NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 17 – In the next 30 days, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will be registering voters in what has intensified the scramble for votes ahead of the August General Election.
Leaders and Kenyans have pulled all manner of ideas that will propel potential voters to action – willingly or otherwise.
But politicians are now been asked to use ‘friendly’ means while urging Kenyans to register as voters rather than coercion, which amounts to infringement of basic rights.
Already in some parts of the country, Kenyans are being forced to register or risk being denied crucial services while in religious institutions, some members may also miss partaking the Holy Communion.
Kenya Human Rights Commission Programme Advisor Carol Werunga says there is need for civic education to help do away with voter apathy while cautioning against coercion, saying voting is voluntary under the Constitution and not mandatory.
“As a Kenyan, you have a right to be registered as a voter, you have a right to vote among other political rights. However, it is not mandatory for a Kenyan to go to register and to vote like in Brazil,” she said during an interview with Capital FM News.
Werunga termed the move to force a person to register as foolhardy since it is not a guarantee that they will vote and if so, for your preferred candidate.
“After all, the Constitution provides for a secret ballot,” she pointed out.
According to Werunga, politicians are using the wrong means to fight a real problem that may exist – voter apathy.
“What other reason would make an eligible citizen not to register?” she asked.
She said instead says, politicians, the IEBC and other stakeholders need to undertake major civic education, and convince the said nine million eligible voters to register.
“Voters apathy is a result of lack of hope…but they need to be told it is more than voting. It is about deciding who will be your next leaders in the next five years,” she asserted.
Werunga has cautioned that what has started as funny may turn ugly, if people start attacking those who are yet to be registered as voters.
In Mombasa, Woman Representative Mishi Mboko has asked women to deny their partners conjugal rights if they are not registered as voters, an obvious infringement of human rights according to Werunga.
“We must register as voters for us to make the right decision in August,” the outspoken Mombasa legislator said.
In Kisumu, residents have flocked to Huduma Centre to collect their IDs for them to be able to register as voters in the wake of warnings from boda boda riders in the lakeside city.
The riders have threatened to withdraw their services to customers who do not have IDs and those who have not registered as voters.
On social media, some are jokingly saying they will only pick phone calls from registered voters.