Kenyan Diaspora to wait longer to fully participate in polls

May 7, 2015 2:23 pm
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The Supreme Court has ruled that it is impractical to impose a specific time-frame on the IEBC to facilitate voting by all eligible Kenyans living abroad/FILE
The Supreme Court has ruled that it is impractical to impose a specific time-frame on the IEBC to facilitate voting by all eligible Kenyans living abroad/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7 – Kenyans living in the Diaspora will have to wait longer to be able to fully participate in local elections.

Presently, they can only vote in the presidential election and referendum at select embassies and High Commissions.

The Supreme Court has ruled that it is impractical to impose a specific time-frame on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to facilitate voting by all eligible Kenyans living abroad.

The five-member bench acknowledged that the national elections agency’s existing capacity to conduct all-round polls was limited but hoped that advances in electronic technology and commitment by relevant agencies of constitutional governance will ensure voting by all Kenyans becomes a reality.

“The IEBC ought to put in place mechanisms to ensure that voting at every election is simplified, bears assured transparency, and takes into account the special needs of persons or groups with special needs, such as Kenyans living in the Diaspora,” Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal, Mohamed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang and Smokin Wanjala ruled.

They directed the IEBC to effect progressive voter-registration for Kenyans living in the Diaspora and file annual reports for review by the National Assembly and the Senate, through the offices of the Speakers of the two Houses.

“The IEBC shall put in place an infrastructure for the comprehensive registration of Kenyan citizens in the Diaspora as voters, to the extent that the numbers of such Kenyan citizens participating in General Elections shall increase progressively over time,” the court directed.

The highest court in the land threw out an appeal by the IEBC against the decision made on June 6, last year, by Court of Appeal Judges Roselyne Nambuye, Daniel Musinga and Kathurima M’Inoti, requiring the agency to set up more registration centres for Kenyans living abroad to be registered as voters for all elective positions.

“The Court of Appeal’s direction to the IEBC, to ensure that registration of Diaspora-Kenyans as voters “in all elective positions” is effected progressively, in our view, did no more than express the principle of incremental progress towards a full-scale attainment of the right to vote, locally and in the Diaspora,” the Supreme Court Judges pointed out.

The appellate bench had ruled in favour of New Vision Kenya Mageuzi, Kenya Diaspora Alliance, Dr Shem Ochuodho and Gichane Muraguri after High Court Judge David Majanja had ruled against them on November 15, 2012.

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