Kenyan prisoners to vote in referendum, constitutional court rules
Nairobi (Alshahid) – The Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court (IICDRC) has ruled that all prisoners in Kenya should vote in the forthcoming referendum despite an earlier decision by the Independent Interim Electoral Commission not to register those in jail citing the current Constitution which bars inmates from participating in an election.
The ruling followed an application filed by the Kituo cha Sheria lobby group, which wanted the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) directed to register the prisoners as voters. The IIEC did not register prisoners in the just-concluded countrywide exercise.
Kituo Cha Sheria Executive Director Priscilla Nyokabi said that there were no limitations in law that bar the IIEC from registering prisoners, saying the process was mainly for the Constitution referendum.
“If Parliament intended that inmates are not registered as voters nothing would have been easier than for them to say that (in legislation),” she said.
Ms Nyokabi also questioned the wording in some sections of the current Constitution that bars prisoners from participating in elections saying it created room for liberal interpretations.
She pointed out that South Africa, Canada, the United Kingdom and other commonwealth countries allow prisoners to take part in the polls.
“In other countries like Germany they would say if you have committed treason or offences related to an election then you cannot partake in elections. But if you committed completely unrelated offences there is no reason to lose citizenship. And at the very least that clause should apply to those who have been convicted not remandees,” she added.
The legal rights campaigner also blamed societal intolerance as the reason why prisoners were denied their democratic rights.
“Our society has become so inconsiderate that even when you are discussing an issue like this people don’t feel the sympathy. If I have access to register and someone doesn’t have, that’s not my business. We have learnt to leave the downtrodden to themselves,” she observed.
Kituo Cha Sheria is a local NGO that empowers the poor and marginalised to effectively access justice and realise their human rights through advocacy, networking, lobbying, legal aid, legal education, representation and research.