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Kenya’s ambassador meets with expat community in Triangle

On Sundays, Isaac Kuria notices the way Kenyan expatriates in the Triangle gather together at church, then at meetings after services, then outside in the parking lot.

No one wants to be the first to leave.

The close-knit community is eager to share stories, about their lives here and also about family and news from Kenya, said Kuria, who is originally from Kenya and now lives with his family in Cary.

“We care about home, as we care about here,” he said.

On Saturday, the community had the chance to meet Kenya’s new ambassador to the United States, Robinson Njeru Githae, during a visit to the area.

In a wide-ranging speech, the ambassador touched on passport renewal procedures and airline flight patterns, as well as Kenyan natural resources and terrorism concerns.

Githae, who began work at his post in November, said bolstering the country’s international economic ties is critical.

“I’ve come for trade. I’ve come for commerce. That’s what I’m looking for,” he said to applause. “I don’t want anybody’s aid. I don’t want anybody’s grants.”

He also stressed that the embassy in Washington, D.C., wants to make travel and investment as easy as possible for Kenyans in the U.S. He urged the community to remain close-knit.

“Please continue with the Kenyan spirit of helping one another. Please continue the Kenyan spirit of welcoming one another, continue with the Kenyan spirit of being your brother’s keeper,” Githae said at a town hall meeting attended by about 50 people at the Five Points Center for Active Adults.

Kuria, vice president of Sister Cities of Raleigh, said the meeting was important because it allows Kenyans in the Triangle to have a relationship with the ambassador and, by extension, have another way to connect with their home country.

The nonprofit Sister Cities promotes cultural exchange and understanding. Raleigh has five sister cities, including the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

There are several thousand Kenyan expatriates in the Triangle. Kuria said a precise number is hard to come by but the community is made up of a wide range of people including students, young families, those on green cards and American citizens.

About 105,000 Kenyan immigrants and their children live in the U.S., according to the 2014 report by the Migration Policy Institute.

Philip Mwalali, a board member at the African Diaspora Coalition of North Carolina, said Githae’s visit shows Kenyans what they can do to participate in the relationship between Kenya and the U.S.

“We wanted to meet our ambassador so we can share some of the vision he has,” Mwalali said.

Githae’s visit to Raleigh also will include meetings with local and state officials about economic development with Kenya.

In addition, the Kenyan embassy on Sunday is hosting a national identity card registration in Raleigh from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the KCFA Head Office, 743 W. Johnson St. More details are at kenyaembassy.com.

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