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Archive for December 16th, 2011

How Will Kenyans In The Diaspora Vote In 2012?

Posted by Administrator on December 16, 2011

Retired Major James Oswago, Kenya’s interim   Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission was last weekend in America’s Midwest selling Kenya’s elections to the Diaspora in America on Jamhuri Day. According to a brief posted on the Kenya Embassy website by our Ambassador in the USA, attendance was quite impressive-over 600 delegates representing virtually every state in the United States were present.

The Kenyan Constitution is very clear on the relationship between our relatives in America. It will empower them to vote just like the Americans and South Sudanese have done in the past. The Americans are allowed to vote electronically wherever they may be all over the globe. Sudanese had their votes cast during the referendum in booths erected by the Sudan Embassy officials and in the case of Kenya, with support from the Kenya government.

The constitution also provides that once the necessary laws are enacted, any Kenyan who might have opted for American or any other citizenship will be allowed to reclaim the motherland’s citizenship without renouncing the citizenship of the adopted country.

As the Retired Major was battling with his fellow Kenyans abroad on the basics of the constitution, he had an opportunity to meet face to face with the Diaspora mindset about Kenyans. According to credible Daily Nation news sources that reported the proceedings almost immediately, Oswago was reported to have been frustrated by some questions asked about the Election Law during the forum where he was supposed to collect their views on the 202 elections.

According to the newspaper reports, he is reported to have lamented that Kenyans in the US had either not read the Constitution or just did not understand what is contained in it. The IEBC Chief Executive was further frustrated by the level of questions asked at the forum in Dallas, Texas during his team’s tour.

A participant, for example, sought to know the impact on Kenyans in the Diaspora a requirement in the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2011 which provides for a fine of up to Ksh 500,000 and a prison term not exceeding three years for a dual citizen who fails to disclose his newly acquired status within six months. Baffled by the question, Oswago asked the questioner where in the constitution he had read that because clearly the CEO had never seen that kind of clause in the Constitution.

Another area of contention was the suggestion by Mr. Oswago that ambassadors can be used as Diaspora Returning Officers. The forum rejected this offer outright. Two things could have necessitated this rejection. One, it would be costly to the voters. Two, just like in Kenya, the Diasporians are partisan and equally biased. I do not see a G7 supporter trusting that an ODM appointed ambassador would be a credible Returning Officer! The same would apply where a PNU appointed ambassador would preside over the election. ODM faithful would take that with a pinch of salt.

As Oswago was in Midwest fielding questions from Kenyans in the Diaspora, four IEBC Commissioners were with me in South Africa attending the East and Southern Africa Electoral Bodies Forum. In our forum, the issue of how to manage the Diaspora vote for all African countries came up several times.

Uppermost in our mind was the daunting task of managing the process of getting the Diaspora to vote. If you talk to any Kenyans at home, all they know about the Diaspora are Kenyans who live in the USA. You cannot get them to conceptualize that Kenyans living and working in Somalia, the DRC, Uganda, and South Sudan and even in Timbuktu are also Diasporians.

Another mountain to climb is to actually know the population of our brothers and sisters living abroad. Outrageous figures like 3,000,000 have been bandied around from time to time such as the latest Dallas forum. The reality is different. No one, no organization not even the Embassy in DC has any idea how many Kenyans live in the USA. And the reason we cannot get this accurate figure regularly is understandable. Yes, there are many professional and distinguished Kenyans working and doing honest jobs in America.

Yes, many Kenyans in America are again rumored to be dispensing millions of dollars every year back home to invest and support their families back home. However, there many, even a bigger number  in America for one reason or the other, doing odd jobs to survive and are therefore reluctant to register with their embassy in Washington.

As an illegal immigrant in the US, you constantly live with the trauma of a knock at your door when Homeland Security agents come calling. This state of uncertainty makes it impossible for our brothers and sisters without papers to volunteer information about them because you never know when Security intelligence will scrutinize or even hack the Embassy’s information data base.

