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Prioritise IEBC exit and diaspora vote

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati with CEO Ezra Chiloba at the Bomas of Kenya, on July 29 last year / JACK OWUOR
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati with CEO Ezra Chiloba at the Bomas of Kenya, on July 29 last year / JACK OWUOR

Sandwiched between former Attorney General Amos Wako and some other politician during a lunch break at the then ongoing G7 consultative meetings at Safari Park, I asked the AG about the status on dual citizenship proposal. With others in Diaspora, we were pushing for that to be included in the new constitution, which was being debated then.To my surprise, the AG had no idea what I was talking about. I still wonder to this day whether it was that the AG did not know anything about this crucial issue for Kenyans in the diaspora, or he just didn’t hear the question clearly and was responding to something else he conjured in his mind as being the question. To his relief, someone else joined the table and sat to the AG’s left and the two went to speak animatedly not about dual citizenship, of course.

The provision, thank God and Kenyans, was ultimately included in the 2010 Constitution.

A related provision is diaspora voting, which is also provided in the Constitution but it still lags far behind in implementation.

Responsible for this non-implementation of the diaspora voting provision, at least in the manner contemplated in the constitution is the IEBC, an institution that behaves as if its sole purpose for existence in whatever form it exists is to do evil.

Before it was IEBC, it was the Electoral Commission of Kenya and we all know what evil that one unleashed on the country.

What will the next one be? Are we still going to be stuck with the IEBC bringing with it the stench of 2017? Heck no, not even with the handshake.

The IEBC must go and that’s got be just what the doctor ordered to start healing the nation of these chronic electoral malfeasance, corruption and lack of integrity.

For Kenyans in the diaspora, the very existence of the IEBC has meant that the much awaited and longed for diaspora voting is still out of reach, except for those in East Africa, which is really not that a big deal, given their numbers and proximity to home.

We’re talking about Kenyans living in far-flung corners of the world such as Europe, the Americas and Asia, whose ability to vote at home is hindered if not altogether made impossible.

Its no coincidence that the IEBC has chosen to slow work, if at all, this important provision of the Constitution. Rather, their failure to fully and speedily implement the provision is calculated and intentional to the detriment of all Kenyans in the diaspora who wish and would very much like to exercise their voting rights.

Indeed, many of these Kenyans have organised in various ways to counter this dereliction of duty by the electoral commission by suing them several times and getting favourable rulings.

For example, in one such lawsuit, the Supreme Court directed the IEBC in 2015 to enable the diaspora to exercise their right to vote yet, while

promising to honour the constitution and obey the Court’s order, the IEBC uses Article 82 (1)(e) “progressive realisation” language in the constitution to ignore the Court’s order and keep the diaspora disenfranchised.

This language is not clearly defined in manner it can be objectively ascertained. Therefore what it is, is what those pulling strings at IEBC say it is. Thus, having minimalist approach as IEBC is doing suffices in stalling progress even as they point to same and say there’s progressive realisation of the right to vote, which is a farce.

We have had enough of these dilatory tactics; it’s time for IEBC to fully implement or at least lay firm foundation for its successor — which we clearly must have, to finish the job by having in place a mechanism for Kenyans in the diaspora to vote.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator in the United States