Kenyans in SA register for elections amid xenophobic violence

Pretoria – Kenyans living in South Africa have been making their way to Pretoria to register as diaspora voters for the east African country’s elections set for August 8.

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Despite initial concerns that the violence against foreigners in the capital city last week could affect them, many made their way over the weekend to the Kenyan High Commission, where they were treated to traditional Kenyan chiapatis, rice and chicken after registration.

A Kenyan expat who works close to the high commission said although some Kenyans expressed concern about the xenophobia on whatsapp groups and social media, there were people car-pooling to the high commission on Friday “in the height of the chaos”.

The riots also did not happen near the high commission, and Kenyans have not been reported to have been targeted in the latest spate of xenophobic attacks.

More people came to register over the weekend than on week days, Andrew Limo, communications officer at the Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said.

Raging controversy 

“Some make it a family event. There is excitement that for the first time they won’t have to go back home to vote.”

Elections are usually held in the holiday month in December, but this year’s elections would be “more tricky” because they are scheduled for August, he admitted.

There has been a raging controversy in Kenya over diaspora voting after a March 2015 court ruling that Kenyans living abroad should be able to vote. The process was also delayed for a few days amidst some confusion over technicalities.

Only Kenyans abroad in the east Africa region and in South Africa will be allowed to vote, but the Association of Kenyans in the Diaspora said this should be extended to other countries too.

Chairperson Shem Ochuodhu told The Star in Kenya there were three million Kenyans living abroad, and said the association was hoping for about one million of those to be able to vote.

He said, however, that the IEBC has not met the expectations of expats in this regard.

Ochuodhu said the Association’s data showed that most Kenyans abroad lived in the United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Limo admitted there were no provisions for a number of Kenyans living in Durban and Cape Town to vote there, but said the IEBC “would be happy to register 2000” Kenyan expat voters in South Africa.

“We are stepping up campaigns to appeal to Kenyans to come and register,” he said.

The two-week registration period for Kenyans abroad is set to end next Wednesday.

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