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Robbing the Diaspora

Posted by Administrator on January 22, 2012

They work hard to send money back home for development only to be conned by close relatives, writes BASIL TULESI

They came ‘home’ for Christmas — to eat ‘real’ food, drink ‘real’ beer, hitch up a daughter or son of the soil and inspect development projects. They arrived with excitement in their hearts but flew back enraged, some in tears.

These are Kenyans who live in perpetual distress overseas. They battle chilling winters, loneliness, racism, cultural and economic setbacks. They do anything and everything to put ‘development’ on the ground back home, only to get conned by relatives.

That was never the case. In the days following Independence, our fathers left the comforts of their villages for Nairobi — to look for jobs. They religiously sent monthly cash remittances via clansmen who worked on commuter buses. The money always got home and was prudently saved by relatives because within a short period of time, they could afford to pay dowry, buy pieces of land and sometimes build homes.

Not today. Omari was born and raised in Mombasa. By a stroke of luck, he landed a valid working permit in the USA. Before he left for the States, his parents swiftly arranged a marriage for him to Fatmah, a pretty girl of modest education. Upon arrival in the States, Omari landed a comparatively lucrative job that accorded him relative comfort and money to spare.

He, however, experienced many moments of anxiety with his American line managers and colleagues who routinely made him an object of ridicule. In addition, he was subjugated by ethnocentric managers who verbally insulted him, wrote him memos with racist undertones and, on several occasions, denied him his official holiday leave.

He endured all this and routinely sent part of his income to Fatmah, his wife in Kenya.


In three years, his contract was controversially not renewed. But he was not a worried man since he knew he had been remitting money to his wife regularly and that she had bought several plots in Mombasa and was now building apartments for rent. In fact, she had been updating him with photo images of the project.

Last Christmas holiday, with no work and lots of time to spare, he packed his suitcase and travelled to Kenya. He was, however, shocked beyond imagination to discover that Fatmah had ‘invested’ his money in a tiny plot of land in the crowded Mishomoroni area.


The piece of land had no title deed and the only legal ‘paper’ signifying land ownership that Fatmah had was an ‘agreement’ signed by a village elder. On the plot, Fatmah had built a Swahili house and had installed four tenants. In one of the rooms, she had set up her little duka selling groceries and paraffin.

Omari quickly realised that the Sh8,000 income from the tenants could not sustain him in Kenya. In short, the $250,000 (Sh21.8 million) he had remitted to his wife for investment had been misused.

Emmanuel’s story is no different. When I met him at a popular restaurant in Shanzu a week after his arrival, he shed tears as he narrated how his younger brother, Joseph, currently a Module Two student at a public university in Mombasa, had been using his money to “booze and patronise popular discotheques in town with women instead of developing my plot”.

Worse, he needed to re-sit several papers, hardly attended classes and his fee was in arrears, never mind that Emmanuel had sent the money upfront. What particularly irked him — and others who have suffered similar fates — is the relative ease with which his hard-earned cash was thrown around in bars and flushed down the drain.


Charles teaches Mathematics at a state school in one of the poorer sections of USA. The students are rude and unruly. Last summer, while at the front of the class, he noticed two students chatting away, oblivious of his presence. He politely asked them to be quiet so that he could begin the lesson.

But one of them hissed, “Hey, can’t you see we are trying to have a conversation here?”

He swallowed his Kenyan pride and didn’t kick the young lad’s butt because he knew that would land him in trouble and that several people back home depended on his paycheck.

Charles, however, says, “It’s painful when you learn that a sibling you sent cash to pursue a degree course dropped out of college because of drug addiction. Or a daughter you have consistently supported used the money to entertain peers and is now pregnant. Or one’s spouse is in a relationship with a younger man on whom she showers your money. Not after the struggles we go through overseas.”

Kimeu, a swimming Instructor in China, sent cash remittances to his sister in Nairobi. She bought a plot on his behalf and the two siblings settled on a structural plan from a reputable firm that looked perfect on paper. In a short time, the council authorities approved the building plan. Kimeu’s sister oversaw the construction of the house alright, but she cut costs by engaging cheap, poorly skilled labour and pocketed the balance.

