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Breaking News:Diaspora voters locked out of elections

on Nov 28, 2012

Updated 3 hrs 5 mins ago
By Moses Njagih

Kenyans living in the Diaspora will not vote in the March 4 General Election despite the Constitution guaranteeing them rights to take part in the electoral process. The Government on Tuesday said it was not practical to enlist Kenyans living abroad and have them take part in the March 4 polls as this would require some logistical preparations which are not yet in place.

Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa further said financial challenges coupled with the time constraints would not allow the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to register Kenyans in the Diaspora and have them take part in the polls.

Wamalwa told Parliament that Cabinet had last Thursday deliberated over the issue and agreed that the earliest that Kenyans living abroad can take part in the electoral process would only be in the 2017 polls after all required plans are put in place to ensure credibility of the process.

Wamalwa said that despite the Constitution granting this constituency the rights to vote, the High Court had ruled that the same would only be done progressively, a position Cabinet had exploited to first ensure that all plans are in place, complete with guarantee of a credible voter registration exercise.

“We know many Kenyans in the Diaspora had looked forward to take part in the historic exercise and we have even put a legal framework for that but due to logistical, financial and time constraints, this will not be possible in the next elections,” said Wamalwa, while making a ministerial statement requested by Kibwezi MP Prof Philip Kaloki.

Kaloki had sought to know the plans the Government was making towards ensuring that the Diaspora Kenyans take part in the elections.

Registration kits allocated

But Wamalwa, despite challenges from MPs who questioned the Government’s late decision, said there was a lot that required to be done before IEBC can roll out the voter registration even in areas that Kenya has an embassy or a high commission.

“We need to conduct a census to first get the exact number of eligible Kenyans who can vote, which would require a long period which IEBC does not have. We therefore request that those who can come home to register to do it,” said Wamalwa, dismissing the 3 million figure often quoted by politicians as the number of eligible Kenyans in the Diaspora.

Karua demanded to know why the Government was cancelling the process for the Diaspora when IEBC had already set aside 47 Biometric Voter Registration kits for the purpose.

“The Government’s position comes after Parliament laboured to come up with rules to govern Diaspora voter registration and IEBC set aside kits for the purpose. We are wondering what informed this decision, doesn’t it amount to interference of the electoral body?” posed Karua.

The Chairman of the Legal Committee in Parliament Njoroge Baiya said it was unfortunate for the Government to lock out Kenyans in the Diaspora from voting, yet they continue to remit money in the country and have interests in the way the country is governed.

“It’s a retrogressive position and it’s regrettable that they had to wait till the last minute only to be disappointed,” said Baiya.

But Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo said it was appropriate to ensure that before IEBC rolls out the exercise in Diaspora, all mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the process are put in place.  “Otherwise how will you ensure that if you take these kit (BVR) in Washington, a Nigerian will not turn up to register,” said Midiwo.
Source: The Standard Online 
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