Kenyans in the diaspora have given the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 30 days to register them as voters.
For over a decade now, they have agitated for their right to vote but with little success.
They formed the ‘Kenya Diaspora Must Vote (KDMV),’ a volunteer public-private campaign, to push for the implementation of their demand ahead of the elections in 2022.
In a five-point demand letter also copied to the Chief Registrar, Supreme Court of Kenya, the Kenyans want a written confirmation and specific assurance of the steps the IEBC has taken to comply with the order of the Supreme Court for the electoral body to ensure they are registered to vote.
“This letter shall serve as a final notice to the IEBC to demonstrate a clear roadmap to implement the constitutional provisions on Diaspora voting and honour the Supreme Court Orders within 30 days from the date herein lest we move with maximum speed to hold the commission's officials in contempt of court,” it states.
They explained that the Constitution reaffirmed and entrenched the right to vote in law, but that aspect has been systematically undermined, specifically by the agency that is charged with the responsibility to implement this constitutional requirement.
Dissatisfied with the IEBC’s failure to discharge its constitutional mandate, the Kenya Diaspora Alliance—one of the Diaspora organisations—and other civil society groups, petitioned the Supreme Court on the matter.
In 2015, the court ordered the IEBC to comply with and implement the law as specified in the Constitution.
“Your kind attention is drawn to the landmark decision in New Vision Kenya (NVK Mageuzi) & 3 Others v. Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission & 4 Others, and the orders issued by the Court. Instead, IEBC embarked on games that were calculated to defeat the court order,” the letter states.
“And here we mean Kenyans living not only in Eastern Africa but [across the globe]."
It was signed by officials of the movement including Henry Ongeri (Chairman), Richard Ooga (Vice- Chair), Rosemary Musumba (Treasurer) and Charles Michira (Secretary) demands that IEBC publishes its plans and arrangements to register eligible Kenyans living in the diaspora.
Other members of the movement are Peter Makori, Elijah Magutu, Adhiambo Doris Adera, Jeremy Ongeri and Huldah Hintsley.
Another demand is for the electoral commission to release its budgetary allocations for the registration of voters and facilitation of voting by Kenyans in the diaspora ahead of 2022.
“IEBC should stop sending Kenyans in the diaspora on a wild goose chase by selectively facilitating Kenyans who live in Eastern Africa to vote at the expense of others who live overseas,” directs the letter.
The group said the IEBC decided to circumvent the law by selectively registering Kenyans living within the borders of Africa, in isolation of those domiciled overseas — Europe, USA and other far-flung destinations.
“The IEBC presented these selectively registered voters in East Africa to claim that their voting represented the entire Kenyan diaspora,” the letter states.
They explained that the selective registration of Kenyans in the Diaspora to participate in voting is contrary to the constitutional guidelines and the Supreme Court orders.
To date, neither the Constitutional requirements nor the Supreme Court orders have been implemented by the IEBC.
“No person nor agency has been held to account for this gross disregard of the Constitution and disobedience of Kenya’s Supreme Court orders," the letter says.
"This disobedience of the law has disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Kenyans eligible to vote in the 2013 and 2017 general elections. We do not wish to see a repeat of this despicable trend, but it is evident that the IEBC is hell-bent on maintaining the status quo."
The KDMV officials noted that their only objective is to advocate for and ensure adherence to the law, not only by the IEBC but also by the Kenyan government and other public service agencies.
“Ours is an all-volunteer public-private campaign for necessary action ahead of the elections in 2022. We are demanding that the IEBC follows the letter, spirit and vision/mission of the law. We are committed to this cause because we believe it is our civic duty,” said Mr Ongeri, the chairman.
In the US, the KDMV coordinates volunteers through regional centers based in Minneapolis, New York City, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles and Washington DC.
The movement is seeking volunteer leaders in Canada, Europe, Middle East, China, Japan, Australia and Africa.
“KDMV and its partners are ready and willing to provide information and any other necessary support that the IEBC may need to achieve this shared objective,” reads the letter.