Ugly patches

When Kimeu came home over Christmas, the hot water pipes beneath the bedroom floor were broken, causing water to leak through the lounge floor.

The cheap floor tiles had started peeling off, the ceiling in the house was basic and because the roof leaked, it was covered with ugly patches. Some of the rooms were ridiculously tiny and the locks, doors and fittings were cheap and tacky.

Worse, the neighbourhood had neither a sewerage system nor street lighting and roads were dusty and potholed. For a man accustomed to the finer things in life, Kimeu was hurt, disappointed and angry.

Other relatives just steal the money. Benea, who also resides in the US, bought a house in Nairobi and asked his brother to collect rent on his behalf. But when he came back, there was nothing in his bank account. It turned out that his brother had bought himself a matatu.

What gulled him was that that notwithstanding, he found a horde of relatives waiting, arms outstretched for alms, including the same brother who had practically stolen his money.

Holiday home

But the saddest tale is of Maureen, a Kenyan lass who met and married a retired British engineer in Mombasa. When they relocated to Britain, she convinced her husband that they needed a holiday home in Kenya (she wanted to have a base from which she could look after her ageing parents and siblings).

Her husband gave her money, which she dutifully sent to her elder brother.

Unfortunately, her brother began playing tycoon with her money — boozing and handing out large wads of money at every fundraiser. He even married a second wife.

In the meantime, he bought a plot from someone he met in a bar and paid for it in cash the next morning. He engaged workmen to dig up a pit latrine and fence up the premises.

These were friends who were driven to the site in a taxi and who, after a day’s work, would be wined and dined in expensive hotels.

When the latrine was up and the property fenced, the plot’s rightful owner turned up with policemen and evicted them. But in any event, even if the plot had been genuinely acquired, the lout had drunk and wasted the money meant for its development anyway.

You could, therefore, say Kenyans in the Diaspora are the latest cash cow in town. In some cases, people even simulate funerals to squeeze money out of them.

Our politicians, ever opportunistic, have not been left behind. Nearly all presidential hopefuls are roaming all over America and Europe with begging bowls for a piece of the pie. They are seducing our brothers and sisters overseas to sow on barren rock.

Source: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000050530&cid=349&


35 Responses to “Robbing the Diaspora”

  1. flacco said

    Thumbs if you are a victim….. Im numero uno. I’ve been scammed bad.

  2. Kangemi said

    Flacco, exhibit numero dos here…..

    If it helps someone else, here we go. Some of it is actually too painful to revisit. Educated, housed, and financially supported a sibling’s family for a long time including financing those expensive University of Nairobi parallel degree programs. This in addition to the usual money scams.
    Adding insult to injury – at the sad demise of one parent, this same sibling found a lawyer in Nairobi who somehow agreed to “massage” the inheritance documents squeezing two siblings(I am one of them) abroad out of this property – this was done in our absence and in secret.
    Throw some salt to the wound – same con sibling had the guts to call four weeks ago wondering if I could financially help with a new business idea. My dealings with them is done probably as long as I am on earth.
    This is a dirty little secret that many of us Kenyans in the diaspora have dealt with privately for years. That is if I can go by what my Dholuo, Kyuk, Masai and Coast close friends tell me. One of them lost so much, it is painful.
    To those who go without so you can support those in Kenya – would they do the same for you? The answer is probably what we don’t want to know. This article should sober many of us up!

    • flacco said

      Pole Kangemi, I feel you pain. A sibling of mine told me she had a drug resistant yeast infection sindio, ok Im a guy and all I could do was support her so she gets better. I was sending minimum 10k for consultation na hakuwahi “pona,” I gave up and next time vile nilienda home she was ok. She told me “nilikudanganya please nisamehe”. And many stories from my other siblings….. they could care less about us man its painful sana.

