Showdown between Diaspora and IEBC:A Half Hearted Mapping
You cannot bury your head in the sand on this one. A showdown between the diaspora and IEBC is fast approaching and if it is not handled well the outcome will have a lasting effect in the diaspora. In June 2014 the Commission was directed by the court to put in place infrastructure, register Kenyans and allow them to vote in all elective positions. There remains a wide gap between what IEBC is doing to meet that directive and what Kenyans abroad expect. This crucial process is being carried out halfheartedly and with little or no effective promotion.
In fact very few Kenyans abroad know that there is mapping and registration is going on. The IEBC is
mandated to map out the diaspora in order to allocate resources fairly and to register Kenyans in an
orderly fashion. The Commission should know that for this endeavor to be successful you need people
to cooperate and for people to cooperate people need information. You cannot shove programs down
the throats of Kenyans in diaspora. Kenyan abroad demand clear, effective, thorough and accurate
information for any program associated with them to work. If IEBC provided that they will find out that
Kenyans in diaspora are more than willing to be partners and stakeholders. The feedback from IEBC
Chief executive Officer Mr. Ezra Chiloba that only about 75 Kenyans out of 3 million have responded to
the mapping is a shame. Chairman Issack Hassan has said his team is worried about the slow response.
Where is the confidence? What IEBC needs to do is to review and redefine its program missions and
professional guidelines. Find out why the response is so slow then employ critical thinkers who
demonstrate intellectual curiosity, rational inquiry with effective collaborative communication and
problem solving skills. Don’t just wallow in your worry state sir, do something you may just redeem
The first issue that arise in the diaspora is the independence of IEBC. While on a visit to the US in April,
Foreign cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed told eager Kenyans that the Government was working on
opening five consulates across this vast country to serve them better and to facilitate voting in 2017. In
another meeting the Kenyan ambassador to US Mr. Robinson Githae told the gathering that the
government had settled for Boston Massachusetts, Atlanta Georgia, Seattle Washington, Minneapolis
Minnesota and Dallas Texas to house these consulates and polling centers. Armed with the knowledge
that these cities have huge Jubilee leaning immigrants, the plan was criticized as a prerequisite for vote
rigging. Also long distances between these cities made them inaccessible to potential voters. How the
government chose the consulates and polling center locations without a complete mapping report is a
question for another day.
Electronic voting suggestion was never given a thorough investigation and this
issue will come back. However the bigger question has been the involvement of a government which
has its own survival interests with the work of a supposedly independent electoral commission.
It is common knowledge in diaspora that the slow response to mapping is caused by two basic concerns.
Insecurity and mistrust. IEBC is asking a person to release all their personal information to unsecured
site knowing very well the myriad issues people in diaspora face on a daily basis. If you are not aware of
this that just ask. To some Kenyans abroad their private information is their last line of defense. So when
you design this programs you must be sensitive to people’s situations. In actual voter registration you
may require more authenticating information but in the mapping phase, demographic survey is all that
is needed. Besides immigration status, legal issues or ID theft there is also a matter of trust. We have
been told that any information given will be held in confidence by the Commission. But we are witnesses
that IEBC is not a corruption free institution so who will be responsible and accountable for safe keeping
of these information? There are many organizations out there legal and illegal willing to pay extra for
this data and betrayal is not unheard of. A serious internal clean up job is required before IEBC can gain
credibility in the diaspora.
There is a growing perception here that IEBC is bent towards fighting the diaspora than cooperating with
it. A growing number of people believe that IEBC will drop the diaspora voting process in the last minute
citing technical or logistical reasons hence the current lukewarm approach to the whole process. Among
the telltale signs mentioned are the 47 positions the Commission created to support electoral process in
the diaspora. None of the Support Election Trainers (SETs) and Assistant Registration Officers (AROs)
went to anyone in the diaspora. To exacerbate it even further you had to be deployed in a Kenyan
mission abroad to qualify.
Talk of government interference. Continuously collaboration with the
diaspora is non-negotiable. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. There are technological innovations
by Kenyans in place that can be utilized in mapping and in voting processes if only IEBC could cooperate.
IEBC has turned down every effort at teamwork. When election time comes who is registered to vote
and where the polling center is located will be big issues of contention. People are wary that the
consulates could be used to tilt the outcome of elections and mapping could be used to cook the
allocation of resources. These things should be done in a transparently and collaboration now is not a
Kenyans in the diaspora are a vibrant lot in academics, economy, arts and sciences. Even those not there
yet are energetic and hopeful. They play a key role in Kenyan economic growth having remitted around
Ksh1.3 trillion in 2014 alone. We know that the diaspora electoral process is experimental and difficult.
No one can do it alone. This process requires consultations and input of all Kenyans in the diaspora, Civil
Society, Organizations and Parties to come to a consensus of the best international voting practices.
IEBC should not be left behind in this process.
By Yosef wa Kariuki-Diaspora Messenger contributor