Mass Voter Registration Drive Kicks Off in Kenya

NAIROBI � It’s a hot day here on the sidewalk outside Nairobi’s St. Peter Clavers primary school, but the 20 or so people standing in line behind a small desk don’t seem to mind.

They are here to register to vote in Kenya’s August elections.

“It’s our right to vote for the next president and our MPs and all of that,” said 31-year-old laborer and first time voter Samuel Njoroge.

This is the first day of the final mass voter registration drive being conducted by Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The other took place around this same time last year.

The current drive will end in one month’s time. And so far, IEBC communication manager Andrew Limo says things seem to be going well.

“Yeah, I think the reports we’re getting in are encouraging,” said Limo. “Of course, [as] for any other exercise, there will be problems on the first day, in terms of deployment, some people may not have arrived at their centers in good time, and so they may have opened late. And things like that. But these are not major problems.”

The IEBC has faced its share of challenges in the past. Protests organized by Kenya’s political opposition in mid-2016 resulted in the entire electoral commission being replaced. More recently, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed an amendment to the election law allowing for manual voting and counting should the electronic system fail.

The opposition argues this latest move opens the door for vote rigging.

Businessman Wycliffe Kafwa, 37, said he is not in favor of the manual system, and is unsure about the new electoral commission.

“We are still in the process of weighing how it is,” said Kafwa.” At this time, it’s still early to say, whether they are fine or they are not fine.”

But university student and first-time voter Ted Mwatha Ng’anga says he’s not concerned that these issues could negatively affect next year’s elections.

“When the right things are happening, there always has to be challenges, so I think it will all work out. People also have to accept the changes that we’re having,” said Ng’anga.

The IEBC’s Limo said his organization is targeting the roughly nine million Kenyans over the age of 18 who have a national ID card or passport, but who have not yet registered to vote.

Mass voter registration is scheduled to conclude February 14, but potential voters can register until 90 days before the elections, by going to their constituency offices or public service centers.

Source: Voice of America