Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) clerks at Kongowea office prepare for the mass voter registration that starts on Monday. IEBC officials will be watching keenly areas notorious for voter importation which could tilt the balance in the August 8 polls. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Tough bid to curb voter importation as IEBC starts mass listing
By By JUSTUS WANGA
The last mass voter registration before the General Election begins on Monday, with the officials keenly watching areas notorious for voter importation which could tilt the balance in the August 8 polls.
All the pointers indicate that the elections could be the most competitive in the country’s history.
Mr Ezra Chiloba, chief executive of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and other senior officials will on Sunday hold a press conference in Nairobi at midday to provide details of the mass voter registration.
The Sunday Nation can report that some aspirants, as part of their secret weapon against opponents, are splurging millions of shillings to aide voters move their polling centres to where they will help them win such seats.
While the most affected are counties where governor aspirants are out to outwit opponents, parliamentary and county assembly races are not left behind. Many potential voters in border areas are expected to cross over to neighbouring centres to enlist.
Sources within IEBC identify Murang’a, Kiambu, Meru, Kajiado, Narok, Bomet, Nairobi, Busia, Bungoma, Siaya, Machakos and Kakamega as counties where the practice is likely to be most pronounced.
In the Western border counties like Bungoma and Busia, aspirants for MP and MCA seats have in the past traded accusations of importing Ugandans to shore up their numbers. This is partly explained by the shared heritage of the communities in these counties — such as Bagisu in Uganda and Bukusu in Bungoma. In Busia, for instance, the Samia also occupy Eastern Uganda.
The IEBC is also concerned that some politicians in Isiolo and Marsabit counties could be planning to move voters in readiness for the elections.
The commission’s Upper Eastern coordinator, Mr Liban Mohamed, said the transferred voters had surpassed the number of those registered. Cases of voters being transported in buses for registration in other areas have been reported in the region.
Mr Liban said transporting voters from other regions is criminal and could cause conflict. He urged politicians to instead mobilise the electorate to register as voters where they lived.
“We are concerned that the number of voters who transfer to other wards, constituencies and regions is higher than the newly registered voters,” said the IEBC coordinator during a stakeholder’s forum yesterday. The IEBC official cited lack of national identification cards (IDs) for registration and voter apathy as the main challenges facing the exercise.
Isiolo County Commissioner George Natembeya said politicians should stop importing voters since it would result to conflict. “Importing voters is against the law. We will not allow politicians to cause conflict during elections,” he said.
On Saturday, Mr Chiloba, said: “Kenyans must be cautious of politicians out to misuse them for their selfish gains. Such tendencies take away their freedom of choice,” he said.
Historically, Nairobi has witnessed this trend perhaps more than any other region, owing to the high stakes placed on its political offices and the fact that it gets the highest revenue allocation from the National Treasury.
Over time, Kiambu, Machakos and Murang’a have been said to supply voters who shift to Nairobi to influence the outcome. Figures at IEBC support this.
After close to 500,000 voters transferred from their previous polling stations to new ones during the last mass registration early last year, a commission official said most of the voter transfers were recorded in Nairobi and the movements were largely from Kiambu County.
The registration mainly focused on Mathare Constituency, represented in Parliament by Mr Stephen Kariuki, a son of one of the governor aspirants and former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru.
The commission described the huge number of transfers as “largely suspicious” and promised a proper analysis on what may have prompted it. “It was noted that 493,169 voters applied for transfers from one station to another; one county assembly ward to another, one constituency to another; or from one county to another. The large number of transfers of already registered voters was witnessed across all counties,” said outgoing chairman Issack Hassan in a statement.
A total of 1.4 million new voters were listed countrywide in the last drive. Already, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero is crying foul. He accuses Jubilee of being behind a plot to deny him a second term in office.
“There should be no transportation of voters from other areas to come and register in Nairobi because we want Nairobians to elect people who will serve them. We should not allow outsiders to come and choose leaders for us.”
He said he would launch the final voter registration exercise for Nairobi tomorrow morning. Jubilee, however, dismissed his sentiments as a sign of panic.
“I think he is preparing his supporters for the inevitable loss he’s staring at. He is explaining the loss in advance. Our agenda is not to deny him a second term in office but to redeem Nairobi from bad governance. We are not importing any voter but are asking those who live and work in Nairobi to come out and vote,” nominated MP Johnson Sakaja, who is one of the governor aspirants, said.
To stem this phenomenon, the IEBC has devised a raft of measures that the secretariat says will “maintain order and integrity of the voters roll”.
Last week, the commission announced that all people who want to change their registration centres will have to apply from the IEBC constituency office where they first registered.
“That’s a policy decision,” the manager of communication and public affairs, Mr Andrew Limo, said yesterday.
Some incumbent governors are being accused of diverting public resources to import voters.
Previously, the law under cap 2017 required that for one to vote, one must have been a resident of a particular place for at least 10 years. To prove this, one had to show utility bills.
“It is still a requirement in some countries. But changes to our law now allows anyone to register and vote anywhere,” added Mr Limo.
Mr Chiloba weighed in, saying the law made it hard to stem the practice since no proof of residency is required to register as a voter. “Anyone can register anywhere,” he said.
Commentators have almost concluded that the outcome of the presidential poll between Jubilee and the opposition will be decided by how well each camp is able to mobilise its supporters to come out, register as voters and eventually vote.
On Friday at the launch of Jubilee Party’s membership card drive, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised a hefty reward for regions that will register the highest number of votes, signifying how high the stakes have risen. “Let us unite, go out and sell the Jubilee manifesto and register as members and voters. If we do so, the win will be for all of us,” he said.
Opposition chief Raila Odinga had delivered the same message to his supporters a day earlier.
“You must all go out, in every town, village, home, church, school, bus stop, every single day and not rest until everybody you meet is a registered voter to send a mass message to Jubilee that they must go home! It has to be done.”
The same day, Mr Odinga announced they would not be calling for street demonstrations to protest against the newly enacted electoral laws that provide for complimentary backup to voters’ roll should the electronic system fail. The opposition said the mass action plan would have hindered free registration of voters.
While the most glaring is the bitter competition between Jubilee and the opposition in the numbers game, the scheming within parties is also significant as such numbers will come in handy at the party nominations stage.
Source: Daily Nation