Insecurity in Lamu County has complicated the electoral agency’s efforts to register more voters, forcing it to push the listing to February 3 in the most affected areas.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said this will allow for better planning.
Speaking to the Nation on Wednesday, Lamu County IEBC Election Manager Mohamed Adan said many residents in the affected villages could participate in the registration because they lost or misplaced their national identity cards (IDs) when they fled their homes.
IEBC officials, alongside security agents, this week visited polling stations in Juhudi, Holy Angels, Mikinduni, Kibaoni, Nyatha, Poromoko, Mavuno, Hindi and parts of Witu division.
The commission had to push back the registration in volatile areas to between January 30 and February 3, when they expect displaced villagers to have returned to their homes to pick up their lives.
“We discovered that some people are still living in camps. The residents there also raised concern on how they will participate in the ongoing voter registration exercise at a time when their IDs were either lost, burnt or misplaced during the attacks,” Mr Adan said.
Extremely low turnout
Mr Adan also noted that other insecurity hotspots where voter registration was underway witnessed an extremely low voter turnout or no one turned up for fear of being attacked.
“By Monday, registration kits had been dispatched to Lamu East wards, where in Faza, only eight new voters had been registered by today. In Kiunga and Basuba wards, no new voter has been registered so far. We hope people will come out to register as days go by,” he said.
He blamed the low turnout on challenges related to ID cards, drought and insecurity in certain parts of Lamu.
But the IEBC said it will continue listing new voters by working with security agents.
For the past two weeks, residents of Lamu West have witnessed a spate of terror attacks suspected to be orchestrated by Al-Shabaab militants that left 15 people dead and over 10 houses torched.
Hundreds of residents fled their homes and set up camps far from their villages.
The affected areas include Juhudi, Ukumbi, Widho, Marafa, Mashogoni, Githurai, Mikinduni, Kibaoni, Kibokoni and Bobo-Sunkia,
Other affected areas in the rest of Lamu are Basuba, Milimani, Mangai, Mararani and Kiangwe in the Boni forest region and villages on the Lamu-Somalia border, including Kiunga, Ishakani and Madina.
In the first phase of voter registration between October 4 and November 2, only 5,000 of the targeted 15,910 new voters were registered in Lamu County.
In the current drive, IEBC wants to register 17,000 new voters across the county.
Mr Adan urged residents of Lamu to register as new voters, adding that security had been beefed up, especially in the terror hotspots.
“The commission has done all it takes to ensure security is provided to the registration kits, our clerks in the registration centres and even those that will be coming to register. So, there’s nothing to worry about,” he said.
“People should know that this is the last voter registration exercise. After this, there will be no other exercise. So, let’s take advantage and come out to register to enable you to take part in the forthcoming August 9, 2022 General Election.”
Mass voter transfer
The Nation also observed that mass voter transfer is likely to take place in the five Lamu County Assembly wards that were recently hit by attacks that left 15 people dead.
Lamu has 10 wards.
“I prefer going to Lamu town to register rather than here in my village. Security is very unpredictable here. I want to be in a place where I can comfortably vote in August. I will have to transfer,” said Ms Lucy Wairimu of Widho village.
Johnson Gitau, a resident of Majembeni in Mkunumbi ward, said he had not registered but was planning to do so in the ongoing drive.
“But I don’t think I will register as a voter here. The security is questionable here,” said Mr Gitau.
Contacted for comment on security preparations, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia assured citizens of their security and advised them to visit their respective centres to register as voters.
Mr Macharia said his office was working closely with IEBC and the National Registration Bureau to fast-track the replacement of lost or burnt IDs for residents in villages recently affected by attacks.
“We have beefed up security even in the villages of Widho, Juhudi, Mashogoni, Bobo-Sunkia and surrounding areas that were affected by recent attacks to enable residents to go and register as new voters. Insecurity is now not a reason for people to miss out on this important exercise. No excuse,” he said.