    • Sijuinijiite said

      Enter parents….This stings even worse than siblings since you grow up looking up to your parents. It took me several years to realize that my parent was squandering funds meant to grow a business i had established in Kenya. When confronted, they ofcourse denied it, yet the proof was in the pudding-accounts with zero balance. They stopped picking up phone calls, i guess due to embarrasment, fear or maybe even denial that they had been caught. Sadly, we rarely speak nowadays. A relationship destroyed because of deceit and greed!

  3. Johana Wanjikru Thuku said

    Thanks to whomever decided to bring this story up to where most people can read. Our sibblings and parents back home have come up with all sorts of ideas to milk thier children abroad and end up not benefiting themselves in the long run. This is not new for it has been happening for as long as I can remember. There is no more trust on all relatives back home and they have a way to paint a very grave picture. It’s also good to say we have a few responsible ones but most have been jibbed out of their hard earned dollar. I love the this statement “These are Kenyans who live in perpetual distress overseas. They battle chilling winters, loneliness, racism, cultural and economic setbacks. They do anything and everything to put ‘development’ on the ground back home, only to get conned by relatives”. This brings me to this thought that rings in my mind from the time I became independent. ” Were we born as future investments,or cash cows and how about us ?Anywho ,I feel for those already corned and thank the writer of the story . This will enable kenyans abroad rethink of other better strategies to invest home. It’s hard but God will pave a way for we do work hard and relatives back home have no clue of our hardships here.

    • Njoki said

      Post it to facebook,twitter,everywhere..forward it and let the world know..we need to do something about these so called milking culture,we Need to do something to just let them know that they made their cash milking cows who are never even thanked..

  4. Njoki said

    Good well written piece,my wish would if only it would circulate to all these milking relas at home and they read and re-read it ,so that they get ashamed of themselves !!

  5. Njeri said

    Most unfortunate. Am really sorry to you you’ve been scammed. Knowing how hard it is in the US, its a shame that a relative whom you are helping can ‘drink your blood’ as you watch. My advice to you is to use professionals. Unfortunately us miros love freebies. I’d rather pay even if its 10% transaction fees but get something at the very least. God help us!

    • Kangemi said

      Njeri, “professionals” are second only to your relatives as the worst scammers in Kenya. Let’s see, I have been scammed by registered surveyors, doctors, KPLC engineers, building contractors, City Hall building approval process and architects. This despite being there and watching all the drama unfold…Yes, we miros love deals but trying to go the straight way never pays in Kenya.

  6. Netia said

    I was in Kenya the other day and relaz there were all ‘ninulie hiki na kile’. Its a harsh and sad reality, luckily I was also home for treatment so their requests became shame when they found out I was unwell.

  7. kiptoo said

    Kwani these diaspora Idiots don’t know what Lawyers are there for?

    • maLAIka said

      @ kiptoo…show me a lawyer that ain’t a liar….who is the idiot now???? my heart goes out to those who have been ‘ taken advantage of ‘ by family

    • Sijuinijiite said

      Haven’t you ever heard that lawyers are also called liars! Money talks and if the price ir right, these so called professional, well educated, known in the community ‘lawyers’ will ‘massage’ the truth to benefit the highest bidder.
      I’ve been scammed by a building developer and trust me i’m no idiot! Knowing that you live abroad is music to their ears as they can squander your money knowing that you’ll visit once or twice a year to check up on your development, whereby they will have endless excuses as to why the work is not completed etc.
      Try running to a lawyer once you realize that you’ve been scammed. You’ll be shocked to find out that some lawyers are on these scammers payrolls to make sure the case never ever makes it to court or is delayed for so long that you give up waiting for your money back.
      Unless you’ve tried to do business in Kenya, don’t be quick to judge and call people idiots!

    • leo said

      Kiptoo,relax bwana.Lawyers in kenya are thugs as well.They will milk you to the last penny.They sometimes collaborate with the court system etc. So give us a break. I have a project that is on a stand still for a while now and lawyers have not been able to help me. It’s more like dog chasing its own tail. still 3rd world and you know it too kiptoo.

