NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 – The British government now says that the Cabinet should not determine whether or not Kenyans in the Diaspora can vote in the forthcoming elections.
British High Commissioner Christian Turner told Capital FM News that the decision should be left to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) saying it is the body mandated to facilitate the polls.
Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa had earlier in the week made the controversial statement saying Kenyans living outside the country would not cast their vote due to logistical and time constraints.
“I would applaud the leadership of the IEBC Chairman because he has made it very clear that that is their decision because they are independent. Cabinet has made its views clear; the Constitution requests that Kenyans overseas are allowed to vote,” he said.
“And I respect the Chairman’s decision to choose what is practical and what is feasible and I will support him,” he stressed.
Wamalwa made the announcement in Parliament on Tuesday saying that the Cabinet had arrived at the said conclusion after reviewing the tight electoral timelines set by the law.
He argued that the IEBC would not be able to register the large number of voters in the country in addition to those outside the country.
“Kenyans in the Diaspora will not vote in the 2013 elections. It is not practical to have them take part now. I am appealing to those who can come home to register to do so,” said Wamalwa.
The IEBC however countered the Cabinet’s decision accusing it of undermining its authority.
Chairman Issack Hassan said his commission would look at the situation and analyse the challenges on the ground before delivering the verdict.
Some Kenyans living in the United States are also planning to go to Court to revoke the decision.
“We have not yet given a date when we can start this exercise. We would like to finish our consultation with the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that we can categorically give actual dates and where we can start the exercise so that we realise this vote,” he said.
Hassan also requested for the government’s support saying it would help deliver the crucial vote.
“We cannot pull it off alone; we require the government and the embassies. So we will look at the Cabinet’s decision, talk to our own staff and see whether we can make it,” he said on Wednesday.
Turner also reminded Kenyans on the need for ensuring that the elections were peaceful saying the country could not afford to go back to where it was in 2007/2008.
He added that the British government was keenly following the events on the ground to ensure that peace was upheld.
“The post election violence was very damaging for the country. GDP growth dropped by over five percent so we in the United Kingdom are doing everything we can to work with the IEBC and the leaders of Kenya to get safe elections,” he said.
“It is my strong belief that that is what the Kenyan people wish,” he maintained.