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Diaspora Kenyans Unable to Participate in This Year's Election Feel a Bit Left Out

  • Mariama Diallo

Kenya elections (Reuters)

Kenya elections (Reuters)

Kenyans who live in the Washington, DC area say they feel a bit left out as they were not able to make their voices heard in their country’s presidential elections. This is the first election since the new constitution took effect in 2010.

Student Chief Kinaro expresses his unhappiness in not being able to take part, saying "it was disappointing that the diaspora was not given a chance to vote except for those in closed proximity like Arusha, Sudan, and Uganda. But those of us in the larger diaspora the U.S., the U.K, Australia and the United Arab Emirates we are disappointed because we expected that we could be given the chance.”

But Atieno Oduor, a governance consultant, says she understands the process was complicated and is not faulting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for not having time to set up logistics for all Kenyans in the Diaspora. “I wouldn’t blame the IEBC because there were a lot of logistical challenges. There was a lot of pressure for them to actually prepare. These elections were very complex,” she adds.

As the results trickle in, we caught up with Chris Matai at Swahili Village – a restaurant and local Kenyan hangout. Matai says either of the two front runners will do just fine for him. “I'd like to see the country move forward economically, create jobs, be secure and all these other aspects. And I think either one of the candidates has a very good chance of doing it,” he expressed.

For Mwangi Chegue, a student at the School for Advanced and International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, improving on the progress made in the last decade is his number one priority. “Whoever wins should just be able to safeguard all the reforms and progress we've made. The other thing is just pushing forward our economic development. If we can continue on the path we've been in over the past 10 years, all the livelihood of the Kenyans will be improved," Chegue says.

Atieno Oduor says Kenya is deeply divided and that national cohesion should be on top of the next leader’s agenda. "Kenya is divided right now. There's deep seeded mistrust. That tends to play out politically. I hope that whoever is the president will communicate strongly verbally and also through their actions that he's a president for all Kenyans. Moving forward, the future of Kenya really depends on how the provisions in the new constitution are going to be implemented," Oduor cautions.

Accusations that results from Monday’s national vote are being tampered with continue but Kenya’s electoral commission chief is rejecting such allegations. Ahmed Issak Hassan says because of a rigorous verification process in place, “there is no room to doctor the results whatsoever.” His comments come as candidate Raila Odinga maintains his demand for the vote counting be stopped.

Meanwhile, judges at the International Criminal Court have decided to postpone leading candidate Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial to July 9th. The date was previously set for April 11th. For student Chief Kinaro, the ICC indictment only gave Kenyatta an extra push, saying “actually the ICC issue played to the advantage of Mr. Kenyatta. What Kenyans have done is to say, we don’t care about the ICC.”

Violence has been reported earlier in certain parts of Mombasa. And Chris Matai blames the foreign media for what he called a hunger for violence. "I have seen the desperation of the foreign media to try and jump at anything that resembles any type of violence. I would like for them to calm down their thirst for blood okay. The blood is not always a big story peace can also be a big story,” Matai says.

Margaret Kamba is a banker. She says she’s been praying for the best possible scenario. "Moving forward I expect to see more democracy and power to the people and progress in that country," she adds.

This week’s elections will determine Kenya’s next president as well as future senators and governors. Election officials have said turnout was more than 70 percent of the 14.3 million eligible voters. For the presidential candidates to win, a contender must receive a plurality of the vote (meaning 50 plus 1 percent) – or compete in the runoffs in April.
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