Capital FM (Nairobi)

18 December 2012

East Africa: Registration Extended for Diaspora Kenyans

Nairobi — Kenyans living in the East African region will now be enlisted through the Biometric Voter Registration process until December 25.

The registration exercise started in Dar es Salaam and Arusha on Friday where everyone who is 18 years of age and with a valid passport is allowed to register.

Those only holding Kenyan identification cards, could only be registered if they visited registration centres in border towns ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

Earlier this month, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) announced that only Kenyans in the EA region will be allowed to register for the March 4 poll.

IEBC chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan explained that it was a logistical nightmare to list Kenyans in other parts of the world.

In Uganda, the registration booths will be in Kampala at the Kenya High Commission while in Tanzania registration will be held in Dar es Salaam and Arusha at the Kenya High Commission and at the Naura Springs Hotel.

Registration in Rwanda will take place in Kigali at the Kenyan Embassy, while in Burundi registration booths will be set up in Bujumbura at the Kenyan mission.

All registration areas will be open from 8am to 5pm.

The decision to omit some Kenyans in the Diaspora from voting was received with strong opposition as representatives asked the IEBC to respect the right of Kenyans abroad to vote, while others threatened to turn to the court to compel the electoral body to register them as voters.

Hassan explained that logistical problems and time constraints made it difficult for the commission to enlist voters overseas in time for the elections under the new Constitution.

The move is a blow to presidential aspirants who have been competing for Diaspora votes, which analysts had suggested was enough to influence the votes in a closely contested election.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said that the government is working out mechanisms to remove logistical constraints that have hindered Kenyans in the Diaspora from voting.

He emphasised that it was unfortunate that those outside Kenya will not vote in 2013 elections.

"Right now, it's unfortunate that Kenyans living abroad will not vote owing to challenges facing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, but arrangements are being made for them to participate in this important exercise in 2017," he said.

Speaking at the All Saints Cathedral during the requiem mass of Benson Mwangi who passed on in the United States, the premier said that the government has deliberately made efforts to develop structures and incentives that will ultimately harness the full potential of Kenyans living abroad.

"We recognise the role the Diaspora plays in national development that is why we have highlighted Diaspora as one of the flagship projects under the financial sector in our vision 2030. It is for the same reason that I created Diaspora desk in my office," he explained.

He noted that in the last few years, the Diaspora has played a huge role in national development through their remittances that exceed one billion dollars annually and continue to increase on yearly basis.

Most Kenyans in the Diaspora are concentrated in Western Europe and North America.

The IEBC hoped to register 18 million voters between November 19 and December 18, but the commission says that it has only registered 12.7 million voters as of December 16.

Hassan has insisted the commission will not extend the deadline for listing voters, although it remains clear the 18 million voter mark will not be achieved.

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