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US Election to Inspire Better Organized Kenya Vote, Says Official

  • Peter Clottey

Voters read the a sample ballot as they wait in line to cast their vote in Hialeah, Florida, November 6, 2012.

Voters read the a sample ballot as they wait in line to cast their vote in Hialeah, Florida, November 6, 2012.

An official of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says lessons learned from the U.S. election will help improve preparations for Kenya’s general election scheduled for March 4 of next year.

IEBC Commissioner Ambassador Yusuf Nzibo monitored the vote Tuesday in the U.S. states of Virginia and Maryland as well as the District of Columbia.

Ambassador Nzibo described the voting during an interview with VOA after monitoring the polling places.

“What we’ve noticed is that in D.C., people come and say who they are and they are allowed to get a ballot. You have a choice of either electronic or manual voting,” said Nzibo.

“Here in Fairfax County, Virginia, the cue was very long and they are using only one hall for voting,” Nzibo said. “Whereas in my country, we would have streamed people in different classrooms, with an average of between 350 and 400 people so that the cues can move fast.”

He says there is need for Kenyans to develop the culture of tolerance and peaceful co-existence in all election activities in the run up to next year’s vote.

Nzibo said lessons learned from monitoring the U.S. election would help the IEBC improve its preparations for next year’s vote.

“The issue is the question of the laws,” he said. “For example, I have seen a lady who is disabled, she was in the car; she was unable to come to the voting room so the ballot was taken to her to vote by the officer. That would not have happened in Kenya. We would have had to carry the lady to the polling booth for her to vote.”

“People are very calm and it’s like a Sunday, they are out talking to each other. There is no tension and I have not seen a police car or policemen around the school and it is peaceful. I think that is one thing we can pick that elections are not matters of life and death.”

Nzibo said Kenya also can save money on elections by learning from the U.S. electoral system, which he said, enables volunteers to work as election officials during polls.

“What impressed me is that at home, we spend a lot of money recruiting poll officials, [but] here is much more of people volunteering as a community responsibility to be allowed to come and conduct the election,” he said.

“You don’t see people standing outside asking for bribes. I mean it is unheard of here, people cuing outside in order to be bribed to vote," he added.

Some Kenyans expressed worries that the IEBC has been unable to educate enough citizens to ensure there is no repeat of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. An estimated 1,133 people were killed in the violence and more than 663,000 displaced following those elections.

“I think it’s just developing a culture of democracy where people accept that elections are an everyday affair ad that it has to be conducted peacefully that people have to self-regulate themselves and that party campaigning cannot be nasty to the point where it would cause deaths,” said Nzibo.

“We need to develop this culture of tolerance, culture of peaceful elections and campaigning peacefully and electing our leaders in an orderly manner.”

Nzibo expressed concerns about distrust in electoral systems in Africa, which he said, creates tension and divisions.

“There is so much mistrust in our system, across the continent, that we spend so much money on security issues, spend so much money on security features on the ballot papers,” Nzibo said.