The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: State Will Crush You, Kibaki Tells Criminals

President Kibaki yesterday launched the biometric voter registration with a stern warning to individuals and groups who threaten national security.

In an apparent reference to the Baragoi massacre in Samburu in which 42 police officers were killed by armed bandits, the President warned the government will not tolerate any acts that obstruct security personnel in doing their work or endanger their lives.

Scores of civilians were also killed and many others injured in Eastleigh when an explosive ripped through a Kariobangi-bound bus Sunday evening. And yesterday, the registration was temporarily disrupted in Matuga, Coast province, by members of a gang.

Kibaki said the government's security agencies will continue to provide the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission with sufficient security as well as their financial needs.

The government, he said, is stepping up security in all parts of the country to ensure the registration and voting are not interfered with. "Those who dare to cause mayhem will be dealt with firmly and in accordance with the law. I keep on emphasising what action we will take for interfering. Whoever you are, we will deal with you," said Kibaki when launching the registration at KICC in Nairobi.

"There is no point in somebody attempting to mess an electoral process. Nobody has the remotest right to interfere." The President avoided to address the request by Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa that the government suspends the combined military and police operation in Baragoi to enable the residents to register.

Wamalwa had argued that the presence of the Kenya Defence Forces would cause fear among eligible Kenyans to register. The IEBC is using 15,000 biometric voter registration kits to register voters across the country in the countdown to the General Election on March 4, 2012.

Kibaki also implored Kenyans to come out in large numbers to register so as to be able to participate in the forthcoming elections. "There is no room to pretend that you registered in the past. You have to register afresh," he said.

IEBC chairman Issack Hassan reiterated that the BVR kits have no adverse health impacts. "A lot has been said that about the capacity of the BVR system. There have been rumours that it causes impotence. We want to assure you that the BVR system has no health effects and we shall only be capturing your fingers and facial features for identification on the Election Day," Hassan said.

Hassan and Wamalwa said the BVR platform will ensure security of voters register and eradicate cases of 'dead' voters casting ballots next year.

The system, they said, will also eliminate chances of multiple registrations. Wamalwa called on political leaders and Kenyans to give maximum support to the IEBC. "We must support the Commission especially in the coming three months which are going to be critical. If we get the elections wrong, it will be an opportunity squandered," the justice minister said.

Hassan also announced that the commission was yet to give a date when the voter registration will kick-off for Kenyans living outside the country. "We want to discuss with the government to get assistance so that we can realize this goal," he said.

The Commission put off the voter registration for the Kenyans in diaspora after some of them filed a court case. The Commission top brass is now expected to meet with the foreign ministry officials today to iron out the technicalities over the definite number of Kenyans living abroad who can participate in the forthcoming General Election. The Commission had set aside more than 100 BVR kits and a Sh150 million budget for diaspora registration.

With the BVR system, a voter can register at "any designated voter registration (registration centre) within the county assembly ward or the constituency" where he/she wishes to vote.

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