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NASA puts final touches on vote tallying centres

By Jacob Ng’etich | Published Sun, June 18th 2017 at 00:00, Updated June 17th 2017 at 23:31 GMT +3
Voters queuing to cast their votes at Moi Avenue primary school in march 2013 general elections (file)

The National Super Alliance (NASA) is conducting final tests to the electronic equipment in its tallying centre in a Nairobi suburb as it gears up for the August 8 General Election.

The Opposition has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the private home which has been converted into offices and the nerve centre of its operations is secure. The palatial house is surrounded by a perimetre wall, with guards from a private firm conducting regular patrols on the lush grounds.

Firewall protected

Our investigations established that the private residence is owned by Machakos Senator Johnston Muthama who sits in the 12-member NASA technical committee and deputises Musalia Mudavadi, the alliance’s head of campaigns.

Even though the high-tech electronic equipment that was installed recently was not visible from some of the rooms that we accessed, sources said the computer equipment would be interlinked with other centres in Tanzania and Germany. The centre is part of the three alternate sites identified by the NASA principals to guard the integrity of the presidential vote. The three centres will be interlinked but protected by a firewall. The objective is to make them impenetrable so that they are not accessed by local communication service providers and the intelligence community, a source at the NASA Presidential Secretariat said.

It has emerged that NASA will be using communication experts from Kenya, Germany and Ghana to help in the maintenance of the computer network and equipment, a source at the NASA Presidential Campaign team told Sunday Standard.

He said that the tallying centre in Tanzania and Germany will be activated in case the system is jammed or breached, and the back up will ensure that no data is lost.

The centre in Runda will collate the results in real-time and then feed data to the two tallying centres in Tanzania and Germany, said the source, even as it emerged that Jubilee was jittery about the Tanzanian link to the Opposition’s presidential campaign.

The association of NASA’s presidential candidate Raila Odinga and Tanzania’s head of state John Pombe Magafuli has often been cited as one of the reasons for the frosty relations between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

Recently, Jubilee point-man and Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale said the Government was aware of NASA’s link with Tanzania.

“NASA is planning to set up a tallying centre in Tanzania with the aim to hack the IEBC system and steal votes,” Duale sensationally claimed.

Parallel tallying

The Opposition has also made hacking claims against Jubilee, with Raila saying NASA would pull out all the stops to prevent the ruling administration from rigging elections.

Raila has stated on numerous occasions that the 2013 vote was compromised and that the IEBC systems had been bridged to overturn the outcome of the elections.

The Government initially resisted plans to set up parallel tallying centre, with Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery at the time insisting that this was against the law. Nkaissery, however, backed down after the Opposition vowed to defy him, and shortly after IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati announced that presidential candidates were free to set up their own tallying centres as long as they did not publicly announce the results.

“We will only allow NASA, other political parties and the media to monitor the results but not to announce them as only IEBC is mandated to do so,” Chebukati reaffirmed at the time.

Shortly after, Jubilee indicated that it will also be putting up its own tallying centre similar to the one it had at Catholic University in 2013.

The issue of presidential tallies was at the centre of the Opposition petition against Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory after the 2013 poll, with the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) under whose flag Raila ran claiming that the results had been manipulated.

CORD also claimed that Jubilee and the IEBC were irregularly served by one call centre.

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