Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir kicks a teargas canister at a polling station London Ward, Nakuru on on March 4, 2021

| Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

Slaps, teargas, arrests mark mini-polls as candidates, supporters cry foul

Slaps, blows, kicks and arrests dominated the by-elections held yesterday as the high stakes placed on the mini-polls brought out the worst of politicians and their supporters.

The presence of lawmakers allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chief Raila Odinga signified the importance of the elections as each attempts to upstage the other ahead of the General Election next year.

In Nakuru, journalists bore the brunt of attacks by youths allied to politicians. Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala's bodyguard was arrested for shooting a resident and former Minister Rashid Echesa was a wanted man by the time of going to press for slapping an official of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official.

Voters also lost shirts, money, trousers and other belongings in the skirmishes that also drew condemnation from the electoral agency and the Media Council of Kenya.

Violence was mostly witnessed in the high-stakes elections in Kabuchai constituency in Bungoma county, Matungu constituency in Kakamega, Kiamokama ward in Kisii County and the London Ward elections in Nakuru County.

Kabuchai

Election officials verify the details of an elderly at Sikusi Primary School polling station in Kabuchai before she cast her ballot.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

However, the by-elections in Huruma Ward in Uasin Gishu and Kitise-Kithuki in Makueni were relatively peaceful.

Pandemic reality

But low voter turnout and failure of gadgets also characterised the by-elections.

The coronavirus pandemic reality was evident, with the IEBC insisting that anyone without a face mask would not be allowed into a voting station.

Residents queuing up to vote had to wash their hands at designated places and thereafter. IEBC officials took their temperature.

In Matungu, police arrested Mr Malala's bodyguard and are looking for former Mr Echesa for assaulting an IEBC official.

Mr Echesa was captured on a video beating up the man at Bulonga Primary School polling station.

Kakamega County Police Commander Hassan Barua said the hunt for Mr Echesa was on.

Police officers raided Mr Echesa's home in Shibale but did not find him.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati condemned the assault and called for Mr Echesa's arrest and prosecution.

At Munami polling station, a pistol owned by Mr Malala’s bodyguard was confiscated by police officers after the shooting of a man as voting progressed. The man was taken to hospital.

Mr Malala, who was accompanied by a group of youths had earlier stormed the polling station saying IEBC officials were watching as ODM agents stuffed ballot boxes.

Police say the senator's bodyguard drew a pistol and shot at a group of young men who were pelting the senator's vehicle with stones.

Former CS Echesa caught on video slapping an election official.

The windscreen of the vehicle was smashed.

Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga, ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna and Shinyalu MP Justus Kizito called for immediate investigations into the shooting.

Kaspul MP Charles Were Ong'ondo was escorted to Matungu police station in a police lorry after picked up from Shiabo polling centre.

Voting delayed

"I'm not under arrest. I'm visiting the station. You can see I'm not in handcuffs," Mr Ong'ondo said.

Earlier, Kakamega Woman representative Elsie Muhanda fled from a group of youths who pelted her vehicle with stones.

At several polling centres, the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS) failed to detect fingerprints, delaying the voting.

IEBC cleared 15 people to contest the Matungu parliamentary seat. They include Peter Nabulindo (ANC), Mr David Were (ODM), Mr Alex Lanya (United Democratic Alliance), Mr Charles Kasamani (United Democratic Party), Ms Auma Faida (Maendeleo Chap Chap) and Mr Paul Achayo (Movement for Democracy and Growth).

Mr Bernard Wakoli, Mr Athman Wangara, Ms Christabel Amunga, Mr Anzelimo Kongoti, Mr Eugene Ambwere, Mr Samuel Munyekenye, Mr Kevin Nector, Mr Wilberforce Lutta and Mr Gregory Atoko were cleared to run as independent candidates.

Ms Amunga is the wife of former MP Justus Murunga while Mr Ambwere is his son.

Mr Murunga died late last year, precipitating the by-election.

In Kabuchai, four MPs were arrested on their way to Chwele as Ford Kenya and UDA officials accused each other of attempting to rig the elections.

While allies of Deputy President William Ruto accused security agencies of siding with Ford Kenya, the Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula-led party claimed UDA officials were dishing out money at polling stations to influence the outcome of the election.

Kisii police arrest UDA candidate Moses Nyandusi over bribery claims.

Bungoma County Commissioner Samuel Kimiti confirmed the arrest of Mr Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Mr Nelson Koech (Belgut), Mr Wilson Kogo (Chesumei) and Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, all allied to UDA – a party associated with Dr Ruto.

Aldai MP Cornelius Serem and his Bumula colleague Mwambu Mabonga escaped the police dragnet at Musese market on the Bungoma-Chwele road.

