IEBC to Set Up Polling Stations in All Regions of US, Europe
Posted by Administrator on April 18, 2012
By Chris Wamalwa
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will establish polling stations in all regions in North America and Europe that have significant number of Kenyans to facilitate voting in the next general elections.
In a move to allay fears among Kenyans living abroad who have recently received mixed signals from Nairobi concerning their rights to vote in the next elections, the government last week dispatched Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka to the US with a message that the government intends to respect their right to vote.
“Kenyans living abroad will vote in the presidential elections. Polling will not be confined to the embassies and high commissions. Ambassadors and High Commissioners will not be returning officers because we know they are political appointees,” said Onyonka.
Addressing participants during the Diaspora Summit held on Saturday in Boston, Onyonka dispelled rumours that Kenyans abroad will have to travel to the High Commissions and Embassies to cast their votes.
This, the Diaspora had interpreted to be a strategy to disenfranchise them as the move was not only time consuming but also costly.@
Onyonka said North America will be balkanized into at least seven regions where voting will take place. This will include; New England area where Boston falls, New York-New Jersey area, the Tri- State area which is Pennsylvania-Delaware-Southern Jersey, DMV area which falls under DC-Maryland-Virginia, the Carolinas-North and South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia-Alabama-Mississippi-Louisiana areas.
Others will be Illinois,Missouri Kansas, Oklahoma areas, Iowa-Wisconsin-Michigan-Minnesota areas.
Other polling stations will be in the Texas areas- Dallas-Houston, California, Seattle Washington.
In Canada, polling stations will be in Toronto, Ontario and Ottawa. This will be in addition to the consulate stations.
Speaking to the Standard in Boston, Onyonka clarified that these were still tentative polling places as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IEBC were still analysing population trends and migration patterns of Kenyans before they make final determination.
“In this regard, we urge the Diaspora to register with our embassies and high commissions for us to have a sense of how many they were and in which part of the country of their sojourn they are settled,” he said.
He said that based on the recent pilot voting done in some areas in Mombasa, it was determined that the Diaspora will only vote for President and not at all levels as the Diaspora has demanded.
Onyonka who was accompanied on the US trip by IEBCfs vice chairperson Dr. Elizabeth Muli said IEBC will recruit and train some Kenyans in Diaspora to act as Returning Officers.
He said the ambassadors and high commissions will be confined to administrative duties and will have nothing to do with polls because they are perceived as not being neutral.
He said the government was also exploring the possibility of enlisting the services of credible poll bodies in the US and Canada to act as returning officers and observers.
“Itfs very important for the government to make sure that the polls are not just free, fair and peaceful but that they are also seen to be so,” he added.
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