Concern over readiness of Kenya's electoral body

Monday February 13 2017

Voter registration at the Makongeni centre in

Voter registration at the Makongeni centre in coastal Kwale County stalled due to technical problems on the BVR kits on January 16, 2017. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By FRED OLUOCH

Kenya’s civil society has raised concerns over the electoral body’s readiness to conduct the August 8 general election even as the mass voter registration exercise closes on February 14.

During a forum in Nairobi on Monday, delegates questioned the level of preparedness by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The forum was organised by the Kenya Alliance of Resident Association (Kara).

“While significant strides have been made in preparation for the elections, there are still some concerns especially with regard to the timelines for completing certain tasks. For example, the issue about auditing the voter register is still pending in court,” said Kara’s chairman Richard Nyaga, adding that some poll equipment is also yet to be procured.

The IEBC began executing its Election Operation Plan (EOP) last July, but its smooth implementation has been hindered by the lengthy time taken in selecting new commissioners to provide policy guideline.

The commission is also yet to procure an election IT system and integrate it as well as hire sufficient human resource for effective management of the electoral process.

The IEBC also faces pressure to convince numerous stakeholders that it is ready to conduct a credible election electronically after massive failure in the 2013 polls when the electronic voter identification devices (EVIDs) and the electronic results transmission system (RTS) collapsed forcing the commission to revert to manual systems.

But according to Prof Yash Pal Ghai, an constitutional law expert and the director of Katiba Institute, the challenge is not about technology but integrity among those entrusted with conducting the polls.

“Elections is not about correct equipment but the correct frame of mind to conduct credible elections,” said Prof Ghai.

Most of the participants noted that the IEBC has performed poorly in voter education which has resulted in low voter turnout. The IEBC leadership has also expressed concern about voter-apathy.

But Rasi Musudi, the IEBC director of voter education and partnership, the commission is ready and has been implementing the EOP.

He however said that the audit of the voter register will delay they await the ruling of a court case initiated by the opposition party, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).