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Observers happy with job done by printing firm Al Ghurair

Dubai, Saturday

Observers and presidential candidates’ representatives on Saturday evening witnessed the loading onto trucks destined for Dubai International Airport of the first batch of ballot papers for the presidential election, which are scheduled to land in Kenya on Monday. 

They were also given a copy of a schedule showing the number of ballot papers per pallet  and the number of booklets in each pallet according to each electoral area.

The first ballot paper is destined for Changamwe in Mombasa and the last in the pallets for the Diaspora voters. 

Papers to be used by prisoners are mixed in the pallets for constituencies near where the prisons are located. 

The papers will sit at the airport for two days for clearance by Dubai Customs. 

DESTRUCTION OF PLATES

The group also witnessed the destruction of the plates used to print the 20.8 million papers and gleefully tore the aluminium apart before its final destruction.  

“As a commission we have addressed a lot of the issues that were raised by the monitors who were here. They have been working in good faith, mostly, and we have tried as much as possible to ensure that the issues they raised were addressed,” said electoral commissioner Roselyn Akombe. 

At the warehouse where the final packaging was being done, members of the delegation randomly selected six pallets and overseen by Al Ghurair Printing general manager, Lakhshmanan Ganapathy, went about the verification. 

The pallet they verified as a random sample of the rest is destined for Saboti constituency in Trans Nzoia County, which has 80,650 papers against 76,802 voters  and 135 polling stations.

The total number of booklets for the constituency is 1,613. 

VOTERS

Mr Ganapathy said there are 353 pallets – constituencies that have a large number of voters have had their pallets split in two and labelled A and B. The first lot of 192 pallets will land in Nairobi on July 31 and the rest, 161, on August 1. 

The printers said there are more papers than the number of voters because each booklet from which the papers will be taken has 50 sheets  and it was not possible to print numbers below 50.

 “If for instance in one prison we have 10 voters, for packing purposes, all of them are at 50 so we are going to have ballots for that station. Instead of having 10, we are going to have 50 in one package,” said Ms Akombe. 

READ: How presidential ballots will be tracked

She said that when all these are combined, there are 1.2 million ballot papers than needed, which are also more than the one per cent threshold, and this had been explained to the stakeholders present. 

Roselyn Akombe, commissioner Paul Kurgat and deputy secretary Betty Nyabuto took care to note in the final statement signed by all present that Nasa representative Godfrey Osotsi was not present but had travelled for the mission with the rest.

OSOTSI

Mr Osotsi was with the team on the first day, and introduced himself as representing the Opposition group, but did not attend the meetings on Friday and Saturday. 

A proposal to have a seal placed on the outside of the pallets was found to be impractical as they are wrapped in plastic and placing them on the metal strips would not work. 

Mr Ganapathy said the company was unfazed by the attention the company has come under over the printing of papers for the Kenyan election. “We have been printing ballot papers for the last 10 years. We have printed for several countries and all the countries have appreciated the quality of the work we have supplied,” he said. 

SATISFIED

“People raise doubts but once they visit the country, I have always seen all of them totally satisfied,” he said of his experience. He described the Kenyan job as one of the biggest they have executed. 

“We are one of the professionally managed printing companies and we are the largest in the Middle East,” he said, before listing the ISO certifications the company has earned over the years. 

READ: Security features of presidential ballots

He said that because the company has a long-term agreement with the IEBC, they would also print the materials for the by-elections that follow the General Election. Sheikh Abdalla Kamwana, who is representing the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, said doubts about the process had been eliminated. 

SUSPICION

“We are calling upon Kenyans to exercise restraint and avoid unnecessary suspicion because we have verified the contents of the pallets and witnessed the quality of the papers and the destruction of the plates. Kenyans is bigger than all of us, and even the leaders, who come and go. Let us maintain a conducive environment for our children to grow,” he said. 

Father James Mutie, who is representing the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, said: “We are happy because what they said by word they have shown by action. We did not see any mischievous moments.”

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