Election Watch : Report 2

InformAction by InformAction

ElectionWatch Report #2


InformAction October 2016


Voter registration has long been a contentious issue in Kenyan elections.

Issack Hassan, the outgoing Chair of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), has urged Kenyans to turn up in large numbers to register for the 2017 general election. In February, he stated that there were 14.3 million voters in the register, and the aim was to register a record 25 million voters for the August 2017 election.[1] However, during the first phase of the registration drive, the IEBC failed to reach its stated target of 4.1 million, registering only about 1.4 million. The IEBC blamed the failure on resources,[2] but one of the greatest obstacles has proven to be national identity cards (IDs).

An ID card, or an ‘acknowledgement of registration certificate’ as proof of having registered for one (sometimes referred to as a ‘waiting card’), is a prerequisite to voter registration.[3] However, a significant proportion of the population struggles to obtain one. In particular, so-called ‘border communities’ must undergo a process of special vetting that effectively results in disenfranchisement on an ethnic basis. This ‘special vetting’ is also extended on a discretionary basis to include other criteria, notably religion.

ElectionWatch #2 presents field observations and video evidence from the countrywide voter registration drive, and provides an overall analysis of voter registration in Kenya.

Key Findings

  1. A significant proportion of the population are affected by discriminatory ‘special vetting’ processes which are an obstacle to acquiring national ID;
  2. Inadequate administration of voter registration, especially among marginalised communities and in so-called ‘border areas’, has resulted in considerable regional and ethnic differences in the rates of voter registration across the country;
  3. Interested parties are taking advantage of these institutional inadequacies to privately finance registration drives in their own constituencies;
  4. Persistent weaknesses in the voter registration process include lack of voter education, poor planning, equipment problems, and the obstruction of election observers.


InformAction is accredited with media and election observer status. It utilizes seven field teams embedded in Kericho (South Rift), Maralal (Northern Kenya), Kisii (Western Nyanza), Kisumu (Nyanza), Nyeri (Central), Garissa (North Eastern Kenya) and Mombasa (Coastal Region), and a mobile observer team from the support base in Nairobi. The teams use a combination of systematic and spot-checking observations, including video documentation.

Observers use qualitative methods based on interviews, observations and document analysis, using stratified and random sampling, monitoring the experiences and actions of voters, election officials and security personnel, as well as any other actors or participants involved in the electoral process, during the pre-election, election and post-election periods. During monitoring, teams use social media internally to coordinate movements and relay and compare findings. Legal advice and research services are available to the observers at all times. The field teams also benefit from their extensive local knowledge and networks in the counties (see www.informaction.tv).

InformAction observers witness and document the application of constitutional standards and election regulations.

The filming, participation and consultation of individuals in this report was done with their full cooperation and consent. To prevent unauthorised access, maintain responsible data usage, and ensure the correct use of information, InformAction has obscured or removed images of documents relating to personal identification details.  


During the months of July and August 2016, the Kenyan Parliament undertook a comprehensive review of the performance and credibility of the IEBC. Specifically, the parliamentary joint committee investigated the Commission’s credibility, the legal options available for the dismissal of commissioners, institutional reforms to strengthen the Commission, and policy and institutional reforms to improve the electoral system and processes. Amongst the committee’s many findings was a serious and urgent need to address the myriad of problems with voter registration processes and procedures in Kenya. The findings prompted the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) to demand an entirely new voters’ register.[4] In fact, opposition leader Raila Odinga singled out the critical role of the register in promoting credible elections, saying, ‘…a single verifiable and credible register will eliminate the ghost voters who are used to fixing outcomes [sic]…The voter register has to be reconstituted in the interest of fair play, natural justice and to eliminate doubts from all stakeholders.’[5]

This stance on the voters’ register is not surprising. In the aftermath of the 2007-2008 post-election violence,[6] the Independent Review Commission (IREC) identified voter registration as an especially problematic part of the electoral process. The Commission’s final report[7], known as the Kreigler Report, described the registration process as inefficient and expensive and the register itself as bloated and unverifiable. Serious anomalies in registration meant the legitimacy of the electoral process was impaired ‘even before the polling started’. In its summary of findings, the report described how the voter register was ‘materially defective,’ and highlighted the fact that ‘certain marginalised communities encounter difficulties in obtaining their national identity cards, a prerequisite for registration as a voter.’[8] It emphasized the need for national commitment to ‘the inalienable franchise rights of Kenyan citizens’[9] and criticized the phenomenon of registration bias against certain groups.

