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Diaspora want representation in Kenyan political process

By | March 15th 2012

By Chris Wamalwa in USA

Kenyans living abroad have resolved to use every means possible including a series of court injunctions to ensure that they are not locked out of the unfolding political process in Kenya. Apprehensive that they may not be allowed to fully participate in the forthcoming general elections because of logistical hurdles as has been hinted by the IEBC, the Diaspora are demanding full representation and inclusion in any task force formed to deal with these issues.

In a three-hour virtual meeting (teleconference) held on Sunday that brought together more than 100 people among them leaders of various Diaspora civil society organizations from practically all the ‘four corners’ of the world, the Diaspora agreed to increase calls for inclusion in the political process especially at this time when Bills around Dual Citizenship and Voting Rights are still under negotiations in parliament and other commissions and task forces.

Several speakers from US, China, Germany, U.K Jamaica, Fiji, France, Finland, Canada, Australia and several African countries expressed fears that while the government acknowledges the contributions the Diaspora make to the economy through remittances and investments, it is however totally oblivious of the Diaspora needs especially online voting.

"Kenyans living abroad have resolved to ensure that the civil rights of Kenyans living abroad are not violated any longer," a statement issued soon after the meeting said in part.

At the centre of the discussions was what most participants termed systematic exclusion of the group (Diaspora) that brings in more foreign exchange than the traditional foreign exchange earners such as tea, horticulture and tourism.

"We contribute heavily towards the economy, yet 'the government does not want us to participate fully in the political process," one participant said.

Various participants noted that since independence, the Government of Kenya has never made express arrangements for Kenyans in Diaspora to vote from their various locations around the world.

"We have been taken for granted," one angry participant said adding that they will not going to be tossed around sitting down.

Participants observed that voting for any Kenyan, whether in Kenya or abroad is a fundamental right that is protected under the constitution and African Human and People’s Rights Charter and therefore a joint Diaspora task force formed soon after the meeting is going to make express arrangement to ensure participation.

"This task force will not accept or acknowledge any process by the current government’s task force and /or ambassadorial offices without direct Diaspora participation and input. Indeed, there are thousands of qualified individuals in the Diaspora who can sit on taskforces to contribute towards drafting procedure on voting registration and working out a viable and inclusive electoral process," the statement said.

The statement added that all necessary action, up to and including legal action would be fully implemented to ensure Kenyans abroad vote electronically.

"Kenya is neither a monarchy nor a dictatorship. Any political machinations towards blocking electronic, online or mobile voting for the Diaspora in order to benefit an individual or group's rise to or retention of power will be met with resolute resistance and the full force of law. The right to vote, representation, justice and democracy are inalienable and must prevail," noted the participants.

They said that technology is readily available to enable all Kenyan Diaspora to vote and any attempt to stall or thwart this fact is certain to make any government voted in totally illegitimate and illegal.

The meeting came as a result of three years of effective and consistent cooperation between various Diaspora groups around the world who use their networks to facilitate an effective policy dialogue through sharing and exchange of information.

Participants also agreed to use their collective force, pool their resources and proactively undertake initiatives for the promotion of better governance and full participation of the Kenyan Diaspora in Kenya’s social, economic and political development henceforth.

The meeting took advantage of technology (Global Skype & telephone connections) to bring together delegates from all the 5 continents. It was coordinated by the Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA).

Organizations represented included the Diaspora Movement of Kenya [DMK], Kenyans for Change [K4C], Kenya Community Abroad (KCA), Kenya Progressive Women’s Alliance [KEPWA], Kenya UAE Diaspora Movement Association [KUDIMA], New Vision Kenya – Mageuzi [NVK-M], Kenya Global Unity [KGU], and Kenya Pro-Democracy Movement [KPDM].

Others were Kenya Diaspora Voice [KDV], Kenya Movement for Democracy & Justice [KMDJ], Institute for Development, Democracy & Sovereignty (IADDS), Kikimo Foundation, International Kenya Organization, International Kenya Cooperation [IKC], Diaspora Community Projects [DCP], and Kenya Community Development [KCD].

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