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December 17, 2012

Kenya Voter Registration Ends Tuesday

by Peter Clottey

An official of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says the electoral body is unlikely to meet its target of registering 18 million prospective voters for the March 4th general election next year.

Official voter registration for the elections ends Tuesday.

“In most of the urban areas you find the cues are idle and in many places there are hardly two or three people [registering],” said IEBC Commissioner Ambassador Yusuf Nzibo. “So we expect, Tuesday, there may be a last minute rush. But even then, I can’t see ourselves going beyond 13 million.”

Nzibo dismissed accusations that poor planning or poor organization by the electoral group is to blame for the low turnout.

“We’ve done our best,” continued Nzibo, “every day you will hear on TV on radio and even [text] messages for people to go out and register, yet in many of the registration centers, the clerks are idle.”

Meanwhile, Kabando wa Kabando assistant minister for youth and sports, has called on the IEBC to extend voter registration so more students can get on the voting lists.

Kabando maintains that young people, who he said are mostly students, could be disenfranchised because a majority of them are enrolled in colleges and universities far away from their permanent homes. He said they would need more time to register.

“[About] a million willing voters will miss the historic chance to vote, mostly … because they are students in colleges and universities studying far from home and are yet to complete their education,” said Kabando.

Nzibo, however, says the IEBC will not extend the voter registration period.

President Mwai Kibaki called on more Kenyans to register after noting that the fewer than expected had done so far.

Nzibo blamed rumor and speculation for the low voter registration.                                                 

“The current rumor going around is that the youth are fearful that the reason why we are asking for ID cards, and also scanning fingers, is that if they have any criminal record, they will be nabbed [and] that we shall share the information with the police, which is not true,” said Nzibo. “There are people who started spreading rumors that these machines are cancerous or they will prevent you from bearing children. So, we have to counter negative publicity.”

Some Kenyans say the recent violence allegedly perpetrated by members of Somali-based insurgent group, al-Shabab, made them afraid to register.

“There is voter apathy, especially in areas that were prone to violence after the 2007 election,” said Nzibo.
Clottey interview with Ambassador Yusuf Nzibo, IEBC Commissioner