Include diaspora in presidential, DP debates

Presidential debate 2013

Presidential candidates in the 2013 election and their deputies during a live debate.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Media Council of Kenya (MCK), Media Owners Association (MOA) and Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) have teamed up to organise the 2022 Presidential and Deputy Presidential debates that are slated for next month.

With less than 60 days to the August 9 general election, it is imperative that the Kenyan diaspora be included in the scheduled debates—which is a noble idea.

The diaspora constituency is over three million-strong and remits close to $4 billion (Sh450 billion) annually to the Kenyan economy. This demographic has long been marginalised and ignored. There is a need, therefore, to include it in the national dialogue of debates this year.

The true ethos of the 2010 Constitution of universal suffrage and equal protection under the law appears only applicable to Kenyans in Kenya. Those in the United States or Canada, for example, can only vote for the president and no other elective post.

In addition to this, the spotty voter registration in the diaspora left a lot to be desired. A weak voter registration information drive was encapsulated in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ( IEBC) only listing Kenyans in the US in three locations—Washington, DC; New York City; and Los Angeles.

Including the diaspora in the debates is one way to bridge this condition of exclusion of Kenyans living aboard.

How can MCK and other media stakeholders bring redress to the marginalised diaspora constituency? By including the diaspora community in the live televised debates.

The media owe it to all Kenyans, at home and abroad, to include as wide a berth of views, opinions and perspectives as possible to ensure Kenyans make informed decisions in the polls.

Including the diaspora in the debates will promote diaspora citizen participation in issues of governance. It will also ensure the public interest obligations of the diaspora constituency are served and the role of media enhanced.

Given the contribution of the diaspora to the country, a segment of the debate should address the specific concerns of Kenyans abroad.

This is a constituency with vast human, capital and intellectual resources that span the globe. If well mobilised, it can revolutionise the dormant investment capital that those in diaspora have that currently only benefits European and American pension and investment funds.

In the spirit of the inclusive approach towards the debates, it is time to include the diaspora in those debates. This is the best way for media stakeholders to deliver their mandate to the Kenyan electorate and to be true to the values of participatory journalism.

Prof David Monda, New York, USA


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