NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 24 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has warned that the March 4 General Election will not be held on time if the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits are not in the country by Tuesday next week.
IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan told journalists in Nairobi on Wednesday afternoon that any further delays in the delivery of the kits “will bear grave consequences” on the forthcoming elections.
While noting the ripple effects that any delays would have on the elections, Hassan stressed the need to carry out the voter registration exercise in November to beat the tight timelines that risk choking the election process.
“We need to have the kits in place on time in order for us to begin the work. We have to start voter registration in November. If it does not happen there will be serious repercussions,” he cautioned.
Hassan, who spoke after a meeting with three other electoral stakeholders at the Prime Minister’s office, revealed that the government had only paid 40 percent of the monies required for the 15,000 BVR kits and was yet to pay the balance.
He said his commission remained “cautiously optimistic” even though the government had promised to pay the remaining 60 percent by October 26.
“Today we have been assured by the Ministry of Finance that it will pay the balance by Friday so as to enable us receive the kits as soon as possible but we remain cautiously optimistic,” he said.
The IEBC had been scheduled to meet the President, Prime Minister and other line ministries on Wednesday morning but the talks did not materialise.
Hassan added that his commission was ready for the registration process and had already recruited 30,000 IT savvy BVR clerks in addition to recruiting election coordinators and gazetting the new boundaries but was being held back by the delayed delivery of the kits.
“You know Abraham Lincoln said if I was given eight hours to cut down a tree I will spend six hours sharpening my axe so we have spent six hours sharpening the axe and are waiting for the tree so that we can cut it down,” he quipped.
Hassan further observed that if the kits made it to the country on time, the IEBC will be able to register the targeted 18 million voters. He added that the computers that would be used to carry out the exercise had already been loaded with the necessary software.
“These machines can register a minimum of 50 people per day so we will be able to register the 18 million in one month,” he said.
Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, who was also at the meeting, noted the need to amend the Elections Act to accommodate any delays that would come up.
“We require an amendment to the Elections Act because of the tight timelines so we might have to amend the inspection period and the gazettement period,” he said.
The delivery of the kits has been plagued by a tag-of-war with government agencies accusing each other of stalling the process.
“The French President General Charles de Gaulle once said sometimes war is too serious to be left to the generals. I believe elections are equally serious to be left to the IEBC. They need the support of the Executive and we should give them adequate resources,” Wamalwa said.
Finance Minister Njeru Githae on his part shifted the blame from his ministry saying the money would be released on time and there was no need for trading accusations.
He also warned his colleagues and the media against issuing statements that would cause panic saying the elections will be held on time.
“We have done all that is humanly possible to make sure that these kits are in the country. My request is that we stop issuing alarming statements because no one wants to delay the elections,” he said.