The DP-allied politicians were trailed by police officers after accompanying UDA candidate Evans Kakai to Pongola Primary School polling station to cast his vote.

According to Mr Kimiti, the lawmakers were apprehended after a tip-off by the public who said they were planning chaos.

 The administrator said that police officers found jembes, batons and other items that could be used as weapons  in one of the vehicles in the convoy.

But addressing journalists at Bungoma police station, the lawmakers said leaders allied to Dr Ruto are being targeted by police to prevent them from monitoring the vote.

“A personal assistant of a certain politician was leading the officers arresting us,” said Senator Cherargei, who was the chief agent of the UDA candidate.

UDA candidate for Kabuchai Evans Kakai said rowdy youths vandalised his pick-up truck at Mukhweya market.

Sirisia MP John Waluke and Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga were chased by angry locals from Busakala Primary School polling centre in the morning.

Photo credit: Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

Mr Wetang’ula said lawmakers allied to the Deputy President were criss-crossing the constituency dishing out huge amounts of money.

“We have reported the matter to security agencies to ensure voter bribery, which is a criminal offence, does not take place in Kabuchai,” the Bungoma senator said told journalists after casting his vote at Namakhele Primary School.

Eight people contested the Kabuchai parliamentary seat. They are Mr Kakai, Mr Majimbo Kalasinga of Ford Kenya, Green Movement’s David Kibiti, Mr Amos Wekesa of Federal Party of Kenya, Mr Jeremiah Marakia of UDP, Mr Peter Kapanga and Mr Gasper Wafubwa both independents.

In Nakuru, Dr Ruto’s allies accused security officers of showing favouritism to Jubilee Party and allowing its officials to openly bribe and intimidate voters.

Voting was disrupted for hours when chaos erupted at Milimani Primary polling centre.

A group of young people roughed up Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir, accusing him of dishing out money to voters outside the polling station.

Police used teargas to disperse the rowdy crowd and allow voting to go on.

During the fracas, four journalists suffered injuries.

The Media Council of Kenya condemned the attack on the reporters covering the by-election in London Ward, Nakuru county.

In a statement to the press, Media Council of Kenya chief executive David Omwoyo condemned the incident in which Citizen TV reporter Evans Asiba, Ms Regina Wangui (Kameme), Mr Kigotho Mwangi (K24) and Mr Elijah Cherutich (Emoo FM) were attacked by people claiming to be UDA supporters.

Mr Korir’s vehicle was also extensively damaged in the fracas.

However, voting resumed after police stopped the violence and dispersed the crowd.

Following the chaos, Nakuru county EIBC elections manager Silas Rotich ordered Mr Korir and other leaders allied to the Deputy President out of the polling centre.

The leaders included Senators Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Onesmus Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet).

Mr Korir and his Emurua Dikir counterpart Johana Ng’eno attempted to resist the move but were teargassed and forced out of the polling station.

The London and Hell’s Gate by-elections turned into a contest between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Ruto.

President Kenyatta’s succession politics took centre stage during the campaigns as small parties threatened Jubilee’s hold in Nakuru.

Police patrols

Hell’s Gate Jubilee candidate Virginia Wamaitha Gichanga and UDA’s Jonathan Warothe were clear frontrunners.

Several candidates in the London and Hell’s Gate by-elections are independents.

By evening, UDA supporters had prematurely declared their candidate the winner.

However, the announcement was not from the IEBC.

Officially declared Chaos marred the Kiamokama ward by-election in Kisii county with several UDA supporters being arrested over claims of voter bribery.

Police fired in the air and hurled teargas canisters to crowds of UDA supporters.

The chaos sent the UDA team into confusion for the better part of the morning.

Leaders from the greater Gusii region allied to UDA candidate Moses Nyandusi Nyakeremba engaged police in hide-and-seek games that lasted several hours.

Kisii Governor James Ongwae, Senator Sam Ongeri, Woman Representative Janet Ongera and Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati have been leading the ODM campaigns for Mr Malack Matara.

Kisii deputy Governor Joash Maangi, former Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) chairman Charles Nyachae and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Omingo Magara have been drumming up support for Mr Nyakeramba of UDA.

In Uasin Gishu county, low voter turnout marked the Huruma ward by-election.

The IEBC was strict on health guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to stop the spread of coronvairus.

Security at the 46 polling stations was tight.

Police officers could be seen patrolling areas near the voting centres.

Uasin Gishu IEBC elections manager Jane Gitonga admitted that the process was marred by low turnout in the morning but was optimistic that more would turn out in the course of the day.

Reported by Ruth Mbula, Onyango K’Onyango, Brian Ojamaa, Eric Matara,Pius Maundu, Macharia Mwangi, Benson Amadala and Shaban Mokokha

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