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Kenyans in US do not understand the constitution, says electoral boss

Posted by Administrator on December 12, 2011

Chief Electoral Officer and current Chief Executive Officer of the Electoral Commission and Boundaries Commission, James Oswago and Commissioner Yusuf Nzibo address Kenyans in Dallas during the Jamhuri day celebrations.

Chief Electoral Officer and current Chief Executive Officer of the Electoral Commission and Boundaries Commission, James Oswago and Commissioner Yusuf Nzibo address Kenyans in Dallas during the Jamhuri day celebrations.

By ANTONY KARANJA in DALLAS, TX

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission interim boss James Oswago lamented that Kenyans in the US are either not reading the constitution or just do not understand what is contained therein.

Oswago said he was disappointed by the level of questions posed at a forum in Dallas, Texas during his team’s tour to educate as well as collect views from Kenyans before the electoral body begins drawing up legislation to enable an estimated three million Kenyans living abroad to vote in the 2012 polls.

The forum was organized by the Midwest Diaspora Advisory Council as part of the Jamhuri day celebrations.

Oswago was accompanied by commissioner Yusuf Nzibo.

“My take from this forum was that either Kenyans here have not read the constitution or they simply do not understand what is contained therein,” Oswago told Jambonewspot.com and the Daily Nation  moments after the event. “The disagreements we were having in there were low level.”

Oswago who was appointed as the electoral commission interim boss last month was clearly frustrated by some questions posed by the forum attendees.

During the question and answer session, a forum attendee sought to know from Oswago the impact on Kenyans in the Diaspora due to a requirement in the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act 2011 which provides for a fine of up to Sh500,000 and a prison term not exceeding 3 years or both for a dual citizen who fails to disclose their newly acquired status within six months.

Oswago who seemed baffled by the question shot back asking whether the questioner had his facts right.

“Who is going to fine you Sh500,000 and where did you get that from?,” he asked the questioner. “I have read the constitution and I have not seen anything like that.”

His answer clearly did not sit well with many in the room as a chorus of “it’s in there” came from all around as Oswago kept on challenging the attendees to prove him wrong by pulling it up on the internet.

He moved on when no one was able to pull it up.

Part III subsection 2 of the Act stipulates that “Every dual citizen shall be under an obligation to make full disclosure of his other citizenship in the prescribed manner within six (6) months of acquiring such other citizenship.”

Part III subsection 3 reads “A dual citizen who shall fail to make full disclosure of his dual citizenship inthe prescribed manner shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding Kshs 500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years and or both.

The Act however does not clarify what the prescribed manner is.

The forum attendees also shot down suggestions by Oswago that ambassadors can be used as Diaspora returning officers.

When asked after the event whether he had any preliminary plans on where polling stations would be set uparound the US, Oswago said that those who want to vote could travel to Washington DC to cast their votes “for starters.”

“I am not suggesting that you should all go to Washington DC to cast your votes but you people are not giving us any answers.” Oswago said. “If we do not get answers from you, we will write the legislation the way we want.”

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13 Responses to “Kenyans in US do not understand the constitution, says electoral boss”

  1. cnimm said

    If this man came all the way kutusomea, then he wasted tax payers’ money. Maybe he has realized that his preferred candidate is not popular in the diaspora and is trying to scuttle those votes. If Disporans put pressure on the government, this man will be writing resumes in January 2012. Can we try?

  2. Ndiritu said

    As i was listening to these people last Saturday i came to realize that Kenyans are still being taken for granted by these people and the people who appointed them. If they really wanted our input as to what should be done,then two hours is not enough to collect those view. what i think they are doing is to just come here to fulfill an obligation with no intention of involving the diaspora in any of there plans and this makes me really angry. Personally i don’t think these people want the diaspora to vote,going by what i heard from them, simply put i think somebody have already decided that the diaspora will not vote. Mr Oswago has not also read the constitution as he accuses as or he’s very ignorant.

    Ndiritu,DallasTexas

  3. mwangi said

    Now this is a typical kenyan policy maker “we will write it the way we want!!!!” damn and so why waste money coming all the way to the usa to say that! secondly he is not serious refuting what is in the doc he thinks he is dealing with illiterate guys! even the mama mbogas in the village know haki yaoo! am sure the diaspora will not vote because someone somewhere is fearing their input!!

