IEBC Faces Shortage of Data on Diaspora Voters as 2017 Polls Loom
There is insufficient data on Kenyans living abroad that is necessary for diaspora voter preparation purposes, eight months to the 2017 general election, the Elections Observation Group (ELOG) has said.
Steering committee chairman Brian Weke said there has been conflicting information on the data from the Foreign Affairs ministry, IEBC and diaspora associations.
Some put the number of Kenyans abroad at 2 million, while others say there are 3 million Kenyans aborad.
“We are not keeping proper records as a country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to be very clear on how many Kenyans there are,” Weke said on Wednesday.
He said the diaspora vote is important as it can determine who wins the presidency.
Weke was speaking during the launch of a report titled ‘The other Electorate’ at the Safari Club Hotel, Nairobi.
He said the role of the IEBC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relation to handling diaspora voting needs to be well defined, and also noted that the ministry should not undermine IEBC’s independence.
IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba however said that it is the commission’s policy for diaspora voting to be conducted in Kenyan embassies, Consulates and high commissions, bodies he said fall directly within the foreign affairs’ jurisdiction.
He said diaspora voting will be conducted in the East African countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi but considerations are still being made to include SADC member countries and those that host the headquarters of multilateral bodies.
“In particular we are thinking about Ethiopia because many Kenyans live there. We are also considering South Africa and a region in West Africa that brings together many Kenyans.”
He said IEBC is also considering London and the US because many people advocating for diaspora voting live there.
The IEBC boss ruled out the postponement of next year’s polls due to prohibitive deadlines occasioned by the recent electoral reforms.
“The commission is not preparing for any other election other than the August 8th elections, let that be on the record,” Chiloba said.
He said diaspora voter registration that had been scheduled for between February-March next year may have to be brought forward to accommodate changes by the new electoral laws.
“The political dialogue that we had ate into our time for up to three months and we now have to reorient some of the activities that were not there before, like the auditing of the voter register after registration,” Chiloba said.
He said about a month is needed for data to be loaded onto biometric kits prior to verification at polling stations before the verification process can kick off three months before the elections.
Kenya Diaspora Alliance chairman Shem Ochuodho said that Kenyans in the diaspora are fully prepared for the voter registration exercise and voting.
“In fact there are partners in other parts of the world who have said that if IEBC makes a request, they are willing to partner with the commission to ensure the exercise is a success,” Ochuodho said.
He advised the IEBC to contact census bureaus, foreign missions and registered organizations in foreign countries to identify how many Kenyans are eligible to vote.
“Our understanding is that all Kenyans registered with these bodies are eligible voters because they are either in the host nations for studies or work purposes, that can be a very credible source of data,” Ochuodho said.
He also allayed fears by sections of the political class that diaspora voting is susceptible to rigging by either of the leading coalitions saying those are just assumptions.
“All these major parties have supporters and donors all over the world, those can be their agents. They are probably scared because none of them is sure they have the majority of supporters in the diaspora,” Ochuodho said.
– The Star