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Kenya Electoral Body to Decide Voting Status of Diaspora Citizens

  • Peter Clottey

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (R) registers as a voter before launching the nationwide, one-month biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise in the capital Nairobi, November 19, 2012, targeting over 18 million voters ahead of the March 4 General Election.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (R) registers as a voter before launching the nationwide, one-month biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise in the capital Nairobi, November 19, 2012, targeting over 18 million voters ahead of the March 4 General Election.

Kenyan justice and constitution minister says the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will make an official decision Friday on the voting status of citizens living abroad.

But Minister Eugene Wamalwa says the government stands by its decision that logistical challenges will make it impossible for Kenyans in the diaspora to register to vote in the March 4 poll.

“[The] time remaining is not sufficient to enable IEBC [to] put in place the necessary mechanism, systems and logistics to enable all Kenyans abroad to vote,” said Wamalwa.

“That’s what Cabinet looking at the situation and the challenges the IEBC is facing currently supports that perhaps it might not be possible to have Kenyans in the Diaspora to vote immediately, in these elections. But, for the necessary preparations to be put in place to be able to enjoy this rights at the next general election.”

A group of Kenyans living abroad expressed outrage and have threatened legal action after accusing the government of undermining their right to vote as enshrined in the constitution.

They have demanded to be allowed to register and vote in Kenya’s embassies and consulates where they reside.

“It was proposed that we have registration take place in all the embassies and high commissions,” said Wamalwa. “But, there are many countries that do not have these embassies across the world. And as which one will vote and which Kenyans will be left out is really a challenge for now. So it is proper to allow for proper preparations to be done to ensure that once the mechanisms are in place in the system, they will be able to enjoy this right.”

The IEBC is compiling a list of voters for the elections next year and the registration process is scheduled to end on December 19. The electoral body insists the registration period will not be extended.

Wamalwa rejected accusations that the government’s decision on citizens abroad amounts to dictatorship akin to a banana republic. Kenyans abroad contend that the government’s decision contravenes the constitution.

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