      • Kangemi said

        Kiraitu and Kajwang are lawyers and known crooks…to my knowledge, Kajwang cannot practice law in Kenya as he has stolen client’s money over the years. How is he rewarded? A whole ministry which has gone to the dogs judging from the Somali problems. Kiraitu’s hands are so sticky it’s not even funny. Word has it that he makes a percentage of every litre of petrol sold in Kenya…Those are prominent lawyers in Kenya for you!

      • mkenyahalisi said

        The sad bit, Kajwang is a public servant. Kenya iko shida…

  8. mkenyahalisi said

    Am still reeling in shock. I have been supporting an older brother for 2 years to a tune of kes 250,000.00 to attend a diploma course that has not happened to date. Throw in monies taken that was not his.

    Sijui nikasirike ama nilenge. As in, the idiot still needs this degree to survive and he has kids. Am his lil’ sis just feeling sorry for the poor negro. Haoni hio.

    Uuui…once I get done, am investing in America, period. I am now paying tuition direct to the college.

  9. Jay Kay said

    Truth is people back home are real poor, even mentally, l sent a cousin money to get tapped water so that his farming would be more productive, well he gave me updates on the progress. only it was phantom progress. Did that shut the doors or what.

  10. sam said

    Guys….the major problem is that when we live abroad for a few years. we start believing that pple back home are also changed! Poleni….they’ve gotten worse. My belief, stash money in a bank account. Plan to visit kenya maybe every 2 years and get things done. U can’t trust anyone. The kenyan govt has been very vocal on remittances from diaspora; so crooks have known kuna pesa and they will jump at any opportunity. Better still, invest where you are and when ready to come back home, sell your investments and come get your stuff personally. things are hard back home and Money is a major issue. class warfare and discontent within the society have turned friend against friends, family against family and siblings against siblings! Very sad indeed!
    I sum is this way, ” Kenya has become a man eat man society”

  11. Njeri said

    Am a diaspora-returnee now in my 15th year in Kenya. I don’t think everyone in Kenya is out to scam you. Seriously. I have known many in the diaspora who have bought homes and properties etc in Kenya using professionals whom they pay a transaction cost. When I say professionals, I do not mean lawyers. As has been said, most Kenyan lawyers are dishonest and will scam even their mothers if they could. I think diaspora people fail to do due diligence. You get overexcited about every thing “development” in jamhuri. In the excitement you fail to do your homework and in the end get scammed. When the deal sounds too good, think twice. You’d do the same in the US or wherever. When you send Kshs. 250,000 to someone who has never even touched 5,000 before, what do you expect? They have no experience handling that kind of cash. Accountability is a foreign word to them. We all know of Kenyans in the US who used to get money from rich Kenyan relatives esp during the Moi era to pay for university and many of them have no degrees to date. Would you give a lawyer in the US $5,000 without first knowing about their work or their firm? Absolutely not. Use the same reasoning when transacting at home. Due diligence guys. If its too good a deal …… flee! If its insulin-driven …. run! No one is dying anyway. If your gut is unclear ….. flee!

    • Kangemi said

      Njeri, as one who has been burned and very vocal on this thread, I have to admit your sober view of this whole shenanigans is well thought out. Kudos.
      Yes, I know one person from my village in my stateside neighborhood who instructed me NEVER to say what he does here. I am in Kenya frequently his family are always curious what he does….I am forced to dodge that question a lot.

  12. Virgy. said

    Ooh am very sorry for the affected guys ,here i am send to me i will buy the whatever u want n invest for you n when you come back believe me you will be the happiest one.

  13. Mama Watoto said

    The only person I trust is my mother. A cousin of mine called me once and wanted me to buy him a Nissan. I thought I had not heard it well and he repeated it again… I told him “credit yakwa iri hakuhi guthira…” (my credit is about to get finished..) I never picked his calls after that.

    When I went home last year, many of my nephews were asking me if i had brought for them MAN-U t-shirts and I was like Man who? They told me ati everyone coming from abroad always brings Manchester United shirts….

