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Unsung hero carried old, disabled to vote

Peter Owino carries Sulumena Ooro out of a polling station in Kisumu West after bringing her to vote. [Denish Ochieng, Standard] 

On August 9 when Kenyans took to the polling centres to cast their ballots, one image stood out.

The picture of a middle-aged man carrying an old frail woman was shared widely on social media.

Behind him was another lady, who seemed to be a political party agent, wearing a red lanyard with a badge round her neck.

To many, this may have passed as an ordinary picture of a man trying to help out an old lady to go cast her vote.

But to Peter Owino, a resident of Kadongo village in Kisumu West, this was the start of a day-long exercise that saw him assist six such cases to cast their ballots.

The 39-year-old is part of a group of villagers who were awoken in the wee hours of the morning by sounds of vuvuzelas blown by youth to go and vote at the nearby Kibwayi primary school.

Owino told The Standard that he trekked to the polling station and at exactly five minutes after 6am, he had cast his vote and picked up his vuvuzela to wake more people up. 

Peter Owino carries Sulumena Ooro out of a polling station in Kisumu West after bringing her to vote. [Denish Ochieng, Standard] 

“Because it was still early and cold, I went door to door urging the able ones to turn out and vote. But as I walked across homes, something troubled me; an old lady who was unable to even walk,” said Owino.

“I knew she would have loved to vote but she was immobile so I decided to carry her to the polling station, some 200 metres away.” 

He said that as others lined up some wearing towels and others in shorts and bare chests, he decided to mop up those who were immobile to cast their votes.

“I am used to hard labour; I have been jobless for long so I always rely on my energy to bring food to the table. That particular day I was not going anywhere, I exerted all my energies to make sure the vulnerable who wished to vote could do so,” he said.

As the day became warmer, Owino said that he went back home for breakfast, rested for a while and went back to his mission.

He says that because of the terrain from the various homesteads to the polling stations, he tried imploring motorbike riders in his village to aid him in transportation but they declined.

At around mid-day, Owino said that he decided to carry one more to the polling station.

“My next assignment was to have Sulumena Ooro, an immobile 93-year-old granny who lives with her young grand children and had no wheel chair nor someone to assist her to the station go and vote.

Sulumena, he said, lives just 200 metres from Kibwayi primary school.

Peter Owino carries Sulumena Ooro out of a polling station in Kisumu West after bringing her to vote. [Denish Ochieng, Standard] 

“I placed him carefully on my back up to the polling station room number four. At the station, we were assisted and did not queue. I carried her out of the polling station and back to her home,” said Owino.

It later emerged that as he walked out carrying Sulumena one of the voters on the line took his photo and shared on social media.

“Those who saw the picture informed me of other people who were unable to vote. Little did I know that my day of hard work had just begun,” said Owino.

Owino was informed of five other people who were unable to come and vote.

“By closure of the voting at 5pm, I had helped six people exercise their right to vote; two grandmothers and three disabled men and a grandfather,” Owino said.

Owino, the casual labourer around Kisumu hardware shops along Obote road went to school up to Class Four is a father of three whom he said, he struggles to fend for.

He also doubles up as a tout at Kisian junction in Kisumu.

“My joy is seeing that no one I knew failed to cast their vote because of a problem I could be a solution to and am happy their votes counted.”