Going forward, IREC recommended that Kenyan authorities work to merge voter registration and the process of issuing national IDs so that Kenyans are automatically registered to vote when they receive their identification cards. This recommendation remains unimplemented today.

Unsurprisingly, voter registration was one of the most contentious issues in the 2013 election. Civil society and international observers identified the use of multiple registers, each with a different total number of voters. Civil society also noted its concern regarding additions to the register made after the close of registration. During the post-election Supreme Court trial, which investigated the credibility of the process, the IEBC revealed that it had also used hand-written ‘green books’ to keep track of registered voters. These books were riddled with inconsistencies and errors and their use called into question the very rationale for procurement and deployment of biometric registration.[10] In the aftermath of the 2013 election, Kenyan civil society recommended the merging of voter registration with national IDs.

As Kenya now prepares for elections in 2017, voter registration is again in the spotlight. As described below, InformAction observers have noted problems such as the widespread lack of identification cards, names missing from the register, insufficient BVR kits, malfunctioning BVR kits, lack of voter education, voter bribery and obstruction of observers. The IEBC has admitted some of its limitations. As of the end of the first phase of mass voter registration in March 2016, the Commission had succeeded in registering only 34 percent of its target for the year.[11]

No electoral process is perfect, and the logistical complexity of administering an election means that a certain number of problems are difficult to avoid. Voter registration can be especially difficult. It requires significant resources to educate the public about registration and to mobilize people to register. It also takes intensive training and resources to procure registration equipment and to recruit and train staff to physically conduct registration. Registration can also be politically sensitive, because it can raise questions of eligibility and belonging. In divided societies, such questions of national identity are often provocative and there can be significant mistrust related to who is and is not allowed access to voter registration processes. The challenges associated with voter registration have been evident across the continent. In Zimbabwe, the opposition alleged that voters in their strongholds were unfairly targeted with onerous requirements to register.[12] During recent election in Uganda, there were multiple allegations of names missing from the voters’ register.[13] In Tanzania, a delay in the release of the register caused suspicion and anxiety ahead of elections there.[14]

Given that voter registration issues have plagued several Kenyan elections and remain unresolved to date, it is critical to urgently address the pending problems so as to minimize a further loss of public confidence. A recent Ipsos poll showed that confidence in the IEBC is at a significant low, and the drop in confidence crosses party lines. 57 percent of Jubilee supporters have faith in the IEBC, compared to 7 percent of CORD supporters, but these figures represent a drop in confidence over time. Last November, 63 percent of Jubilee supporters and 15 percent of CORD supporters had faith in the Commission. Moreover, more Kenyans (47 percent) do not believe the IEBC can manage the 2017 election than those who do (34 percent).[15]

In this report, InformAction focuses on its observers’ identification of the pervasive and fundamental problem of obtaining national ID cards. Without IDs, Kenyans are unable to register to vote, and the onerous and overly burdensome process of obtaining an ID directly impacts the fundamental right to vote. Analysis of this problem is followed by our observers’ reports on mass voter registration in the counties of Kericho, Kisumu, Kisii, Nyeri, Isiolo, Samburu and Mombasa.

Obtaining a National ID Card in Kenya

The government vets all national ID applicants in order to ensure that individuals who are trying to obtain national IDs are Kenyan and duly eligible. According to security sources and public experience of the process, this government vetting is divided into three levels:

  • Level 1 - basic standard documents required, including birth certificate and parent ID. ‘Baptismal card’ can be submitted as documentation for Christians.
  • Level 2 - a letter confirming identification from a chief or assistant chief is required in addition to the standard documents
  • Level 3 - special security vetting

It is unclear how government officials determine which applicants require the different levels of vetting; the standards are unknown. As one legal source explained, ‘[the standards for special vetting] are only known by the fact [that they are] synonymous with rejection and denial.’[16] This is contrary to the constitutional standards of transparency and accountability. Based on interviews with legal and security sources, Level 3 vetting, or ‘special vetting’ tends to target those described as ‘border communities’ or people in ‘sub border locations.’[17] Applied in a discriminatory and discretionary manner, it has been used as a procedural and political ‘norm’ since independence. It is open to political abuse during election cycles.