  14. Mama Watoto said

    I have sent my mom $$ for projects and when sometimes she needed more for the project and I did not have, she would use hers or even borrow for me in order to do my stuff. When I went home, she had a book she was recording things like nails, simiti, mbarathira ya this and that etc…. I realized that she was sometimes spending her own money to do stuff and she would not tell me. Sorry to brag but I have brothers and sisters who would call to tell me ati mom is kwamaring with my money and they want her to share

    • leo said

      Mama watoto, Im sorry that I have always thought that you are 100+years old but you now sound so young. Dont kill your children though . Let get back to the project.

      • Mama Watoto said

        eh? Leo, sasa matusi ya nini? Why on earth did I become 100 plus in your thoughts?

      • leo said

        Because you sound and talk old. Such as , “who gonna burry you when you die?”Only very old people worry about this and thefore I thought you are very very old . Extremely old. probably more than 100. Well I now guess you are just one 1yr old old.DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL MUCH BETTER?

  15. Charles said

    Am not disputing what the writer is trying to pass across, all we need is the truth not some guy coming up with a story in his dreams. Well am referring to a story where by Basil Tulesi wrote about some guy from Mombasa who got a job in the USA. Lie # 1 He claims this guy sends to Kenya a total of $ 250,000 in three years. If this guy was sending equal proportions per month then it equates to $ 6,944.45 dollars per month and $ 173.61/hour in savings not salary, leaves every one wondering what type of job was this guy doing? Lie # 2, which man would earn that kind of money and allow the wife to sell veggies and paraffin in a shack in Kenya, doesn’t make sense. Lie # 3, In the US ones rights are respected and there are so many avenues you can follow if you feel your rights are infringed. My conclusion is that this guy wanted to write and provide fodder to idle people who have never been to the US. Anyway you did people in Diaspora a disservice than highlighting the main theme of the story. Many who have never been to the US after reading the article they will think people in Diaspora have a lot of money and start feeling that they are entitled to some of it.

  16. ITHAVETHI said

    Nia yetu ilikuwa kuwasaidia tuliowaacha nyumbani. Na kweli tukafanya hivyo. Mara ya kwanza, ilikuwa sawa. Mara ya pili na ya tatu, ikawa sawa vile vile. Mara ya hamsini na ya themanini, dola zikawa tamu na rahisi kupewa pale walipoahidiwa. Nisemacho ni kwamba, sisi wenyewe ndio tuliyowazoesha na mwisho tukawaharibu. Mapenzi tuliokuwa nayo ya kuwakwamua na kuwakomboa kutoka janga la umaskini ndio nao wakayatusi na kutugeuka sisi. Ni vyema tuliwasaidia lakini lawama ni kwetu sisi. Tuliwaonyesha kuwa dola huvunwa mtini kama matunda ya mapera na tulicho hitaji sisi nikuyatikiza miti hiyo na khera zikamwagikia kwenye vikapu vyetu. Makosa ni yako, lawama ni kwetu sisi.

    Diposa nao wakaeneza habari njema kwamba Facco, Njoki, kangemi, WajiKru, ITHAVETHI, Mkemnya Halisi, mama watoto, Sam na wengineo ndio wachimba hodari wa mawe ya madola kule Marekani. Diposa ulimwambia babako, kakako, dadako, shangazio, mjomba ama rafikiyo akujengee nyumba, akununulie shamba au ploti, bei inapanda mara dufu. Mmmmm…..mara dufu. Na wewe mwenyewe huguni. Una nyamaa tu. Hulizi maswali. Unaomba utumiwe filamu ya video na picha kutumia barua pepe kwenye mtandao. Nawe unasema hio imetosha. Kanamba unapeana, Mpesa unatumia…unajihami kwenye Moneygram na Western Union ili nao wakutambue. Mmmm! Sifa unapata. Hadaa unavuna. Kisha unaanza kulia kilio cha machozi ya mamba. Ndugu tumia mbinu ili kujua namna dabo dabo zako zinakwenda wapi!! Maisha ni magumu hapa. Kupata khera za kulipia gharama za hapa na mwishowe kupata za kutuma nyumbani si kitu cha kuchezewa. Amka tuelefuke. Wakati ni sasa. Wakati ni leo!

