The Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi was Tuesday the focus of national attention when presidential candidates trooped there to convince the electoral commission their names should be on the ballot for the March 4 General Election.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, led by the chairman Isaack Hassan and his deputy Lilian Mahiri-Zaja, together with the cream of the secretariat under the commission’s CEO James Oswago, sat patiently as they waited for the presidential candidates to show up. As soon as the IEBC got ready with the logistics, all the politicians kept time.
The commission put elaborate security measures at the KICC grounds to ensure that none of the presidential aspirants breached a directive restricting the number of people that they could bring before the IEBC.
Each candidate had been asked to come with their running mates, two aides, a family member, two signatories to their bid, and the bigwigs of the party sponsoring the candidate. Each entourage was supposed to have a total of 11 people.
But clearly, politicians love crowds.
Musalia Mudavadi, the presidential candidate for the Amani Coalition, had the biggest entourage. Aside from his wife Tessie, and running mate Jeremiah Kioni, he had roped in Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa, former MPs Boni Khalwale, Ndiritu Murithi, George Khaniri, Justus Kizito, Mukhisa Kituyi and Nairobi senatorial aspirant Stanley Livondo. That was apart from dozens of supporters in red and green t-shirts of his UDF party.
They all got into the room, and the IEBC officials were seen looking for extra seats to accommodate the excess political passengers. Mr Mudavadi had many more supporters locked out at the KICC gates.
Peter Kenneth of the Kenya National Congress (Eagle coalition), Prof James ole Kiyiapi of Restore and Build Kenya, and Martha Karua of Narc-Kenya had all managed to trim their entourages to the minimum set by the IEBC, but still, they had to let in their press staff and extra strategists.
Prof Kiyiapi and Mr Mudavadi are the only candidates who walked with their spouses to the event.
It was a momentous occasion for each of the candidates, because, they were in the last stage of getting their names in the ballot.
Mr Kenneth and Prof Kiyiapi let their supporters know that they were headed to the KICC. Mr Kenneth tweeted: “Heading to KICC now”, just minutes before he presented his papers.
Prof Kiyiapi too got to the KICC and as he waited for his turn, he took time to reflect and shared it on Twitter: “In a few minutes I will be presenting my papers to IEBC. This far we have come, I owe it to you all and more so to God! Asanteni sana! #KOT (hashtag for Kenyans on Twitter).
Ms Karua got the IEBC nod first, then tweeted: “Presented my papers as the first and cleared then walked through town to Narc-Kenya headquarters ! Great day.”
While Ms Karua said she believed her chances of winning the next elections were “great”, and Mr Kenneth said he is “Kenya’s best choice”, Prof Kiyiapi was perhaps the most excited of the candidates.
“When I resigned from government to vie for the presidency, a lot of people doubted me. They were judging me on the basis that I was not able to mobilise huge resources (for a presidential campaign), but I have a heart for Kenya. Now I am waiting for the judgment of the citizens, that one, I can live with,” said Prof Kiyiapi, alluding to the opinion polls that have placed him at the bottom in the race to State House.
The IEBC chairman did his job as the returning officer, for the first time, releasing publicly the identity card numbers of each of the aspirants. It was perhaps a reminder that they were now a step away from becoming president, the most-important public servant in the country.
There were dozens of State security officers (police and intelligence officers) within the KICC and outside, as were the African Union election observers, and local and international journalists who turned up to cover the event.
The pledge for peaceful elections was on the lips of each of the aspirants, and it was significant in that, it was in the same venue, where the announcement of the 2007 presidential election results went wrong.
On Tuesday, there were two lorries of administration police and the three Landrovers with General Service Unit officers. The red berets could be seen patrolling the KICC compound in pairs. The regular police officers were also in the vicinity keeping vigil.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta, Senior Counsel Paul Muite and Mr Mohammed Abduba will face the IEBC.