Officially, the ‘sub border locations’ are defined geographically. IFA saw publicly displayed administrative documents in vetting centres listing the affected areas as:

  • Western Region: Busia, Bungoma, Teso, Mt Elgon
  • Rift Valley Region: Transzoia, Turkana, Kajiado, Narok, Transmara, West Pokot
  • Coast Region: Taita Taveta, Kwale, Lamu, Tana River
  • Nyanza Region: Suba, Migori, Kuria
  • North Eastern Region: Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Ijara
  • Northern Region: Marsabit, Moyale and Isiolo

Together, these areas encompass 17 counties, spread across six of Kenya’s eight regions (formerly ‘provinces’), affecting more than 25% of the population. Since special vetting is applied to anyone originating from these sub border locations, it impacts people in Nairobi and Central region as well.

Consequently, up to five million potential voters are classified as belonging to a ‘border community’ or a ‘sub border location’. To put this into perspective, that is more than the total number of potential voters in the counties of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos, Kakamega, and Uasin Gishu combined (Figure 1).[18]

Despite the official geographic nature of ‘sub border locations,’ the reality is that individuals associated with these regions are often difficult to ethnically categorize, and their liminal identities make it difficult to know where their political loyalties lie. In Nairobi, people continue to be defined by their parental or ‘ancestral home’ even if they are Nairobi-born. They are typically required to obtain required identification verification from their ‘homeland’. The process continues to be applied ethnically, rather than according to geographical residency.

There have been reports of the concept of a ‘border community’ being applied to internal boundaries, such as borders between counties (see Image 1). This demonstrates the arbitrariness – if not absurdity - of the process, as the concept of ‘border communities’ can be stretched to the point of losing all practical meaning. Moreover, the criteria used to determine whether an individual ‘belongs’ to a particular area has in some instances been taken at the community level, such as by local chiefs, rather than by an official vetting panel. This denies an individual their constitutional rights of appeal and due process, and places their enfranchisement at the behest of community leaders, rather than qualified public officials.

 Image 1: Titus Murugu, Deputy County Commissioner for Kieni West, Nyeri County, discusses the need for special vetting of individuals from ‘border areas’ between Nyeri and Laikipia County –areas that are not included in the list of ‘sub border locations’ displayed in vetting centres (click on the image to watch the full video).[19]

Special vetting is also reportedly being applied on a discretionary basis to individuals with perceived Muslim names or attire, including at the coast (see Image 2). There are reports from Central Region of Muslim women wearing burkas having ‘particular difficulty’ with the registration process.


Image 2: Special vetting procedures can be applied on a discriminatory basis. This woman was denied an ID card because of her ‘Muslim name’ (click on the image to watch the full video).[20]

This selective vetting, used to deny certain Kenyans their national identity cards and thus their access to a range of state services, implicates the Kenyan government in institutional discrimination. It makes the state complicit in the overt politicization of ethnic identities and suggests that the state is involved in attempting to regulate the ways in which those identities are used. Simply put, communities that are systematically deprived of ID cards are also unable to express their political sentiments at the ballot box.

It also appears that the work of processing national IDs is often unofficially subcontracted. The National Registration Bureau (NRB) complains it does not have sufficient money and personnel, despite being allocated the budget for carrying out the primary function of issuing IDs. One consequence is the transference of that role to interested parties. It is common practice for MPs or candidates to use personal or constituency funds, like Constituency Development Funds, to transport personnel from the NRB to certain areas to do registration. One NRB source said that personnel are provided with transport, lunch and other cash facilitations, and knows of it being done in some of the high density Nairobi areas, as well as accessible regions outside Nairobi.

By transferring the cast and the costs to interested parties, the process is opened up to political exploitation as well as to uneven access.

Ultimately, the present system results in huge discrepancies between different regions and communities. This is evidenced by the fact that the average percentage of the voting age population registered in the ‘border community’ counties is significantly lower than in other counties (Figure 2).


Figure 2 illustrates the percentage of registered voters in counties that are home to border communities, compared to the average percentage of registered voters in all other counties. While less than a third of the voting age population is registered in Mandera, for instance, close to or more than 100% of eligible voters are registered in several counties in the central part of Kenya[21]

Counties in Central region (Muranga, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua, and Kiambu) have seen particularly high voter registration numbers, achieving an average of 115% of the estimated voting age population – well above the national average of 87%. There have been reports of the ID application process being facilitated and accelerated in these areas (see Image 3); this would of course be a positive development were it not for the comparatively burdensome and discriminatory process faced by those in, or from, border communities. Even within Central region the vetting process remains skewed by ethnicity, with reports of Muslims and minority ethnic groups facing tougher vetting (see Image 4).

