Coup? Inside the Bomas night of election drama

The night of August 14/15 was going to be the night of the long knives, except for a few things that went wrong. Everything that had been done during the day to take full charge of the tallying process had failed. Earlier in the day, IEBC Director of Operations Gideon Balang had been abducted at Bomas gates by unknown persons, and held incommunicado for nine hours, with abductors doing everything to extract any helpful information that could aid their motives. Before he was snatched away, chants of "Balang" had rent the auditorium. The day before, Benjamin Kimwei, another IEBC staff, was fished out of Bomas by Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, and tortured in a bid to disclose certain information that could enable State operatives take charge of the tallying process. On the same day at a top state officer's office in the city centre, all senior police officers who were directly involved in election management were paraded before their boss.

Here, the State officer had demanded a full report from the officers who were at the centre of behind-the-scenes operations at Bomas. He only wanted to hear one thing; that they had taken full charge of the situation and the process.

But the officers, whose scope of work had been expanded to included monitoring the election results had bad news for him: William Ruto was winning and there was nothing, minus talking to Chebukati, they could do. "That is not possible," the senior State officer gasped for air, as he stood up in shock. All the while, he had been lounging on his office sofa as the officers briefed him. He couldn't believe what he heard.

Power blackout

As the day way to the night, panic set in. On that night, power at Bomas was disconnected as a measure to slow down the process but the standby generators roared to life. Chebukati whiled his time at Bomas, on advice of security not to leave Bomas in the dark.

At about 3am, a delegation led by Cabinet Secretary Raphael Tuju, Senator Amos Wako and lawyer Kyalo Mbobu knocked at his office, with a request for moderation of the results in Azimio candidate Raila Odinga's favour. Outside the office, a senior Office of the President official who was recently replaced, stood by with a briefcase. In his affidavit to the Supreme Court, Chebukati said he was promised he would be "adequately rewarded" if he acceded to their request. Tuju admitted having met with Chebukati and further alleged top UDA party officials also met IEBC staff in the same hour.

According to Tuju, UDA officials walked into the venue where they had met Chebukati and held talks with the top IEBC officers. Tuju dismissed allegations that he wanted the results to be moderated in favour of Raila or force a run -off.

This meeting ended in a deadlock, and in the morning Chebukati took advantage of the daylight to go freshen up at his home. While he was away another delegation from the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) arrived, with a similar request, but couldn't meet the chair.

An order was given for review security passes of the people who could access the auditorium.

The idea was to minimise the number of people who could access the floor and only allow accredited political party agents. This decision drew a barrage of complaints and protest from a section of politicians and their aides, some alleging that they had been locked out to facilitate some fishy deals.

Now, only accredited party agents, security officers, NIS officers, journalists and accredited election observers were allowed into the National tallying center. The delay by Chebukati to meet the NSAC team only stoked more tension on the losing side, as pressure piled in Bomas auditorium. They were assured of a meeting with Chebukati at 2pm.

Meanwhile at home, Chebukati could hardly rest after many days of little sleep. He had a scheduled meeting with commissioners and NSAC at 2pm ahead of declaration of results and his phone was raining calls from the who is who in the country.

Moral courage

It had been a big mistake for him to leave Bomas where his security was assured. Noting his restlessness, a close kin of his contacted a foreign embassy expressing fears for his life. The embassy in turn contacted clergy men who were assembled nearby at their election monitoring centre, to go "pray" for him and give him moral courage ahead of the announcement.

But the real reason for the clergy to go to Chebukati's house was to provide cover for his transport to Bomas after it had been put to him in blanket terms that his life was on the line.

"He was very tense. He was walking across his sitting room. The wife and the daughter were in distress. We did not ask what was happening but we could see the agitation," Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit told Citizen TV in a recent interview.

The convoy arrived in Bomas, and Chebukati proceeded with his meetings with NSAC and Commissioners. Again, it was a deadlock and Chebukati, now safe and sound in the tallying centre, set about to announce the results.

The State operatives engaged the final gear. Chaos soon rocked Bomas, with police watching by. According to security sources, the plan at this time involved hurting Chebukati and his wing of commissioners, and forcefully rushing them to hospital.

With a few gunshots up in the hall, observers, diplomats and media would scamper for their safety before the state operatives took full charge. In the ensuing melee, vice chair Juliana Cherera would step in to announce the results, which would take the country to a re-run.

Chebukati's security, which had been bolstered by Ruto's, however, managed to sneak him out in good time. His colleagues, including the CEO, were however hurt in the process. Those assigned the roles to hurt Chebukati, snatch away other officials and fire the shots in the air also delayed to execute the orders, as Bomas was on live transmission across all TV stations. In his interview last week, Ruto described the events of that day as "horrible". He claimed that even the military had been roped into the scheme to sabotage the will of the people.

"The day the story of August 15 will be told in Kenya, you will know why I am delaying (the formation of inquiry into the Bomas affair)," he said. Upon being sworn, the President has since been given all classified information relating to the events of Bomas.

In a subsequent interviews on TV, the Azimio and UDA teams absolved themselves from blame over the chaos at Bomas.

Raila's chief agent Saitabao Kanchory said he did not instigate any violence. Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina who was at the podium prior to the altercation and was later violently escorted out of the auditorium by GSU officers, claimed his actions were justified.