NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 20 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says the Court of Appeal ruling earlier this month that it ensures Kenyans living in the Diaspora can immediately vote in all six elective positions is not realistic and will take time.
Speaking during the launch of an audit of voter registration on Friday, IEBC chairman Issack Hassan described it as a complicated process which, apart from being time consuming, will need a lot of resources.
“It is very expensive to conduct elections for the Diaspora. It is five times more expensive for a voter in the Diaspora to vote than for a Kenyan voter in the homeland. And even when we look at the cost we have incurred in the Diaspora voting in East Africa and compare it to the cost in Kenya, already we are seeing it to be very at a very high level and this is going to definitely increase the cost,” the IEBC boss stated.
While indicating that the commission has moved to the Supreme Court to seek direction on the matter, Hassan stated that the exercise needs to be conducted in a professional manner starting with the registering of all Kenyans living in the Diaspora which may take a long time.
“This word progressively is now being turned to ‘quickly,’ and so we have been told to register them and make sure that they vote for all elective positions. Some of our Diaspora left Kenya maybe 30, 20 or 40 years ago; they have lived in another country… their children have become citizens of those countries and they do not know who is the councillor for Mtito Andei or Mandera,” he said.
The IEBC chairman emphasised the need for national dialogue to be undertaken by all stakeholders to chart the way forward and says that court should only be used as a last resort.
“So when you ask the commission to prepare ballot papers for every county assembly ward in every Diaspora voting station, I think we will have an issue. I think we have to sit down with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and make sure that we have to implement this order,” he said. “But as a commission, we have appealed to the Supreme Court and we hope that they will be able to give better directions on this matter,” he explained.
The Court of Appeal had directed the electoral body to put up plans to allow Kenyans in the Diaspora to exercise their constitutional rights to vote for all candidates in future General Elections.
The court made the ruling in the case spearheaded by Shem Ochuodho, a former Member of Parliament.
The court decision said that the right to vote is a constitutional provision and should be exercised by everyone without any prejudice.
The judges had also noted that the IEBC did not have adequate funding to warrant putting enough structures and systems to allow Kenyans living in Europe, Asian counties and the rest of Africa to vote.
In September 2012, Kenyans in the Diaspora made attempts to ensure they vote in the March 4, 2013 General Election.