These regional and ethnic discrepancies have given rise to an increasingly agitated and suspicious opposition, who have accused the Ministry of Interior and IEBC of colluding to intensify voter registration in Jubilee strongholds.[22]


Image 3: Joseph Ngugi, assistant chief in Gatitu, Nyeri County, explains that the process for obtaining an ID in Nyeri is fast and simple for most people. This is in stark contrast to other areas of the country (click on the image to watch the full video).[23]

Image 4: Timothy Ouma Waswa (left) faces a tough vetting procedure in Kieni, Nyeri County. Questions ranged from his ‘Luhya name’ to his relationship with his parents (click on the image to watch the full video).[24]

Overall, a manipulated and discretionary national ID process promotes the systematic disenfranchisement of voters. Tackling this issue is critical to building a credible voter registration process and to overall registration integrity. Complaints by the IEBC that voter drives are failing must first be placed firmly in this context.

Funding for ID Processes

Funding is an issue for the Ministry of the Interior and the National Registration Bureau (NRB), both of which are responsible for the vetting of ID applicants and for the issuance of ID cards. Since 2013, the budget allocation for the Ministry of Interior has increased (primarily for the security sector), but funding for NRB and departments dealing with registration has been slashed.[25] This compounds the already notoriously poor administrative processes both at the center and in marginalised areas - there have, for example, been well publicized accounts of large numbers of national ID cards lying undistributed across the country.[26] This provides avenues for petty and grand corruption, as well as the curtailing of basic freedoms and rights.

Some people go for years - even decades - without getting a national ID, despite frequent efforts to conform to the onerous processes. In the meantime, they are penalized - and sometimes criminalized - for not having an ID. Without an ID they cannot vote, they lose opportunities to work, and are constantly vulnerable to police operations and harassment (see Image 5).

Image 5: Ismail Bakasa, a resident of Isiolo County, explains that, without an ID, ‘you will have many problems’, including being unable to vote, attend higher education, or get a job (click on the image to watch the full video).[27]

The time-consuming bureaucracy, cost, and delay of getting an ID negatively impact the willingness to register as a voter. Public apathy is compounded by low public trust in the Ministry of the Interior, which was ranked by Kenyans as the ‘most corrupt’ government department in a recent survey by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.[28] Opportunistic corruption during the process is high (see Image 6).

Image 6: In Malindi, a public official was caught illegally charging Ksh 10 per ID application form (click on the image to watch the full video).[29]

Mass Voter Registration

In this section, InformAction provides first-hand accounts from the field by IFA observer teams on the successes and challenges of voter registration (for Methodology, see page 2).

Main findings

The mass voter registration (MVR) drive began in February. It was initially launched as a one-month initiative, but in practical terms had an indeterminate closing date. In some areas, the MVR was postponed because of by-elections. IFA observers covered MVR in the counties of Kericho, Kisumu, Kisii, Nyeri, Isiolo, Samburu and Mombasa.

Positive Performance

Positive performances were primarily observed by the teams in Kericho and Nyeri:

  • Most registration clerks displayed big posters directing people to where registration was taking place.
  • Registration clerks had timetables showing people their dates of movement and new venues.
  • Registration clerks made good use of churches, schools, chiefs and village elders to announce the place and date of registration of voters.
  • Some IEBC registration officials situated themselves at strategic places like markets, schools, and churches in order to target as many people as possible.
  • IEBC staff was well-trained and did their work efficiently.
  • The majority of the IEBC staff was willing to interact with the IFA team.
  • Some IEBC officials contacted the authorities responsible for issuing IDs to let them know about those who required them, and they were also helpful in directing individuals to the correct offices for ID services.

In Coast Region, the two Regional Election Coordinators were welcoming and supportive of the observer exercise.


The IFA teams witnessed several challenges during the MVR exercise. These are detailed below, according to area.

  1. Lack of Identification


  • Many youth lacked national ID cards, making it impossible for them to register to vote.
  • IFA observers learned that most newly married women lack IDs and were waiting to officially adopt their husbands’ names.
  • Some elderly persons reported having lost their IDs. The elderly have developed a particular interest in registration due to the welfare program for senior citizens in Kericho County.


  • IEBC’s Registration Coordinator, Muchangi Kabebe said identity cards are taking a long time to be processed and this leaves many youth waiting.


