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Civic Education
David Zarembka, AGLI Coordinator

In August 2010, Kenyans overwhelming approved a new constitution. While there were many changes including enhanced rights for women, the biggest change, as I mentioned before, was that the nine provinces were divided into forty-seven counties which will have control over local issues. This “devolved government” will be led by an elected governor and a county-wide legislature.

In order for citizens to understand these changes, FCPT/AGLI conducted seventy-two one-day seminars for 4,500 participants plus thirteen shorter, informal seminars in churches and government meetings for about 1,500 people. The objective of these seminars is based on the philosophy that, if people know and understand the political process and are willing to participate in it, they are less likely to resort to violence to redress their grievances.
The seminar covers four main topics: (1) the electoral process, (2) the leadership and integrity requirements according to the new constitution, (3) the Bill of Rights, and (4) the new devolved governmental system. The boundaries of the 47 new counties were drawn along ethnic and clan lines in many parts of the country, leading to minority groups with no possibility of winning electoral office with tribal based voting patterns. The government itself has determined that 27 of the new counties have potential for ethnic violence.

We have found that, on the one hand, citizens know very little about the new constitution, but, on the other hand, they are eager to learn. Most of the seminars had between 40 and 80 participants. People did not want to end the seminar when it was time for the facilitators to return home. This was in spite of the fact that only the soda/bread lunch was served for the day-long seminar.

Voter registration for the upcoming election was disappointing and well under the goal set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Eighteen million voters were expected to enroll, but only 14.3 million voters or 79% of the expected number enrolled. As can be seen below in the chart, on Mt. Elgon those locations where we did civic education seminars had 8.67% higher registration of voters than those where we did not conduct civic education seminars. This is one of the positive results of our work.

Chart on Civic Education on Mt. Elgon
FCPT/AGLI conducted civic education workshops in three of the six locations (smallest government unit in Kenya), but did not conduct them in remaining three.
Locations with civic education:
Location Number of registered voters Percentage registered
Locations without civic education:
Location Number of registered voters Percentage registered
Elgon Central

We also had success in voter registration in Turbo constituency where we have been working for the last few years. Registration there was 91.6% of the estimate. The closest neighboring constituency, Soy, registered only 67.7% and Lugari constituency where I live, north of the road to Uganda, recorded 74.1% of the targeted number of voters. Turbo constituency averaged 20.7% more than those two adjoining ones.

Can we claim credit for this success? Getry Agizah, the FCPT coordinator, thinks so. Of course, the kind of work we do is not like drilling for oil, where, when you reach oil, it comes gushing out and you can claim success. While during the 2007 election and post election violence, the youth in Turbo division spearheaded the violence, now, Getry says, “They are interested, even excited by the election. While they did not register well in 2007, they have this time. If you reach out to the youth, they will respond.”