President Uhuru, Raila clash over election plans

President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA flag bearer and ODM leader Raila Odinga photo:courtesy

The electoral commission is once again facing a storm after allegations the firm contracted to print ballot papers for the coming elections has strong links with Jubilee supremos.

NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga claimed Jubilee’s top leaders and the Dubai firm, Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC, have had a long standing relationship, of over three years, and had at least two meetings to discuss the awarding of the tender.

Raila, who spoke at the National Elections Conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, consequently demanded that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should put aside the award to protect the integrity of the polls.

The development comes a day after IEBC warned there may be no elections on August 8 should the ballot tender be put aside once again, citing limited time. The country has less than two months to go to the polls.

The Opposition chief claimed the firm hosted Jubilee top guns in Dubai in February last year before another meeting in Nairobi with the firm’s officials in October.

“Information currently in our possession indicates the firm has long had contacts with senior Jubilee officials – for at least three years. Owners of this firm hosted senior Jubilee officials in Dubai in February last year during which the ballot printing tender was discussed,” claimed Raila.

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“Officials of the firm were in Kenya in October 2016 as head of the business delegation brought by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce during which trip they held further talks on this contract with Jubilee officials.”

President Uhuru Kenyatta, speaking in Eldoret, did not directly respond to Raila’s claims but criticised people he said were out to undermine the credibility and integrity of key institutions involved in the election process with a view to rejecting the final outcome.

“But underpinning all of this are the institutions and organisations required to maintain the apparatus that safeguard democracy and a viable state. Absence of strong institutions can only result in a failed state – an eventuality I shudder to contemplate yet it is a reality we have witnessed in our region,” said Uhuru in a speech also read at KICC.

“To threaten these institutions, malign them or disrespect these established channels for recourse is to undermine the foundations that hold together our young and fragile country. The majority of Kenyans do not have another country to run to. Kenya is all they have. And we are in this ship together,” Uhuru said.

“Those who would rather break this ship into two or more pieces in case they are not elected should refer to Scripture. When Solomon encountered the two women who both claimed to be the mother of the baby, one insisted the baby should be cut into two halves. No politician should be allowed to insist they either have the country or else they will destroy it.” (Read separate story).

In his statement, Raila further claimed the firm had local franchise holders who were sympathetic to Jubilee. He accused IEBC of ignoring the Opposition’s concerns regarding the critical tender process, stating the commission had acted in bad faith to re-award the tender to the same firm.

He said the decision was “ill-advised and unfortunate” and cast “a dark shadow that could have been avoided over the credibility of the August elections”.

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Raila charged that it appeared as if the commission had already made up its mind to award the tender to the firm “no matter what”.

“In our court case, we said IEBC had acted in bad faith in awarding this contract to Al Ghurair. The re-award confirms this bad faith. It would appear the decision to award the contract to the Dubai firm was arrived at years ago, and all that has gone on these recent months were mere motions,” he added.

“We raised several grounds, among them the fact IEBC had acted unlawfully and illegally and in contravention of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2016, with particular regard to the integrated electronic electoral system that enables biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification and electronic transmission of results,” said Raila.

But in a quick rejoinder, the President’s campaign team hit out at Raila, dismissing his claims as baseless and aimed at inciting Opposition supporters to reject the outcome of the polls.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju and Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki demanded that Raila should be compelled to substantiate his claims, which they said had sweeping effects of undermining IEBC’s readiness for the elections.

They described the claims as outrageous and with dangerous ramification on the polls, just 54 days away.

“I am surprised a presidential candidate can make such sensational claims without evidence. Raila must be challenged to prove who are these Jubilee people who met the printer,” said Mr Tuju, adding Raila could have had another firm in mind, which he was pushing for to get the tender.

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“He should be asked if he has a particular printer in mind that he wants IEBC to award the tender. When he was the Prime Minister, he was involved in the tendering process for the previous commission. He should tell the country his interests in the tender.”

Prof Kindiki claimed Raila had been getting away with sensational claims and that it was time he was forced to table evidence.

“What meeting? Who met who and where? You cannot just make claims against institutions and get away with it,” said Kindiki. 

The Senator told Raila off for dragging the country into a political circus that could compromise peace during and after the polls.

“He should choose whether he wants to be a procurement officer or to run for the presidency. I fail to understand why he keeps fighting institutions. He should not sensationalise an issue as sensitive as the elections,” he said.

He added: “The ruling coalition was pushed by the Opposition to bend over backwards for the new commissioners to be hired against the Kreigler Commission’s recommendations.”

 

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