It’s time to reform our poll infrastructure ahead of 2017 elections

By: SILAS JAKAKIMBA

On July 15, 2015, US President Barack Obama said his agenda was two-fold in response to a question by a White House correspondent on his thoughts regarding his visit to his “father-land” Kenya — “to encourage the expansion of democratic space and reduction of corruption inside that country, that incredibly blessed and gifted country”.

Primarily, we all know that the US President was coming to Kenya on an economic mission; to attend the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

Yet, in answering the above question, he chose to underscore the fact that economic, good governance and political developments are linked.

I agree with President Obama that however much we focus on laying foundations for a strengthened, entrepreneurial nation, sustainable economic developments cannot thrive in a dysfunctional political system.

Deep in the countryside, as in urban settings across the country, there’s growing concern and bitterness arising from perceptions that the preparations and conduct of the 2013 General Election were neither credible, accountable nor free and fair — yet we are fast approaching the next elections without tangible consensual, structured process by the government, stakeholders and captains of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to agree on mutual areas for reform of the electoral infrastructure.

CHEGUERED PATH

Granted, Kenya has travelled a chequered path in rebuilding institutions of governance after the 2008 post-election violence.

Part of the envisioned reforms was establishment of an independent electoral commission to ensure the false start witnessed after the December 2007 presidential election never recurs.

So many issues have arisen pointing to the conclusion by analysts that the integrity threshold on the conduct of 2013 elections was below par.

Whereas it is not my domain to enter a new verdict outside that given by the Supreme Court on March 30, 2013, I would like to illustrate, with figures, why Kenya is facing a time-bomb in 2017 should the government through its National Registration Bureau, and the IEBC, fail to adhere to the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and issue ID cards and voters cards to citizens who have attained majority age.

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a functional representative democracy.

Importantly, only a franchised populace can freely exercise this important right— the right to vote in a government of their choice.

CRIMINAL OMISSION

Fact is, there seem to have been either a criminal omission or a deliberate effort to disenfranchise swathes of Kenyans in the build-up to the voting day.

Conspiracy theorists even developed what would later be termed by the mainstream media as “the tyranny of numbers”. In my opinion, this was coined to sway public opinion to a defeatist corner and clothe improprieties that were being occasioned by the system or stakeholders involved.

In opposition strongholds, many people who applied for ID cards never got them.

Even so, the few that managed to have the cards were disenfranchised by IEBC from registering as voters.

In some areas, one BVR kit would be shared, say by four to five wards, whereas in other parts of the country, every ward and in some cases polling stations, each had a BVR kit with more than enough personnel to register people.

But how does one explain the below mind-boggling discrepancies in registration of persons as voters?

WHOPPING 106 PER CENT

Mandera County (then) with a population of 1,025,756 and an estimated voting population of 478,207, registered the lowest number of voters in the country at 25.3 per cent of the projected turnout, with 121,005 only, whereas Kirinyaga County with a total population of 528,054, and an estimated voting population of 246,148, registered a whopping 106.7 per cent turn-out, with 262,715 being registered.

Even Nyandarua County with only 596,268 as total, and estimated voting population of 277,980, had 252,889 (90.1 per cent) registered voters still way ahead of Mandera, which had almost twice its population.

Wajir County, with a total population of 661,941 and an estimated voting population of 290,470 only, listed 110,286, yet puzzling is how Laikipia County, with a total of 399,227 and an estimated voting population of 186,119, could register more than Wajir— at 95.1 per cent, with 170,267 being registered!

Kakamega County, which had a total population of 1,660,651 and an estimated voting population of 774,194, managed 568,813 as registered voters (73.5 per cent), yet Kiambu County with less, at a total population of 1,623,282 and an estimated voting population of even less 56,773, pulled an overshot of 860,716 at 113.7 per cent.

ANOTHER SHOCK

And take the case of Bungoma County with a total population of 1,375,063 and estimated voting population of 641,053 registering 411,981 (64.3 per cent), whereas Murang’a County, with a total of 942,581 and an estimated voting population of 439,431, registered 457,052 (104 per cent), way ahead of Bungoma.

Another shock is when Turkana County which, with a total of 855,399 and estimated voting population of 398,786, registered only 120,345 (30.2 per cent), yet a juxtaposition against Tharaka, with much less— total of 365,330, estimated voting population of 170,317— registered 155,823; way more than what Turkana recorded.

A few parliamentary examples of this skewed registration would also suffice.

Mbita Constitiuency, with a total of 111,409 and estimated voting population of 51,939, only registered 37,809, whereas Othaya, with a total of 87,384, estimated voting population of 40,734, listed 46,793 (114.9)!

Even Kiambu at a lesser total of 108,698 and an estimated voting population of 50,675 registered more than Mbita, at 58,517 (115.5 per cent)!

Kanduyi, with a total of 229,701, estimated voting population of 107,086, registered 77,096 (72 per cent) was still way behind Mathira that had a lower total of 148,847, estimated voting population of 69,392, registering an overshoot of 80,221 (115.6 per cent)!

AMAZING SCENARIO

Another amazing scenario is Mbeere North with a paltry total of 89,035, estimated voting population of 41,508 having registered 36,423 (87.7 per cent), yet Mandera West with 161,701 had 16,605 and Mandera South with 247,619 only registered 10,600 (9.2 per cent) out of a possible 115,440!

I could go on and on but my search of critical answers in this respect only led me to more questions as to who might have sanctioned outright acts of fraud by the IEBC in playing oversight to a skewed, unfair and unconstitutional exercise of one of its core mandates — to register all qualified Kenyans.

The government must also issue ID cards to applicants, as this is no longer just political, but a matter that currently bears on both economic empowerment and development of the youth.

Evidently, from the IEBC (as at December 18, 2012), the so-called “tyranny of numbers” was just but a myth.