  • Most youth did not have IDs, and many still had waiting cards from 2012. They were denied registration on the basis of not having their ID card, even though waiting cards should have been sufficient for IEBC to register them (as per Section 5(3B) Elections Act). IFA visited the Isiolo Department of National Registration and found that many IDs had not been released since September 2015. Many applications had been rejected for reasons that included missing information, missing signatures, unclear pictures, etc.

Samburu and Baringo:

  • ID cards were very slow to be issued. In the Maralal ID Registration Centre, applications from November 2015 were still unprocessed. According to one registration clerk: ‘Mkubwa ndio kusema, so at times inategemea na moods zake’ (The big man is the one who authorizes this so as at times it depends on his mood).


  • People complained of difficulty in getting ID Cards. Some individuals have been unable to get their IDs since November 2015. Like in Isiolo (see above), these individuals were wrongly told that they could not register with their waiting cards.
  • Similar problems have been reported in other counties in Nyanza Region (see Image 7).


  • There were IDs that remained uncollected; these were held by chiefs.

 Image 7: Zainabu Odindo, an IEBC clerk, explains that ‘so many people’ are without IDs in her area of Bondo, Siaya County (click on the image to watch the full video).[30]

  1. Administrative and Planning Problems


  • IEBC staff faced transportation problems and had inadequate funds for transport. They were faced with poor roads and in some cases had to use motorbikes.
  • Since the registration drive occurred during high farming season, some citizens were unable to take the time to register.
  • In Kamwingi and Kaitui registration centres, clerks were away some of the time, and in some registration centres clerks were not present at all.
  • In some centres, there were entire days during which no one attempted to register.


  • There was no publicly available schedule, so people were not aware of where and when to register.
  • The onset of long rains caused cancellations. Community members were also busy with high season farming and were unable to turn out to register.


  • There were only five clerks in all of Maralal Ward.
  • In Kanampiu, an area bordering Laikipia and Samburu, the polling station No. 031, polling clerks complained of a lack of voter mobilization. Clerk mobility is a challenge, and the chances of political manipulation are high. Some political aspirants may offer to drive clerks around their strongholds and disadvantage other eligible voters from the exercise in the time allocated.

Coast Region:

  • The IEBC has only two regional offices for the six counties on the coast: the South West Coast office deals with Mombasa, Kwale and Taita Taveta counties; the North Coast office deals with Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu counties.
  • IFA teams were concerned that, days before the beginning of the MVR exercise, recruitment, interviews, selection and training of registration officers was still not complete. The IEBC officers indicated that there had not been sufficient funding to complete all activities on time.


  • Some IEBC officers provided incorrect dates for registration in Kisauni.
  • In Kisauni Constituency, people complained that registration was taking a long time to complete.
  • In Kisauni Constituency, there were complaints that IEBC staff was unable to guide people with directions and procedural information.
  • The decision to hold registration next to classrooms was very distracting for students.
  • In Mvita Constituency, IFA teams noted that IEBC officers were closed during working hours. There was no notice of explanation.
  • In some cases, registration centres had been moved without public notice.
  1. Equipment Problems


  • Officials in Cheptarit Registration Centre in Sigowet Ward were unable to register new voters on 16 May because of a faulty camera.
  • BVR kits were unevenly distributed throughout the county. For instance, three BVR kits served six registration centres in Kipchimchim Ward of Ainamoi Constituency, but one BVR kit served six registration centres in Litein Ward.
  • In Bonchari Constituency, kits took a long time to scan fingerprints.


  • According to the Mvita Constituency Coordinator, Ali H. Mwakulonda, ten BVR kits were expected to serve 58 polling stations.
  • For Kisauni Constituency, the Constituency Coordinator, Aisha Abubakar, said that the workload was very high because of the low number of BVR kits available. Registration rates were up to 40 people per day, such that by the 19th of February (four days after the start of MVR) they had already registered 247 people. In Mjambere, 400 people had registered after four days, with a target number of 4300. In other areas, however, rates were low. In Shanzu, only 68 people had registered by the 19th of February. 
  1. Lack of Voter Education


  • Some people confused voter registration with the issuance of national ID cards, and they arrived at registration centres with the expectation that they would be able to receive their ID cards.
  • There was a general lack of awareness regarding the MVR exercise, and some people did not know that registration centres had been set up.
  • Many people came to the registration centres to ensure that their names were on the register.