  4. sam said

    Guys….take a deep breath. I kinda see his point. Many kenyans in Diaspora DONT know anything. They are just comparing kenya with other countries, which is wrong. Many don’t know how to differenciate btn kenya(a young democracy) and their current countries of citizenship. I honestly believe that the diaspora vote is not a good idea right now. May be 2017 coz as long as the systems are no in place, the votes will be stolen and pple will cry wolf forever! If you really want to vote. Take a flight back home and vote like everybody else. Also the nonsense of being represented in parliament….it doesn’t make sense. Many pple left kenya on a bad note. So stay where you are and stop being like a fisi…your legs everywhere!

  5. joy said

    I agree with Sam the systems are not in place yet for the diaspora vote for now. Hopefully by 2017, other then that it will be the same old same old and the votes of the diaspora will be both rigged or stolen. Best bet is to take a flight and vote like every other local mwanainchi. All i can pray is for a peaceful and fair election come 2012.

  6. leo said

    Do this guy,james oswago remind a Diasporian something called syokimau demolation.This are the people we need to wipe out. They are abnoxious. They own our country and they think they own us too.

  7. kingori said

    Iam glad this fool was asked the hard questions

  8. Wambui Gaitho said

    People should debate this without name calling. Calling someone a fool is childish. Grow up.

    • kingori said

      Wambui,let me rephrase my comment,This idiot should answer the questions asked by my fellow comrades in the Diaspora.

  9. Mkosa kabila said

    Kenyans in the Diaspora may not vote in 2012 elections;

    http://m.standardmedia.co.ke/headlines.php?id=2000047435

    Published on 28/11/2011

    By Chris Wamalwa in USA

    Thousands of Kenyans living abroad may be locked out of the 2012 general elections due to the slow implementation of provisions dealing with dual citizenship, a leading Kenyan US based lawyer has said.

    Immigration lawyer, Regina Njogu of Washington, DC who has been working closely with the Task Force on Citizenship and Related Provisions now fears if the Task Force does not fast track dual citizenship acquisition, at least 1.5 million Kenyans will not vote.

    Those to be affected are Kenyans who lost their citizenship after they acquired the citizenship of other countries.

    Under the new Constitution, such Kenyans can only regain their Kenyan citizenship by applying.

    Immigration lawyer Regina Njogu of Washington, DC [PHOTO: CHRIS WAMALWA/STANDARD]

    Section 14(5) of the constitution and Part III article 10 in the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2011 require that Kenyans who lost their citizenship must apply to regain it and become dual citizens.

    The Task Force on Citizenship and Related provisions, which falls under the Ministry of Immigration is mandated with setting the procedures and fees for the application process.

    “The Task Force is moving at a slow pace and it is not known whether the application process will be set early enough to allow all those Kenyans that want to regain their Kenyan citizenship apply in time to register to vote,” she said.

    Njogu said that continued delay would cause logistical problems since the adjudicating body -The Cabinet Secretary- charged with the responsibility of processing applications will be swamped with applications that they will have to go through within a short period.

    “Given that those applying to regain citizenship are based abroad and the applications will be adjudicated in Kenya, that will obviously contribute to delays in receiving and sending back approvals,” she said.

    Most of those Kenyans that will be affected are based in the US, Canada and Western Europe, regions where large populations of Kenyans have emigrated to and settled, even acquiring citizenships of their host countries.

    This revelation comes at a time when the electoral commission (IELB) team led by its chairman Ahmed Hassan is set visit the US.

    The team will be in the US between December 4 and 14 this year to educate Kenyans on elections law and process.

    The next step will be voter registration of those eligible to vote across the Diaspora.

    At the time of voter registration, those that will not have applied to regain their lost Kenyan citizenship or those whose applications will not have been approved will not be able to register as voters.

    Voter registration is expected to begin in the Diaspora in the next few months. †

    Kenyans living in the US interviewed by The Standard said they feared missing out on the elections.

    “If anybody including the government of Kenya tries to disenfranchise me, I’ll sue them in the High Court, the UN and even the ICC. We have fought for these rights so hard for long for anybody to joke around with them,” said Khalid Rajab of Darby, Pennsylvania.

    With an estimated population of 3.1 millions most of who are eligible voters, the Diaspora has become a new ground for vote hunting by presidential candidates.

  10. Kara Teena said

    And of the diaspora millions quoted above that cannot embark on a flight to Kenya to vote without getting a massive headache upon return to the US in particular, then what?

    I thank God I can up and leave, reenter, but there are many more friends that cannot. So this was supposed to have been a solution of sorts for that group of people. On the other hand, its amazing how folks can be in their thirties and beyond, and you will always be a child to some of these folks-with nothing monumental to say. That is one thing about Kenya and that elder/young person dynamic that I cant stand.

  11. nyar sifuna said

    The Kenyan big men have made careers using irrelevant words and terms….hence this man’s problem. He comes to the US to tell us tall tales that he is unable to explain explicitly.

