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Kenyans in diaspora have the right to vote

Posted by Administrator on March 4, 2012

By Samuel Kivuitu

It is commendable to note the concern shown for Kenyans in diaspora. They have always been entitled to register as voters and to vote, but do so within Kenya for reasons which politicians know.

It is encouraging to read about the efforts been made to enable them to realise this dream.

The only hitch is that these efforts are not being done by an independent and responsible body but by a Government ministry or ministries with presidential candidates.

That does not correspond with the Constitution nor can it be welcome to election candidates who are outside the Government circles. Besides, these Kenyans are not the only ones who are disadvantaged during election.

And yet the kind gusto with which their election fate is being pushed may be detrimental to these other groups.

During national elections many police officers are engaged in guarding the election equipment, materials and officials. Others provide necessary security for the exercise. This they do in areas where they are not registered as voters.

As a result they never vote. Same fate befalls the military personnel who are never likely to be at the right places to vote. Even the election officials, especially, the returning officers, their deputies and assistants, and with the new IEBC’s practice, the presiding officers. The total numbers of these groups run to more than 100,000 voters. But, even if they were fewer, the Constitution and the laws demand that they be facilitated to vote.

Besides those officials there are others who have to be provided for.

These are, for example, those who most travel out of the country on the Election Day, the sick in hospitals, the prisoners and the nomadic communities who, for legitimate reasons, cannot possibly be at their registered polling stations. It must also be observes that it is time we made it easy (simple) for voters with disabilities e.g. the blind and deaf to cast their votes in a manner which is conducive to their conditions or state.

The diaspora vote may be attractive on account of the numbers. But these poor localised Kenyans have a right to vote. It is not negotiable. Indeed, whereby for the diaspora Kenyans, the voting window is required to be opened progressively, thus allowing for flexibility and option, the rights of these others is absolute.

Mr Kivuitu is former chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya

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