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Kenya Electoral Body Disappointed Over Low Registration Rates

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (R) registers as a voter before launching the nationwide, one-month biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise in the capital Nairobi, November 19, 2012, targeting over 18 million voters ahead of the March 4 General Election.
An official of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says the ongoing voter registration process has been disappointing.

“The attitude Kenyans have is usually to turn up at the last minute. We are telling them please turn up in large numbers [because] the rains are about to start so, don’t wait till it’s difficult for us to reach you. We’ve got sufficient equipment to be able to register all Kenyans,” said IEBC Commissioner Ambassador Yusuf Nzibo.

He says the electoral body has stepped up education efforts to encourage Kenyans to register ahead of next year’s general election scheduled for March 4.

But Nzibo says there needs to be a change in attitude, especially among the youth who wait until the last minute to register. He warned that the registration period would not be extended.

“We are noticing that it’s the elderly who are turning up to register," he said. "The youth are yet to come out and register. Many of them are saying they either don’t have national identification cards or saying that they are still waiting for their cards.”

Nzibo says Kenya’s Immigration Service has promised to expedite issuing out national identification cards to enable people to register.

“The minister in charge of registration of persons has also agreed that we can use old ID’s [identification cards] and we have been assured that cards are being channeled out. So, people with old IDs are also going to be registered,” he said.

Nzibo said the electoral body has resolved initial problems with the biometric machines used for the registration.

“At the beginning we had problems of machines [not working], getting the machines to the right places and also at the coast there was fear of [violent] threats, but those threats have evaporated with very good collaboration from the security agencies,” said Nzibo.

He said some Kenyans have expressed concern about recent insecurity in parts of the country. “Security challenge[s] in places like Baragoi, where over 40 policemen were killed, people of course have stayed away. We are talking to the local politicians, the leaders [and] the elders to try to urge people to come out to register,” said Nzibo.

He said the IEBC has a target of registering about 18 million voters for next year’s vote. It is not clear yet how many have been registered so far.

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