SOME three million Kenyans in the Diaspora may participate in the 2017 elections after the government last week set up a team to facilitate the process.
The government, through the ministry of Foreign Affairs, gazetted a taskforce of 10 members to offer expert advice on the modalities of facilitating sensitisation, registration and voting by Kenyans in the Diaspora.
The Taskforce on the Implementation of the Constitution to Facilitate Voting in General Elections and Referenda by Kenyans in the Diaspora, which will be chaired by the ministry’s Director of Diaspora and Consular Affairs, Washington Oloo, will offer technical advice on the process of profiling of Kenyans in the Diaspora who are eligible to vote.
Members of the taskforce are Lucy Kiruthu, Gregory Kivalya Somba, Joseph Muriithi Kanyiri, Scholastica Ndambuki, Dennis Muhambe, Karen Rono, Kariuki Kimemia, Peter Oduge and IEBC Voter registration director Immaculate Kassait.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade has established a Taskforce on the Implementation of the Constitution to Facilitate Voting in General Elections and Referenda by Kenyans in the Diaspora,” reads part of the Kenya Gazette notice dated February 4, 2015.
The team will establish the extent to which Kenyans living abroad can progressively participate in local elections and advice the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on possible registration and polling centres for the Diaspora.
Part of the team’s mandate will also be to advice on modalities of senitising of Kenyans living abroad on voting.
The taskforce will not be answerable to the IEBC but will instead report to the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed.
The team, which will have three months to carry out the mandate, will have its secretariat at the Foreign Affairs ministry headquarters.
The IEBC last week launched an online tool to map the location and collect data on all Kenyans eligible to vote across the globe.
The electoral body said the three-month exercise targets Kenyans aged above 18 years with the aim of capturing accurate numbers for purposes of planning their listing as voters ahead of the next general election.
“This is a progressive process of gathering evidence on eligible Kenyan voters and where they reside in this planet Earth, so that we give them an opportunity to participate in the country’s electoral process as stipulated in the constitution,” said IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, during the event at a Nairobi hotel.
During the 2013 polls, the IEBC registered some 2,637 voters within the East African Community of whom 80 per cent turned up to vote.
The Diaspora was only allowed to participate in the election for President following a court ruling, but the IEBC has hinted it could allow them to participate in parliamentary and county elections if the massive resources required are made available.
The IEBC says the its budget could shoot up significantly to cater for voter listing, civic education and Diaspora voting.
“From the experience we had when we enlisted voters in the EAC, it is clear that the it costs five times more to register voters in the Diaspora,” said IEBC vice chairperson Mahiri Zaja.
In the 2013 polls the IEBC spent over Sh26 billion to conduct the six-tier, one-day general election. The Treasury allocated the IEBC Sh17 billion in the national Budget, while the deficit was paid for by development partners.