The decision to quietly deploy cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and senior public servants to their counties to push for voter registration in Jubilee strongholds has raised eyebrows even as fresh details on the activities of the officials emerge.
The directive is said to have emanated from the Executive and instructs the CSs, PSs, parastatal chiefs and top civil servants from the position of directors working closely with the provincial administration to ensure that as many new voters as possible are registered.
Sources, who spoke in confidence, said the decision could have been made in the second week of the voter registration when early returns showed low numbers of fresh listings.
The Constitution bars public servants and state officers from engaging in politics but this appears to have been ignored ahead of the August election.
But while there could be a grey area when public servants and state officers engage in mobilisation of voters as a civic duty, the messages the CSs and the PSs have been sending out has left no doubt as to their political leanings.
On Saturday, government spokesman Eric Kiraithe admitted that senior officials are in their counties to mobilise voters although the initiative was not backed by an official circular.
“It is the desire of the government that every person of influence reaches out to people on voter registration. It not about political parties or choice of who people can influence. In the end, the people will vote for a government of their choice,” he said.
Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale defended the directive, saying there was nothing wrong with public servants and state officers mobilising Kenyans to register as voters.
“What is wrong with that? They are Kenyans with a duty to help people to register as voters. In any case, even public servants from Cord zones are mobilising people to register so that Raila Odinga wins,” said Mr Duale.
At least five cabinet secretaries have openly engaged in the voter mobilisation campaign by addressing public gatherings and urging Kenyans to register as voters to ensure Jubilee’s re-election.
They include Joseph Nkaissery, Fred Matiang’i, Jacob Kaimenyi, Cecily Kariuki and James Macharia.
Also on the voter mobilisation campaign include PSs Nyakera Irungu, Belio Kipsang, Andrew Kamau, Fred Segor, Karanja Kibicho, Nicholas Muraguri and Micah Powon as well as Kenya Revenue Authority boss John Njiraini and former Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Julius Karangi who chairs the Kenya Airports Authority Board.
While there could be concerns on service delivery as the top officials urge voters to register, some in government see the strategy as effective.
With majority of appointments made during the Jubilee administration hailing from regions that voted overwhelmingly for President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, the public servants have been instrumental in raising the numbers.
The civil servants have teamed up with professionals to coordinate the mobilisation exercise.
In Embu, Ms Kariuki, the Public Service, Youth and Gender CS warned that the cooperative sector faced imminent collapse if President Kenyatta is not re-elected.
Addressing cooperative sector stakeholders from Embu county at Emco House, Ms Kariuki reminded the farmers of the days when the sector nearly collapsed due to bad rule.
“Those who didn’t experience it cannot understand what I am talking about. I have noticed a lot of apathy among the youth who became adults after the 2013 elections. They seem to be less concerned about the direction the country might take. They don’t know about the clamour for independence and how we attained self-rule,” she said.
She noted that only 34,836 new voters had registered against a target of 250,000, warning that this could spell doom to Embu when it came to the sharing of the national cake.
In neighbouring Kirinyaga, Interior PS Kibicho and KRA commissioner-general Njiraini are spearheading the voter mobilisation exercise.
In Nyeri, KAA board chair Karangi has been picked to take charge of the exercise following massive voter apathy in the first week.
Also helping mobilise new voters in the county is Health PS Dr Muraguri.
“Danger lies ahead if you do not register. But if each of you would ensure at least 10 people register, we will have fixed the problem,” Dr Muraguri told Nyeri residents during one of the rallies to mobilise voters in the county.
“Politics is a game of numbers. The election will not be won in August, it will be won on February 14,” he added, referring to the closure of the ongoing exercise.
The PS warned the leaders that the numbers are extremely worrying, adding that if nothing is done to reach the IEBC target, President Kenyatta’s re-election is at stake.
“You have been told endlessly that in 2013, only eight thousand 8,000 votes saved us from a re-run, which is the population of one ward. For our President to serve another term we need to give him more votes this time round,” he told locals while urging local leaders to adopt the door-to-door approach to reach as many eligible voters as possible.
Mr Nkaissery on the other hand ordered all chiefs and their assistants to ensure that at least one thousand people are registered to vote every day in their jurisdictions over the next one week.
This has been revealed by chiefs and their assistants from Narok, Kisii and Nyamira counties who met Mr Nkaissery last week.
“Those who meet the daily targets will be rewarded,” said Mr Nkaissery.
“We are very concerned about the low numbers. Kisii county has only registered 21,000 voters against a target of 350,000 while Nyamira county has only managed 7,000 against a total of 150,000,” said the CS.
Water and Irrigation PS Fred Segor has meanwhile camped in his native Baringo county where he has been spearheading the exercise urging voters to register in droves to ensure Jubilee retains power.
Last week, he challenged IEBC officials in the region to ensure that they reach out to the pastoral communities in the drought stricken areas who may have migrated to other areas in search of water and pasture for their livestock.
“The officials should ensure that there is a mobile registration centre so as to reach the far flung areas and I also urge those who have not registered to do so,” he said.
Correctional Services Principal Secretary Micah Powon has been in West Pokot county to oversee the exercise.
“This month your offices should be in the field and make sure that the set target is achieved. We don’t want to hear that chiefs or their assistants are still holding IDs in their offices,” said Mr Powon.
In Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties, Education PS Kipsang met with members of the provincial administration and urged them to go out of their way to ensure that all eligible voters in the region register.
On Friday, Dr Macharia, the Transport CS, was in Murang’a to ensure targets are achieved.
He pleaded with residents to turn out in large numbers and register and to vote back Jubilee government. He said the voter registration turnout was low, saying they had not hit even 30 per cent of their target.
Report by Wanjohi Githae, Wycliffe Kipsang, Barnabas Bii, Ruth Mbula, Aggrey Omboki, Grace Gitau, Charles Wanyoro and Martin Mwaura.