On the night of August 8, 2017, a chaotic scene ensued at the Kitui West constituency tallying centre at the Matinyani Social Hall.
While announcing the results for County Assembly seats, the electoral commission IEBC Returning Officer James Mbai prepared and awarded the election certificate for Mutonguni Ward to the wrong candidate, who had lost the contest.
With a victory certificate in his hand, Mr Felix Mbevo of Narc party, who was runner-up, chanced on the IEBC blunder and hurriedly fled the Hall, as the real winner, Musee Mati, protested.
After few minutes, the returning officer realised his mistakes and made a phone call to Mr Mbevo, asking him to bring back the winner certificate to tallying centre. The recipient flatly declined.
The following morning, Mr Mbevo rushed to court and obtained an injunction barring IEBC from recalling the certificate or interfering with his “victory”. He was eventually sworn-in by Kitu County Assembly Speaker George Ndotto as the duly elected MCA.
Mr Mbai was left clutching on a letter he wrote to Mr Mbevo recalling the certificate as only proof that he had not colluded with him to steal the victory from Mr Mati.
An election petition was lodged by Mr Mati soon after and in a series of appeals the case dragged in court for more than two years as Mr Mbevo sat pretty at the County Assembly despite having lost the poll.
During the hearing, the court was told Mr Mati emerged the winner with 3,330 votes against Mr Mbevo’s 3,319.
The matter was first heard by Kitui magistrate’s court which annulled the election, prompting Mr Mbevo to appeal at the High Court. The appeal was heard by Justice Lilian Mutende who upheld the magistrate’s court decision.
The returning officer testified that upon realising his mistake, he immediately wrote to Mr Mbevo directing that he surrenders the election certificate as it was erroneously awarded to him but he declined to comply with IEBC directive.
Two months ago, Court of Appeal judges Erastus Githinji, Philip Waki and Mohammed Warsame stopped Mr Mbevo from moving to the Supreme Court to continue clinging to the MCA seat.
The three-judge bench ruled that there is no legal room for an MCA election petition appeal to reach the Supreme Court, shutting doors for Mr Mbevo and ordering the repeat poll.
After the court drama, Narc party led by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu declined to nominate Mr Mbevo to try his hand again, ostensibly to appease Mr Mati and Mutonguni voters, who felt aggrieved by the injustice.
When Governor Ngilu’s opted not to field a candidate, Wiper party led by former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka entered the race and fronted a three time area councillor Stephen Kithuka.
Mr Kithuka would face Mr Mati of Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) party and seven other candidates.
Days to the by-election held on Thursday October 17, the race had narrowed into a bitter contest between Wiper's Mr Musyoka and Machakos Governor Dr Alfred Mutua, the MCC leader, in a political war to control Ukambani region.
The political stakes were raised when Mr Musyoka led a high-powered delegation of seven Wiper MPs over the weekend to campaign for their nominee, where they urged voters not to embarrass the party leader in his home county by rejecting Mr Kithuka.
Mr Musyoka claimed a win for any other candidate would not only embarrass him but also cast doubts on his ability to consolidate the Ukambani vote, which has remained loyal to him in the past several elections.
Since the seat was declared vacant, the Machakos governor has not been to Mutonguni Ward but his candidate seems to be running a more organised campaign, reaping from Wiper’s blunders.
On Monday, more than 30 businessmen and MCAs from Kitui and Machakos counties joined Dr Mutua’s candidate where they addressed a dozen charged rallies in a last minute campaign offensive.
Led by Mwengi Mutuse, Governor Mutua’s chief of staff, the 40-vehicle convoy electrified the ward with the Chap Chap candidate exuding confidence that he will emerge victorious.
Mr Mati has managed to reclaim victory of the Mutongoni Ward seat by garnered 2,892 votes to defeat Wiper's Stephen Kithuka, who got 2,147 votes.