NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 20 – The voter registration exercise for Kenyans living abroad kicked off on Monday in five nations on the African continent.
According to statement released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Kenyan adults will be required to visit their High Commission offices in Kigali (Rwanda), Bujumbura (Burundi), Kampala (Uganda), Pretoria (South Africa), Arusha and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to be enlisted as voters ahead of the August 8 General Elections.
“Voter registration is going on for the purposes of 2017 Elections in Bujumbura in Burundi, Arusha and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Kigali in Rwanda, Kampala in Uganda and Pretoria in South Africa. The Kenyan Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates have been designated by the Commission as registration centers for Kenyans living outside the country,” read a statement posted on the Commission’s official Facebook page.
The voter listing for the Kenyan citizens living abroad is expected to run until March 6.
In order to be registered, the IEBC says one needs to be a Kenyan citizen, they must be 18 years of age and above and must have a valid Kenyan Passport.
An applicant must be of sound mind and must not have been convicted of an election offence during the preceding five years.
Kenyans living these countries will only be allowed to vote for the President, as was the case in 2013.
The IEBC said logistical problems and limited time to adequately prepare for the August election are the major limiting factors that undermine the Commission’s ability to register all voters in the Diaspora.
Kenyans living abroad had threatened to sue the polls agency for restricting Diaspora voters’ registration to the East African Community and South Africa.
The Kenya Diaspora Alliance, an umbrella body of 34 lobby groups of Kenyans living abroad, said the electoral agency was failing to implement a Supreme Court directive issued in 2015, to ensure Diaspora Kenyans participate in elections.
In 2014 the electoral body filed an appeal with the Supreme Court seeking to overturn a ruling by the Court of Appeal that ordered IEBC and other State organs to put in place an infrastructure for the registration of Diaspora voters, in time for the elections.
The appellate court ruled that Kenyans with dual citizenship and living in the Diaspora were eligible to be registered as voters.
Last May, the Supreme Court dismissed the application filed by the IEBC and upheld the requirements for Diaspora registration ordered by the Court of Appeal.
IEBC has been conducting a one month voter registration drive which kicked off January 16 to Sunday, targeting six million new voters.
The exercise was initially planned to end on February 14, but was extended twice after a court ruling in a case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah who had wanted the exercise to continue until June, arguing that closing it at this point will lock out many potential voters who have not received their National Identity Cards or Passports.
By end of the third week, only 2,164,185 voters had been listed.
The Commission is expected to release the total number of voters registered during the period of the exercise this week.