Aynsley Genga is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Kenya.
On Tuesday, Kenyans went to the polls in general elections and are now waiting for the tallied results. A lot has happened during this period. In fact, too much has happened that has just left the majority of the populace feeling either tense or exasperated.
Tension began to slowly rise on the eve of the elections when Kenya’s Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the United Democratic Alliance Party (UDA) and rejected the use of manual registers during voting. They only gave leeway for situations where KIEMS Kits (electronic Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (Kiems) kits used to identify voters) have failed to work and there is no hope of repairing or fixing them. The court relied on a 2017 case filed by National Super Alliance coalition in which the court passed a similar ruling. The recent Court of Appeal ruling has received criticism and many say it is unconstitutional, due to the fact that such an important ruling should not be given just a day before the elections. This is in consideration of the fact that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has to make preparations in case of any changes, thus giving such a ruling a day before the general elections was arguably unfair to the commission.
On election even night, stories of violence breaking out in Eldas Constituency in Kenya’s Wajir County began to spread all over the internet. Videos of civilians running for cover due to gunfire could be found on Twitter as well as in other news outlets. The Eldas hall, the hall designated as the polling station, was rumored to be on fire. Due to the insecurity, the IEBC were forced to push the elections in Eldas Constituency to today, Wednesday August 10,
On the day of the actual elections, Kenyans from areas such as Kondele, Kisumu and from areas such as Eldoret could be seen queuing from as early as 3 AM. Many did not care that they would have to wait in the cold until 6 AM so that they place their vote. The cold was of little importance, what was important is that in the end they would vote. Some even carried their towels and toothbrushes so that even if they needed to freshen up they would be close by their polling station. But despite the excitement in some places, the turnout rate in general for voters in Kenya was generally low this time. According to IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, approximately 14 million out of 22 million registered Kenyans turned out to vote, excluding voters who were registered manually in select areas. This was especially true in the Mount Kenya region where most polling stations barely reached 30% of their registered voters. Most in the area, especially amongst the youth, were waiting to be bribed in order to vote, while others were not voting since this time round there was no one from their tribe is a front runner in the presidential race.
At 6 PM on the day of the elections, word spread like wildfire that the Kimilili Member of Parliament(MP) Didmus Wekesa Barasa had shot the close aide of his rival, Mr Brian Khaemba of the DAP-K party. According to the police, Mr. Barasa was at the Chebukwabi polling station confirming the counting of votes when he encountered his rival, who later joined him in witnessing the counting process. When Mr. Khaemba was heading out, Mr.Barasa followed him out and demanded that he stop. When Khaemba refused to listen, Barasa shot his security guard, who later on succumbed to his injuries while being treated in hospital. Barasa is currently on the run and the police suspect he took a motorbike to Uganda. The police have already sent out to a backup team to search for him in Uganda. The incident has left many Kenyans appalled since Barasa’s actions were completely unnecessary. It was also quietly pleasing to see many Kenyans condemn his actions. Many are still hoping for the elections to remain peaceful regardless of the results announced.
Something else that has caused tension and confusion amongst Kenyans is the amount of fake election information being passed around online. People like S.K Macharia, the 80-year-old owner of the largest private radio and television network in East Africa, had to come out and inform people not to believe the people using his name to sway the public. We also have had other people announcing their preferred candidates as winners before even IEBC announces those, which is causing a lot of upset for people who receive a result opposite from what they saw online. A good example is the governor’s race in Homa Bay County, where supporters of both Gladys Wanga of the ODM Party and Evans Kidero are announcing their candidate as the winner of the race online. The official announcement has yet to be made, so many Kenyans are left in a state of limbo, not knowing who to believe while others have already started celebrating. We also have media stations who are giving out different provisional results in regards to the presidential race, thus causing an increase in blood pressure for people, depending on the TV channel you tune into.
Another issue of contention that has risen throughout the whole electoral process is how lacklustre the IEBC has been. This was seen on Monday when they announced all of a sudden that voters in Kakamega and Mombasa would not be able to vote for their governors due to errors with candidate pictures and details. This caused an uproar, considering there are those who traveled from other counties in order to vote and would now have to repeat the journey twice when they return to vote for the governor on a separate date. Moreover, many were wondering how the IEBC failed to notice these errors and yet they had ample time to confirm whether everything was in order. This was further seen in areas such as Pokot South whose MP election was suspended, Rongai in Nakuru where the youth even protested since they would not be able to vote for their MP and Nyaki West in Meru County where the elections for the Members of County Assemblies were also suspended. IEBC Chairman Chebukati announced that all suspended elections would happen on August 23rd 2022. Many people were disappointed and frustrated especially by how nonchalant the commission was about the suspension. Some even began to say it was a ploy by the commission to rig in their preferred candidate. There was also an incident in Kitui where the commission did not remove the name of Charity Ngilu from the governor ballot papers, hence causing confusion amongst the voters. It would not be surprising if there are some people who ended up voting for her despite her dropping out of the race on July 19th 2022.
The IEBC’s recent behavior has made many people realise that Kenya’s Elections Act needs to be amended once again, especially in regards to how the commission conducts and deals with matters related to errors in pictures and details. This is because such errors are not extensively discussed in the Act. There are those who stated that better regulations should be put in place in order to hold the commissioners accountable for their actions. Others even argued that the commissioners should not be allowed to manage more than one general election.
As it stands, 97% of the forms for tallying have already been submitted to IEBC. However, Chebukati announced that the results of the presidential race would not be announced on Wednesday. Thus another day of waiting and tension is coming as the votes continue to stream in and everyone hoping that their preferred candidate wins.