As the ongoing voter registration exercise enters the third week across the country, alarm has been raised over alleged Ugandans who are flocking the country through Suam border to register as voters in the ongoing exercise.
Residents of Chepchoina and Suam areas of Endebes constituency in Trans Nzoia county and Ugandans living along the border at Kapnandi and neighboring areas are said to be also registering to vote in next year’s general elections in Kenya.
Speaking at Chepchoina and Soko Mjinga centers the residents showed fears that the registration of Ugandans as voters is likely to lead to election of leaders who are not the choice of Kenyan voters from Endebes constituency after the 2017 general elections and can lead to poor leadership and lack of development in the area.
They pointed out that the situation is as a result of the initial syndicate of registering the same Ugandans as Kenyans by giving them Kenyan national identity cards that give them lee way to be registered as voters regardless of their nationality.
“We blame all this on the people who give out national identity cards because they always give priority to Ugandans as they deny us our right to get the important document as our constitutional right,” said one youth at Chepchoina.
He said that whenever Ugandans come there is always a special arrangement by the registration officers who never demand for any important documents from them as compared to Kenyans who are asked to produce title deeds, school cert cards.
However they noted that even after going through the whole process their ID cards never come or if they come they are always full of mistakes such that they are referred back to Nairobi hence delaying their use of the document in different processes such as registering as voters.
He said that the delay that has now reached nine months has denied him the right to register in the ongoing registration process as a vote.
Many other youths from the constituency have experienced similar challenges which they said are normally realized in one community as the other communities get the documents with ease.
At the same time they also revealed that some of the ID cards are brought back with a photo of a woman and the name of a man or vice versa, a move they said seems to be made deliberately to deny a section of the residents the important documents that infringes on their constitutional rights.
Ugandans brought in lorries to register
They alleged that Ugandans are normally ferried in lorries through the Suam border in the guise that they are going for funerals or ceremonies only for them to be registered for IDs or as voters at specially designated venues within the constituency.
“We always see them coming in on canters that have been put on flags and flowers as if they are headed for a funeral or a traditional ceremony but when you follow them you find them being registered as voters or being registered to get national ID cards,” said another resident.
They all admitted that the same happens on the Ugandan side whereby Kenyans have also been registered as voters in Uganda and even participated in the ongoing voting exercise especially the just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18th where the incumbent president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni won another five year term to extend his 30-year rule.
“It is not easy to control the communities living along this border to vote or participate in various national activities on either side of the border because they are all related and have national ID cards of both countries and thus can participate in voting on both sides,” said one elderly man at Chepchoina.
They revealed that Sabaots and Bukusus who live on the Kenyan side of the border have relatives on the Ugandan side who are known as Sebeis and Bukusus respectively and therefore when they cross the border they cannot be barred to participate in any activity.
Ugandans who spoke exclusively to West Fm at Kapnandi Center admitted that they have both Kenyan and Ugandan national ID cards and have always participated in Kenyan elections including the forthcoming elections next year.
“I always vote at Maliki polling station and even next year I will be voting there together with many other Ugandans who always vote at other polling stations in Endebes and Saboti constituencies according to their preference,” said one Ugandan at Kapnandi.
Among the notable areas where the Ugandans come from include Kapnandi and Bukwo in Bukwo district and other neighboring areas and districts including Kiriki in Kwen district.
They went further to show their voting cards both for Uganda and Kenya and even the national Identity cards that enable them to vote on either side of the border.
Interestingly the Suam residents admitted that a good number of Kenyans fully participated in the Ugandan presidential voting exercise after several ballot boxes were sneaked into the area for them to vote for President Museveni before they were sneaked back.
“It is true that several ballot boxes were sneaked in for some people to vote for Museveni at the somewhere in the Suam forest and at Kibosit and other parts and that is why we are urging the government to intervene such moves because we have realized that our elections shall never be free and fair,” said one of the Kenyan voters at the Suam border point.
Vote for preferred candidates
The voters especially from the Ugandan side never come to just vote for the sake of voting but are always approached in advance and even paid or facilitated to come over to vote for particular candidates for parliamentary or county assembly seats and that is the reason they vote in different polling stations across the two or more constituencies including Kwanza constituency that is also on the border.
Prominent politicians and aspiring candidates are among the people alleged to be behind the syndicate of enabling the foreigners to get ID cards with ease for the sake of their political survival as they go an extra mile of compromising the registration officers to breach the requirements of the registration process.
Residents who spoke to the West Fm claimed that between 3000 and 5000 Ugandans are expected to register as voters in the region in the run to next year’s general elections.
A similar exclusive expose by West Fm some time back in 2014 triggered Kenyan government officers to move in and tighten the registration process in the area but the conditions seem to have been loosened up as the elections approach.
Government officers dismissed claims
When reached for comment senior government and elections officials dismissed the claims saying that those were mere rumors and allegations by the residents that were not based on any facts.
Endebes sub-county deputy county commissioner Peter Maina told West Fm via his mobile phone that his office was not aware of any such deals and his office had not received such complains.
He said that the government had put in place all the necessary vetting procedures that one has to go through before he or she is registered as a Kenyan to get the national ID card.
On her part the independent electoral and boundaries commission IEBC coordinator for Endebes Nancy Iyadi told West Fm that her officers have no capacity to vet Kenyans and Ugandans who have national ID cards before they are registered as voters.
“As a commission what we require from a voter is the national ID card or passport before we can register them as voters but we have no capacity or mandate to verify whether the holder of the document is a Kenyan or a Ugandan,” she said via her mobile phone.
The move has also sparked reactions from various politicians from the area who want the government to stamp authority and route out such cartels that are enhanced by some politicians who want to retain or access power through dubious means by bringing in aliens to vote for them.
Paul Moiben an aspiring candidate for Endebes parliamentary seat said such acts should be dealt with according to the law and those people found culpable to be prosecuted and be disqualified from participating in any elections in the country.