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Diaspora voters to be locked out as prisoners are allowed to participate in August elections

Only those living in the East African countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi as well as those in South Africa will be the only ones exempted and will vote along with those registered in the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the Kenyan diaspora in Japan in 2015.

Despite the Kenyan diaspora, sending home close to Sh120 billion in remittances annually, the IEBC said enabling them to participate in the voting exercise was “logistically impossible”.

According to IEBC Commissioner Roselyne Kwamboka, registration of Diaspora voters was a complex process that would require the Commission to prepare in advance both technically and financially which was not possible at the moment.

“Considering the logistics and constraints of time, the commission saw it prudent and tenable to start with these five countries. The law allows for progressive registration and voting by Kenyans in the diaspora and more countries will be included in future,” explained the IEBC.

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However, the commission said that voters in the diaspora will eventually be allowed to take part in the exercise in the future.

Insufficient data

Last year, the Elections Observation Group (ELOG) raised the red flag after they said there was insufficient data on Kenyans living abroad which was necessary for diaspora voter preparation purposes.

There has been conflicting information on the data from the Foreign Affairs ministry, IEBC and diaspora associations with some putting the number of Kenyans abroad at 2 million, while others say there are 3 million.

In 2015, the IEBC launched an online system for mapping Kenyans living overseas so their number and location can be plotted.

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Prisoners to vote

At the same time, the IEBC said Kenyans in various prisons will be allowed to vote and they will be registered from February 20 for one week in all the country’s 118 jails.

However, the prisoners will only be allowed to vote for only the presidential seat in the 2017 General Election and not the other elective posts.

The Chebukati led team also gave a lifeline to university and college students who are locked up in school and are unable to register in their home area.

The new IEBC chairman said they will register the students in their institutions of learning from February 8-14.

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“The students will be allowed to register for any registration centre of their choice countrywide. The list of institutions and the BVR allocated has been published at the commission’s website,” Chebukati said.

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