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Monday, December 6, 2021

Is the state planning to abolish use of technology in the 2022 elections?

By The Frontier Post Reporter

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The electorate could be identified manually in the 2022 polls if the State scraps off the use of technology.

The Frontier Post has established that there is a plan to abolish technology promoting transparency, integrity and efficiency in the 2022 elections.

The state is planning to exploit a loophole in the Election Laws of 2016 giving the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission leeway to adopt a “complementary” system to identify voters and transmit results if technology fails.

Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS) was used for the first time in the 2017 and it was meant to enhance transparency through electronic identification of voters as well as the transmission of results.

The devices used to electronically transmit results from the polling stations are comprised of a laptop attached to a fingerprint reader and a handheld device with an in-built fingerprint reader.

Kiems has a system enabling presiding officers to simultaneously transmit tallied results to the constituency, county and national final tallying centres.

It also has the biometric voter registration system used to electronically capture voters’ facial image, fingerprints and polling centre data.

There is an argument being advanced by the top government officials including two cabinet secretaries and a technocrat that the use of the devices will spread the coronavirus.

Well-placed sources say the technology issue is expected to be tabled before the National Security Committee chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta for consideration any time from now.

But Jubilee deputy secretary general Joshua Kutuny dismissed the claims, saying as far as he is concerned, the Jubilee government has not discussed the matter.

“Treat it as propaganda,” said Kutuny.

“Nothing of the sort has been discussed and there’s no need for anybody to panic. President Kenyatta’a government believes independent institutions such as the IEBC will carry out their mandate as per the law.”

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said he was not aware of plans to revert to a manual system.

He said before any decision, the IEBC should first benchmark other countries that use the same technology and have held elections during the pandemic period.

The system identifies voters biometrically and its incorporation into the Kenyan election process was intended to curb impersonation by making sure only registered voters cast votes.

The devices, which were a bone of contention between opposition coalition and Jubilee in the run-up to the 2017 general election.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and acting chief executive officer Marjan Hussein are yet to respond.

And now a section of leaders are warning that abolishing the technology ‘on the pretext’ of public health concerns and curbing the spread of coronavirus is part of a wider scheme to rig the referendum and the 2022 polls.

The polls body, they said, should have hand-washing stands as well as sanitizer at all voting centres.

Oscar Sudi (Kapseret) said he is aware of the ongoing plans to revert to manual system, termed the proposal part of the state’s scheme to “allow ballot stuffing and dead voters to vote in the 2022 election.

“We are aware of the meetings that have been ongoing, for fear of an embarrassing defeat and as part of their wider evil schemes. They want to arm-twist the IEBC to abolish the use of technology,” he said.

Dr Richard Ayah, a member of the COVID-19 deployment taskforce and a public health expert from the University of Nairobi, said physical transmission through touching the biometric systems is not the biggest problem.

“Physical distance is the biggest problem,” said Ayah.

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