Protests as aspirants barred from Homa Bay Speaker race

Zilper Opapo, one of the seven applicants whose nomination papers for the seat of the speaker were rejected by Homa Bay County assembly Clerk Faith Apuko after she failed to meet deadline. She claimed applicants were given limited time prepare their credentials.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group.

Several aspirants for the Homa Bay County Assembly Speaker’s position have protested being locked out of the race in a scheme they claim is meant to favour a preferred individual.

Six candidates will battle it out for the seat after they met all the requirements enumerated in a newspaper advertisement last week.

One of the requirements was to have all applications in by 9.30am on Monday for clearance ahead of voting on Wednesday.

Now those locked out claim the information about the deadline and other requirements were deliberately made available late.

Assembly Clerk Faith Apuko rejected the papers of aspirants who submitted their papers even one minute after the deadline.

The strict deadline prevented seven people from submitting their documents.

The seven had last week notified the House of their interest in contesting the Speaker’s seat and collected nomination forms.

Ms Zilper Opapo and Polycup Otieno, who were among those locked out, said they had invested time holding meetings with MCAs to sell their agenda hoping they would be elected Speaker.

They castigated the process as fraudulent.

"We had one day, Friday, to do everything. Unfortunately, some of the requirements could only be [met] if we had more time," Ms Opapo said.

Another requirement was that applicants had to get clearance from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Ms Opapo said that is where the problem started.

Short notice

At the IEBC office, contenders were asked to get clearance from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) office located in Kisii town.

She said the advert for the position should have been made a week earlier to allow interested individuals to get their credentials ready.

Ms Apuko advertised the Speaker's position on Thursday, with applicants saying they had only one day, Friday, to gather their documents.

"Government offices close during weekends. I tried my best to get clearance on Friday but I could not do everything as required, so I had to push everything to Monday," Ms Opapo said.

She added: "I continued with the process on Monday and was a few minutes late. I was told I am locked out."

Ms Opapo was the only female applicant.

She argued that her absence from the contest violates her freedom to vie for an elective position.

"The entire leadership of the county will not have regional balance as some regions are overrepresented," she claimed.

The former Homa Bay municipal board chairperson said some of the regions in the county have at least two elected leaders while others like Homa Bay Town, where she hails from, has its MP as the only political leader.

Mr Otieno said he was disappointed when he was told he could not proceed to the ballot after the House failed to provide him with all information about clearance.

“It is as if there is a preferred candidate among those cleared. That is why some of us were locked out,” he said.

The six who were cleared included John Apollo, the chief of protocol in Homa Bay County government; former Central Karachuonyo MCA Julius Gaya; and Fredrick Gaya, the director of Youth Empowerment Bridge Organization (YEBO) Africa.

Former Gwassi North MCA Evans Marieba, Innocent Masara and Pascal Odhiambo also presented their papers on time.