NAIROBI, Kenya: The Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) consists of forty six (46) Kenyan diaspora organizations around the globe. Over the decades, we have made much effort to champion the course, the rights and the privileges of Kenyans in the diaspora as provided for by the Kenyan Constitution, latest being the 2010 Constitution.
Though not sufficient, we welcome IEBC’s decision to add eight (8) more countries among those where diaspora will be registered to vote. With regard to the scheduled enhanced continuous voter registration (ECVR), we however have serious concerns and misgivings, that unless are addressed, we believe this will be just another futile exercise ostensibly to enfranchise diaspora.
(i) That the diaspora have only been given 15 days to register as voters yet other citizens in Kenya have been given 3 weeks, over and above the ECVR session that was carried out late last year, as well as the continuous voter registration at IEBC constituency offices that diasporas don’t enjoy. This discrepancy in the time limits and denies the Kenyans in the diaspora a fair opportunity to register in their numbers.
(ii) That some of the diaspora quarters now listed for registration cover large areas spanning states, counties and continents. This means that the Kenyan who wishes to vote must travel over long distance and often expensively to register as a voter. The Kenyan Embassies and High Commissions ear marked as registration centres are inadequate, and logistically challenging for Kenyans who have to travel long distances to register, and in some cases
have to pay handsomely to stay at hotels in expensive cities. This in itself negates the spirit and objective of the exercise.
(iii)That the KDA and affiliated organizations are not adequately consulted and involved in supporting the noble exercise for the common good. There also seem to be selective partnership and collaboration between Embassies and some Kenyan diaspora organizations in supporting this exercise. IEBC and
the Embassies should include in their engagements all major diaspora communities and their leaderships for best results. KDA being the only Kenyan diaspora formation with a global footprint remains open to assist, through structured formal engagement. Our senior members are also willing to offer their resources and infrastructures (including Office space, transport. logistics, monitoring/observation, etc, for electoral officials) where need be.
It is our considered view that the following steps should urgently be taken by IEBC to ensure that the right of Kenyans in the diaspora to exercise their democratic right to elect leaders of their choice are not denied, curtailed or diminished:-
- That more registration and voting stations be provided just like it is for the Citizens in Kenya to improve access to registration. Where tenable, mobile registration should be conducted in places with high concentration of Kenyans, e.g. Johannesburg (RSA), Minneapolis, Boston (USA), Manchester (UK), among others.
- IEBC should immediately revoke and renounce the irregular demand that diasporas in some jurisdictions can only vote with valid passports; the Constitution is very clear that a citizen can register to vote with either a valid passport or national ID.
- IEBC should urgently engage concerned sister government agencies to expedite issuance, re-issuance of IDs and issuance or renewal of expired passports to facilitate the process.
- That the use of technology including the registration through secure mobile or online platforms (e.g. e-citizen, i-vote.net and other acceptable online registration) be explored. After all, IEBC is already using some form ‘electronic voting’ technology, so lack of legislation isn’t enough excuse.
- That more time be given for registration as voters to be fair and even with other citizens. We recommend six (6) weeks at a minimum.
- That IEBC should consult constructively with leading, known Kenyan Diaspora formations so that the exercise of such rights is maximized. It should ensure that only credible organizations are involved in their jurisdictions, to prevent the risk of any irregularities, malpractices and misuse of privilege that could later lead to contestations and/or litigations.
We are committed to fulfill our civic duty and will not hesitate to contribute toward the success of Diaspora voting and taking any necessary actions to prevent any breach of the Kenyan Constitution as far as diaspora voting is concerned. Where need be, we shall continue to seek for justice, fairness and equity for our people using all lawful and acceptable means to ensure that Kenyans in the diaspora are enfranchised to exercise their inalienable democratic rights to the maximum, as enshrined especially in Article 83(3) of the Constitution.