Step up voter education, IEBC told

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Kenya’s electoral commission has been accused of failing to conduct proper voter education in the August election even as it prepare for a repeat presidential elections.
According to Elections Observation Group (ELOG), a coalition of civil societies and faith-based organisations, provision of voter education is thinly spread across the country, leaving majority of voters to rely on information they receive from politicians.
“ELOG has noted modest voter education activity by IEBC, civil societies and the media. Of keen interest is the drive by IEBC which was trending below 40 per cent in March and April before shooting to a high of 80 per cent in May and June during the voter verification drive and dropping to 56 per cent immediately after the close of the verification drive,” ElOG said in its report released recently.
However, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said the voter education exercise has been scaled up with two voter educators stationed in each ward across the country.
Director of Voter Education at IEBC Rasi Masudi said the commission had adopted three phases of voter education during the mass voter registration early this year, voter verification in June and continuous awareness campaigns on electoral process.
“We are not visible in the media but we have two voter educators per ward across the country, who are working with chiefs, assistant chiefs and village elders,” Mr Masudi told The EastAfrican.
President Uhuru Kenyatta warning in December last year, warned civil societies of soliciting for funds from donors to mount voter education, saying Kenyans are well informed about electoral process.
President Kenyatta’s statementpromptedstate-owned NGOs Coordinating Boardto cancel a Ksh2 billion ($20 million) voter education programme, which was to be funded by the USaid and managed by the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES).
According to Elections Act, IEBC is required to carry out voter education either directly or in collaboration with state non state actors.
Elections observers, among them Commonwealth team, noted that lack of proper voter education impacted the 2013 general elections, and called for more resources and time for the exercise for future elections.
But Mr Masudisaid over 200 organisations have been accredited by IEBC, especially civil society organisations to complement the electoral commission’s efforts to provide voter education.
“We have developed curriculum and training manuals that the orgainsations are using to provide voter education just to ensure that the content meets the standards,” added Mr Masudi.
It is understood that the slow voter education has been caused by a longer official campaign period that stands at 60 days compared with 21 days previously, which has stretched the budgetary allocations that had been set aside by various actors.
In addition, a six-month period that was lost due to a political duel between opposition and the government electoral reforms, among them appointment of new IEBC commissioners also interfered with voter education plan, pushing it nearer to elections date.

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