IEBC team may assume office next week and take over voter listing

Thursday January 12 2017

Dr Paul Kurgat when he appeared before justice and Legal Affairs Committee at County Hall, Nairobi, on January 11, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Dr Paul Kurgat when he appeared before justice and Legal Affairs Committee at County Hall, Nairobi, on January 11, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN NJAGI
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The new electoral commission is expected to assume office next week and take over the registration of voters targeting more than six million Kenyans.

The National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee meets on Thursday to compile a report, following the conclusion of vetting of the seven Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission nominees.

“We will meet tomorrow (Thursday) to come up with a report of the IEBC nominees and that of the chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and decide whether to approve or reject them. The reports will be tabled on Tuesday next week during a special sitting,” said committee chairman Samuel Chepkong’a.

Mr Chepkong’a said one of the main tasks of the new team would be to oversee the voter listing that begins next week.

On Wednesday, three nominees appeared before the committee. They were diplomat and university lecturer Paul Kurgat, Ms Margaret Wanjala and Prof Abdi Guliye.

They promised to conduct the affairs of the commission in a transparent manner in which Kenyans will be made aware of the decisions taken by IEBC.

Dr Kurgat, who was the first to appear before the panel, said politicians who preach violence should be banned from contesting for two terms.

The former ambassador to Russia said efforts should also be made address issues that trigger violence in the run-up to elections such as unequal distribution of resources, boundary rows and issuance of title deeds. He said violence was not an event but a process that begins way before elections.

The don said he was independent and would not bow to pressure despite coming from an Uasin Gishu County village that borders that of Deputy President William Ruto.

“I went to Kamagut village when I left Russia and have since returned to the university to teach. If I was anyone’s favourite son, I would have been called to take up some top position,” said Dr Kurgat.

VOTER EDUCATION

Ms Wanjala, a native of Taita-Taveta County, said voter education was required to boost listing in areas known for low turnout.

Kuresoi North MP Moses Cheboi asked the nominee if she was ready “to be called all manner of names” after the August 8 elections by dissatisfied politicians.

Ms Wanjala, who said she rose from a P1 teacher to part-time university lecturer, said if IEBC decisions were done openly and players were aware of the rules of the game, the results were likely to be more acceptable.

Prof Guliye, an animal production expert and lecturer at Egerton University, said he supported a fully electronic electoral process, adding that a back-up mechanism should be the last resort.

Other reforms proposed by the don included regular meetings of the political party liaison committee to ensure stakeholders are involved in decisions of the commission “as this will lessen tension and mistrust” as well as integrating inter-agency services to reduce cost of elections.

“Voter registration should be continuous, not a one-off event. It cost $20 to register a voter in Kenya. This is the most expensive voter registration in the world,” said Prof Guliye.

He added that IEBC officials should be paid according to the number of voters registered per year.

He advocated the issuance of voter cards can together with national identity cards for efficiency and cost-cutting.

“Issuance of death certificates should also be done concurrently with removal of names from the voters’ register,” he said.