Elections 2017

Mariga sailing in same boat as Kethi Kilonzo

McDonald Mariga (Left) and Kethi Kilonzo (Rightt). Both were blocked by IEBC from vying in Kibera constituency and Makueni senatorial by-elections respectively. (Photo Courtesy)

Former footballer McDonald Mariga's political debut suffered a setback after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission IEBC disqualified him from the Kibra by-election because his details were not in the voter's register. 

"I have verified and checked and I could not find his details. At this point, my hands are tied. We have invalidated Mariga's nomination," IEBC Kibra Returning Officer Beatrice Muli said. 

But how similar is Mariga's case to Kethi Kilonzo's 2013 bid to vie for the Makueni senatorial seat after the demise of her father

 Voter's Register

In 2013, IEBC's tribunal revoked Kethi Kilonzo's nomination certificate on the grounds that she was not a registered voter anywhere in the country. 

Despite wanting to vie in Makueni, Kethi claimed to be a registered voter in Langáta constituency producing a voter slip which according to her she obtained it after registering with an old passport and a copy of her ID. 

"The candidate's name does not appear in the electoral commission's registers or in the green book which is the primary data entry. We find that she was irregularly issued with the nomination certificate and direct that it be revoked," ruled the tribunal.

However, the electoral's commission through then IEBC director in charge of voter registration said Immaculate Kassait said that the voter slip Kethi had was a subject of a police investigation as it had been allegedly stolen from IEBC registration booklet. 

"The acknowledgment slip in Kethi's possession is a subject of police investigation as it had been stolen from a booklet that was used to register former President Kibaki only. It is reported to have been stolen alongside four others," said Immaculate Kassait

Similarly, IEBC blocked McDonald Mariga from contesting the Kibra by-election in the pretext that the former Harambee Stars captain's name was not in the voter's register which is a requirement for one to vie in an election.

Mariga allegedly went to register as a voter at Kariakor in Starehe Constituency on August 26, 2019 just two weeks after the Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi declared the seat vacant.

But according to section 5(1b) of the Elections Act, all electoral activities including voter registration must stop upon declaration of a vacancy. 

 Forgery claims

In a bid to replace her father as the Makueni Senator, Kethi Kilonzo allegedly produced forged credentials to IEBC Returning Officer Salad Boru in Wote, Makueni County, during the nomination exercise for the by-election. 

On the other hand, there are claims that McDonald Mariga 'could have changed his age in his original ID card which may put him in legal problems.'

Speaking on a local TV show on Wednesday morning, the Speaker of Nairobi County assembly alluded that Mariga presented a national identity card with date of birth being 1981 yet he went to play soccer with an identity card stating his date of birth being 1987. 

"When you come here now with 1981 ID and you went to football with 1987 ID, then it raises lots of questions," said Beatrice Alachi.  

Party Rivalry 

In 2013, the decision to bar Kethi Kilonzo's from vying for the Makueni senatorial seat sparkled rivalry between the Coalition of Reform and Democracy CORD and Jubilee Part coalitions with the former accusing the latter of plotting against Kethi since she was on the forefront in exposing allegations of election malpractice by the Jubilee Party. 

CORD also questioned IEBC's decision to give a go-ahead to Jubilee Party Candidate Professor Philip Kaloki who was alleged to belong to more than one political party. 

Yesterday's decision by IEBC to block Mariga from the Kibra contest also sparkled rivalry between Kieleweke, Tangatanga and ODM supporters. 

The Tangatanga disciples referred to the ODM party as cowards for allegedly trying to block out Mariga for fear that the former footballer will outclass Raila Odinga in his back yard. 

According to reports in a local daily, the Tangatanga brigade perceives the Kieleweke group of being behind yesterday's IEBC's decision in support of the building bridges initiative BBI. 

A local daily had reported that pro-handshake members of the Jubilee Party were against fielding a candidate in the November 7 poll out of respect of the peace treaty between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga.

'VAR' Review

Kethi Kilonzo through CORD appealed against the IEBC decision to block her out of the Makueni senatorial by-election but the electoral commission's dispute resolution tribunal ruled that Kethi was not a registered voter despite having an acknowledgment slip that IEBC director of registration Immaculate Kassait alleged was fraudulently obtained. 

Kethi, later on, moved to the High Court which upheld an earlier ruling by the commission's dispute resolution tribunal. 

Cord was racing against time to field aspirant and current Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr was presented as the candidate. 

Similarly, speaking on the IEBC decision Mariga has asked his supporters to stay calm and wait for the appeal after IEBC returning officer Beatrice Muli told him to seek redress with the IEBC Disputes Resolution Board before seven days – which is the timeline for one to file an appeal.

Hero to Zero

Before trying her vetoed political debut, Kethi Kilonzo had risen to celebrity status after she captured the attention and admiration of Kenyans thanks to her defense heroics in a petition challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's 2013 election win. 

Kethi was representing Africog, a nongovernmental organization in the petition and the way she articulated her argument left many Kenyans and legal maestros in awe. 

However, her heroics were diminished when she was in September 2013 charged with forgery and stealing an IEBC voter slip from the electoral commission.

Similarly, Mariga who is Kenya's and East African most successful footballer by becoming the first player in the region to win the coveted UEFA champions league medal, is risking a celebrated career tainting tackle with unconfirmed reports emerging online indicating that Mariga could have changed his age in his original ID card which may put him in legal problems.

Nitty-gritty

Former footballer, McDonald Mariga's situation draws some distinctive similarities from Lawyer Kethi Kilonzo when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission blocked her bid vie for the Makueni senatorial by-election in 2013.

In the unpredictability of Kenya's political scope marred by twist and turns, political spectators need to lie in wait, sit back and watch how Mariga's woes will turn out.