Tech hitch in UDA polls as top leaders fail to vote

Former Rangwe MP Martin Ogindo was voting at Homa Bay Primary School during the UDA grassroots election on April 26, 2024. [James Omoro, Standard]

United Democratic Alliance’s (UDA) grassroots elections were marred with technological hitches as some leaders failed to cast their votes. 

Nairobi Governor Johnstone Sakaja’s name, alongside those of Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie and some MCAs, could not be recognised by the election gadgets, a move that locked out the leaders from participating in the ruling party’s historic electronic voting. 

After failing to participate in the voting process, Sakaja said yesterday’s exercise was marred by a “logistical nightmare”.

“The UDA party may not have the resources which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has, and this explains why there were those hitches which are understandable,” Sakaja said.  

On his part, Kiarie said, “This election is quite bold, it is a big experiment we will only be able to judge it by the results at the end of the day. At the moment, we can only talk about what we can attend to on the ground right now. If we can get solutions, there is no reason why we should postpone or delay an election.”

The ruling party’s National Elections Board (NEB) chairperson Antony Mwaura explained that Sakaja’s predicament had been triggered by the governor’s use of a passport while registering instead of a national identity card.

“There was a problem with the governor because he had registered using his passport but we have rectified that problem and everything is now flowing in that polling station,” Mwaura said.

UDA had procured 10,000 gadgets for the exercise, and each cost about $75 (Sh10,000). 

Other than the technological hitches, rains, violence, and low turnout also marred yesterday’s exercise that was taking place in five Counties, including Nairobi, Homabay, Narok, West Pokot, and Busia counties. 

In West Pokot County, significant delays in some polling stations were experienced, as officials struggled to access the voting biometric gadgets due to a missing unique code, leaving voters disheartened and disillusioned.

We'll not allow opponents to infiltrate polls, says UDA

Party members who arrived early at various polling stations had to wait for hours, with some expressing their disappointment at the poor planning by the UDA party.

Nelly Chepkemoi, a voter at Makutano Primary School polling centre, voiced her frustration. “I turned up at the station at 8:00 am ready to vote, but unfortunately, by 1:00 pm, nothing was happening. It’s almost raining, and I left my kids at home. We aren’t getting any answers from the officials,” he said. 

Many voters complained about the lack of communication from the UDA officials at the polling stations, exacerbating the frustration among those eagerly waiting to cast their votes.

Henry Songo, a youth leader aspirant, acknowledged the challenges but urged his supporters to remain patient.

Abigael Rono, UDA County Returning officer, said in Pokot South and Kacheliba constituencies voting kicked off before the afternoon hours but in Sigor and Kapenguria constituencies there were delays because the unique code had not been sent to the clerks.

After yesterday’s polls, the 20 officials who were elected at the polling stations in the seven positions will then participate in the Ward Congress team and will then participate in the Constituency and then County Congress team, which will see the county chairperson being elected. 

A major face-off is expected in Nairobi where Sakaja will face off with Embakasi North MP James Gakuya.

The second phase of the grassroots polls will be on June 22, in 13 counties, the third phase will be held on August 10 across 15 counties, and the final phase on August 24, in 12 counties.