  • Low literacy rates contributed to the lack of awareness about the importance of voter registration.

Samburu and Baringo:

  • IFA observers noted a severe absence of voter education or sensitization. Citizens were generally unaware of what was happening with regard to voter registration.
  1. Voter Apathy


  • IFA observers noted that there were a number of people who were not willing to register as voters; they saw no reason to register or to vote. Some people were already disillusioned by elected representatives’ poor performance and felt there was no need to elect new ones. Some even claimed they saw no need to vote, claiming that their votes would be stolen or rigged.


  • In Bonchari Constituency, IEBC officials noted low literacy levels and said that this made it difficult to motivate people to register.


  • IEBC’s Registration Coordinator, Muchangi Kabebe, said that politicians had not done enough to create awareness of and interest in voter registration. 
  1. Voter Bribery


  • There were reports that people were being bribed to register.
  1. Obstruction of Observers


  • At Kamas in Kabianga Ward, Kiptome in Belgut Constituency and in Kapkondor in Kipkelion East Constituency, IEBC officials refused to answer IFA observers’ questions.


  • At Ngangarithi Primary, the registration clerk said that registration staff had been instructed not to give any information to observers, and so he refused to talk to IFA.


  • In polling station No. 061 (Maralal Social Hall), the clerk decline to talk to IFA observers or answer questions. The clerk said she was instructed not to disclose any information to media personnel or any ‘curious person’.


  • After paying visits to IEBC offices, the IFA team’s access to information from the ARs was restricted. The team was advised that the coordinator had to be notified before they could visit registration centres.
  1. Transfers

In Kericho, many voters expressed a desire to transfer their places of registration. The reasons were varied and included the following:

  • People had moved to new homes.
  • Newly married women had moved to their husbands’ homes.
  • Some people who work away from their home areas had returned.
  • Some people wanted to transfer to polling stations that are know to have shorter queues on Election Day.
  • Some voters had moved to a neighboring ward to assist a particular candidate, and they had since returned to their original areas. This was the case in Kapchetoror Primary School of Kipchimchim Ward (Ainamoi Constituency), where over 100 voters had moved back to Kipchimchim Ward from Matobo Ward. In transferring, voters seemed to have a lot of interest in electing a member to a county assembly seat.


  • IEBC’s Regional Coordinator stated that there were more voter transfers than voter registrations.


  • There were reports that people had been ferried from Kilifi County to Mombasa County for registration.


  • One resident who transferred his registration from one area to another was supposed to receive a confirmation call. He did not receive any communication. It is unclear if this was a double registration or if his registration had even been confirmed.
  1. Political influence


  • A Jubilee party member, wearing the party logo, was observed working with IEBC clerks moblising people for voter registration in Nyeri town (see Image 8).


Image 8


Recommendations to all stakeholders 

  • The Ministry of Interior and National Bureau of Registration must approach the issuing of national identification cards as a fundamental constitutional and human right, and, as such, urgently address and reform all related processes and policies to remove arbitrary and discriminatory obstruction, at any level. Security considerations should be proportionate and fair so as not to restrict the right to citizenship or transform it, intentionally or otherwise, into opportunities for exploitation and corruption.
  • It is critical that voter registration be merged with the national ID system. When Kenyans receive their IDs, they should also be automatically registered to vote. ID cards can then be used on Election Day or, should reliable biometric equipment be used to register voters, voters could be identified by their biometrics without the need for any ID. This will eliminate the need for voter cards, and it will also reduce costs, time and staff for the IEBC. In the meantime, provisions should be made to allow Kenyans with waiting cards to register to vote, and serious effort should be made to process and disseminate pending national ID cards.
  • Civil society must prioritize activism focused on reform of the ID processing procedures. Kenyan NGOs and activists should push the legislature and other decision-making bodies to overhaul the vetting process in order to eliminate discriminatory procedures and devise standards that are fairly and equally applied to all applicants.
  • The IEBC, CSOs and other stakeholders must urgently prioritize countrywide voter education programs. These programs should include information on how and when to register, how and when to confirm their registration, what forms of identification will be accepted at registration and polling centres, instructions on how to mark a ballot, and information about voters’ rights and responsibilities. Stakeholders should also consider disseminating multimedia voter education through SMS, on websites, in newspapers and via radio programs. Special attention should be given to reaching mobile voter communities.
  • The IEBC and the government should be publicly held to account by donors for electoral-related funds in the same way that other public, private and non- governmental bodies and agencies are, with the same proportional penalties and sanctions. This should be done pragmatically and consistently throughout all stages of the election processes to avoid the large-scale election-related corruption crimes previously experienced by the Kenyan population.

