Leaders mobilise eligible Kenyan voters to enlist

Monday, October 25th, 2021 00:00 | By
ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna addresses Nairobi residents at a past function. He urged the government to increase the civic education budget. Photo/File

Presidential hopefuls were yesterday racing against time to shore up the number of registered voters in their political strongholds as the enhanced voter registration exercise enters its last week.

The top contenders are battling for the 6.2 million new voters which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) targets to register by the time the exercise ends in seven days’ time.

The exercise has so far witnessed unprecedented apathy since it kicked off three weeks ago with the vote rich Mt Kenya region, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s strongholds of Nyanza and Coast and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi’s western backyard registering particularly low numbers.  

According to statistics released by IEBC at the end of the second week of the exercise, a paltry 491,968 new voters had been registered out of the commission’s two-week target of three million.

Raila’s political base of Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii and Nyamira had registered 70,812 new voters while Mudavadi’s backyard of Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga counties have only registered 53,014 at the end of the first two weeks.

Also lagging behind were the Deputy President William Ruto’s backyard of Kericho, Bomet, Uasin Gishu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot had in the same period two weeks registered only 74,517 new voters.

Uncollected IDs

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s base of Machakos, Makueni and Kitui was not doing any better, having registered a paltry 32,778 new voters in the same period.

In a bid to shore up the numbers in his perceived strongholds, Ruto has been using public fora to ask Kenyans to register as voters and has even recorded a short video appealing to those who have not been enlisted.

Mudavadi yesterday blamed voter apathy for poor leadership and called on the thousands of youths without national Identity cards to register for the same and take up the voter’s card.

“There are millions of uncollected ID cards at chiefs’ offices. I call upon the many people who have not collected the same to do so and ensure they register as voters. That is the only way we can elect the leadership we deserve,” he said.

Speaking at the Harvest Family Church in Rongai, Kajiado county, Mudavadi called on the millions of Kenyans who have not registered as voters to do so and be able to have a say on the leadership of the country.

“Let our votes define our future. Those who are not yet registered should make good use of this last week of mass voter registration exercise to get registered,” he said.

Separately, Ruto, Raila and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi used their public engagements during the weekend to rally voters to do so before the end of the Enhanced Voter Registration exercise.

Chebukati had previously warned Kenyans to take advantage of the ongoing exercise because the commission would not conduct a similar exercise before the 2022 election owing to budgetary constraints.

He has, however, clarified that the commission will still carry out Continuous Voter Registration at the Constituency level after the November 2 deadline.

“We do not have any other budget. We will not have any other Mass Voter Registration.

Those who have not registered should take this opportunity and register because, after November 2, any person who wishes to enlist as a voter should go to the Constituency level,” said Chebukati.

The electoral agency has attributed the low voter turnout to general voter apathy, insecurity in parts of Lamu, Baringo and Laikipia counties and along Kenya-Somalia borders, lack of National Identity Cards and the culture of last-minute rush where Kenyans go for exercises when deadlines approach.

“The commission has reported a low turnout in the first week with only 202,518 which represents 13.5 per cent registration out of the national week target of 1,500,000,” said Chebukati in a press release on October 11. 

Over the last seven days, the commission has registered 202,518 new voters out of the weekly target of 1,500,000.

With the 30-day nationwide voter registration exercise ending in a week’s time, calls to extend the voters listing period have intensified amidst low turnout of eligible persons.

Yesterday, Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi expressed concern over the apathy in the Mt Kenya region and urged the youths to enlist with the IEBC.

While decrying the small number of those turning up to register in the region, he said it was a constitutional right for every person who attains the age of 18 to be registered as a voter.

The county boss challenged the youth to register in large numbers in the on-going mass exercise. 

“If you fail to register, you will not vote and this will mean you will contribute in creating room for the leaders that you consider bad,” said Muriithi.

Civic education

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna told People Daily that although there is apathy, they would continue to rally Kenyans who have IDs to enlist as voters, adding that no matter how long you extend the period, if people do not see the need to vote it will be a waste of time.

Sifuna said the Orange party is calling upon the National Treasury to consider increasing the civic education budget so that the people can be educated on the need to register as voters.

“It is very difficult to mobilise the youths who see that even if they register their votes will not count. These issues are coming up. But we are urging the youths to take the vote first as to whether they will vote or not is another thing altogether,” said Sifuna.

He went on: “We urge the government to consider increasing the civic education budgetary allocation to the IEBC.

If the eligible voters do not see or understand the need to register as voters, even if you extend the period, they will still not register. It is not a question of extending the period.”

In Raila’s Nyanza backyard, a section of political leaders in Homa Bay county asked aspirants in the county to shelve their campaigns and prioritise voter registration mobilisation.

Led by Governor Cyprian Awiti, Woman Rep Gladys Wanga, MPs Ong’ondo Were (Kasipul), Lilian Gogo (Rangwe) and Eve Obara (Kabondo Kasipul), the leaders took issue with their colleagues who they accused of failing to drive the voter registration agenda at the grassroots level.

Awiti told residents to ignore politicians who are pursuing their interests instead of working collectively to mobilise people to enlist as voters. 

“We want residents not to pay attention to any elected leader and politicians from Homa Bay who are going against what we agreed on.

The consequence they should face is not being voted in the positions they are seeking in 2022 elections,” said Awiti.

In Kiambu, political activists traversed the county urging potential voters to register before the close of the current voter registration window.

Under the umbrella of Kanu Fresh, Team Mount Kenya, the leaders and youths also urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to set up a supplementary budget to support IEBC’s bid to list as many Kenyans in its systems.

Thika Town MP Patrick Wainaina urged Mt Kenya residents to register as voters if they are to determine their next leaders.

“I am also asking our IEBC clerks to now start camping inside our higher institutions of learning where the most eligible persons are. Being the last week, we have to do everything possible to be near our targets if not beating them,” he said. 

Transport Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Wavinya Ndeti also urged Kenyans who have attained the age of 18 to register as voters to participate in the 2022 General Election.

Speaking after attending Sunday service at St Jude Catholic Church in Mavoko, asked Kenyans to register to ensure they were registered and ready to exercise their rights in the coming elections.

“I am calling all Kenyans to come out and register, especially those who are now 18 years and above because their vote is their rights,” said Wavinya.

She pointed out that every single vote cast is important because if a particular leader was not to fulfill promises, the only way to effect change was through the ballot. - Reporting by Rawlings Otieno, Gastone Valusi and Mathew Ndung’u

More on News