Where the IEBC has no accurate figures of Kenyans eligible to vote, how will they prepare voting materials enough for the exercise? Assuming that the Diasporians will not accept the IEBC suggestion that all eligible Kenyans would travel to DC from Alaska, Washington State, North West and Midwest to vote; does the IEBC have the resources to mount polling stations in every state in the USA?

And seeing the level of misinformation displayed at the Dallas forum last weekend, is the IEBC in a position and capable of mounting voter education across the fifty states in the USA? And as the IEBC preoccupies itself with the American vote, what will happen to Kenyans in South Africa, the Middle East, Darfur, DRC, Rumbek, Ireland, China and Malaysia?

Knowing that the 2012 is replete with  multiple problems even here at home and that even the IEBC  does not know when it will conduct elections, can we defer this Diaspora vote to 2017 when the IEBC will have sorted its logistics and resources out? Can we give election problems facing us at home more attention and deal with the Diaspora issue at a later date?

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/opinions/jerry-okungu/54287-how-will-kenyans-in-the-diaspora-vote-in-next-years-elections


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Diaspora Will Only Vote For The President

Posted by Administrator on December 16, 2011

Kenyans in the diaspora will only be allowed to vote for presidential candidates in 2012, IEBC chairman Ahmed Issack has announced. They will not be able to vote for MPs, senators, or governors.

However voters in Kenya will be able to pick six candidates in the first election under the new constitution. They will vote for president, MP, governor, senator, women representative and county representative.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack was talking at Brooklyn town hall in Minnesota yesterday. The IEBC is currently on a week-long tour of the United States to share views with the diaspora on registration and voting. At a later stage diaspora voters will vote in referendums. If that is successful, they will then be allowed to participate in parliamentary and senate elections.

Issack said embassies and consulates will act as polling stations while ambassadors and their deputies will be hired as returning and presiding officers for the independent commission.

Ambassadors are arbitrarily appointed by the executive and many are ex-politicians who have been of immense help to the current system. Some analysts question how independent they would be as returning officers.

Article 83 of the constitution sets only three conditions for Kenyans to register as voters. They must be adult citizens, of sound mind and have no conviction for an election offense in the preceding five years.

The article says administrative arrangements for registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall not deny an eligible citizen the right to vote or stand for election. Article 82 however says, “Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for the progressive registration of citizens residing outside Kenya, and the progressive realization of their right to vote.”

Issack urged all Kenyans living abroad to register with their embassies. He assured the meeting that their information will be kept confidential. “We don’t care if you are an illegal immigrant here. We know some of you came here as students and are doing all manner of things now. All that we are saying is that if you have a passport or and ID, then register with our embassies so that you can vote,” he said.

Many Kenyans abroad cannot home because their visas have expired, particularly those in the USA. It is estimated more than 3 million Kenyans abroad remit close to Sh100bn annually to the Kenyan economy.

Issack said the ongoing reforms in the judiciary and police are a sign that the IEBC will deliver free and fair elections. He vowed that Kenya will no longer be used as an example of a country that holds poor elections.

The IEBC acting CEO James Oswago told the packed hall that Kenya’s proposal was inexpensive unlike India which requires its citizens to return home to vote. Most of those at the meeting said they would prefer to have polling stations in strategic locations across the USA instead of travelling to Washington DC or New York to vote.

The IEBC believes it will be a challenge to complete voter registration in time because constituency boundaries are still being delimited. The IEBC has so far registered 12.4 million voters but is targeting 8 million more. “It means that some voters will have to be transferred to the polling stations of their choices when the exercise is over.

Yet waiting for the boundaries to be determined first before embarking on voter registration, could mean delaying the publishing of the voter register and subsequently elections,” Issack said. All voter registration must come to an end 90 days before elections.

Voters will be given 90 days to inspect the register and confirm their details. So voter registration must be completed six months before the elections.

Source- http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/54186-diaspora-to-only-vote-for-president

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