Day of hope, drama and hitches as Kenyans vote
Kenyans braved a myriad of hitches to cast their ballots yesterday, with preliminary reports indicating an average turnout despite the recent late push for a higher participation by the leading presidential candidates.
By 12pm, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission reported that 31 per cent (6.1 million) of registered voters had cast their ballots, with only five hours to the end of the voting period.
At 4pm, the electoral agency reported a 56 per cent turnout (12 million). The commission registered 22.1 million voters for this year’s election.
There were fears of low turnout, with Kenyans circulating pictures of short queues in polling stations on social media, and some questioning where the long lines common at centres such as Moi Avenue Primary in Nairobi had gone.
The country registered around 80 per cent turnout in 2017, a figure lower than the 86% recorded in 2013.
IEBC commissioner Francis Wanderi, however, dismissed claims that there was a low turnout, saying the figures by 4pm were impressive.
“We are doing well because voting is still going on. In some areas there was a high turnout. I think we don’t have a problem with the turnout,” said Wanderi in the commission’s second presser of the day at the National Tallying Centre, Bomas of Kenya.
Hundreds of Kiems kits, the electronic gadgets used for identification of voters, failed, heightening tension in some constituencies where voters had turned out in large numbers.
The failure was reported across the country although the commission last evening said it had airlifted backup gadgets to some areas to avert a crisis.
By noon yesterday, the IEBC had issued orders to its officials in four constituencies to use the manual register. The electoral agency said the kits failed in 84 polling stations in Makueni, forcing it to resort to the manual roll. It was the same case in Kakamega county where manual registers were used in 154 polling centres spread across Matungu, Malava, Mumias East and West.
Earlier, the commission had said it was providing six back-up Kiems kits per ward. Despite provision of extra gadgets, claims abounded that elderly people whose details could not be retrieved by the kits had been turned away. On Monday, the Court of Appeal allowed the use of the manual register if the Kiems kit failed.
“It is not widespread. Technology can break down but we have put in place alternatives to address such failure. It is normal for hitches to happen. There is nothing ideal,” said IEBC commissioner Justus Nyang’aya.
Despite the assurances, Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja coalition last night wrote to the IEBC accusing it of committing an offence following failures of the kits.
In its letter, Azimio’s Chief Legal Advisor Paul Mwangi demanded that they should issue a public clarification to Kenyans and electoral officials that the manual voter registers should be used should the electronic kits fail.
“You announce to the Republic that all polling stations that are yet to begin, or have been delayed, because of failure of KIEMS kits … an extension for such a time as is necessary to give a window to all areas where the KIEMS kits have failed,” said Mwangi.
Elections did not take place in Kitui Central and Rongai constituencies owing to wrong candidates’ pictures and the details on the ballot papers. These were in addition to Kacheliba and Pokot. The commission said it would not conduct elections for MP seat following a mix-up of ballot papers. There were also no elections for the Kakamega and Mombasa governorship seats.
The commission also suspended voting for MCA positions in Nyaki West Ward in North Imenti and Kwa Njenga in Embakasi South.
By-elections for these seats will be done in the next two weeks.
Elections in Eldas in Wajir will, however, be conducted today following a security scare that saw delays in distribution of election materials.
“During the gunfight, election officials remained trapped inside their offices preparing to dispatch materials to polling stations. Election has been postponed and voting shall begin once the issue is resolved,” said the IEBC.
Earlier in the morning, the leading candidates expressed confidence that the exercise would go on without major hitches.
Deputy President William Ruto voted at 6am at Kosachei Primary School in Sugoi, Turbo constituency, and retreated back to his rural home in the area.
After voting, he pledged to accept the will of the people, adding that he would work with whoever wins. He urged residents to vote peacefully, intentionally and deliberately.
“I’m very happy the exercise of choosing the next leaders for the next five years is underway,” said the DP.
“I am very confident the people of Kenya will make choices that will take our country to the future,” he added.
A relaxed Ruto, who was accompanied by his wife Rachel, called on Kenyans to elect leaders with a manifesto and plan for this country.
“We have had enough time to sell our manifesto countrywide to Kenyans and it’s now their time to make their decisions. Kenya Kwanza Alliance will transform the economy of this country,” said the DP.
His main opponent, Raila Odinga, voted at Old Kibera Primary School in Nairobi at about 10.40 am. The former Prime Minister’s arrival at the polling station caused a temporary stand-off as he was surrounded by a mammoth crowd that blew whistles and vuvuzelas.
For some time, voters who had queued abandoned the queues to join Raila and later escorted him to the main road, chanting “Baba Chololo” and “Jowi!”.
The ODM boss arrived at the polling station in a convoy of 10 vehicles, accompanied by his wife, Ida Odinga, and their close security team.
His running mate, Martha Karua, voted at Mugumo Primary in Gichugu. Addressing the press after voting, the former Gichugu MP called on Kenyans to exercise their democratic right and vote peacefully and wisely.
Karua, who was accompanied by her immediate family members, said she was impressed by the timely opening of the polling centre. “I am happy that I have voted, you can see the ink on my finger. I want to encourage all voters to come out in large numbers and vote; this is the moment,” Karua said.
Ruto’s running mate, Rigathi Gachagua, voted at Sagana Primary School in Mathira. He said he was impressed by the high voter turnout there.
“I’m highly impressed by the high level of preparedness by the IEBC and the high voter turnout, despite a few hitches here and there, where the Kiems kits could not identify voters immediately. I believe they will deliver a free and fair election,” he said.
The other presidential candidates, David Mwaure (Agano party) and George Wajackoyah (Roots party), also voted, but the latter had to wait longer as the electronic gadget initially failed to identify him.
“I am very excited to have voted, as for getting to the ballot as a new presidential,” said Mwaure.
There was drama at Indangalasia Primary school polling centre in Matungu constituency, Kakamega county, after Wajackoya failed to vote following the failure of the Kiems kits to capture his details.
Wajackoya, who was flanked by his wife and family members, caused a stir, accusing the electoral body of seeking to rig the election.
“I am the only presidential candidate who has not voted. Why are the kits only failing in my Kakamega and Bungoma strongholds. They (opinion polls) said I had two per cent votes; why don’t they want those 2 per cent to vote,” he protested.
He later went back to the polling centre and was allowed to vote at around 1.45pm using the manual register.
Reporting by Rawlings Otieno, Jeremiah Kiplang’at and Hillary Mageka.