Kariokor Social Hall

This is an observation of Kenya’s General Elections on 8th August 2017.

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By Kenneth Jura

Yesterday, I was Ukweli Party’s chief agent at Kariokor Social Hall polling center. Before yesterday I had never known where Kariokor Social Hall was. First, I had to vote at my polling center, NSSF grounds, opposite GPO. I arrived at 5:25 am so that I can alert the presiding officer that I was a chief agent at a different polling center. 20 minutes later I spoke to the presiding officer of polling station number eight who assured me that I will vote first. I was however not listed to be on this polling station mine was station six or what you refer to as stream six.

At around 6:15 am materials for polling stations two, three, four and six arrived. They did their set up as I watched closely. Never mind that they had no tent. I was the first on this queue. An hour later the presiding officer announced the station was open but on opening the station using the KIEMS, Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System, kit it failed to authenticate. In 2013 IEBC had close to four different machines for its work. Biometric Voter Registration kit popularly known as BVR for registration of voters, CRMS – Candidate Registration Management System for use by political candidates during party primaries, Electronic Voter Identification Device (EVID) for use during elections and a different device for transmission, EVID was the device that did not work during the aforesaid elections and not BVR. KIEMS kit does all that.

Back at NSSF grounds, I allowed three elderly ladies to vote before me. One of them was either Dr. Joyce Nyairo’s mother in law or her mother. (I admire Joyce’s work as a social scientist, can someone pass this message to her)  She was accompanied by her two granddaughters. The polling station opened at 7:06 am but voting started at 8:05am. Unlucky for the three elderly ladies before me, their biometrics were not being captured so I voted first. By the time indelible ink was being put on my little finger the presiding officer had instructed his clerk to search for their details using their identification numbers.

Tear gas  

I saw Thomas Wamukoya of Reuters, we exchanged pleasantries and at 8:35 am I voted and off I went to Kariokor Social Hall, I was happy that the taxi driver, Owen Wangui knew where I was going. As I passed Moi Avenue Primary School polling center most of the voters were in the school compound. Earlier, I passed the center from home at around 5:00 am and the queue was at Globe Cinema roundabout. I arrived at Kariokor Social Hall grounds at 8:50 am. The first person I saw was David Mutua of CAFOD who was strapped with two cameras and some lenses on his hip.

Kariokor
Jubilee party nominations. Photo courtesy of Ghetto Radio

I identified myself to the presiding officer who took my letter of appointment and oath of secrecy and put it in a box. I asked to be given a badge but he said he did not have them. His eyes were!. I sat at polling station 10, which was a tent. The queue was long but manageable. Queues for polling stations 1 – 5, 8, 9, 16 and 17 were longer that led to the stations inside the hall. This center has 20 polling stations.  Nine of them inside the hall. I inquired from other agents why people were agitated and the answer was that voters who went inside took too long to come out and if they did then they would not be allowed to get in. My tentacles were raised and I told the presiding officer to hand me back my letter because I wanted to go in the hall. I would therefore not be allowed in without it. Before he handed me the letter all hell broke loose as a tear gas canister was lobbed 10 meters from where I was seated. I stood up to avoid being trampled. I went closer to the ballot boxes. I covered the Member of Parliament’s ballot box but I could not stand there longer. The tear gas was overwhelming. A stampede was imminent at the gate. A lady was writhing in pain near a tree, she had been stepped on by the many feet above her, she had a leso, I used it to cover her nose. “Pumua kama umefunika mapua yako na leso na ufunge macho” I shouted at her. By this time I was running out of air. I panicked and also ran for the gate. The last time I coughed that much was when I was very young through something called “yadh afita” which was administered by my grandmother.

Outside the hall people cursed why the police used such technics in crowd control. At this point I heard that during Jubilee nomination exercise tear gas canisters was also used. “Is it déjà vu?” I asked myself. At some point I cursed why I had to be brought here by the party. There was no room for quitting.

Witness account at Kariokor Social Hall

“Koro abiro nyiso dhako ang’o kaka alil kama, to nawuok e ot kaler?” (What will I tell my wife yet I left the house very clean) a voter lamented while holding his torn trousers with a bleeding knee. Opposite the deputy county commissioner’s office a voter cursed why tear gas had to be used. Her choice was Boniface Mwangi but did not see the reason of voting. A voter said in Kikuyu. I was conflicted on whether to speak to her to go back and vote or to go back inside the hall and do my work, perhaps ballot stuffing was taking place when we were all outside. The latter made more sense.

