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 Move to Have Refugees Vote in Africa

A significant number of African Countries, Kenya included, are signatories to various International Treaties that seek to address the plight of Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) and Refugees.

To this effect, the African Union (AU) 2019 had advised Election Management Bodies (EMBs) across the Continent to focus their energies on ensuring the inclusion to the greatest extent possible of IDPs and Refugees within their jurisdictions.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati said that the issue of participation of Refugees and IDPs in the electoral process “is a conversation we must have in order to avert the disenfranchisement of this section of humanity”.

“According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) June 2018 Global Trends, about 6.3milion and 14.5 million Africans are refugees and IDPs respectively,” added Chebukati.

Speaking in Nairobi on Thursday during the Association of African Electoral Authorities (AAEA) General Assembly, Chebukati said that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that Kenya has a population of 216,000 displaced persons out of which 138,000 are in three refugee camps on short term basis.

Chebukati further noted, the causes of displacement are varied including forceful evictions, natural calamities and violent conflict.

Chebukati stated that this can only be achieved through providing peer electoral assistance, advisory and support to the various member states of the association.

“The Association of African Electoral Authorities (AAEA) General Assembly and Executive Committee together with the African Union deemed it fit to hold this forum under the theme ‘Enhancing the participation of internally displaced persons and refugees in Elections’ towards more inclusive electoral processes in Africa,” added Chebukati.

Chebukati said that “our legal framework as a country recognizes international instruments, including those that uphold and protect the rights of displaced persons, as sources of our domestic laws”.

Chebukati noted that, this provides a basis for protection and advancement of the political rights of refugees and IDPs as part of internationally recognized rights and practice.

“In a bid to protect the political rights of IDPs, Reg. 90 of the Elections (General) Regulations of 2012 provides right to patients, nomadic pastoralists including disab