July 27th 2017

Opinion / Commentaries

Voter registration fails to impress, but not for lack of motivating messages

Taita Taveta and Nyeri women representatives, Joyce Lay and Ester Murugi respectively, are asking women to deny sex to their partners if they have not registered as voters. “As women, our sons and husbands should not get any food if they are not registered”, said Ms Murugi.

By Nyambura Muthoninmuthoni@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 09 Feb 2017 11:10 EAT

'Team Mafisi' at a press conference urging their members to register as voters.

As the general elections are quickly approaching, Kenyans are being urged to register as voters within the next few days before the current voter registration window, that opened on January 16, closes on February 14. By the deadline, politicians running for office hope they shall have registered a big enough number of potential supporters to assure them of victory in the August 8 general elections.

As the deadline nears amid lower turnout across the country, politicians have employed new urgency to bring their supporters to the voter registration booths. Fellow citizens are similarly influencing their friends to register as voters to reach the target set by the Independent Electoral Boundary Commission (IEBC) by February 14. Campaigners have employed all tricks to bring people to register.

Have you heard of ‘Mafisi Sacco’? This is a social community organization on social media creating fun ideas about the dreaded hyena, claiming its members are the ‘hyenas’ - real kings in the world of seducing women in Kenya. On social media, there are some mafisi videos going viral claiming that for the longest time, they have had leaders who have been sponsor-friendly, but this is high time they elected leaders who are ‘fisi friendly’. The ‘fisi-friendly’ leader should be able to implement fisi-friendly policies, pass fisi-friendly bills and be there for mafisi. So for this to happen, all fisis should register as voters in all counties.

Everywhere in Kenya, including most notably in some parts of Bondo and Kiambu County, residents have been denied access to public means of transport if they don’t carry the voter’s card. Taita Taveta and Nyeri women representatives, Joyce Lay and Ester Murugi respectively, are asking women to deny sex to their partners if they have not registered as voters. “As women, our sons and husbands should not get any food if they are not registered”, said Ms Murugi.

A Jubilee politician in Kirinyaga County Mr Mureithi Kang’ara said yesterday that he will be offer Sh100,000 to the chief whose location will have the highest number of registered voters by the registration deadline. IEBC has a target of 176,000 new voters but only 40,000 have registered in that county.

In the western Kenya region where mourners are normally treated to sumptuous meals at funerals, some leaders have implemented ad hoc regulations forbidding unregistered residents from helping themselves to food served in funerals, weddings and other social gatherings. 

In yet another tactic, Kieini MP Kanini Kega had suggested at Naru- Moru where he launched a football tournament that unregistered citizens should be banned from receiving services at public offices. Such a requirement would most certainly be challenged since registering as a voter is an adult Kenyan's voluntary choice.

But none of the above strategies was as eye-catching or extraordinary as the sight of U.S Ambassador Robert Godec riding in a public service bus in the dingy Kariobangi South neighbourhood to urge eligible voters to register themselves and help the IEBC attain the 6.1 million target it has set.

Given such efforts, it behoves those Kenyans who are yet to register to take time to the registration centres. Registering as a voter does not solve the myriad challenges the country faces, but it is an expression of commitment by citizens that, given a fair chance, they are prepared to play their part in charting the country's democratic future.

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