Recommendations to the IEBC

  • IEBC must work to ensure that its staff is non-partisan, well-trained, and well-equipped for long days at registration centres. Staff members must have adequate funds for transportation, and there must be proper time and allowances for meals and breaks.
  • The IEBC should publish its budget and expenditures on a regular basis and disseminate this information so that the public is aware of how its money is being spent on election-related activities.
  • Devolution is a critical tool for the IEBC to better fulfill the fundamental requirements and expectations of an electoral body, including dealing with basic issues like electricity supply and poor infrastructure that were declared ‘inevitable’ obstacles to a successful election process in the 2013 Supreme Court judgment.[31] Article 174(h) of the Constitution requires the State to decentralize its services and functions from the capital, and Article 189 requires cooperation between the national government and county governments in the performance of their functions. Better use should therefore be made of the devolved system to facilitate fair administration and an effective and timely process for all Kenyans to secure a national ID card and successfully register as voters; a framework agreement to guide the relationship between national and county governments on the issuance of ID cards and registration of voters should be adopted.
  • The IEBC must prioritize voter registration amongst those communities and areas where it has historically been low. In some cases, this means that special arrangements will have to be made to deal with poor infrastructure, low literacy, etc. Programs to target women, minorities, nomadic communities and youth should be designed urgently, and these programs should be innovative and non-traditional. Partnerships with places of worship and schools should be considered, and the development of mobile registration centres should also be rolled out.
  • The IEBC must establish working groups with other electoral stakeholders, including the media, CSOs, observer groups, the judiciary and other relevant state- and non-state actors. Together, these groups must communicate regularly to keep each other informed of developments, establish respective roles and responsibilities, and agree to codes of conduct.
  • The IEBC should disseminate information about how BVR kits are allocated for the purposes of registration. This kind of transparency will prevent rumors about favoritism to certain areas, and it will also help people manage their expectations. The IEBC should also develop and release to the public its back-up plan in the event that BVR kits do not work during registration, or EVID kits do not function on Election Day.
  • The IEBC should consider requiring proof of residence in the registration process. Voters who wish to register in a particular ward should be able to show that they reside in that ward. This will prevent politicians from enticing voters to register in particular places for the sake of their own candidacies.
  • Special provisions should also be made for students, who may have to register to vote and cast their ballots in different locations.


About InformAction

InformAction is a dynamic social justice organization that uses film and community discussions to encourage ordinary people to speak out and take action. We operate through mobile local field teams – using a car, screen, projector and camera - to show social justice films to thousands of ordinary people throughout Kenya every week. Experienced activists and facilitators lead community discussions on justice and governance, while field videographers film the discussions and record local human rights abuses.

In an environment that has become increasingly hostile to civil society and freedom of expression, we use our unique methodology to by-pass control, corruption and censorship and provide alternative sources of information and leadership. We reach out to all communities and classes, and reject all forms of economic, social and political discrimination.

Our Vision: An informed and empowered society that speaks truth to power and demands accountability and social justice.
Our Mission: To inform and empower communities in Kenya in order to catalyze public debate and action for a just and accountable society.

InformAction Ltd
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+254736 512165, +254727 370492

Tirop Kitur, Community Action Leader +254 725 881533

ElectionWatch updates are designed to inform Kenyans about the state of electoral readiness in the lead-up to the 2017 general election, and prompt public debate and conversation about the credibility of the electoral process.




[1] News24 Kenya, ‘IEBC targeting a record 25 million voters’ (16 February 2016) http://www.news24.co.ke/National/News/iebc-targeting-a-record-25-million-voters-20160216

[2] Jeremiah Kiplang’at, ‘We do not have money to extend voter listing, IEBC says’ Daily Nation (10 March 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/We-do-not-have-money-to-extend-voter-listing--IEBC-says/1056-3110340-9imf57/index.html

[3] Section 5, Elections Act 2011

[4] Wilfred Ayaga and Alex Ndegwa, ‘Joint committee yet to agree on mode of picking IEBC bosses’ Standard Digital (9 August 2016) http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000211378/joint-committee-yet-to-agree-on-mode-of-picking-iebc-bosses.

