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Mt Kenya billionaires pool resources in hunt for voters

By Gakuu Mathenge | February 4th 2017

Jubilee Party has rolled out a massive and well-funded voter registration drive in the Mt Kenya region.

The campaign, headed by a retired District Commissioner, operates separately from the party secretariat. So critical is the drive that the party suspended membership recruitment last week to mobilise supporters.

The strategy is to get the numbers to win the polls with a big margin. A team has been formed to drive the process, with each county unit headed by a coordinator. There are officials overseeing ward and polling station mobilisers. All levels report daily to supervisors at ward, constituency and county levels.

The teams undertook intense training in early January and were deployed at the beginning of the voter registration period. The drive is financed through a series of low-key fundraising events by business people and the Mt Kenya Foundation (MKF), a political lobby of wealthy men from the region. The groups have held several harambees in the region. One was held at Nairobi’s Windsor Hotel and raised Sh23 million and another in Murang’a which realised Sh10 million.

Yesterday, another strategy meeting was held at Nyahururu Municipal Hall and attended by top government officials.

Jobless youth and boda boda riders have been contracted to deliver eligible voters from their homesteads to registration centres. The teams have data of all eligible voters. The regions have been divided into small sections that are then allocated to various voter registration lobby groups to ensure maximum outcomes. The lobby groups are fully facilitated.

MKF’s past political assignments include setting up the PNU in October 2007. Sources say the drive was based on last year’s National Registration Bureau’s (NRB) report that showed over nine million ID card holders had not listed as voters as of June 2016. With these statistics, political parties have gone flat out in the hope that whichever side manages to win a good chunk of this massive vote pool to its corner will have a leg up at the August 8 elections.

“In Mt Kenya region, the high margin mark is 3.7 million first time and previously unregistered voters. In Nyeri County alone, our target is 329,000 eligible voters,” Joseph Maathai, the JP head of political affairs directorate, said.

The Standard on Saturday established that an agent had been deployed to each of the 560 stations spread across 30 wards in Nyeri. In Kiambu, there are 551 polling stations in 60 wards, each headed by a coordinator.

The immediate former Deputy Secretary General of The National Alliance (TNA) Charles Waithaka heads the Kiambu County unit while Maathai heads the Nyeri County unit. MKF Coordinator Mutuma Nkanata is in charge of the Meru unit. But this formation has not gone down well with some JP leaders. Sources say some politicians were anxious the success of the vote hunting units could see their coordinators being converted to head the presidential campaign team.

In Embu, the picking of County Speaker Kariuki Mate as a voter registration coordinator was met with opposition. Senator Lenny Kivuti, Governor Martin Wambora and former minister Njeru Ndwiga have called for revocation of Mate’s appointment, claiming he was not impartial. “They cry wolf each time anyone begins an initiative to mobilise voters. Who has stopped them from making own initiatives?” Mate said.

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