Since July 2012, KHRC has been engaged in monitoring the electoral processes in the lead up to the March 2013 general elections through its Electoral Processes Monitoring Center KHRC would like to commend the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for its efforts toward ensuring that voter registration process is on course.
Particularly the KHRC lauds the IEBC on: 1) the expeditious manner in which the registration exercise is being carried out; 2) the IEBC’s publication of voter registration centers across the country through the local dailies; 3) the IEBC’s use of various ICT platforms to encourage members of the public to register to vote including SMS updates and alerts; 4) the conduct of its registration officials who have been open and transparent concerning the registration process including the challenges being experienced; 5) the quick response of the IEBC to the various concerns raised by civil society and other actors concerning the registration process; and 6) the cooperation offered by the IEBC Commissioners and Secretariat in pursuing a transparent and apposite registration process.
The KHRC, however, is concerned about the low numbers of people that have so far turned out to register for the upcoming polls in 2013 and has noted the following issues that need to be urgently addressed by the relevant state and non-state actors:
- The low registration figures in the counties within the former Coast, Rift Valley and North Eastern Provinces: the updated figures published by the IEBC on the number of individuals registered in the more marginalized areas indicate extremely poor turn-out in Kwale (30%), Kilifi (41%), Turkana (27%), West Pokot (33%), Trans Nzoia (39%) Wajir (25%), Mandera (16%) and Garissa (27%). This has been occasioned by a variety of factors including the logistical complexities of conducting registration in the largely nomadic communities in the aforementioned areas, poor transport and communication infrastructure, lack of identification documentation due to protracted vetting processes and centralized collection points, insecurity and voter apathy.
Recommendation: KHRC recommends that the government provide special assistance to the IEBC including facilitation of air travel and to assist IEBC registration officials to locate and register members of the aforementioned nomadic communities through the process of mobile voter registration. Further, IEBC should consider employing mechanisms to reach people who live in vast Wards with poor infrastructure and have problems reaching registration centres nearest to them, for examples Wards in Western Kenya, Lower Eastern and parts of Rift Valley.
- Insufficient information on the location of the registration centres and “nomadic” nature of some centres: While it is commendable that IEBC has released information on the location of the registration centres, it is also of concern that this information is piece-meal and at times inconsistent. Many people are still asking on social media where to find their registration centres while others go to register only to find that the advertised centre was only available at a certain time and is no longer available, and there is no indication where next to find a centre. This is at most demoralizing to would-be registered voters. It is also of concern that to date, IEBC has not published the list of registration centres on its website, which could be of much help.
Recomendation: KHRC recommends that IEBC publishes the full list of all the registration centres in the daily newspapers at once rather than on unpredicted different days for ease of access to information. Further, this information should be made available on the IEBC website and other ICT platforms.
- Low collection of ID documents by the youth and individuals form marginalized areas: KHRC has, in monitoring the registration process, noticed that a significant portion of the youth as well as individuals in the marginalized areas face being locked out of the registration process due to the lack of identification documentation (i.e. national identity cards or passports). Indeed, KHRC noted that most of those being turned away from the registration centers are individuals with waiting cards – largely comprising of the youth.
KHRC realizes that there are numerous identity documents already processed by the Ministry of State for Immigration and Registration of Persons (MSIRP) and disseminated to the respective provincial and district administrative offices where they remain uncollected.
Recommendation: The KHRC would like to request the MSIRP to, where practicable and in light of the importance of the registration process, engage ICT platforms such as SMS’s to alert citizens, whose identification documentation have been processed, to proceed to collect the said documents from the relevant offices.
While it is commendable that IEBC has declined the use of waiting cards for the registration process, KHRC further petitions President Kibaki not to assent to amendments by Parliament to the Elections Law providing persons with waiting cards eligibility to register with the said cards. While we fully support the initiative to have as many registered voters on board as possible, we also strongly believe the process should not in any away impair IEBC’s ability to secure a legitimate and credible voters register as waiting cards can be easily counterfeited. The process of counterfeiting may raise the additional challenges of ascertaining those with valid and invalid waiting cards and bring the process into reproach.
- Voter migration: KHRC has noted that a good number of voters, while working in urban centers prefer to register in their rural or the so called ethnic areas/regions. Some of those who highlight this preference are concerned over security in the aftermath of the polling process in view of the violent outcome of the 2007 elections. Others prefer to vote in their rural homes out of the habitual a desire to elect leaders from their respective rural areas of origin. Some people may be unable to go and register in their preferred rural constituencies because of the cost in implications of having to travel three times, first to register, second for the Christmas holidays and thirdly to eventually go and vote.
Recommendation: KHRC appeals to citizens to re-evaluate their choices as to the location of registration based on the criterion of greatest and most proximate interest – i.e. if one habitually resides and works in a particular area, then his/her civic duty to elect representatives at county and national level is best exercised with regards to aspirants who will represent those areas in which he/she works and resides. It is indeed a waste of one’s right to suffrage if one will vote for a representative from a rural location based on mere paternal interests over a representative in whose jurisdiction one habitually resides and works.
Moreover, KHRC challenges the national security agencies in the country to highlight to the public all security measures being taken to ensure a peaceful electoral process in 2013 both during and after the elections.
- Low turn-out among women: KHRC has also noted the fact that in most areas, there has been low turn-out among women with regards to registration. There is indication that this is attributable to a variety of factors with the most common being apathy among women voters as well as work commitments of most women of voting age. Indeed, many women have been known to report to registration centers late in the evening hours after the days registration has been concluded. These largely include domestic, farm and industry workers.
Recommendation: KHRC appeals to all employers in the formal and informal sectors to allow employees leave for the strict purpose of registration in light of the importance of the upcoming electoral process. KHRC also calls upon all women to turn out and register if they are to participate in influencing the governance of the country.
In light of these challenges facing the registration process and the need to secure legitimacy of the electoral process in 2013 through genuine and popular elections, the KHRC calls upon the relevant state agencies and the IEBC to apply all measure possible, including extending the registration period by one week, to secure the registration of the initially targeted 18 million voters.
The KHRC implores all Kenyans to exercise their patriotic conscience by registering to participate in the upcoming electoral process and selecting such persons as will serve the sovereign men, women and children of this country and honour the Constitution of this republic.
Atsango Chesoni, Executive Director