Chebukati: Three Venezuelans key in Aug. 9 polls technology roll-out arrested at JKIA

IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati. [File, Standard]

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says three Venezuelan employees of Smartmatic firm contracted by the commission to manage technology during the August 9 polls have been arrested at JKIA.

The commission’s chairperson Wafula Chebukati said in a press statement on Thursday night, July 21 that the foreigners were arrested in unclear circumstances.

The arrests came hours after the IEBC earlier Thursday denied allegations that some election material had been confiscated at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) during shipment into the country outside a schedule known by the Government of Kenya.

“Information circulating that government security agencies at JKIA have detained ballot papers allegedly imported to the country outside the indicated schedule of election materials is fake. The correct position is that today morning (Thursday, July 21) the commission received stickers to aid labeling and distribution of election materials. The JKIA security agencies in their normal procedure were trying to validate the stickers with the commission,” the electoral agency said on Twitter.

Several hours later, however, the commission said it was disappointed about the arrests of three foreigners, who they termed key in the management of the August 9, 2022 General Election’s technological network.

“It is with extreme consternation that the commission has learnt of the arrest of three key personnel responsible for deployment and management of election technology infrastructure. The three personnel, who are employees of Smartmatic International BV, were arrested upon arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Venezuela,” Chebukati said in his Thursday night statement.

“This is despite the Commission’s Secretary/CEO [Marjan Hussein] explaining to the security authorities that the three personnel were in the country to execute a lawful contract relating to the deployment of technology in elections.

“The commission has a valid legal contract executed between itself and Smartmatic International BV for the supply, delivery, installation, testing, commissioning, support and maintenance of the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS).”

The IEBC chairperson accused unnamed persons of intimidating the commission.

“The brazen decision of the security authorities to arrest, detain and confine in a solitary hideout the three personnel without justification, is an exhibition of intimidation on hardworking persons who are only keen to deliver a robust technology infrastructure for conduct of a credible, secure and verifiable election,” said Chebukati.

The IEBC boss said the contractees’ arrests could jeopardise preparations of the upcoming polls.

“The commission wishes to inform the public that the arrest and continued holding of the personnel has the inevitable effect of hampering the deployment of technology in the forthcoming general election. Technology plays a central role in elections and the commission wonders what the intention behind the holding of the technical personnel is meant to achieve.”

Chebukati added: “The commission demands the immediate release of the three employees of Smartmatic International BV.”