KENYA POLLS: How the illiterate cast their vote
Posted Tuesday, March 5 2013 at 08:28
In the scorching sun of Dadaab constituency — the home of the largest refugee camp in Africa — voters turned up to elect their leaders, but most of them could not read or write.
Returning officer Samuel Kiptoo told the Nation at Dadaab Primary School that up to 95 per cent of those who had cast their ballots “had to be assisted” to vote.
That meant that the presiding officer or the deputy presiding officer had to ask the voter who their favourite candidate was, mark the ballot paper, and then, alert the agents that the ballot paper had been marked according to the wishes of the voter.
That job fell on presiding officer Abdizak Ibrahim and his deputy Aminahoney Sahil.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had printed the names of the voters and pasted the list of the streams on the wall. There were people – election officials, other voters, party agents — who would read the names for the voters and direct them to a specific stream where they were expected to cast their ballot.
“We began everything on time. The poll books are working and we will ensure that all these voters here cast their ballots. Anyone who will be within this compound at 5pm, will have the chance to vote,” said Mr Kiptoo.
Because of cultural and religious reasons, there were separate queues for men and women.
“We had to do that. We allowed them inside in turns. A man, then a woman,” said Mr Kiptoo.
The polling station, he said, was the largest in Dadaab constituency. In that polling station alone there were 3,400 voters. The constituency has 19,400 registered voters. The whole constituency has 39 polling stations.
There were about 1,500 people at the polling station waiting to vote. The Nation visited shortly after the officials of the electoral commission had filed their returns for the constituency, and Mr Kiptoo said, 40 per cent of the voters had turned up and voted.
Dadaab OCS John Kamau said security had been beefed up at the polling centres because of the proximity to the camps which host Somali refugees.
The threat of attacks from Al Shabaab militia has been a headache for security officers.
The group of police officers in Dadaab was a mixed contingent of the General Service Unit, the Kenya Defence Forces, the Kenya Police and the Administration Police. Intelligence officers were also visible.
In Garissa constituency, police officers at the polling stations said there was no incident.
“Very early in the morning there was a loud bang, and people thought it was a grenade explosion. But we checked and concluded that perhaps someone had just banged a piece of wood on something,” said an officer on patrol.