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Prisoners say voting made them feel like valued Kenyan citizens

By Mercy Adhiambo | Published Tue, August 8th 2017 at 19:08, Updated August 8th 2017 at 19:41 GMT +3
Prisoners who voted in Kisumu expressed their joy saying they felt valued

In summary

  • In the history of Kenya this was the first election that prisoners were allowed to participate
  • Commissioner-General Isaih Osugo said no prisoner was pushed to vote and they did it voluntarily.
  • Pius Lumumba who has been behind bars for 14 years said he was delighted they were not being treated as outcasts.

Kisumu, Kenya: Prisoners in Kisumu who voted said that they felt like citizens and not outcasts.

Silas Nachani who has been in Kisumu Maximum Security Prison for twenty years said being excluded in the voting process has been a constant reminder that they are separated from the free world, and their voices do not matter.

"For years we have been watching from a distance, wishing to be a part of it. Today we feel like we matter," he said.

He says he woke up early, with only one thing in mind: Voting. He was among the 217 people in the prison who registered to vote.

"It felt like a dream. When I put a mark on that ballot paper, I could feel my heart beating so loud – my body almost went numb with excitement," he said.

Commissioner-General Isaiah Osugo said he received reports that the process was smooth and no prisoner was coerced into voting for a particular leader.

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He said the country is heading towards a good direction by recognizing prisoners as citizens, and allowing them to participate in the democratic process.

"Finally, they added their voice in choosing who they want. It has taken long, but we are happy that it happened," he said.

Pius Lumumba who has been behind bars for 14 years said when he was charged with murder and jailed, that was the end of his freedom. He had never heard of prisoners voting, so it never crossed his mind that after more than a decade in jail, he would be given a chance to vote.

"When I first heard of calls for prisoners to register as voters, I thought it was a joke," he said. "I can now talk confidently about Kenya because I am a voter.”

Francis Odongo, the prison's welfare officer said most of the inmates were interested in voting and some are disappointed that they did not have national identity cards to enable them register.

"The ones who participated are so excited. The process has been smooth, and we are now waiting for results," he said.

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