Bonchari by-election: ODM says several MCAs, party officials arrested

ODM agent accuses Jubilee aspirant Zebedeo Opore of bribing voters

What you need to know:

  • UDA identified the arrested person as chief agent Erick Ntabo while ODM confirmed the arrest of Mr Moisabi alongside nominated MCAs Jane Justin and Risper Maseme.Bonchari arrests

Police in Kisii County have reportedly arrested several orange party MCAs and an agent for United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate Teresa Bitutu over claims of voter bribery.

Nyanza regional police commander Karanja Muiruri said Tuesday that several people were in their custody for engaging in voter bribery but gave neither the number nor their names.

However, UDA and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) confirmed the arrests.

UDA identified the arrested person as chief agent Erick Ntabo.

UDA candidate Teresa Bitutu votes in Bonchari by-election

In a statement, UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina said: "This morning, Eric Ntabo, our chief agent in the Bonchari by-election was arrested by police officers and taken to Gesonso Police Station. He is yet to be able to released."

ODM confirmed the arrest of Riana MCA Vincent Moisabi alongside nominated MCAs Jane Justin and Risper Kemunto.

The party, whose leader is politician Raila Odinga, said Ms Kemunto, the Kisii assembly deputy minority leader, was one of its agents in Bogiakumu Ward.

"Mr Moisabi, our key agent in the by-election has been ... driven to an unknown location on claims he was visiting polling stations to see the progress of the exercise. He was bundled into a vehicle," the party said via Twitter.

ODM's claims

The orange party also reported the arrest of Youth League President John Ketora, Director of Youth Affairs Benson Musungu and Kisii Youth League official Dennis Mosoti.

ODM said these people and two other youths "have been violently arrested in Suneka township on flimsy grounds" and that they were taken to Central Police Station in Kisii.

"The Youth League officials were arrested as they were headed to Suneka Baraza Hall Polling Station to deliver food to our party agents. The arresting officers, close to 50, roughed them up and took their personal belongings and phones," the party claimed, without giving further information.

It also alleged that two ballot boxes stuffed with ballot papers were taken to the home of a local administrator near the Entange polling station.

The party demanded action from the IEBC.

In a statement later on Tuesday, the National Police Service said it was aware of ODM's claims of harassment by police officers.

"Police are on the ground to facilitate peaceful and orderly conduct during the by-election,: Deputy Inspector-General Edward Mbugua said.

"Anyone who has been caught in violation of the law has been arrested with incontrovertible evidence and will be presented before a court of law."

Voters queue at Nyamiobo polling station in Bonchari

Arraignment

Mr Muiriri said all those arrested would be arraigned before the end of the day.

 “I cannot disclose the number of people we have arrested but we have a good number.  Some of them were arrested yesterday evening while others were seized in the course of the day,” the police boss said, adding they had the money the people allegedly dished out.

The Riana MCA is an ODM Party supporter.

Early this month, he was arrested and charged on the allegation of assaulting a sub-chief who was enforcing Covid-19 health protocols during a burial ceremony.

The police commander further said security had been beefed up in the constituency to prevent violence.

“We have heavy security in the region. All we want is a peaceful election,” Mr Muiruri said, noting the government did not have a preferred candidate as was being claimed by politicians in the opposition party.

“So far, the exercise is going well. No incident of violence has been reported so far,” he said.

But Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and UDA candidates claimed their agents and supporters were harassed and intimidated by police, leading to voter apathy in their strongholds.

Candidates vote

Ms Bitutu, widow of Bonchari MP Oroo Oyioka, voted at Suneka Primary School at 7.30am. She said her chief campaigner was arrested the previous night under unclear circumstances. She was accompanied by West Mugirango MP Vincent Kemosi.

She said: “My supporters are being humiliated by the police but I hope the people of Bonchari will give me an opportunity to finish the projects that my husband initiated.”

Mr Zebedeo Opore of Jubilee Party voted at Nyamiobo Primary School at 9.30am.

Jubilee candidate Zebedeo Opore votes in Bonchari by-election

Mr Opore dismissed allegations that he was being favoured by the government, noting that each party was doing everything possible to win.

“Those are baseless allegations. My party is the ruling Jubilee Party … I have received a lot of support from it just like other candidates are being supported by their parties.”

He lauded the government for beefing up security in the constituency, noting that it is important for a peaceful vote.

While voting at Nyamare DOK Primary School at 10.30am, Pavel Oimeke (ODM) criticised the arrest of one of his agents saying the move was aimed at intimidating his supporters.

He also raised concerns over what he said was a low voter turnout.

ODM candidate Pavel Oimeke votes in Bonchari by-election

Low turnout

Jonah Onkendi Ondieki of The New Democrats (TND), who voted at the Kerina polling station at 11am, also complained of low voter numbers and linked this to fear because of the heavy police presence.

“We hope they will come out and vote before evening. There is still time ... we are appealing to them not to fear,” said Mr Onkendi.

Mr Charles Ndege Mogaka of the Progressive Party of Kenya (PPK), who voted at Ngeri Polytechnic at noon, said voting was going on well and lauded police and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for good work.

“We only ask politicians who are only out to find excuses for their defeat to stop dragging the name of Interior CS Fred Matiang’i [into the matter]. He has the whole country in his hands ... it is unfair to lay all manner of accusations on him,” said Mr Ndege.

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