Lobby wants hasty listing of Kenyan inmates

June 24, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – The lobby group that successfully petitioned for prisoners to be allowed to vote in the August 4 referendum is urging the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) to hastily implement the court’s directive.

Kituo Cha Sheria Executive Director Priscilla Nyokabi said on Thursday that IIEC should set an example for other national institutions by respecting a court ruling and implementing it.

“The IIEC is a very new body which should be showing us the way in terms of law. It’s always been you go to court, get a judgment and then the duty bearers start going on meetings to discuss and complain about the judgment instead of moving quickly to implement,” she said.

The Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court (IICDRC) ruled on Wednesday that the current Constitution does not bar prisoners from participating in a referendum. It therefore directed the electoral commission to register all eligible inmates within 21 days and ensure they vote in August.

She also discounted an argument by the IIEC citing “logistical nightmares” in the registration of inmates saying it was inexcusable, as the prison facilities would be used as polling stations.

“When you have a right to participate in a referendum, the person who is supposed to facilitate the right cannot say that “you are too far or it is too difficult I am not going to come”. You cannot say the holder of a right is causing you logistical nightmares,” she said.

Ms Nyokabi added that the electoral commission had the capacity to have the over 50,000 inmates registered on time as directed by the court further saying that the exercise would have no undue impact on the referendum.

“The prisoners are in one confined place so if they consider electronic technology that would take in big numbers at the same time, then they will accomplish their task before the expiry of the 21-day deadline starting today,” she said.

She also argued that Kituo cha Sheria had requested the IIEC to register the inmates before the close of the manual and electronic registers but that the IIEC declined.

“The IIEC has run its rope. Maybe they kept thinking that they would win the case. We raised this issue from as early as April 23 and for all that time the IIEC was of the view that the law was not favourable for the exercise. The IIEC has had a long time to consider the matter but turned down the application forcing us to go to court,” said Ms Nyokabi.

She further asked Kenyans to be tolerant of the marginalised groups in the country and maintained that prisoners had the right to participate in the forthcoming referendum as it was a historical moment for the country.

“Prisoners are already being punished for the offenses that they committed. When you deny them the chance to participate in a national process, you are punishing them two times over. This law if passed will bind them before and after they leave prison,” she argued.


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