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Kenyans in Diaspora claim plot to lock them out of 2017 polls

Kenyans living abroad are accusing the government of underestimating their numbers to frustrate their bid to be allowed to vote in the next General Election.

At a conference on the diaspora in Nairobi, they said government officials have been reciting estimates about their population for several years without trying to find out their true numbers.

Former Rangwe MP, Dr Shem Ochuodho, who chairs the Kenya Diaspora Alliance said Kenyans abroad are disappointed with the lack of political will to involve them in the decisions of the country.

“We as KDA have often found it strange that this figure, regularly quoted by government has remained stagnant for so long despite obvious escalated migrations due to studies and career opportunities abroad,” Dr Ochuodho told the Kenya Homecoming Diaspora Convention 2016 at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa which started on Wednesday.

“Why then should we discriminate on such a huge mass that has left home seeking education and economic gain? Surely being away from home does not take home away from you.”

Figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs say there are 3.2 million Kenyans abroad, mainly in Europe and in the US, as well as in neighbouring countries in East Africa.

But the Alliance disputes this figure, arguing there more Kenyans have left the country for greener pastures recently.

The government has never conducted an official count to determine actual numbers.

The Alliance which claims to represent about 250,000 Kenyans in various countries abroad scattered in 41 diaspora associations has been pushing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to ensure they vote in the next elections.

At the conference on Wednesday, they argued the estimate of 3 million, most of who are adults, mean they can equal 15 per cent of registered voters in Kenya and should therefore be allowed to vote.

“It is concerning and extremely frustrating that as Kenyans, we are finding ourselves pleading and pushing to be allowed to vote in our country.”

The Constitution, Article 82, says there shall be a law to ensure “the progressive registration of citizens residing outside Kenya, and the progressive realisation of their right to vote.”

Diaspora are only allowed to vote for presidency and the referendum. In 2013 elections, only Kenyans living in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi were allowed to vote from among those in the diaspora. At the time, IEBC argued it had considered costs, impact of diaspora voting on domestic politics and logistics.

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