muslim leaders, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Monica Juma said the concerns of Muslims had been conveyed to President Uhuru Kenyatta who is the appointing authority.
Peter Oginga Ogengo, the former executive director of the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation was nominated to serve in Saudi Arabia after Uhuru effected a mini cabinet reshuffle on Friday, July 13.
Ogengo who served as Kenya’s ambassador to the United States is among nine other presidential nominees who are supposed to undergo a parliamentary vetting process before they can officially take up
their new roles.