Why diaspora votes are far from being realised

Out of two million Kenyans in diaspora only 10,444 are eligible to vote in August

In Summary
  • The latest gazetted register of voters shows that 6,221 new diaspora voters were captured in the last registration exercise.
  • Only 4,223 voters took part in the 2017 election.
IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati
DIASPORA VOTE: IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati
Image: FILE

Kenyans in diaspora still account for the lowest number of registered voters in the new IEBC register.

This is despite several years of intense lobbying to have them recognised and take part in the electoral process. 

With about two million Kenyans residing in various countries, a paltry 10,444 are eligible to vote for their preferred presidential candidate in the August 9 poll.

The latest gazetted register of voters shows that 6,221 new diaspora voters were captured in the last registration exercise, a moderate rise from its previous number.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission however managed to register 7,483 prisoners across the country.

In the 2017 election, only 4,223 diaspora voters participated in the exercise.

Statistics however show Qatar leads with 1,437 votes, while the neighbouring Tanzania comes second with 1,402. Uganda and Rwanda follow with 1,211 and 1,090 votes respectively.

South Africa has 958, South Sudan (977), Germany (314), UK (798), UAE (745), Canada (366) and USA (744).

Kenya Diaspora Association chairman Shem Ochuodho is now attributing this to failure by the commission to comply with issues raised by the Supreme Court in 2015, to enfranchise the diaspora.

“Every year IEBC is required to make arrangements to bring on board diaspora and file a report on the progress with speakers of both Houses but such has never happened,” he said.

While there have been concerted efforts by Deputy President William Ruto and his Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya rival Raila Odinga to woo voters from those countries, such has been unsuccessful.

The duo have been on an uncontrolled blitz to foreign countries like the Unites States, United Kingdom and the UAE holding forums with various groups.

With barely 45 days to the poll, they may now be forced to devise new strategies of consolidating support from the vote rich counties of Nairobi, Kiambu and Nakuru, which continue to sit at the top with more than a million votes.

Ochuodho is also accusing the commission of turning its focus on embassies as compared to engaging diaspora organisations, private sector and corporates, which he says can help earn up to 80 per cent of the voters.

“Our advice to IEBC back in 2012 was to shift focus from embassies. It is important but they account for only 10 per cent. Not all people living in the foreign countries visit these offices often,” he said.

The official further cited governance, impunity and corruption in the country as other compelling reasons that force those in diaspora to steer clear of the election process.

He said "they are skeptical about voting for a leader, yet no reward in return.”

Ochuodho said registration disadvantaged many as IEBC only gave two weeks to conduct the exercise, hence locking out potential voters.

“If you put registration centres at the embassies and consulate offices only, you cannot be sure of capturing the majority of targeted votes. People stay in far flung areas,” he said.

(Edited by Bilha Makokha)

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