KENYA’S BUNGLED ELECTION & THE QUEST FOR REFORMS.

On 8th of August 2017, the republic of Kenya conducted its general election. This was an election which pitted the current head of state the Incumbent Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta against the country’s major opposition leader Raila Amolo Odinga. The stakes were high and there was a lot of tension in the air as the D day got closer and closer. The opposition had already made several claims against the government of attempting to rig the oncoming elections by using the electoral body to doctor the results in their favor. One of these claims was based on the printing firm that was supposed to print the ballot papers for the election having personal and business ties with the incumbent head of state Mr. Kenyatta and his family.

The printing firm Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing won the tender to print the ballots supposedly on Mr. Kenyatta’s insistence after the head of state introduced its chairman Mr. Majid Al Ghurair  to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) CEO Ezra Chiloba.  This happened while Mr. Majid Ghurair visited the country as part of a delegation from Dubai brought by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce. It is rumored during this meeting the president introduced the head of the firm to the CEO of IEBC from whence a partnership was struck. The opposition tried to present this information to court but their case was dismissed partly due to the fact that the firm had already started printing ballot papers and there was no time to source for a new firm just a few weeks to the election. To add insult to injury IEBC went ahead and ordered the firm to print 1.2 million extra ballot papers for the presidential race.

The IEBC chairman justified it at the time as a way to cater for spoilt ballots before voting. However, the opposition wasn’t taking that as an excuse and accused the commission of planning to rig the presidential race using the extra ballots. This accusation the commission vehemently denied. To counter this claim the commission assured the opposition that each ballot paper would be accounted for in the polling diary and that they would each come with security features complete with serial numbers making it impossible to stuff the votes. These security additions were to be used alongside the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) which was a way to digitally identify the voter and thus prevent instances of double voting throughout the country. This system was also going to be used to transmit results from the constituencies to the national tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya. This is where results from all constituencies would be added up and tabulated for display on the news channels and the online IEBC portal.

These strict security processes which IEBC assured the opposition and the public it would follow increased peoples trust in the institution towards the final weeks to the election. However, about 10 days to the poll a seismic event occurred in Kenya which threatened to turn back all the progress made! The Data Centre and Infrastructure manager in charge of the KIEMS system at IEBC was brutally murdered in mysterious circumstances. His body was found dumped in a thicket by police in Kiambu Kenya who then transported it to the city mortuary. Post mortem reports revealed that he had been brutally tortured before being murdered by his killers. The reason as to his murder remains unknown but investigations carried out revealed that he had filed reports at Central Police Station claiming his life was in danger. Why the police didn’t act on the claims and give him a security escort or attach a bodyguard to his person remains a mystery! This event threatened to derail the August elections as the opposition was quick to point out that whoever had carried out the murder did it to interfere with the integrity of the poll! Chris Msando prior to his death had been on several news channel discussing the security and efficiency of the KIEMS system that was to be used to conduct elections. He had stated on several occasions that the system was not riggable and was full proof. He was the officer in charge of its implementation and testing and prior to his death he was carrying out public demonstrations of the KIEMS system to the general public and stakeholders involved in the election.

Despite this event, the election went ahead as planned since the Chairman of the commission gave assurances that nothing in the KIEMS system had been compromised. He gave assurances that the technical team which had been working with Chris prior to his death was capable of conducting the elections without any hitches. On voting day Kenyans turned out in large numbers to vote. The voting process was very successful as there were no incidences of unrest or violence in almost every major polling station in the country. People conducted themselves in a manner which was almost untypical of African nations. Both opposition and government supporters could be seen side by side sharing queues and talking as they went to vote. There was no feeling of unease or tension as seen in previous elections. In fact most business which were closed at the beginning of the day were already open by noon as business men who had already voted went back home and resumed their businesses. For the most part the heavy security presence which had been deployed in polling stations incase violence broke out abruptly found themselves with nothing much to do other than organize queues and read newspapers.

The Kenyan people had made a point to Africa and the rest of the world at large! They proved that the conduction of elections didn’t have to result into war or violence. That it could be just another daily exercise if conducted in an orderly manner without interferences. All that remained was for the IEBC to tally the votes and announce the results. This is the point from which all hell broke loose! To be continued…

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