Raila battles to seal ‘rigging’ loopholes

OPPOSITION chief Raila Odinga is going all out to seal all possible rigging loopholes he believes could deny him “a third victory” in a do-or-die rematch with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In what is probably his last stab at the top job, Raila has engaged in an unrelenting, aggressive and complex in-and-out of court battle to eliminate all possible electoral theft, 21 days to the epic August 8 polls.

Away from the public glare, Raila and his National Super Alliance brigade have written tens of letters to the IEBC chiefs, seeking, among others, assurances that the election will be tamper-proof.

Raila insists his victory was stolen in 2007 and in 2013.

In one of the latest responses seen by the Star, the IEBC assures NASA that its technology, including the results transmission system (RTS), is infallible.

“The Commission, with the support of suppliers, has taken initiatives that will guarantee the security of the RTS infrastructure. These include hardening of the RTS database, provision of primary and secondary data centres, secure cloud backup, tools for incident reporting and management, deployment of encryption tools, use of virtual private network, among others,” the IEBC said.

In his latest interview, Raila said he will accept defeat on August 8 on two conditions: If all voters are identified through biometrics and the Al Ghurair company does not print the presidential ballot papers.

“If the EVIDS [electronic voter identification devices] function properly that will eliminate the possibility of ghost voters and dead voters resurrecting, voting and then going back to their graves … If we can get assurance from the IEBC that is not going to be the case and that nobody is going to vote unless they are identified biometrically, then we will accept the results,” Raila said.

This statement was seen as a stand down from the myriad of demands the NASA team has made.

In a memorandum to the IEBC on Monday last week, NASA, through its head of Presidential Campaign Willis Otieno, demanded the removal of three top IEBC staff, including CEO Ezra Chiloba.

The Alliance is demanding that Chiloba, Director of ICT James Muhati and Director of Voter Registration Immaculate Kassait be excluded from poll preparations.

NASA has alleged that Kassait is the Jubilee “hatchet man” in the Commission, and reports to State House on a regular basis.

In their memorandum dated July 10, NASA said that Chiloba, as the Commission’s accounting officer, has failed to oversee crucial electoral processes and bears the ultimate responsibility for the failures.

“We demand that the CEO be sent on compulsory leave and appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against him for incompetence,” part of the memo states.

NASA says its scrutiny of the new voter register indicates that 400,685 people were registered twice.

The opposition has asked the IEBC to clean further the voter register, but the Commission insists no further amendments to the voters’ roll can be introduced at this stage.

The battle in court for the printing of the presidential ballot papers is the latest pitting NASA, the IEBC and Jubilee.

Raila has insisted Dubai-based printer Al Ghurair is closely associated with the Kenyatta family and Uhuru’s brother Muhoho Kenyatta is its local agent.

“This company seems to be the only one, according to IEBC, that can print the ballot papers. There is something sinister about this company. Some people ate commissions from this company so that they cannot do away with it,” Raila protested on Friday.

The ODM leader won the first round of the printing battle on July 7, when the High Court terminated the tender for lack of public participation.

This was the second time NASA had successfully blocked Al Ghurair from the Sh2.5 billion printing tender, after a similar award was terminated by the High Court on February 13.

The IEBC has appealed the latest ruling. Raila’s quest for what he says is a level playing field in this year’s polls has been a long journey.

On June 23, Raila won a separate case in which the Court of Appeal ruled that presidential results announced at the constituencies are final.

This means that the National Tallying Centre will merely be used for adding up the constituency results and announcement of the overall winner.

“The IEBC chairman has no power to unilaterally tally, verify, confirm and declare presidential results, or to arbitrarily overturn the decision made by voters,” the three-judge bench ruled.

On March 30, 2017, the opposition however lost its bid to stop the awarding of a tender to KPMG to audit the voter register.

The then Coalition for Reforms and Democracy had insisted that KPMG had no known experience in the audit of voter registers.

The opposition now says the audit by KPMG was shoddy and a major betrayal of the people of Kenya, as ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi put it on June 13.

Raila and his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula initially wanted a fresh registration of voters, but settled on the audit of the register after days of negotiations with the Jubilee team.

The negotiations were spearheaded by a Joint Select Committee co-chaired by Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and his Siaya counterpart James Orengo.

But shortly after the committee report was adopted by Parliament, the IEBC requested for fresh amendments to allow for a manual backup in the identification of voters should technology fail.

But Raila and his team viciously opposed the proposal, with Parliament descending into chaos as MPs engaged in fistfights as Jubilee pushed through the changes.

The amendments sailed through but the then Cord moved to court to challenge the legality of the Houses’ special sittings that approved the contentious laws.

The opposition argued that the manual backup creates a loophole for rigging by allowing dead voters to cast their ballots.

From July 2014, Raila and his team had sought to reform the IEBC through radical changes to the Constitution in what came to be known as the Okoa Kenya campaign, a national referendum bid.

But the plebiscite bid collapsed, with the IEBC claiming that Cord did not get the requisite one million signatures to trigger a referendum.

Raila, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula then resorted to mega street protests demanding the removal of the IEBC commissioners’ team led by Isaack Hassan. Uhuru initially resisted the calls for national dialogue and the state deployed its machine to neutralise the opposition demos, turning them into bloody confrontations. At least four people lost their lives, with many others suffering bullet and baton-charge wounds. Amid pressure from the international community and media, Uhuru accepted dialogue, leading to the formation of the Orengo, Kiraitu bipartisan Committee to spearhead electoral reforms.

A new team of seven IEBC commissioners, led by Chebukati, was eventually sworn in on January 20, 2017.

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