3rd Jan: New IEBC Commissioners Ushered Into Office
The commissioners to replace to the outgoing electoral agency commissioners were finally nominated. Wafula Chebukati replaced Isaac Hassan as the Chair of the commission. Kenyans were given a chance to air their views on the suitability of the nominees for the positions before vetting by National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee. Later on, Chebukati and the other commissioners were approved to lead the electoral agency. Administering oath of office to the new Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) team, Chief Justice David Maraga urged them to ensure credible polls as the country’s future and stability was in their hands.
9th Jan: Controversy on Use of a Manual Back-up system in the Elections Resolved After the debate on elections laws ended in acrimony in the lower House, the Senate conducted a public hearing on the said laws where various stakeholders submitted their views. Governors joined the electoral reforms debate, stating that they are opposed to any attempt to have a manual back up in the next elections.
On the other hand religious groups under the umbrella of Inter-Faith Council of Kenya supported the inclusion of a manual backup system in the forthcoming general elections in case technology fails. The position by the religious groups faced a backlash from politicians in the opposition stating partisanship on the side of religious groups.
The IEBC refuted claims that they are planning to use a manual system in the next election. The Commission revealed they are compiling biometric information of all voters such as fingerprints to use as a back-up in case of technology failure.
Jan 6th: The law on campaign finance suspended as IEBC awaits direction on party primaries management
The High Court suspended the implementation of a law requiring political aspirants to submit their campaign finance and management information to the electoral agency. The application was filed by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) which complained that the requirement raises fundamental constitutional issues. Meanwhile, Treasury revealed it could be pressured to facilitate the electoral commission to fund party primaries to the tune of Sh3 billion ahead of the August General Election. However, actual allocation would be dependent on the number of political parties that approach IEBC for the services. The law authorizing the IEBC to manage political party primaries is not in place yet, though.
16th Jan: Second Mass Voter registration Kicks Off Countrywide
The second Mass Voter Registration kicked off countrywide, with the IEBC seeking to list six million Kenyans. The registration started with no hinderances reported. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cord leader Raila Odinga moved to the strongholds to mobilise their supporters to turn out in large numbers and enlist in readiness for the August elections.
President Uhuru Kenyatta asked electoral agency to trace and follow pastoralists to register them. To those without birth certificates, the President said that the administrators should write the youth letters in order to enable them to get IDs without being asked questions. Many youth don’t have these certificates but chiefs should ensure they get their IDs.
Transfer of registered voters will now be done at the constituency level and not at the ward level. The decision was made after a massive 700,000 registered voters applied for polling stations transfer in the previous mass voter registration conducted from February to March 2016. Pastoralists in Marsabit County have opposed this directive saying that the requirement infringes on voters' rights. Pastoralists may not be able to change polling stations as they keep moving in search of water and pasture for their livestock.
The need for voter education was underlined after it emerged that some old men from Tetu constituency in Nyeri County have kept away from the just-started massive voter registration, fearing that biometric voter registration (BVR) machines might expose their past crimes. Apart from Nyeri, the fear of BVR kits may be rife especially in areas where Kenyans are superstitious.
Even after reported low voter turnout the electoral agency has refused to use ID “waiting cards” for voter registration. The commission said that there is a potential for abuse and double registration if waiting cards were to be used. The IEBC warned politicians against forcing Kenyans to register as voters during the ongoing process. The commission asserted that it was unlawful for politicians to deny Kenyans their rights just because they are not registered as voters.
After the mass voter registration was announced, the Opposition called off the planned street demos to concentrate on rallying their supporters to register as voters. IEBC CEO later said that Kenya could be set for failure if politicians don’t build trust and rally Kenyans towards respecting institutions ahead of the General Election. He blamed politicians for the high level of mistrust about the electoral process in Kenya. He said politicians will always want to pursue short-cuts to realize their goals, even if it means breaking the law.
26th Jan: Katiba Institute Goes to Court over Gender Rule A civil society organization moved to court seeking an order to compel the IEBC to reject nomination lists of leaders for the posts of MPs and Senators if parties do not comply with the two thirds gender rule. In the case documents, Katiba Institute wants Political parties that are non-compliant with the two thirds gender constitutional requirement to be barred from participating in the elections of leaders in the National Assembly and the Senate.
27th Jan: Opposition Leaders Raise Voter registration Queries over: Shared IDs & Registration of Diaspora Voters Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka was outraged to find out his national identity card number had registered somebody else as a voter. The sharing of IDs between Kalonzo and Salome Wanjiru Njoroge was detected when he visited a voter registration centre at Wagberi Primary School in Wajir East constituency during his tour of Wajir County. An investigation was launched to establish how this had occurred. The commission confirmed that there are other cases of shared ID numbers in the voter’s register. Raila Odinga has been consistently asking IEBC to inspect the voter register to weed out what he alleges to be 1.5 million dead voters, who usually vote in every election.
Meanwhile, a rift emerged between the Opposition and the government on plans to register Kenyans in the diaspora as voters. The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) demanded the suspension of the registration — expected to begin in February — saying the numbers could be used to manipulate the elections. The party’s Director of Elections Junet Mohammed asked IEBC to clarify the figures involved. Most Kenyans living abroad say they would like to vote by electronic means if a given chance to participate. A new survey conducted for the Kenya Diaspora Alliance shows that as many as eight in every ten people polled want to cast their ballots over the internet, in what could challenge Kenya’s future laws on voting.
Further, it has become apparent the cost of the General Election could go up significantly because of the legal requirement that results be transmitted electronically. The IEBC’s Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba said the decision on what technology would be used in areas without adequate mobile phone coverage is yet to be made. He added that the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee had asked the IEBC to prepare guidelines on how they would implement the requirement for technology in the registration and identification of voters and the transmission of results. IEBC is exploring the possibility of using satellite technology to support transmission of results, especially in areas where internet connectivity is low.
Elsewhere, foreign diplomats in Kenya called for a free and fair General Election in August. In a joint statement, 25 ambassadors and high commissioners said that mishandling the process is likely to trigger violence similar to 2007-2008 when a dispute between PNU presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki and ODM’s Raila Odinga almost drove the country into civil conflict.