Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Wednesday mass protests were possible if August elections were rigged, comments likely to scare Kenyans fearful of a repeat of the widespread violence that erupted after a disputed poll in 2007. Then, more than 1,200 people were killed in weeks of fighting after political protests turned into ethnic clashes, but 2013 polls, when Odinga accepted the result after a court ruling, passed relatively peacefully. “This country is not ready for another rigged election. Kenyans will not accept it,” Odinga said, noting that multiple people had been registered to vote with the same identity card in a registration period that has just ended.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Kenya.
It’s a hot day here on the sidewalk outside Nairobi’s St. Peter Clavers primary school, but the 20 or so people standing in line behind a small desk don’t seem to mind. They are here to register to vote in Kenya’s August elections. “It’s our right to vote for the next president and our MPs and all of that,” said 31-year-old laborer and first time voter Samuel Njoroge. This is the first day of the final mass voter registration drive being conducted by Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The other took place around this same time last year.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta approved a law on Monday requiring back up plans for an August election if electronic voting systems fail, despite fierce opposition from rivals who say any manual arrangements will open the ballot to rigging. Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga disputed the result of the 2013 race, which he lost to Kenyatta after electronic voter identification and other election systems collapsed. He has led opposition to the new law. The build-up to the 2017 vote has already been marred by protests and clashes with police that led to at least four deaths. Last year’s demonstrations were sparked by a row over who sat on a committee overseeing the conduct of the election. The government agreed to replace the commissioners in a deal with the opposition.
Kenya’s electoral body says the technology to be used in this year’s elections will not fail. The opposition is warning of unspecified consequences if elections are rigged for the ruling Jubilee party. Kenya is preparing for its sixth general election in August. Political tensions are high, and fear the country will see a repeat of the deadly violence that followed the 2007 election is growing. But the electoral commission says it is up to the task of delivering a credible election reflecting the will of the people. The commission is still haunted by its handling of the 2013 polls, in which most of the electronic equipment collapsed a few hours into election day.
Computer experts say it is possible to conduct the 2017 General Election without a manual back-up system. A cross-section of experts disputed claims by ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru that a manual system is necessary in case the electronic voting system fail. In a memorandum sent to the Senate under the lobby Kenya ICT Action Network (KITCAnet), the experts drawn from both the private sector and academia have asked Parliament to revise the amendment to sections 39 and 44 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Bill, 2016. “The employment of technology in elections management is meant to address questions of integrity of the election and efficiency in transmission of the results,” explains KITCAnet in part. KICTAnet further states that once the IEBC system has been procured, it is possible for the technical committee to agree on the best way of mitigating potential system vulnerabilities.
The emphasis on electronic voter system is ignorance of what happens in Kenya, Attorney General Githu Muigai told a senate committee on Tuesday. The AG noted that many commentators on the amended election laws have misled Kenyans to think Kenya has an electronic voting system. Muigai, when he faced the Senate Legal Affairs Committee during the public hearing on contentious election laws, said the assertion was ‘far from the truth . He said Kenya has a manual voting system that is supported by an electronic system, and not the other way round.”In Kenya, we have a manual voting system with few electronic interventions. Voting largely remains manual,” he said.
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru on Thursday based the state’s push for alternative manual voting system on fears of al Shabaab interference with the 2017 poll. Muc heru, while appearing before the senate committee on legal affairs chaired by Amos Wako (Busia), defended the government’s plan to amend election laws. “We are at war with al Shabaab who are known to interfere with communication systems . The Ministry fully recommends manual back up system,” he said.He said that the option of manual system was viable not only because of terrorism but also for reasons related to challenge in the country’s telecommunication infrastructure. Mucheru said technology has failed even in the best of countries, adding that network failure and hacking can actually happen.
In Kenya, a controversial amendment to the electoral law is now before the Senate. The bill would give the electoral commission a workaround if biometric voting equipment fails, but the opposition has rejected the change for fear of voter fraud. But as political temperatures rise ahead of next year’s polls, Senate members are advising caution and careful consideration. The Senate did not vote on the amendment to the electoral law Wednesday. Instead, Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro sent the bill to committee. “The standing committee on legal affairs and human rights must, therefore, proceed with dispatch and be ready to table its report on 4 January 2017 when the Senate is expected to assemble for the special sitting,” Ethuro said.
Tension is rising in Kenya after the Jubilee administration and the opposition took hard-line positions on amendment of laws that will govern next year’s elections. The Jubilee side on Thursday forced the amendment to the Election Law (Amendment) Act, 2016 after the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) MPs walked out of Parliament Buildings, where a special sitting had been convened. This has set the stage for street protests and possible violence in the countdown to the elections, scheduled for August next year. The Election Law (Amendment) Act, 2016 had been passed in September after being drafted by a special joint parliamentary committee comprising Jubilee and Cord members. On voter verification and results transmission, the law provided that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) would carry out the verification of voters in all polling stations using biometric data for 30 days. This was to be done 90 days before the election.
Kenyan legislators came to blows Thursday as opposition members tried to block an emergency session that passed a bill to allow manual counting of election results, calling it a back door to manipulating next year’s presidential vote. Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for mass protests from Jan. 4, saying, “No transparency, no elections.” Parliament’s deputy minority leader, Jakoyo Midiwo, said they are challenging the bill’s legality. “They are trying to force a law to rig the elections,” Midiwo said. The bill needs Senate passage and approval by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is running for re-election.