, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 3 – I enter the numbers almost on rote confident that after I hit the ‘enter’ key an ‘x’ and not a check will appear next to the words, ‘Your membership status.’
“I must have entered my ID number wrong,” I think to myself… to cut a long story short, I find that I am registered as a member to a party I don’t subscribe to – complete with a membership number.
Not only that, I don’t subscribe to any party. I tell myself it is because as a journalist I shouldn’t be overly attached to any particular political party but you could chalk it up to indifference.
The Marakwet East Member of Parliament, Linah Jebii Kilimo, on Wednesday complained of the same thing.
The reason I bothered to check my status in the first place is because there was uproar created by Kenyans on Twitter aghast to find themselves registered in the wrong party, or at all.
Out of 10 people in my office, three of us who have never registered as members of any political party, find ourselves in the same predicament.
Doing what any journalist worth their salt would do, I decide to get to the crux of the matter and place a call to the Acting Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung’u.
I immediately launch into a tirade and before I’m halfway through she interrupts, “Let me guess, you have found yourself registered as a member of a political party you do not belong to?”
An hour later, at her direction, I find myself on a plush black leather seat in her office with a complaint letter addressed to the political party I am supposedly a member of and in which I have copied the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties.
When I checked my party membership status on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) website, the following words in green, appeared underneath the results: Anybody with complaints regarding their registration status are advised to write to the political party they have been registered with and forward a copy to the RPP, [email protected]
So I suppose I could have easily sent an email, but I was so infuriated that I wanted to know what action would be taken against those responsible for interfering with my inherent right to chose not to belong to any political party.
Like you, I’d heard stories of political parties using money transfer registers to bolster their memberships numbers in a bid to meet the provisions set out in the Political Parties Act.
Kilimo had accused her political detractors of using the IEBC voter register to collect names and Identification numbers needed in the registration of party members.
“I am overwhelmed with Independents and transfers,” Ndung’u barks into the phone.
Turning to me she says, “I have heard so many complaints of people being registered in the wrong parties in the past few days. I bet you hadn’t bothered to check your status until today.”
Also in her office and sitting across from me is former Mt Elgon MP John Serut. He quips, “488 of my supporters have complained of the same thing.”
He is one of the transfers that has Ndung’u overwhelmed. He is shifting his allegiance from the United Republican Party (URP).
“Didn’t Kilimo accuse URP of the same thing yesterday?” he continues.
Ndung’u sends him a warning look and sends some words of advice his way, “Don’t be so quick to point fingers. I’ve had people lodge complaints against many different parties.”
“Let me make a copy for you,” she says taking my complaint letter and walking out of the room.
A few minutes later she walks back into the room and hands me the copy with the word ‘received’ on it together with the date.
“A copy will be put in the party’s file and we’ll take you’re name off the party list in a day. It should take longer no longer than three days once we receive a complaint.”
“My office will then write to the said party and instruct them to take your name off their membership list in no longer than 90 days.”
The walk to her office calmed me somewhat but I’d still like action taken. As it turns out, that will not be so easy.
“You can take the party to court if you can prove your name was added to their membership fraudulently.”
I relent and settle for getting to the bottom of why there are so many of us and what the Office of the Registar of Political Parties intends to do about it.
“I don’t know,” Ndung’u responds, “But because there are so many complaints, I’ve instructed the party agents to go through their membership lists and confirm they are accurate.”