NAIROBI, Kenya’s electoral commission has started registering prisoners who are eligible to vote during the next general election due to be held in August.
Hundreds of prisoners have been lining up in designated areas within the prisons to register, days after the mass voter registration by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) came to a close.
Kenyan prisoners won the right to vote in a 2010 landmark ruling by the High Court; they have, however, not voted because of logistical issues concerning the registration and the eventual voting process but are now on track to join 19 million other Kenyans who are registered to vote in the next general election.
At Kamiti Maximum Prison just outside Nairobi, prisoners took turns to register as voters. It is an exercise they are not taking lightly.
“I decided to come and register to exercise my right as it has been extended to us,” says an inmate at Kamiti Maximum Prison, Harrison Mugo.
Josphat Mulama has been incarcerated for 14 years already, during which time Kenyans have voted in two referenda and three general elections. Mulama is excited to be voting for the first time in 20 years.
“The last time I voted was in 1997 and in 2003, I was caught and was brought here, so I am excited about this and we have been hoping for this time to come.”
Despite their lengthy sentences they feel they have a stake in the country’s future.
Says Peter Kibandi, an inmate currently serving a life sentence: “My sentence is a life sentence, I am here until the Lord wishes, a lot of people will wonder it matters a lot, formerly I did not feel like a Kenyan, this has been sensitising me that I am a Kenyan.”
Mugo feels that his vote can make an impact on his life and the lives of his fellow Kenyans alike.
“The decision of that government when I vote it means that I give them the responsibility to make decisions on my behalf; when they make good decisions, the better for me and the Kenyans at home,” states Mugo.
There are about 50,000 inmates in Kenya’s 118 prisons. It is not yet clear how many are eligible to vote and the opposition has raised concerns that the exercise behind bars may lead to rigging.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK