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Help the youth acquire IDs to enlist as voters

COMMENTARY
By Dennis Waweru | March 27th 2016

As we take time off to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is increasingly becoming difficult to ward off political thoughts. Most of my colleagues in Parliament haven’t really gone for those long holidays associated with Easter. Many are spending this holiday trying to figure out how they will counter growing opposition in their backyards.

I have deeply thought about the critical mass of new voters that could well tilt the game next year. The recently-concluded voter registration was affected by voter apathy, where many counties were unable to hit the 50 per cent target.

Having gone around many constituencies and having analysed the numbers that trickled from our registration centres, I realised many youths could not register as voters because they lack Identity Cards.

My hypothesis is that if the State was to tap into all eligible citizens and issue them with IDs, another round of mass voter registration would have better results. I am happy with renewed efforts and creative strategy of the National Registration Bureau of targeting disadvantaged groups to register as citizens. This week I attended such a registration drive at the Dandora dumpsite where 3,000 people eke out a living.

We must admit that requirements for registration as a citizen are difficult for those who found themselves at a dumpsite. At places like Dandora, and other slum areas in Nairobi, you come across disillusioned Kenyans who have failed to initiate the process of acquiring IDs because in their first attempt, they face a corrupt official demanding a bribe.

As Jubilee, we have taken a position that all eligible Kenyans must be given IDs. It is their civic right. We have realised youths are losing out on many opportunities because their status of registration cannot allow them to engage in any bidding contract. All leaders must strive to bridge the gap of the glaring numbers the government gives as eligible but unregistered citizens.

I laud the Interior ministry’s ‘relaxation’ of such requirements when there is need. If extended to other slum areas across the country, the Identity Card will easily become a key tool to boost voter registration in the next round.

But even as we emphasise on the acquisition of new IDs, it is imperative to deal with the issue of uncollected IDs. Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho was recently at pains to explain that 375, 963 Kenyans haven’t collected their processed IDS. At the Huduma

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Centres, for example, 57,500, IDs are lying uncollected. Rift Valley leads with more than 81,000 uncollected IDS while North Eastern trails with 7,140 cards.

In a normal scenario, 100,000 ID cards are processed in a month only that months preceding the concluded mass voter registration saw more than 350,000 new applications a month.

This situation can be interpreted to mean the status of Identity Cards among Kenyans can be a key factor in the next polls. All the eligible Kenyans must be registered as citizens even before we can talk about voter registration. Empowerment must begin at ensuring our youth have Identity Cards.

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