BVR kits delivery delay throws Kenyan election date into doubt

Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has issued a warning that Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits must arrive in the country on deadline if the general election is to take place on the agreed date of March 4, 2013.

IEBC chairman Issack Hassan said last week that further delays in the delivery of the kits, needed for electronic voter registration, “will bear grave consequences”.

“We need to have the kits in place on time in order for us to begin the work,” he said. “We have to start voter registration in November. If it does not happen there will be serious repercussions.”

Hassan said that the delay had been as a result of the government t having only paid 40 percent of the money due for the 15,000 BVR kits. The balance has since been paid, with the cost to the government hitting KSh7 billion (US$82 million) after promises of Canadian funding fell through.

The IEBC chairman said that, should the kits arrive on time, the commission was ready to launch the registration process. 30,000 BVR clerks have been hired, with the IEBC hoping to register 18 million voters.

“You know Abraham Lincoln said if I was given eight hours to cut down a tree I will spend six hours sharpening my axe so we have spent six hours sharpening the axe and are waiting for the tree so that we can cut it down,” he said. “These machines can register a minimum of 50 people per day so we will be able to register the 18 million in one month.”

 Should the kits not arrive by the November 5 deadline, Hassan said the agency would revert back to manual voter registration.

“If we do not get the equipment on time, then we will resort to a Plan B. We will update the already existing 12.5 million voter register and enroll new ones manually for the March 4 elections,” he said.

Yet Trade Minister Moses Wetangula laid the blame for the delay at the IEBC’s door.

“The conduct of IEBC over the BVR kits is suspicious,” he said. “They have kept on assuring Kenyans of the supply of the equipments when nothing is happening.”

Finance minister Njeru Githae said the delay was the responsibility of Safran Morpho, the French suppliers of the kits, saying the Treasury had released funds on time.

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