Biometric Voter Registration exercise kicks off

NAIROBI (VOA) — Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has officially launched a nationwide voter registration campaign for the March 4 general elections. The 30-day process begins as the country faces security challenges and the growing fear of election-related violence.

Kenya’s electoral commission has kicked off a nationwide voter registration drive. The exercise aims to register more than 18 million voters within 30 days.

The chairman of the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Isaac Hassan, said at a launch ceremony in Nairobi his commission is ready to carry out the task.

“We appeal to Kenyans and all our partners to support us through this critical process," said Hassan. "Please help us mobilize Kenyans to come out in large numbers and register. Let them not wait for the last day or the last week to start piling up on the register. We have got 30 days these officers will be there every morning, every day, Sundays and public holidays. Please avail yourself and get yourself registered.”

Voters will register for the March election using a Biometric Voter Register system that uses fingerprints and facial features to uniquely identify each voter.

Hassan says one key feature of the system is the ability to detect if a voter has tried to register more than once. He says this one way of guaranteeing a credible voter register.

The electoral body also faces security challenges in Coast Province, where a secessionist group has threatened to disrupt the registration process.

According to the chairman of the IEBC, the first incident of violence targeting the process took place early Monday.

“We know the security challenges we have especially in the country," he said. "This morning I was just informed that we had an incident in Matuga. A center there was disrupt[ed], but the police moved in very quickly and security was restored."

During the launch, President Mwai Kibaki assured the commission and Kenyans of their security. He also warned civilians against obstructing the work of security officers or endangering their lives.

Kenya’s last general elections in 2007 were marred by post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Government officials say this time, mechanisms are in place to prevent a repeat of the fighting.