Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki on Monday launched a new voter registration drive with a stern warning to those he termed as "individuals out to mess up the election".
"The government will deal with anyone who may wish to disrupt this exercise...wherever you are we shall take action against you...there is no point in anyone trying to mess up this election. You will see what we will do," Kibaki said at the official opening of the voter registration process.
Kibaki's warning comes in the wake of several vicious and fatal attacks in different parts of the country.
The violence is not believed to be linked to politics, but it raises concerns over security and a lack of police capacity in volatile areas ahead of elections due in March.
Elections five years ago descended into deadly post-poll killings that shattered Kenya's image as a beacon of regional stability.
"All security challenges facing the country must be addressed to ensure a free and fair election," Kenya's justice minister Eugene Wamalwa said at the event.
"Support must be given to our security forces to help them serve us better," Wamalwa added.
The voter registration that began Monday is expected to last for one month.
"The exercise is going on everyday, seven days a week including public holidays. We do not have the luxury of time to give even a day's extension," Kenya's elections chief Ahmed Issack Hassan said.
The exercise targets to register 18 million new voters within a month. The voter registration had been postponed on several occasions, following a row between the elections body and Kenya's ministry of finance over the availability of funds to purchase new biometric voter registration (BVR) kits.
Some would be voters argue that the 30-day time limit is too short for the commission to register the voters.
"Of course this system is faster than the manual one of 2007 and before but one month for 18 million people is too much to ask," Alphonse Ayodi, a Nairobi resident who planned to register for the election told AFP.
The last batch of the 15,000 biometric kits arrived in Nairobi early November.
It is believed that the kits, whose data base combines a voter's finger prints and official government documentation, will go a long way in preventing rampant cheating, double registration and multiple voting that was witnessed in the bloody 2007 presidential elections.
"We want to assure Kenyans that the BVR kits guarantee the accuracy and security of the election," Hassan said.
Kenya is gearing up for a March 4, 2013 election that has so far attracted at least 10 presidential candidates, among them two International Criminal Court suspects, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, thought to be front runners.
- Sapa - AFP