Two weeks ago, a Facebook post initiated by a US-based Kenyan civil society group asked for funds to file a lawsuit compelling the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to register Kenyans living abroad ahead of the August elections.
Even though the IEBC had indicated it would start the registration from February 1, Mr David Ogega, president of Association of Kenyan Diaspora Organisations was not convinced. Speaking to the Nation soon after the launch of court initiative, Mr Ogega said the IEBC was known for shifting goalposts on diaspora voting issues.
“We must not allow the government to disenfranchise us again this time like they did in the 2013 elections. The Kenya Constitution explicitly grants universal suffrage to all eligible Kenyans, including in the diaspora, to vote. We must demand that the IEBC moves immediately to register the diaspora as voters just as it is happening at home,” Mr Ogega said.
While Mr Ogega’s team was preparing to go to court, a meeting organised by the Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) was taking place in Nairobi. It included representatives of the IEBC, the Foreign Affairs ministry and key political players. In the end, it was clear the registration would not start as scheduled but would be considered at an undisclosed date next month.
On Saturday, the commission said it will begin preparations for diaspora voter registration from February 20.
“We are beginning training for staff who will undertake registration on February 20. We will use our staff to conduct the registration,” said IEBC communications manager Andrew Limo.
Mr Limo said that the registration will start in March and that the actual date will be announced next week after consultation with political parties and other stakeholders.
Dr Shem Ochuodho, the KDA global chairman told the Nation that his group had convened the meeting to discuss with the new commissioners matters of diaspora participation in the General Election.
“The main issues for consultation include challenges to diaspora participation, policy guidelines, and logistical arrangements for registration. This meeting was also held to let key stakeholders know that they need to take the whole issue of the Diaspora vote seriously,” said Dr Ochuodho.
The two initiatives are meant to put pressure on the IEBC and the government to facilitate the registration.
Debate rages on whether investing in the diaspora vote won’t be throwing away good money after bad. This is because diaspora is spread across many countries, there seem to be no accurate data in terms of mapping to enable the IEBC to make an informed decision. Kenyans living abroad, some illegally, have also been wary of providing their personal details.