In the run-up to the 2013 elections, the then presidential candidate, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, who had been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, hired the services of a London-based PR firm called BTP Advisers to manage his election campaign. The PR company, whose slogan is, “We deliver campaigns that change hearts and minds”, advised Mr Kenyatta to use aggressive propaganda tactics that cast the ICC as racist and its supporters, including local civil society organisations (which his propagandists dubbed “the evil society”), as puppets of the West.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Kenya.
As commuters in the heart of Nairobi hustle past one another on River Road at the end of a recent workday, young men are buying machetes in a hardware shop before boarding a bus. The tools aren’t for clearing brush or making campsites, chopping food or splitting firewood. Peter Mwangi, who runs an electronics shop, is arming himself in case of election chaos. “I know there will be violence. I need to ready myself,” says Mwangi, holding a giant knife. “In the 2007 elections, we were not prepared. We were attacked, and I lost some of my relatives. But this time, it will not happen.” Mwangi says his shop was looted during the violence in 2007 that followed the election of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, who is accused by the opposition of taking power through vote-rigging. More than 1,300 were killed and about 600,000 were displaced from their homes during those protests.
Kenya’s electoral commission is appealing a court ruling that poll results announced at the constituency level are final. The electoral body says that opens the way to manipulation. The bad blood between the Kenya’s political opposition and its electoral commission has been taken to the corridors of justice three months before the August poll. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is appealing a high court ruling that bans the commission chairman from making the official announcement of presidential vote totals from each constituency. The court ruled that vote totals announced at polling stations and the constituency level are final.
Six Kenyans urged a court on Wednesday to suspend a controversial decision by election officials to scrap a tender process and directly procure an electronic voting system for the August polls. The petition is the umpteenth disruption to already chaotic election preparations, a sensitive process in a country where accusations of rigging accompany almost every vote. The tender was awarded to French defence and biometrics company Safran last month, pushing aside another French company Gemalto, which was lined up to win the contract in a bidding process launched in December. In court documents seen by AFP, the six petitioners argue that the entire process was “manipulated and rigged… to culminate in an artificial crisis that would then be used to justify the single sourcing”.
Kenya’s top opposition coalition is wrapping up primary voting this week ahead of August general elections as the ruling Jubilee coalition gears up to start its primaries on Friday. The voting is seen as a key test of cohesion for both coalitions. Confusion and accusations abound in Nakuru County after the names of some opposition Orange Democratic Movement Party candidates were missing from paper ballots. ODM Party election officials called off the vote and rescheduled it. Some results were canceled because of allegations of rigging and some constituency elections were postponed because of logistical issues. The party has held elections in at least 10 counties. “The exercise is very big, and therefore in an exercise like this there will be mistakes here and there, but they are being corrected as they occur,” said Robert Arunga, a party election board member.
Elections present a milestone beyond which countries either strengthen their democratic credentials or become failed states. Often states fail when there are either perceived or blatant election malpractices. This in turn can lead to prolonged civil unrest.
Numerous cases exist across the continent. But I will use the Kenyan case to illustrate how election processes can be compromised, and then brought back from the brink with the use of technology. Following the election in 2007 Kenya erupted into two months of unprecedented conflict. People were unhappy with the outcome which saw Mwai Kibaki of the incumbent Party of National Unity being declared the winner ahead of Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement. Many disputed the final tally. To preempt a similar situation in future elections, a commission led by former South African judge Justice Johann Kriegler was set up. The Kriegler Commission made several critical findings. These included instances of double voter registration, widespread impersonation and ballot stuffing. It concluded that, as a result, it was impossible to know who actually won the election.
Electoral Commission chiefs went against the advice of their own tender evaluation committee and went ahead to award a Sh3.8 billion contract for the supply of voter technology to a French firm which had failed to meet the criteria set out in the bid document. The Nation has learnt that the firm – Safran Identity and Security – had been disqualified by a six-member committee set up to evaluate the bids by 10 companies that had expressed interest in supplying a system for voter identification and results transmission for the August 8 General Election. Despite the disqualification, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced last Friday that it had resolved to directly procure the election equipment from Safran, following the cancellation of a previous tender awarded to Gemalto SA – another French firm.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Wednesday mass protests were possible if August elections were rigged, comments likely to scare Kenyans fearful of a repeat of the widespread violence that erupted after a disputed poll in 2007. Then, more than 1,200 people were killed in weeks of fighting after political protests turned into ethnic clashes, but 2013 polls, when Odinga accepted the result after a court ruling, passed relatively peacefully. “This country is not ready for another rigged election. Kenyans will not accept it,” Odinga said, noting that multiple people had been registered to vote with the same identity card in a registration period that has just ended.
It’s a hot day here on the sidewalk outside Nairobi’s St. Peter Clavers primary school, but the 20 or so people standing in line behind a small desk don’t seem to mind. They are here to register to vote in Kenya’s August elections. “It’s our right to vote for the next president and our MPs and all of that,” said 31-year-old laborer and first time voter Samuel Njoroge. This is the first day of the final mass voter registration drive being conducted by Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The other took place around this same time last year.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta approved a law on Monday requiring back up plans for an August election if electronic voting systems fail, despite fierce opposition from rivals who say any manual arrangements will open the ballot to rigging. Veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga disputed the result of the 2013 race, which he lost to Kenyatta after electronic voter identification and other election systems collapsed. He has led opposition to the new law. The build-up to the 2017 vote has already been marred by protests and clashes with police that led to at least four deaths. Last year’s demonstrations were sparked by a row over who sat on a committee overseeing the conduct of the election. The government agreed to replace the commissioners in a deal with the opposition.