Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Sunday, 12 Feb 2017 14:47 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
The credibility of the reconstituted electoral commission hangs in the balance following a series of events over the past week that will test the commissioners' ability to steer clear of politics and assure the country of their independence. The latest incident came this morning following reports that three suspected crooks colluding with IEBC staff were registering voters at a hotel in Eastleigh, Nairobi, last night.
The report which hit social media indicated that the men had had IEBC biometric voter registration (BVR) kits and were registering foreigners when concerned Kenyans raised the alarm. Police officers arrived on the scene and arrested the suspects, who are currently being held at the Pangani Police Station. No sooner had the news broke than IEBC denied the information.
"They are in custody for being in possession of copies of transfer forms and not biometric voter registration (BVR) kit as alleged”, IEBC said in a social media message, a position now affirmed by secretary Ezra Chiloba. The commission and the police say the suspects had registration forms for transferring voters from one constituency to another and not BRV kits.
There were fears that the kits being used in Eastleigh, if the eyewitnesses' account is to be believed, could have been part of four others that were allegedly stolen by Al Shabaab militants during a raid at Arabia Police Station in Mandera North on Thursday February 2. The attackers also made away with three rifles and an AP Land Cruiser. Days after the government reported that the raiders had stoled BVR kits, Shabaab denied the fact, sending Kenyans into uncertainty as to where the kits could have gone to.
As soon as the suspects were arrested and taken to the Pangani Police Station, dozens of Mandera residents living in Eastleigh on hearing the news stormed the police station, reportedly to lynch the suspects whom they accused of trying to disenfranchise Mandera North people by taking BVR kits meant for them. One of the protesters informed this website that they had camped at the station keeping vigil and agreed to leave after three of them were allowed to record statements just before daybreak.
The IEBC statement that no BVR kits were recovered in Eastleigh contradicts the position of these eye-witnesses, and the commission denies that the suspects were registering voters. The hotel where the alleged registration was taking place, is owned by a top Jubilee government official who is a key player in the election.
Mandera senator Billow Kerrow, has demanded that IEBC address the reports that voter registration was going on in Eastleigh. “IEBC should come clean on persons arrested last night at the two lodges in Eastleigh by Pagani police, with BVR, alleged to be 'corrupting' data”. The incident has also raised tensions in Mandera North constituency seat being contested between Garre and Degodia clans, given that voter registration was affected there in 2015 also.
The Eastleigh incident comes hot on the heels of an order to the IEBC by President Uhuru Kenyatta requiring the commission to register voters not yet having national ID cards. Speaking in Nyandarua on Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta “ordered” IEBC to register youths who are holding receipts of confirmation that one has applied for a national ID card, known as waiting cards. “I am now saying that even an applicant with a waiting card, as long as it has a serial number, should go and register as a voter,” he said at Magumu Trading Centre.
IEBC is also at the centre of differences between the government and opposition leaders demanding vetting of top commission staff alleging that some have been compromised by the Jubilee government. At a meeting with IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati last week, CORD leader Raila Odinga demanded that some staff be vetted, alleging that some of them have close links to the deputy president William Ruto.
Mr Ruto has opposed the demand, saying, Our opponents have sensed defeat and are now manufacturing all manner of excuses to derail the IEBC from doing its work smoothly…They now want to replace junior staff at IEBC with their relatives and friends. How can elections only be conducted by the people they want? Will that be fair? We want neutral people as is the case”.
The DP spoke during voter sensitization drives in Kajiado County, addressing rallies in Oloitoktok, Kitengela, Isinya, Rongai and Kimana towns in Kajiado county.