BY JOSEPH KAMOTHO
Four years after displacement of victims of post-election violence, an unknown number of people have not returned to their homes and still bear the tags of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
There are deep seated fears that these IDPs resident in temporary structures without proper sanitation and other basic facilities could be disenfranchised in the forthcoming general elections.
Resettlement of IDPs which has been the subject of acrimonious exchanges amongst Cabinet Ministers, will be a major issue in the forthcoming election campaigns and the sooner the government resolves the matter the better for peaceful co-existence.
Former Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterpart in the Ministry of Lands, James Orengo have been at each other’s throats over the availability of land and cash for resettlement. Kenyans do not know who to believe between the two ministers on this thorny matter.
Unfortunately, blame games and passing the buck on sensitive issues are the order of the day in the country.
The one nagging question now is, will this disadvantaged population be registered as voters in the camps and if so, who amongst the contestants will they vote for? Circumstances place some Kenyans in alien constituencies in election times and therefore cannot be obliged to vote local candidates in the constituency. It is for the foregoing that logistics cannot permit the IDPs to vote for candidates vying for other positions other than for the top seat.
Some of the displaced adult voters misplaced their national identity cards and voting cards in the bloody fatal clashes in which more than 1,000 perished, property of unknown value destroyed and hundreds of thousands uprooted from their settlements.
IDPs is a curse; an unspeakable national shame and a sad permanent reminder of the primitive post election violence that culminated in the loss of lives and destruction of property. It is incumbent upon the two principals to demonstrate concern for the IDPs and make their plight history before long, otherwise history will judge the two harshly.
The Diaspora population is another disadvantaged lot. After many soul searching years, the government considered the Diaspora for dual citizenship and voting rights. Plans are afoot to register the Diaspora population as voters in the forthcoming general elections.
For the donor dependent nation like Kenya, the Diaspora population is a blessing in disguise. Their foreign exchange remittances have made a difference in the economy. The shilling is stable as a result of those regular remittances home by these patriotic Kenyans.
For the first time in history, the government also registered prisoners to participate in a referendum on the new constitution in prison cells and another question is whether prisoners can vote for other candidates apart from the presidential candidate. The answer is a resounding No. Inmates the Diaspora and IDPs are special cases and can only choose a national leader in a contest.
Unknown to many, the numbers of these category of the electorate could be a swing vote in the presidential elections this time round. Indeed, these special constituencies deserve better treatment and recognition in the constitution that is emphatic on the fundamental freedoms and rights that include voting in political contests.
(The writer is a former cabinet minister and one time secretary general of the ruling party, Kenya African National Union (KANU). Email:email@example.com)