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Tempers flare as patience wears thin during grueling tallying at Bomas

Presidential chief agents at the Bomas of Kenya during the verification of Forms 34A. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) came under sharp focus Friday, August 12, 2022, as tallying of the results of the presidential election picked up pace amid suspicion between the contesting parties and unproven allegations of malpractices.

Verification and tallying stopped for a few minutes last afternoon, as security officers were called in to diffuse tension on the floor triggered by the discovery of a bag belonging to one of the agents.

It was discovered under one of the tables where the verification of forms 34B was taking place.

A melee ensued at Utamaduni Hall between Charity Ngilu, Moses Kuria and Gladys Shollei, and escalated to the auditorium where Aaron Cheruiyot and Charles Njagua Kanyi joined in.

The scuffle was set off by the discovery of a bag. It was handed to security officers who discovered that it had a laptop inside. In the finger-pointing and exchange of harsh words that ensued, Kenya Kwanza and Azimio la Umoja alleged that it contained devices that could be used to manipulate election results.

It was taken away by the security agents. As a result of the scuffle, police officers were deployed to the auditorium floor to act as a buffer and prevent the politicians from accessing the auditorium floor.

The hall was closed off for about 30 minutes, locking in those who were inside the auditorium and preventing entry.

But IEBC officials later said agents were allowed to bring laptops into the auditorium but the gadgets had to be declared to security and be absolutely necessary to the process.

The restrictions introduced yesterday [Friday] afternoon extended to banning printed material to the verification desks and who would be allowed to monitor the exercise.

The floor was restricted to IEBC officials, party agents and returning officers. The chief agent and deputy would also be allowed as would a party lawyer.

IEBC’s biggest concern on Thursday was the pace the verification and tallying process was taking as it blamed political party and presidential candidates’ agents for causing disruption.

Election observers and journalists were locked out of the Bomas tallying centre after a scuffle on August 12, 2022. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati said, and this claim was repeated later, that the party agents were nitpicking and perhaps intent on ensuring IEBC wouldn’t meet the seven-day deadline to announce the results.

Chebukati said the level of involvement of the agents had become disruptive to the verification and tallying exercise and threatened to eject them from the tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya.

In his first address of the day, Chebukati was concerned that while the commission was intent on completing the process as soon as possible, the presidential candidates’ agents at the venue were derailing the tallying by insisting on interrogating the Returning Officers rather than counterchecking the results.

The verification desks were increased from four to 10 to speed up the process.

In a subsequent 4pm address by IEBC commissioner Abdi Guliye, he clarified that the laptop in question had the requisite clearance and did not contain any illegal material. 

Guliye also warned politicians and agents against disrupting the tallying process.

“We acknowledge that the law gives us seven days to have completed this exercise. We will not allow anybody including presidential or political party agents to frustrate our efforts to try and have announced the results within the set deadline,” said Guliye. 

“If need be, security around the tally centre will be increased but if you prove peaceful, we will withdraw the security,” he added. 

The polls closed on Tuesday at 5pm, meaning that the agency has until Monday, now two days away, to announce the winner of the election.

By the end of yesterday, IEBC had verified and announced results of Webuye East, Kangundo, Ndia, Gatundu South, Yatta, Ainabkoi, Moiben, Nandi Hills, Gilgil, Kaiti,Ol-Jorok, Kasarani, Kipkelion East, Mwingi North, Lamu East, Kathiani and Aldai. But there were still hundreds of forms 34B from the constituencies that needed to be verified, raising fears that the process was falling behind schedule.

The commission still hadn’t received Forms 34A which are generated from the polling stations from 26 stations in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Kakamega, Nandi and Tana River.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and vice-chair Juliana Cherera. [David Gichuru, Standard]

But the threats to the process aren’t only within the tallying centre but also outside.

The commission yesterday appealed to the public to ignore reports - Commissioner Abdi Guliye said the commission was a target of misinformation and disinformation - suggesting that their systems were compromised.

Results portal

IEBC CEO Hussein Marjan assured the public that the electoral agency’s website was full proof and not susceptible to hacking and refuted reports that the results portal had been interfered with. 

“There are reports online that our systems have been hacked. That is not true. We anticipated that people will try and interfere with our systems but the mechanisms that we have put in place are full proof,” said Marjan. 

As the race to State House entered its homestretch, leaders yesterday camped at Bomas yesterday to ensure the tallying process went on unhitched.  

Those present included Azimio’s executive director Raphael Tuju who spent a better chunk of his time in the premises at a VIP tent outside. 

Others who were in Bomas were outgoing MPs Kanini Kega, Caleb Kositany Nixon Korir and Wilson Sossion. Lawyer Paul Mwangi and outgoing Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria were also present. 

Others included UDA Secretary General Veronicah Maina, Josphat Nanok, Suleiman Shahbal, Ababu Namwamba, UDA communications Director Hussein Mohammed, Governor-elect Gladys Wanga and outgoing Kakamega governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Kisumu county boss Anyang Nyong’o.