While the Judiciary has removed two major hurdles that were standing in the way of next month’s General Election, there still remain key questions regarding the electoral body’s preparedness.
Among the sticky issues that the commission still has to address are the testing of the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System, countrywide voter education and distribution of ballot material to all the polling stations in the country.
Courts have thrown out two major cases that potentially would have impacted on the election in a massive way. These are the ruling on the printing of presidential ballots and the use of manual backup by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
On the distribution of ballot material, IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba contends that all the non-strategic election material have arrived at constituency offices in readiness for elections.
“An assessment of the preparedness of the commission must be based on objective criteria and timelines. So far, the commission has met almost all the legal timelines and has not reverted to Parliament at any time to request for an extension in its timeline. The commission is confident that it is ready to deliver a free, fair and credible election,” Mr Chiloba said.
The printing of presidential ballots was held up for some days as the court process, which was challenging the award of the contract to Dubai’s Al Ghurair, was going on.
The Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision that had nullified the contract for printing of presidential ballots following an appeal by the IEBC.
As a result of the court process, Mr Chiloba has said that concerning the commencement of printing the presidential ballot papers, “We may be a day or two late but they (Al Ghurair) will have to put in more resources to compensate for lost time.”
But former IEBC commissioner Thomas Letangule is warning the commission to learn from the 2013 pitfalls, more so in the testing and deployment of technology.
“I would suggest that they do it now so that they have sufficient time to address any concerns that may arise,” said Mr Letangule.
The IEBC has not been far off from having a reliable technology in place.
According to Mr Chiloba, these voter identification devices, were used for one month during the biometric verification of voters and the commission’s report indicate high performance with 98.8 per cent of Kenyans having been identified biometrically.
That said, the Nation understands that by last week, the IEBC’s ICT department was still configuring on the 45,000 KIEMS kits in preparation for dispatch. The configuration involves uploading of register of voters in the kits. We have has also learned that there will be further training before testing can begin.
By law, the IEBC is also required to carry out countrywide voter education ahead of the elections. But just two weeks to the elections, questions still linger about the extent of the roll out of the exercise.
The commission while admitting the slow pace of the rollout of voter education across the country says that the delay has been as a result of the curriculum and material having delayed but “voter education is being enhanced.”
The importance of voter education cannot be overemphasised, as it is the only sure way voters get to know of their rights and duties, as well as what they are expected to do when they get to the polling stations on August 8.
It should also include helping the voter understand the importance of exercising one’s rights to choose leaders of their choice, how those who turn up at the polling stations are expected to mark the ballots and the colour configuration of ballot boxes among others.
According to IEBC communication manager Andrew Limo, there are 2,900 ward-based voter educators, 290 constituency and the 47 county voter educators “who are doing a splendid job.”
“With the support of International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) we have rolled out the Y-VOTE caravan that targets the youth countrywide. We engage women groups, people living with disabilities, government agencies, and hold peace meetings at the grassroots,” says Mr Limo.
The report READY… OR NOT?: An Assessment of Kenya’s Preparedness for the 8 August 2017 General Election by the Africa Centre for Open Governance and Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice says that while voter education has increased in recent weeks, there is need for more systematic implementation design for voter educators to reach broad sections of the population, including those who are most marginalised.
In the report, Africog and KPTJ recommend that the IEBC urgently prioritises voter education by assisting its ward-based educators with guidance and funding to create a systematic method through which to reach as many people as possible throughout the country.
“Moreover, the IEBC should create a plan for the provision of continuous voter education, as required by law. Such continuous education would negate the need for and expense of intensive, pre-election day “cramming.” In the long term, voter education should also aim to cover issues beyond the technical administration of elections, such as ethnic divisions, ethnic versus policy-based political parties, the leadership and integrity provisions in the constitution, and voters’ and citizens’ roles in democracies,” the report states as its recommendations on voter education.
Besides the three issues, the IEBC has also yet to finish the recruitment and training of some 360,000 temporary election officials countrywide.
The applicants for the temporary jobs have been interviewed but final shortlist and training is yet to start. It is only last week that the Training of Trainers was coming to an end at Utalii College. Majority of these 360,000 temporary staff will be deployed as presiding officers, deputy presiding officers and polling clerks.