ODM leader was short-changed in 2007 polls - Macharia

Wednesday January 4 2017

Businessman S.K. Macharia

Businessman S.K. Macharia appears before the Senate in Nairobi during a hearing on election laws on January 3, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By DENNIS ODUNGA
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A representative of media owners has claimed that ODM leader Raila Odinga was short-changed in the 2007 General Election that plunged the country into chaos.

Royal Media Services owner S.K. Macharia said that records of how Kenyans voted during that hotly contested poll show that then President Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner, did not emerge top.

“The one who was declared the winner in 2007 was not the winner. We have evidence since, as media owners, we tracked all the results through satellite phones,” said Mr Macharia.

He spoke during a public hearing at the Senate chambers in Nairobi over the contentious election laws passed by MPs on December 22 last year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were among prominent Kenyan leaders who ended up at the International Criminal Court over the post-election violence.

However, their cases were later dropped due to inadequate evidence.

UPHOLD ELECTION CREDIBILITY

Mr Macharia, who underscored the importance of an electronic system to uphold the credibility of elections, said the results were being tracked through satellite phones.

He said that in 2013 media houses were disadvantaged because they solely relied on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) tallying centre to relay election results.

Mr Macharia said he will track the 2017 polls, adding that if the IEBC or the government tries to block him, he will sue to to seek orders against the such move.

According to Mr Macharia, the Constitution guarantees freedom of the media, and that cannot be taken away by the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill.

The aftermath of the disputed results was violence that left 1,200 people dead and hundreds of thousands others displaced, before Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga agreed to share power to calm down the deadly political tension.

During the sitting that included Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Mr Macharia spoke of how he went out of his way to convince Mr Kibaki to push for a pure presidential system of governance.

GENUINE CASES

Perhaps realising that his comments were controversial and might cause an uproar, Mr Macharia said he was ready to take personal responsibility for what he says that other media owners might not agree with.

He said the manual register should be made available at every polling station, for dealing with isolated genuine cases.

“I agree wholly that a manual register should be at every polling station, but not used 100 per cent,” he said.

Mr Macharia said an IEBC report indicates that there was confusion regarding the 2013 register. He added that the country has a duty to adopt best practices that can guarantee Kenyans a credible election.

He said satellite communication can be used in areas not covered by mobile phone networks.

In its presentation earlier, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) supported a manual backup system, saying 22 per cent of the country is not covered by the 3G network that is required to transmit results electronically, meaning that some eligible voters might be locked out.

Juma Kandie, CA's director for human capital and administration, said although satellite technology is a good alternative, the system cannot be installed before the next General Election, because of stringent procurement and installation procedures.