28 November 2012

Kenya: Diaspora May Not Vote, Says Wamalwa

Photo: The Star
Ballot box being emptied.

The government yesterday gave a strong indication that Kenyans in diaspora may not participate in the March 4 general election.

Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa told Parliament that the Cabinet has discussed the voting by the Kenyan diaspora and concluded that it may not be practical due to "various challenges facing the electoral commission".

Wamalwa, while issuing a ministerial statement in Parliament, said the focus by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should be addressing the various challenges it is facing in registering the targeted 18 million voters locally.

"Before we go out, let us put our house in order, let us get the 18 million voters locally," Wamalwa said. He said the issue on whether Kenyans in the diaspora must participate in the forthcoming general election was addressed by the High Court and a ruling delivered on November 15.

The court concluded that though the constitution guarantees all Kenyans the right to vote, such right is not absolute and it is not realised instantaneously, especially for those residing outside the country.

MPs however protested saying the government is usurping the powers of IEBC. Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale termed the matter as grave and accused the Cabinet of taking away the constitutional rights of Kenyans without consulting Parliament and Kenyans.

Martha Karua (Gichugu) said IEBC has already allocated 47 biometric voter registration kits to registration of voters in the diaspora. She questioned why the cabinet was taking a decision that it is impractical to have those outside the country register.

Karua said there is clear obstruction of the registration of voters in diaspora by the government which she said was a case of interference with the electoral process.

The minister told the House that IEBC should be given more time to adequately prepare for the proper registration of voters in the diaspora.

Wamalwa said it is difficult to get the exact number of Kenyans in the diaspora as many do not register with Kenyan Embassies and Consulates. He said it is a perception that there are 3 million Kenyans living abroad.

He said only 130,000 are registered at the 52 Kenyan embassies and consulates, though the government estimate the total number to be roughly 700,000.

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