The race to State House appears to have kicked off in earnest with the main protagonists, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cord leader Raila Odinga, targeting the month-long voter registration that kicks off on Monday to shore up numbers in their strongholds.
Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) on Friday unveiled an elaborate strategy to register new voters in an attempt to counter Jubilee’s “tyranny of numbers” ahead of the 2017 Election.
In the new strategy, ODM deputy leader Ali Hassan Joho directed grassroots leaders to target secondary schools and institutions of higher learning, especially in regions where it commands massive support.
“The exercise is being conducted when schools, colleges and universities are in session. We appeal to the IEBC and to heads of learning institutions to ensure young people in these institutions are not denied the chance to register,” Mr Joho said.
Mr Kenyatta on his part met elected leaders from Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyandarua and Nyeri counties at the Sagana State Lodge where it was agreed to conduct a joint campaign to register new voters while fighting illicit brews.
“The alcohol menace has a direct bearing to lower voter registration and acquisition of identity cards. The President and the region’s leaders are concerned at the return of the brews,” said the chairman of Central Kenya Parliamentary Group, Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, who convened the meeting.
Sources at Sagana revealed that the leaders agreed to register one million new voters in the region by 2017 before reaching out to other areas.
Mr Waweru said local leaders will ignore court orders that manufacturers are using to side-step the presidential directive on alcohol. “We shall re-launch the anti-alcohol war in a fortnight, regardless of court orders,” he said.
Meanwhile, the electoral commission has stepped up efforts to register four million new voters by urging governors to help mobilise eligible Kenyans.
In a meeting that lasted close to two hours, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials led by Chairman Issack Hassan urged the county bosses to spearhead the voter registration.
“We shared with them the breakdown of new voters and those who are out there waiting to be harvested. We asked them to help us mobilise voters in their counties to achieve the desired goal of registering as many eligible voters as possible,” Mr Hassan said.
Recent statistics released by the commission indicate that regions perceived as Cord strongholds have the highest number of potential voters compared to the so-called Jubilee zones.
A total 616,697 people in Nyanza alone are eligible to register this year, followed by 589,306 in western Kenya — a battlefield for votes between ODM and a resurgent Musalia Mudavadi with his Amani National Congress.
President Kenyatta’s central backyard has 538,433, followed by coast region, another Cord zone, with 512,285.
Deputy President William Ruto’s Rift Valley stronghold has about 448,803 eligible people while in Ukambani, where Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is regarded as the de facto leader, 407,134 Kenyans are targeted.
The IEBC has announced that it will release 5,756 Biometric Voter Registration kits in the 1,450 wards.
On Friday, Mr Joho urged ODM leaders to work with the IEBC. “This is a call to duty. Your party and your nation need you. Identify our people who have not registered and ensure they register. Work with the IEBC agents to ensure our people cooperate. Let us treat these agents as friends, not enemies,” he said.
He also directed them to deal directly with learning institutions to ensure students are registered.
“The students must also demand to be allowed to register,” he added.
He urged teachers’ unions to help. “We appeal to Knut, Kuppet and Kenya Secondary School Heads Association to encourage students to register,” he said.
The Sagana meeting, on the other hand, agreed that elected leaders from central meet again at Nyeri’s Outspan Hotel for three days next week before holding a mega public rally in Limuru on February 26.
“We will be in Nyeri on Thursday. We will start with MPs, governors and senators. MCAs will join us a day later. A week later we shall have Limuru Three where a major announcement will be made,” said Mr Waweru.
On the war against killer brews, MPs including Thika Town’s Alice Ng’ang’a, Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo), John Waiganjo (Ol Joro Orok), Njogu Barua (Gichugu) and Peter Weru (Mathira) said the drive will be Mr Kenyatta’s legacy.
Ms Ng’ang’a said the MPs will be more organised in the second phase of the war. “We have learnt some lessons on how not to do it. The public is behind us. This time the manufacturers must run,” she said.
On Thursday, Nairobi MPs said manufacturers were taking advantage of judicial process to threaten MPs.
“We will not be cowed by businesses of death. People know the bad drinks and we shall descend on all the factories and dens,” said Roysambu’s Waihenya Ndirangu in Dagoretti South.
Reports by Peter Leftie, Samwel Karanja and Billy Muiruri