Kenya’s diaspora is huge. From those living in Uganda to those in Australia, Monaco, China, Qatar, Russia, South Sudan and Brazil. The media and the Kenyan government’s fixation with Kenyans living in the USA is not only wrong, but also one-sided.
The more than three million Kenyans living abroad are not only in the USA, but also in other parts of the world where they have spread their business wings, investments and expertise, all of which put the country at an advantage.
That is why the announcement by the Government to zone six voting centres in the US where a majority of Kenyans live does not make sense.
Any democratic government would ensure the highest percentage of Kenyans living abroad is given a fair chance to exercise their universal suffrage.
Exercising one’s democratic right in an election means that every vote must count. The government should not focus on big numbers, but ensure that even in countries where you only find less than 20 Kenyans living there, they are given a chance to vote.
After all, how will a Kenyan living in Alaska travel to Washington DC to vote? How about those living in Asia, Europe and South America; leave alone those living in Uganda and who may not have a chance to travel to Kenya on voting day?
Remember, not all Kenyans will have the privilege of travelling home during the electioneering period to cast their votes, but all can be made possible by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) because the body has the capacity to do so.
If millions of shillings were lost on fake BVR kits ahead of the 2013 polls, why not start early since elections are three years away? First of all, the best mode to accommodate voters living abroad is through e-voting, since we live in the information age.
To make this happen, the Government through Fred Matiangi, the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, together with IEBC’s Issack Hassan, need to work on mechanisms to ensure that Kenyans abroad can vote electronically in 2017.
Focusing on six voting zones in the US; will only attract a poor voter turnout but will not cater for the democratic interests of other Kenyans scattered all over the globe.
We even wonder how the Government came up with the the six voting zones in the US. We hope it is not the work of the some dubious diaspora organisation purporting to speak on behalf of Kenyans living abroad.
Since the supreme law of the land allows for Diaspora voting, the same should be applied to all citizens across the board irrespective of where they live. This is the surest way to avoid disenfranchising them on an important matter like the right to vote.
By the way, when did Ambassador Robinson Githae quit his diplomatic duties to join IEBC? Note that it is his office in Washington DC which announced the formation of six voting zones in the US.
If the IEBC wasn’t involved in the latest arrangements, as the only body mandated by the Constitution to coordinate all matters related to elections in the country, then Githae’s announcement is totally unconstitutional.
Who knows whether this is a conduit to pre-rig the 2017 polls using a diplomat who also doubles as a senior government civil servant serving as ambassador?
On voting rights of Kenyans living abroad, many developing democracies like Angola, the Dominican Republic, Philippines, Ecuador and Iran have made it possible for their nationals residing abroad to vote. Why not Kenya when we are actually ahead in many fronts compared to the said countries?
It must be remembered that a well-managed external voting system, despite accounting for a relatively low percentage of overall turnouts, can have a considerable impact on election results. This is the true essence of democracy, where every vote and every voice must count to define the leadership destiny of a country.
IEBC should start an early headcount of Kenyans living abroad and then map out proper online voting systems.
Kenyans living abroad are tired of being sanitised over the huge remittances they make to boost the exchequer. They need tangible mechanisms put in place to address their social and political interests in the land of their heritage.
Statistically, in the year 2014, diaspora remittance was Sh122 billion. It’s projected that this will increase to Sh245 billion in the year 2015. This isn’t mean business to the national economy from the Diaspora. Indeed, it should stir the current government to enact laws that cater for the interests of Kenyans living abroad.
Why not even the creation of a 48th County in the country, a senatorial seat or even a constituency? Kenyans abroad need a say; a big say in the management of Kenya’s affairs. Currently, the Diaspora affairs are managed under a mere Directorate under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This directorate was accused of mismanagement of diaspora affairs as recently as during the just-concluded Easter Conference. A fully-fledged ministry would be a step in the right direction to address Diaspora challenges in a more coordinated manner.
Finally, entrenching mechanisms for external voting will increase political participation and thereby contribute to political accountability for democratic development in the country.
It is also part of citizens’ rights in the quest for best leadership practices in a country where they derive their identity and national origin.