    Have u fellow diasporans noticed that any time u ask a Kenyan “Liida” specifics they get angry, what does that tell you? Nothing in the head. They just want to talk about commissions set up, implemented, advised, rolled out…ask specifics…temper rises.

    Just wait, si they are coming, just ask specific questions like you ask ur US congressman. My congressman will tell me why the pot-hole by my walgreens is taking long, to the last detail.

    Ndo tunaskia tu year in year out, better education, water, food, wealth…ask how? Vita nod utapata.

  12. Mkosa kabila said

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/kenya-diaspora-right-to-vote.html

    Kenya Diaspora Right to Vote
    Published by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2011
    20 Signatures [View this Petition’s Signature Map]
    [Sign Petition]
    Target: GLOBAL
    Region: GLOBAL
    Sign the petition

    Background (Preamble):
    Per the New Kenyan Constitution
    ======================================================
    Section 82(1): Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for—(e): the progressive registration of citizens residing outside Kenya, and the progressive realization of their right to vote.
    ======================================================

    Kenya’s newly elected Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission board recently visited Kenya Diasporans in the USA. In the various cities they visited, the Chief Electoral Officer ( CEO ) James Oswago, repeatedly pointed out that the purpose of their trip was to pick Diaspora minds on how to move forward with the voting process for the Diaspora since the new constitution gave Kenyan citizens outside the country the right to vote. The ironic thing is that he would then be followed on the podium by chairman Isaack Hassan, who would sing a totally different song and instead of trying to pick Diaspora minds, would go right into declaring what they felt was the best way for Diaspora Kenyans to vote.

    He ruled out online voting and several other methods and seemed firmly set on stating that they would recommend Diaspora Kenyans travel to vote at the Embassy and consulates in Los Angeles and New York. He also mentioned that the Embassy officials would act as voting agents. He also said diasporans would only be able to vote for the presidential race and not any other races. If implemented, this process will hinder free and fair elections by Kenyans in the Diaspora for several reasons, two main ones are mentioned below:

    *In the USA, the average cost of travelling to any of the said cities, along with accommodation will be upwards of USD $500. This process will have to be done twice: For voter registration and for voting. This in essence prevents any Kenyan citizen without approximately $1000 USD to spare from voting, which means the election is NOT free. Outside the USA, there are several other large countries with large Kenyan populations that will face the same dilemma e.g. Canada, India, Australia, e.t.c.
    *Ambassadors to the Kenyan Embassy and missions are political appointees. Having them serve as voting agents would be a conflict of interest and this does not promise a FAIR election process

    Per the constitution:

    Section 82 (2): Legislation required by clause (1) (d) shall ensure that voting
    at every election is—
    (a) simple;
    (b) transparent; and
    (c) takes into account the special needs of—
    (i) persons with disabilities; and
    (ii) other persons or groups with special needs.

    All the above would be violated if they proposed a measure to require Kenyans to fly to the 3 states to register and vote.

    When these concerns were brought up, the IEBC board then resorted to using different tools of manipulation by playing with the word “Progressive” which is used in the constitution clause. In essence, the word progressive was now being used as a weapon, as he said that the term progressive gave them the power to rule out any process they felt could not be implemented within the time frame they have.

    What this means is that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission can wake up tomorrow and give the minimal effort to enable diasporans to vote, and say that it will be a progressive progress, as long as at least a small bunch can vote in 2012. Their words seem to hint at them planning to do just that, hence the ridiculous suggestions that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans converge on a tiny embassy or consulate on a single day to cast a vote in an election overlooked by a political appointee.

    We REJECT this attempt at manipulation of the constitution to deny us our right to freely and willfully vote

    We demand that the Kenyan Government explore all options available to ensure the most convenient voting process is set up, preferably online voting. If online voting cannot be implemented and we have to resort to specified Diaspora polling stations, there should be a process in place to ensure that polling stations are conveniently spread out in accessible locales where Kenyan citizens living abroad can travel to vote without incurring any expenses. For the USA, some of these cities (which have large populations) include:
    Dallas, Tx
    Minneapolis, MN
    Atlanta, GA
    Kansas City, MO
    Colombus, OH
    Seattle, WA
    Other diaspora cities across the world TBD

    The Kenya govt can swear in voting officers from the hundreds of thousands of diaspora abroad if need be. Do not deny us our right to vote
    Petition:
    We, the undersigned, call on the Kenyan government to ensure that the Kenyan Diaspora are allowed their constitutional right to vote in the 2012 elections without any attempt to implement a process that knowingly imposes measures that will prevent a free, fair, and convenient registration and voting process

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