, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 28 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) maintained on Wednesday that it had the final say on whether Kenyans in the Diaspora would be registered for next year’s General Election.
IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan said the electoral body would meet on Thursday to chart the way forward, insisting that the commission was independent and not bound by decisions of other government organs.
He was referring to Cabinet decision that ruled out registration of borders outside Kenya’s borders in the run-up to the March 4 elections.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Eugene Wamalwa told Parliament on Tuesday that the Cabinet had arrived at the decision after considering the impracticability in meeting strict electoral timelines.
“It is not practical to have them take part now. I am appealing to those who can come home to register to do so,” the minister said.
On Wednesday, the IEBC chairman said: “Although we are independent we cannot put it (registration) off alone, we need other players on board. We know that the government has made a decision, we will look at it and talk to our staff to see if we can still pull it off.”
The official number of Kenyans in the Diaspora registered with the 52 Kenyan embassies stood at 130,000.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs however estimates the number of Kenyans in foreign countries stands at 700,000 including those not listed at embassies.
Last week, High Court Judge David Majanja ruled that although the right to vote was guaranteed constitutionally, it was not absolute and cannot be realised instantaneously but progressively.
Hassan has however admitted that IEBC is working under strict deadlines and agrees that rights to register and vote in the Diaspora will be effectively realised progressively.
The IEBC chairman who accompanied Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to register in Korogocho revealed that the commission had set aside 47 registration kits to register voters in the Diaspora.
“We have a court ruling that affirms the position on progressive achievement of the rights and we will argue the same way if somebody went to court,” he insisted.
Hassan supported the proposed amendment to the Elections Act by the Justice Minister which seeks to reduce the period of verification by voters and the publication of the voters register from 30 to 15 days.
“We know that Kenyans do not like going back to the stations to verify after they have registered – they prefer to use an SMS query. That is better than opening up the stations then only 10 percent people turn up,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-KENYA Chapter) welcomed the move by the Cabinet to cancel voter registration in the Diaspora.
FIDA Kenya Executive Director Grace Maingi held that IEBC was ill prepared to deal with the complexities of the exercise in the Diaspora.
Maingi says issues like security, registration centres and voting and the timings of the exercise require advance and elaborate preparations.
“IEBC has not been prepared to be able to identify which areas they will be able to carry out the registration and the voting, which areas and what timings they will be able to then have the voting take place,” she observed.
“We actually welcome IEBC’s admission of their own limitations and challenges,” she stated adding that IEBC had to first conduct elections in Kenya successfully before expanding outside the borders.