September 25th 2017

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Raila chides IEBC for issuing ballot papers contract to firm with deep links in Kenya

It is not too late for the IEBC to do the right thing for the sake of the country and we demand that IEBC does the right thing. I wish the people of Kenya a truly free fair and credible electoral process.

By Joshua Mwangangijmwangangi@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 13 Jun 2017 21:09 EAT

NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinnga addressing election confrence at KICC.

NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga this morning chaired a panel at the National Elections Conference organised by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) where he accused the commission of awarding a ballot printing tender to a Dubai, UAE-based company with close links to local allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta's. Below is the unedited text of Mr Odinga's address at the event:

Kenyans have always desired free, fair and credible elections. We see this desire every five years in people waiting patiently in long and winding queues around schools, churches and all other places that serve as polling centres on Election Day. We see this desire in the patience our citizens who wait with fingers crossed and many resorting to prayers when the electoral body begins to fumble and prevaricate over declaration of results, with delays running into days and even a week as was the case in 2013.

More often than not, this desire has largely been frustrated by a failure of institutions and the interference by individuals and the State. The failure to meet the general desire for free, fair, transparent and credible elections has left deep wounds in the soul of our nation.

Kenyans are yet to fully recover from the effects of the bungled 2007 elections. Only last week, ten years later, the President was compensating Internally Displaced Persons in Kisii. And there are many more elsewhere waiting to be considered.

Thousands of our people live with the fact that they lost family members, forever, in very grim circumstances in the 2007 chaos and no amount of money, land or houses given as compensation will ever fill the void created. Fifty four years after independence, a resolution by Kenya to ensure elections where all players abide by the rules is long overdue.

As I have said elsewhere, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission as presently constituted, particularly at the level of commissioners, has been more responsive to stakeholders than the previous one.

But that is not a good enough standard. It is a case of comparing the worst and the good. There is serious room for improvement, although time is quickly running out. As we hope, pray and cross our fingers for free, fair and credible elections, we have seen a worrying inability by the IEBC enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct.

We have seen the government using its record in office and public funded projects as campaign tools for Jubilee. We have seen Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries, who are paid by tax-payers, deployed to campaign for the Jubilee Party.  We have seen reports of public institutions being asked to channel public funds into Jubilee campaigns.

We have seen the Interior Ministry usurp the roles of IEBC and turn itself into a referee in the upcoming elections.

The IEBC has remained silent in the middle of all these. That is worrying indeed. It is not a way to build faith that the elections will be free, fair and credible and that all players will be subjected to similar treatment under the law. Our elections are in peril when incumbents arrogate to themselves the role of referees in a match in which they are also players. As we have observed before, all our multiparty elections with an incumbent president defending his seat have been marked by violence.

We saw it in our first multiparty elections when violence erupted in parts of the Rift Valley killing hundreds and displacing thousands.
We saw it in 1997 in Bombolulu attacks in the Coast.

We saw it in 2007 when the entire country erupted in an orgy of violence that took Kenya to the precipice. In all these three instances, the incumbents were determined to subvert the will of the people and to use State resources to frustrate and perpetuate themselves in power against popular will.

The pattern begins with the electoral body allowing incumbents to usurp its role and turn themselves into referees in matches they are playing in. This pattern has begun again. The IEBC must nip it in the bud now before it leads us to the abyss in August. Credible elections are about processes. They are about registration of voters, access to polling stations, casting and counting of ballot and declaration of results.

All these processes need to be credible, trustworthy, consultative and inclusive. In this election, the concerns of the Opposition have been ignored in one of the most critical aspects of these stages and that is the printing of ballot papers. We are also deeply concerned about the determination of the IEBC to change the law regarding declaration of presidential results. We recognize that the courts are currently seized of this matter and we trust that justice will be done.

As law abiding citizens, we went to court to quash the decision of the IEBC to award the tender for the supply and delivery of ballot papers for elections, election result declaration forms and poll registers to Al Ghurair Print and Publishing Company Limited of Dubai.

We raised several grounds, among them the fact that the IEBC had acted unlawfully and illegally and in contravention of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2016 with particular regard to the integrated electronic electoral system that enables biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification and electronic transmission of results.

We said the poll registers ordered by the IEBC would not satisfy the conditions needed for the audit of register to verify the accuracy thereof, updating the register and for the verification of biometric data and eventually the publication of the Register of Voters on line.

We said the specification of result declaration forms as awarded was not in conformity with the prescribed form of tabulated results of an election for the President from a polling station to the constituency tallying centre and to the national tallying centre as envisaged and contemplated by our revised election laws. In February this year, the High Court ruled in our favour and held that the tender had failed to comply with the Election laws. The courts said it was unreasonable for IEBC to proceed with the award of tender without taking into account the new regulations.

Three days ago, the IEBC ignored our concerns and the findings of the Court and re-awarded the tender to Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company. This development is ill-advised and unfortunate. It casts a dark shadow which could have been avoided over the credibility of the August elections. There appears to have been a clear determination by the IEBC to award this tender to the Dubai-based firm no matter what.

In our court case, we said IEBC had acted in bad faith in awarding this contract to Al Ghurair. The re-award confirms this bad faith. It would appear that the decisions to award the contract to the Dubai firm was arrived at years ago, and all that has gone on these recent months were mere motions.

Information currently in our possession indicate that the firm has long had contacts with senior Jubilee officials for at least three years. Owners of this firm hosted senior Jubilee officials in Dubai in February last year during which the ballot printing tender was discussed.

Officials of the firm were in Kenya in October 2016 as head of the business delegation brought by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce during which trip they held further talks on this contract with Jubilee officials. That how IEBC became hell bent on delivering the printing tender to Al Gharair.

The Opposition was never involved in these improper contacts. Full disclosure would also reveal that this firm has local franchise holders who hold known partisan political positions in the contest ahead. All these have never been disclosed. As NASA, our stand remains that the involvement of this firm in this elections bodes ill and compromises credibility of the upcoming elections.

It is not too late for the IEBC to do the right thing for the sake of the country and we demand that IEBC does the right thing. I wish the people of Kenya a truly free fair and credible electoral process.

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