Some good news: we helped buy and implement a Biometric Voter Registration system for Yemen last year

Registering for Democracy in Yemen”, from the USAID Impact blog.

Seemingly the first of it’s kind in USAID’s Middle East and North Africa region.  Last year.  Up to Kenya standard (probably much better as described).  Going into that year the Acting Inspector General for USAID had indicated that “lack of focus” was one of the Agency’s top challenges.

“IFES Supports New Biometric Voter Registration System in Yemen”

Kenyan voter registration underway; new poll and new security incidents


Kenya’s biometric voter registration finally got underway yesterday, with relatively low turnout.  The main reported glitch appeared to be problems with BVR kits losing power after using up their battery life.  The registration period runs through December 18.  Because of the delays with the BVR kit purchase, the deadline of December 4 for formation of party coalitions, three months before election day, falls during the middle of the registration period.

A substantive enfranchisement problem is that only those possessing and producing an official national identity card or Kenyan passport are permitted to register.  Those waiting for identity cards will be out of luck so a burden will rest on the Registrar of Persons to expedite issuance of identify cards.  See the official announcement from the IEBC here.

An op/ed piece in The Nation from Prof. Kefa Otiso of Bowling Green University, the president of the Kenya Scholars and Studies Association, raises disenfranchisement concerns about the current version of the IEBC’s plans for diaspora registration and voting in the U.S., which would require in person registration and subsequent voting in Washington, New York or Los Angeles.

The new Synovate poll shows Odinga continuing as the front-runner, followed by Uhuru in a solid second position, but both have slipped slightly since their last poll in September.  Here is the report from The Star on the Ipsos Synovate press conference:

Prime Minister Raila Odinga who is the poll’s leading candidate has 33 per cent, followed closely by Uhuru Kenyatta with 26 per cent.

Both candidates have dropped in popularity since the last Synovate polls conducted in September. Raila has lost three percent while Kenyatta has lost four per cent of the votes.

Candidates and areas that have gained in the polls are Eldoret North MP and presidential hopeful William Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

They have both of gained three per cent popularity poll. Additionally the number of undecided voters has increased to 11 per cent up from nine per cent in September.

Dr. Tom Wolf, a socio-political analyst with Ipsos Synovate attributed this shortfall of votes by the candidates to the unfinalised political alliances.

In the meantime, Nairobi remains tense after the latest Sunday matatu bombing, this time killing several people in Eastleigh, followed by rioting with Somalis targeted.  Garissa is under curfew following the shooting of three Kenya Defense Forces soldiers, which then led to what the BBC is calling an army “crackdown” with at least 8 Kenyans shot and 50 wounded.  The Kenyan Defense Minister told BBC that he did not authorize the action, which naturally raises its own set of questions.

BVR Kits start arriving in Nairobi

The first two air deliveries of Biometric Voter Registration kits arrived in Nairobi from France today.  Here is the story from The Star, with some additional background:

The IEBC met with President Kibaki on Monday during which they sought to assure him of their preparedness to oversee the election.

The meeting with Kibaki followed a similar one with Prime Minister Raila Odinga where the government undertook to pay the entire cost of procuring the kits from its own resources but with the expectation that the government of Canada would sign off the concessionary loan to refund the cost which has now risen to more than Sh9 billion.

The manufacturer, Morpho Inc of France, had demanded full payment before delivering the kits. At the time, the government had only paid 40 per cent of the cost. Government then signed a loan facility of Sh7.2 billion with Standard Chartered Bank to pay for the 15,000 kits to clear the balance.

The Daily Nation reports that the IEBC is expected to announce the new compressed voter registration schedule tomorrow: 

A massive campaign to mobilise voters is expected to be put in place so as to attract a large number of Kenyans to register within one month due to time constraints.

“We want Kenyans to respond within a month because we will not extend the registration period. We will use the media and other available means to enhance our campaigns to target as many people as possible. We also expect politicians campaigning for various positions to pass this message to the targeted population,” Mr Hassan told a previous media briefing.

The delayed delivery of the equipment has been a major concern in the country forcing the shifting of various crucial timelines.

Kenya’s voter registration again delayed . . . [with updates]

UPDATED 10/24: IEBC Chairman Hassan spoke to the press Wednesday afternoon Nairobi time.  Bottom line is that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Government will follow through with a commitment to make a remaining authorization of the outstanding 60% due for the first major shipment of the Biometric Voter Registration Kits. If this happens so that the kits arrive by Tuesday, the IEBC can conduct the voter registration in November.  Any further delay would have “grave consequences” rippling through the election preparations–thus jeopardizing the March 4 date.

UPDATED 10/23:  New development from Capital FM:

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23 – The government has assured that the next General Election will be held on schedule after the Treasury and the Attorney General approved the financing agreement for Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits.

Finance Minister Njeru Githae on Tuesday morning said the delay in approval of the financing agreement was due to its late arrival from France.

He said that neither the Treasury nor the Attorney General was to blame for the setback since the agreement was only received on Monday.

Original post:

Nevermind my previous post about biometric voter registration in Kenya that was to have started almost two weeks ago.  The latest glitch, as reported in The Nation, is the need for the Attorney General’s office to approve a letter of credit so the French manufacturer of the BVR kits will ship them:

According to deadlines set by IEBC in August, voter registration was supposed to be carried out in September and October. However, the exercise was now set to start on November 14.

The commission has been forced to amend its timelines several times over the past three months due to the BVR crisis.

With only 133 days left to the March 4 election, it will take 60 days to complete a proper voter listing programme involving 18 million Kenyans with 30 days being set aside for the actual registration and another 30 days for voter inspection.

The frustrated elections boss revealed that he met Prof Muigai at the sidelines of the Mashujaa Day celebrations on Saturday and pleaded with him to save the country by signing the document.

This is the sort of problem or issue that is going to be testing everyone’s patience for the duration of the process of electing a new government.

Is it necessary and legitimate for questions to be raised in granting legal approval for the letter of credit?  Hard to say;  that some players in the process openly desire to delay the election, in the context of the controversial nature of the Attorney General’s appointment in the first place, means that public and private skepticism are inevitable.


Update on Kenya’s Biometric Voter Registration

It seems to be “sorted” that the Canadian government will handle the purchase, funded as a “concessionary loan” of KSh 4.6M to the Government of Kenya, relieving the IEBC of the budgeted amount of KSh 3.9M for the procurement.  Here are stories from the Standard and the Star.

Polling Centre at Dagoretti, Nairobi