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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Diaspora One Voice Consortium send petition on three issues to IEBC, wins one

Diaspora One Voice Consortium send petition on three issues to IEBC, wins one
Dr. Robert Chiuri, OVC President (Left) and Prof. Peter Ndiang’ui, OVC Director of Operations (Right): Diaspora One Voice Consortium send petition on three issues to IEBC, wins one

The Diaspora One Voice Consortium (OVC) this week issued a petition to the EIBC. Diaspora OVC comprises of leaders of more than 80 Diaspora organizations spread out all over the world. The petition lodged by OVC contained three issues: use of national ID to register and vote, expansion of voting centers and extension of voter registration period. The petition was submitted to Chrispine Owaye, the IEBC Acting Director of Legal and Public Affairs and the Commissioner representing United States Justus Nyang’aya. It was signed by OVC President, Dr. Robert Chiuri of Columbus Ohio and OVC Director of Operations, Professor Peter Ndiang’ui of Fort Myers Florida.

Following the petition and a court case submitted by other organizations, Justice Mrima of the Kenyan Judiciary ruled that Kenyans in the Diaspora can use the National ID to register to vote. In an interview, both Dr. Chiuri and Prof Ndiang’ui stated that they were hopeful that the other two issues of the petition will be addressed and be accepted by IEBC. They are holding conversations with Commissioner Nyang’aya and other commissioners.

The current situation is that Kenyans can only register and vote if they travel to the Embassy in Washington DC and consulates in LA and NY. The registration of voters can only take place from January 17th to February 6th. In the petition, Diaspora One Voice Consortium is arguing that this is impractical. It makes a mockery of the entire process If IEBC maintains this position, very few people in the diaspora can register to vote. It renders the voting by the diaspora to be a sham and a charade.

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Whereas both the OVC and IEBC agree on the fact that the registration of voters can only be done within the parameters stipulated by the laws of Kenya, both organizations disagree on the interpretation of the definition of what constitutes a registration center as provided for in the Elections (registration of Voters) regulations, 2012 of 2nd November 2012. Section 34(2) of the law state that “A decision by the Commission to register Kenyan citizens residing outside Kenya or to conduct elections outside Kenya shall be based on the presence of a Kenyan Embassy, High Commission or Consulate”.

The same law in Part III section 7: (1e) “The Commission shall declare the entire territory of the foreign country or any part of a foreign country, to a registration area”.

There is also disagreement in the way that the IEBC and the Diaspora OVC members are interpreting these sections of the law. The IEBC interpretation is that registration of voters can only be done within the premises of a Kenyan Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. In the case of United States of America, such registration of voters can only be done in the embassy at Washington DC, and the two consulates in New York and Los Angeles. This is the current ongoing practice and the results have been miserable to say the least. The Diaspora One Voice Consortium interpretation pointed out that “this law implies that registration of voters can be done anywhere in a country with which Kenya has diplomatic ties with. It can only be done in any part of a country that is included in blue in this map of Kenya’s diplomatic missions. One of these is the United States of America.”

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Members of Diaspora OVC have also cited the section of the law that state that “The Commission may, from time to time, designate and Gazette such— (a) places within the Republic as provided for in sub regulation (2); (b) premises of, or facilities provided by Kenyan missions abroad; (c) any facility belonging to a public body or private persons in any foreign country; (d) other facilities that the Commission may deem fit as registration centers for purposes of registering voters.”

Members of Diaspora OVC are ready to assist in the provision of such suitable centers within the United States and elsewhere.

IEBC and Diaspora OVC also disagree on the interpretation of the definition of a polling station. The Elections Act No. 24 of 2011 define a polling premise as: “polling station” means any room,

place, vehicle, or vessel set apart and equipped for the casting of votes by voters at an election. Diaspora OVC argue that “whereas the presence of a Kenyan Embassy, High Commission or Consulate is a pre-requisite for IEBC to register Kenyan residing outside the country as voters.” IEBC should focus on identifying suitable premises for such voter registration and polling within the selected countries where Kenya has diplomatic relations. Although what is considered suitable is subject to interpretation, the mapping exercise should have revealed that the two consulates in New York (high premises) and Los Angeles do not provide adequate premises to accommodate a large number of voters. The prevailing pandemic prone times make such small areas to congregate a large number of Kenyans unsafe.

A large number of the members of the Kenyan Diaspora have expressed agreement with the interpretation and explanation given by the leadership of One Voice Consortium.

Diaspora One Voice Consortium send petition on three issues to IEBC, wins one

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