[5] David Ohito and Eric Abuga, ‘Opposition leader Raila Odinga demands new voter register before 2017 polls’ Standard Digital (9 August 2016) http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000211330/opposition-leader-raila-odinga-demands-new-voter-register-before-2017-polls

[6] Post-election violence after the December 2007 general election killed at least 1,133 and displaced an estimated 700,000 Kenyans

[7] Independent Review Commission, Report of the Independent Review Commission on the General Elections (17 September 2008), available at: http://aceproject.org/regions-en/countries-and-territories/KE/reports/independent-review-commission-on-the-general

[8] ibid, page 8

[9] ibid, page x

[10] Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG), Voter Registration for the 2013 General Elections in Kenya (March 2014) http://africog.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Voter_Registration_for_the_2013_General_Elections_in_Kenya.pdf

[11] Nicholas Sewe, ‘We achieved 34 percent of voter registration target – IEBC chair’ hivisasa (23 March 2016) http://www.hivisasa.com/nairobi/news/126804

[12] Paidamoyo Muzulu, ‘ZEC fails to register voters’ News Day (26 August 2016) https://www.newsday.co.zw/2016/08/26/zec-fails-register-voters/

[13] Voice of America, ‘Election Day in Uganda.’ (18 February 2016) http://www.voanews.com/a/3196102.html

[14] Africa Review, ‘Tanzania opposition queries new software for vote tallying’ (1 October 2015) http://www.africareview.com/news/Tanzania-opposition-queries-new-software-for-vote-tallying-/979180-2893082-k928syz/index.html

[15] Peter Leftie, ‘Public confidence in IEBC drops – poll’ Daily Nation (12 July 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Kenyans-have-no-confidence-in-IEBC/1064-3291646-gdqcnwz/index.html

[16] InformAction interview with Willis Otieno, Elections Modeling Expert (12 August 2016)

[17] InformAction interview with anonymous legal and security sources (12, 15, and 17 August 2016)

[18] Voting Age Population figures based on IEBC’s 2012 estimates: http://www.iebc.or.ke/index.php/2015-01-15-11-10-24/press-releases-statements/item/voter-registration-analysis

[19] Image taken from A Borderline Process video (October 12 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqzYo4l33hc

[20] Image taken from What Makes a Kenyan video (18 August 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfhSHYMTSI8&feature=youtu.be

[21] Voting Age Population figures are as of 2012 (see above, n 18); number of registered voters are as of March 2016: http://www.iebc.or.ke/index.php/2015-01-15-11-10-24/press-releases-statements/item/final-mvr-data-as-at-15th-march-2016

[22] Wanjohi Githae, ‘ODM cries foul over voter registration but minister denies bias claims’ Daily Nation (9 October 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/ODM-cries-foul-over-voter-registration/1064-3409922-2rftvlz/

[23] Image taken from ‘Very Fast, Very Easy’ Getting IDs in Central Kenya video (22 August 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uDNab6YOfI&feature=youtu.be

[24] Image taken from Insider look: Kenyan Special Vetting Committee video (12 October 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0lzG55B_rE&feature=youtu.be ; see also, A Borderline Process (n 19)

[25] Nation NewsPlex, ‘Biggest security budget increase goes to IG’s office’ (17 October 2015) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/security-budget-newsplex/2718262-2918400-djy61o/index.html

[26] Cyrus Ombati, ‘Government says over 350,000 IDs lie uncollected at various centres’ Standard Digital (3 February 2016) http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000190416/government-says-over-350-000-ids-lie-uncollected-at-various-centres

[27] Image taken from Denying Kenyans the Right to be Kenyan video (22 April 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMkTB6L8ps4&feature=youtu.be ; see also, Citizen Rights, Citizen Wrongs video (22 August 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Opyt2VRcC8

[28] Samuel Karanja, ‘EACC survey ranks Interior ministry as “most corrupt”’ Daily Nation (15 March 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/EACC-survey-ranks-Interior-ministry-as-most-corrupt/1056-3117500-4l1wb8/index.html

[29] Image taken from Give Me My Money Back video (22 August 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQfq2zZ_4_k

[30] Image taken from Registration Frustration in Nyanza video (18 August 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvLdQzzRC3E&feature=youtu.be

[31] Petition No. 5 of 2013, available at: https://kenyastockholm.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/full-judgement-petition-no-5-of-2013-judgement-final-2-april-16-2013.pdf



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