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Diaspora want assurance they can vote

Posted by Administrator on January 1, 2012

File | NATION IEBC chief Isaack Hassan says the commission is doing everything possible to ensure the daispora votes.

File | NATION IEBC chief Isaack Hassan says the commission is doing everything possible to ensure the daispora votes.

The hope among some three million Kenyans living abroad that they will vote in the upcoming General Election hangs in the balance.

There is already a caveat over their heads before registration and subsequent voting is granted to them for the first time in Kenya’s history.

In an interview with Sunday Nation in Mombasa on Tuesday, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Isaack Ahmed Hassan said the elections body was drawing up legislation to enable Kenyans living abroad to participate in the elections.

“The new Constitution gives them the right to vote, but there is a caveat that should be addressed before they can vote,” he said.

Section 82(1) of the Constitution says that “Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for—(e): the progressive registration of citizens residing outside Kenya, and the progressive realisation of their right to vote.”

Through the initiative of Kenya’s ambassador in the United States of America Elkana Odembe, IBEC commissioners visited the US and met Kenyans living in different cities where the issue of registration and voting was discussed.

The commissioners also met different African ambassadors in the US to share their experiences of conducting such elections abroad, especially those of South Africas, Angolans and Zambians.

According to the chairman, their experiences were an eye-opener for the commissioners.

“We want to assure Kenyans abroad that they should not be worried as the commission will make every effort to ensure they are going to vote,” he said.

The electoral commission chairman spoke days after a group of Kenyans living in the US said they were sceptical  whether they would be able to vote in the General Election.

A US-based group, the Kenya Diaspora Vote, has already established an Internet presence to collect signatures seeking assurances from the Kenyan government that they will not be denied their constitutional right to vote.

Mr Peter Kerre, who is spearheading the push, said the petition can be found on http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/kenya-diaspora-right-to-vote.html.

Mr Hassan told the Sunday Nation that presiding over the next General Election would be an arduous task but said his team was prepared to deal with the challenges.

“Based on what happened following the 2007 elections, I must say it will be quite a challenge and heavy burden, but I am comfortable with the team of commissioners I have. We shall overcome this and conduct free and fair elections,” he said.

On civil servants planning to enter  politics, Mr Hassan explained that the law was clear that they should leave office this month if the elections are to be held in August or in May if the elections will be in December.

He said the IBEC was bent on implementing the letter and spirit of the Constitution and other relevant laws to ensure that Kenyans get quality leadership.

“We must follow the new laws on elections to the letter so those civil servants interested in political seats must leave office after the court declares the polls’ date in January,” he said.

The chairman dismissed the notion that there were new elections rules being set up, saying the commission was using only  the existing laws of the new Constitution to ensure a free and fair election.

“As Kenyans we should look back and ask ourselves what happened in 2007 so as to make sure it does not happen again because we have confidence and faith in our reformed Judiciary,” he said.

He noted that with the expected changes of the security sector for the appointment of the Inspector General of Police, two deputies and CID director this would build more confidence and faith among Kenyans.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/-/1064/1298224/-/view/printVersion/-/eb4ywc/-/index.html

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