Show of force as State moves to secure August 8 polls

Tuesday July 18 2017

Police officers man a polling station at the Tala Township Primary School in 2013. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Police officers man a polling station at Tala Township Primary School in 2013. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
More by this Author
By JUMA NAMLOLA
More by this Author

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and other State agencies have provided a glimpse of what election day on August 8 will look like.

You will still be able to use social media and surf the Internet.

These services will not be shut down, contrary to recent rumours, but individuals who use them to incite violence will face the music.

The country will probably see its biggest security deployment ever.

Some 180,000 security agents will be deployed to all the 40,883 polling stations to secure 19.6 million voters as they elect their leaders.

POLICE

Apart from the regular police, the administration police and General Service Unit, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forestry Service rangers will also be on duty to help deliver a safe and secure environment for Kenyans to exercise their democratic right to vote.

Dr Fred Matiang’i, the acting Cabinet secretary for Interior announced that annual leave for all security officers has been cancelled to enable the agencies to give full attention to the elections.

“Election is a serious business. Since our duty is to facilitate IEBC, we have decided to cancel leaves for all security officers so that they can take care of this important exercise,” Dr Matiang’i told a meeting of stakeholders on election preparedness at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi.

CHAOS

The consultative meeting was convened by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) and Mkenya Daima Initiative and the key state organs.

Dr Matiang’i said police have mapped the country and identified regions that are likely to be hit by chaos before and after elections, and warned politicians that they will not be spared if they are caught inciting their supporters to violence.

“Our biggest headache is politicians who hide behind their positions to break the law. We shall not respect those titles should any of them misbehave. We are committed to ensuring that we deliver on security in the election,” he said.

THREATS

Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the National Police Service was aware of possible threats and that is why it had roped in KWS and KFS to ensure the law is enforced.

The number of officers to be deployed in an election has more than doubled.

In the 2013 General Election about 95,000 officers were deployed to secure the elections.

The increase in security officers is necessitated by the fact that the number of polling stations has also nearly doubled following the enactment of the Elections Act, which requires that no polling station shall have more than 700 voters.

BALLOT

The increase has also been due to the high stakes in the elections. On Monday, Mr Boinnet said voters will be expected to cast the ballot and immediately leave polling stations so as to avoid situations where tension could build up.

This was supported by Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) Secretary-General Adan Wachu, who said there would be no need for voters to hang around polling stations after casting their ballots.

To cast their ballots, voters will use a special kit that identifies them through their fingerprints.

IEBC Commissioner Roseline Akombe displayed the kit she said was used in voter verification for a whole month without any hitches.

SAFARICOM
“I want to assure the public and stakeholders present that this kit will not fail. We used it for a whole month and it worked perfectly well. We have also trained our officers on how to use it. The rest of the burden lies on Communications Authority,” she said.

Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Director-General Francis Wangusi said the organisation had provided sufficient technological infrastructure for Internet service providers to build the technology to efficiently transmit results.

Acting Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i (right), Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Director-General Francis Wangusi (centre) and  National Cohesion and Integration Commission Chairman Francis ole Kaparo  at a Press conference in Nairobi on July 17, 2017. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

From left, National Cohesion and Integration Commission chairman Francis ole Kaparo, Communications Authority Director-General Francis Wangusi and acting Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i at a press conference in Nairobi on July 17, 2017. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom have all been commissioned to provide links for high-speed transmission of results.

Mr Wangusi dismissed claims that the State was planning to shut down Internet services on polling day.

INTERNET
“We have divided the country into three sectors and allocated each telecommunications service provider an area to manage,” he said.

He added: “The Internet will be running smoothly so that the public enjoys the service, but those who intend to misuse it to spread hate are strongly warned that they will be dealt with.”

He warned those who operate Facebook parody accounts and run websites that impersonate other people and institutions that they risk being shut down if they use their anonymity to incite the public.

Mr Wangusi cautioned media houses against publishing and announcing results before IEBC does so.

“We have allocated some rights to some media houses to have their own tallying centres.

They should, however, note that it is an offence to declare results before IEBC,” he said, citing the Election Offences Act.

WHATSAPP GROUPS

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) said it had identified 21 WhatsApp groups that are being used to propagate ethnic hate, and which could cause violence during and after the election.
NCIC chairman Francis ole Kaparo said the commission, in conjunction with the police, had launched a major crackdown on the groups.

“We are coming for them and let them be warned,” said Mr Kaparo. He described some social media users as “terrible people” and the recent heckling of politicians as “stupid and outdated” as every Kenyan has a right to be heard anywhere in the country.

RIGGING

Mr Kaparo faulted the opposition for making election rigging a national agenda for the last one-and-a-half years and the Jubilee leadership for its recent attacks on the Judiciary.

“Not a single presidential vote has been cast. In fact, not a single ballot paper has been printed and you can’t steal what is not there,” he said, while asking Kenyans to give the electoral commission time to deliver before judging it.

Chief Justice David Maraga said the Judiciary is ready to handle disputes arising from the election and revealed that the Supreme Court had already formulated the rules on timelines for presidential results disputes, which will be published next week.