“Observer indeed”

I made my way to the Social Hall grounds but sat in polling station number 10 as I informed the Chief Party agent Nduko O’Matigere, Martin Njuguna and Njeri Mwangi of what had transpired. A few minutes later Khaddija came to check up on me and to deliver oath of secrecy letters for other party agents.

I managed to get in the hall at 9:50 am through polling station number 5 but managed to get space to observe the election process from polling station number two. Since the hall had nine polling stations it was overwhelming to be in the whole center so I contacted Martin who gave me an aspirant’s number. He fetched me from polling station number two. We walked in all the polling stations informing his agents who also worked for Ukweli Party. Luckily, Martin had informed me this. It was only polling station number 13 that did not have any of our agents. With Kennedy Oduor aka Chief in tow, resolved that during vote counting, tallying and transmission, I had to be in that polling center.

Moreover, queue on polling station number two went well until a lady with an observer badge was obstructing voter to get in through a door by closing it yet there were no voters on polling station 3. So I reported her to the presiding officer who told me that his hands were tied. Quite underwhelming a response a response he gave.  People heckled her and other agents scolded her for denying voters a chance to cast their votes. I saw her instructing the policemen to allow certain groups of people in and others not. She sat three chairs away from me. I later concluded that she is not an observer as her badge says but her DNA was as red as the party she represented. On the other hand, queue for polling station 17 was getting longer and not moving. Station 17 was next to polling station 3 which was next to ours so that is why I sat in two, to observe the others. Brian Irungu saw me and greeted me cheerfully; he did not expect to see me.

“Huyu agent analipa watu hapa, mbona anapeana ballot papers, mbona anachukua ID’s za watu fulani kisha anapea clerks?” Kwani wewe ni nani? (This agent is paying and issuing ballot papers to a certain group of people; she collects identification cards then issues them to the clerks. Who does she think she is”? ) lamented an ODM agent. It was around 5:57 pm. The station was not closed as they had opened late so voting was to go on till 7:30 pm. The ODM agent said that the Jubilee agent had hidden money in her under garment (kwa bra). Two of them were later ejected from the hall and voting went on smoothly till 7:30 pm.

I left polling station number two for 13 because they were about to start counting. Counting started after we all (party agents) agreed through consensus on the modus operandi. The presidential vote counting begun at 8:30 pm. The vote counting went on very well, very transparent. At around 10:20 pm Uhuru Kenyatta had 291 votes, Raila Odinga 203 and Mohamed Abdu Dida 1 vote. Total registered voters at the polling station 695 total valid votes 495. On to the counting of Member of National Assembly votes. The sorting, counting and tallying of the votes was long in my polling station but it was worth every wait. Sorting of the ballot was first done by all the clerks by opening the ballot papers and placing them face-down. This process started at four minutes to 10 pm. The counting went on till around midnight. Unfortunately there were voters who picked their ballots from polling station number 14 and cast the ballot in polling station 13. That is why our process of sorting, counting, tallying and transmission took longer than the other polling stations. Boniface Mwangi had 58 votes, Njagua Kanyi 260, Steve Mbogo 166 Roda 6 votes, Mwaniki Kwenya 1 vote, Wendero 1 vote and 4 spoilt votes. Total votes cast 492 with possibility of stray ballots from polling station 14. I left the polling station at 10 minutes to midnight.

Concluding, a review written by Senator Edward Kennedy for Coming of Age Mississippi written by Anne Moody. “A history of our time , seen from the bottom up, through the eyes of someone who decided for himself that things had to be changed…A timely reminder that we cannot now relax”.

To the Ukweli Party fraternity, friends, those who funded it and wished it well. I am still coughing from the tear gas fumes inhaled. We will live to fight another day.

Author: kennethjura

I am a journalist by training, a nascent writer with a great affinity for getting my hands dirty with community work and social causes. Quite proficient in French, having taught it for four years and occasionally blogs on kennethjura.wordpress.com

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