  17. Johana Wanjikru Thuku said

    Well debated issue here with very valid points but @ mama watoto I highly doubt your life , cant tell your age for sometimes it falls between an infant, a naive about to be teenager and or a senile senior citizen. This issue is not a joke and we are not wholistically blaming all relatives and other kind hearted people but the writer(s) are only pointing what 95% of relas do to diaspros as opposed to the 5% if in deed it does exist. For maturity sake either oppose with valid points or support the dabate or be neutral but dont really immatualy air very petty points that are at the level of a class one kid. I’m sorry for being strong but the few times I have seen you threading here , it’s hard to make out what in the hell your saying

  18. Bushman said

    I am done sending funds to anyone in Kenya. It is a pity I have had to reach this kind of decision because I do not trust anyone anymore and the decision has affected even the genuine folks. I will work and enjoy my cash without 2nd thoughts on how I spend it. I have paid a very heavy price for trusting people at home.

    • Kangemi said

      Bushman, I simply don’t blame you…a buddy was sending money to his retired dad to sustain him and his mother. After five years and a little investigation, he found out that his mom was minimally benefitting from that money. Why you ask? His dad was using it for daily living expenses of a much younger chick whom he had secretly married as a second wife.

      This hogwash about blood family is the biggest pile of doo doo we Africans ever imposed on ourselves. We like to spread poverty but never riches. That’s why you need a circle of good friends, blood related or not – and that makes you a wealthy person.

  19. I am shocked to see this i am a kenyan in the EU and i follow up my projects in person if i cant fly i use the equity bank internet banking facility to send my cash .with this facility i can tranfer handouts to those i want to help and with this i mean kuwapatia bure when i feel like or when i can afford .The rest i do in person even if it means taking a flight for a week .However i know from the time i left i have recieved stories HAKUNA MVUA, MBUZI ZILIKUFA ,HAKUNA MIMEA i just tell them to do what every other kenyan is doing since not all kenyans have people to give handouts.I lost all my friends after flying the first time coz i called each of them nikasema niko na a project but has no enough euros so i needed a loan from them 90 percent avoided me when i called and thats what i wanted.ONE responded i kept the money 50thau ksh and gave it on my way back but ever since he calls every week with a new problem and he never gives up to my excusese.LASTLY KWANI MIMI NDIO NILIBEBA MVUA?coz every year they say haikunyesha even those in appartments hahahaha

  20. Johana Wanjikru Thuku said

    LOL!! @ Mbugua Moses , that’s hiralious ati kwani wewe ndio umebeba mvua.. lol. I have a cousin in real life who hates giving to her family but they are all in Kenya including herself. She is married to a prominent “Mzungu” and she changed her demenour. There was a year Kenya was hard hit by famine , and she happened to travel upcountry driving an SUV to show off her aquisition(s) and once she got there, most of her siblings were there and the truth be told they were in a very deplorable state and were many of them since her mother had like 16 kids. they all listed their very basic needs and all they asked was food or something to that effect. She asked them why would I give you food and why dont you have it.. and they listed all issues from lack of rain to everything else. The gal looked at them and politely told them it has not rained in her house as well and does not have any. She got in her Vihecle and took off stiring a whole lot of dust..the truth is she had but took a chance to mock her family but you dont mock God for the SUVrolled over and sent her all the way to Aga Khan and for many months. I understand where you are coming from and have heard and seen such cases, however, let’s evaluate every case to make sure we did not fail a needy and sincere person in particular a parent. another issue you brought up is frequently flying out to check on your investment and that’s really good for as long as it works for you. EU is not that far form from Kenyabut where Iam to frequent home will be a waste of money/ $2000 per flight hmmmmmmmmm we have to figure something else up here.

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