Ghosts of algorithms return to haunt ODM nominations

ODM party members vote Mbololo polling station in Taita Taveta County during the party's nominations on April 4, 2022.

Photo credit: Brian Wachira I Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto appears to have beaten Azimio coalition party leader Raila Odinga in the party primaries battle, if the nomination outcomes are anything to go by.

The DP's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party conducted its primaries on Thursday, while Mr Odinga's ODM, which staggered its nominations, is set to conclude on April 21, a day to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) deadline.

Even though there is massive outcry in both parties over electoral malpractices and pockets of violence witnessed in their perceived strongholds, the country has witnessed big names fall in UDA while the uniform trend where incumbents in ODM have retained their seats amid protests and numerous appeals being lodged with the party's Appeals board has already cast doubts on its process.

Styling itself as a "digital party" by use of digital election kits in this year's primaries, ODM has only attracted more criticism with various aspirants citing use of algorithms to favour incumbents and their preferred lineups, while some insist the figures announced were "cooked" and did not emanate from the kits.

Manual nominations  

The DP's manual nominations process has seen big names such as Laikipia Woman Rep Cate Waruguru (Laikipia East), Deputy National Assembly Speaker Moses Cheboi (Kuresoi North), Jayne Kihara (Naivasha), James Murgor (Keiyo North), Daniel Rono (Keiyo South), former water and irrigation Principal Secretary James Tekoo (Pokot South), Dr Wilson Kogo (Chemusei), former Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion (Bomet), Senator Cleophas Langat (Bomet), Beatrice Nkatha (Tharaka Nithi) among others swept aside as others secured direct tickets after consensus.

Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara and Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru.

Photo credit: File

Whereas Dr Ruto has maintained a hands-on approach in dealing with the primaries by ensuring the peoples' will is reflected in the outcome, Mr Odinga seems to have allowed the elections board to run the show, making it easy for incumbents to infiltrate the system and subvert the peoples' will, a scenario that has seen all MPs re-elected in Mr Odinga's strongholds of Siaya and Homa Bay Counties.

 As a sign that the DP was on top of things in his UDA party primaries, on Thursday he convened a night press conference to give updates on the situation.

He expressed satisfaction with the UDA primaries conducted in 36 counties, citing that in some areas it was simply hampered by logistical challenges.

Experienced challenges

"I applaud the National Elections Board (NEB) for the nomination exercise that has been successful. We experienced challenges in some areas which will be investigated and if necessary the polls might be repeated," Dr Ruto said.

He challenged the IEBC to take lessons from the party.

On the other hand, Mr Odinga is yet to address the issues of concern raised by aspirants in his party.

On Friday, the ODM leader announced the withdrawal of businessman Suleiman Shahbal from the Mombasa Governor race in support of Mvita MP Adulswamad Nassir while Senator Mohammed Faki will seek re-election.

Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich displays his UDA party ticket after trouncing former Inspector General of police Mr Joseph Boinnet in the race for the gubernatorial seat. 
 

Photo credit: Fred Kibor | Nation Media Group

In Mr Odinga's corner, direct tickets to his bigwigs including Siaya Senator James Orengo (Governor), Dr Oburu Oginga (Senator, Siaya), Anyang' Nyong'o (Governor, Kisumu), Gladys Wanga (Governor, Homa Bay), Ochilo Ayacko (Governor, Migori) attracted huge outcry from some aspirants who cited betrayal by ODM party.

In Siaya, former police spokesperson Charles Owino decamped to United Democratic Movement (UDM) to team up with ex Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo to run for Siaya Governor seat after he was pushed to step down for Mr Orengo while Lawyer George Mugoye who was expecting to battle it out with Mr Orengo got a rude shock after he was awarded direct ticket.

Architect Julius Okinda and businessman Tony Yogo were also disappointed after Dr Oginga, Mr Odinga's elder brother bagged direct ticket to run for the Siaya Senate seat, with Mr Yogo announcing yesterday he will vie on an independent ticket.

Direct ticket

Former Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Ken Obura who was seeking to dethrone Prof Nyong'o also got a rude awakening on realisation that the incumbent had benefited from direct ticket.

In Homa Bay, already former Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero has been cleared to run against Ms Wanga as an independent candidate in protest while Migori Woman Rep Pamella Odhiambo suffered a similar predicament as Mr Ayacko was poised to clinch the gubernatorial ticket.

But it is the just concluded nominations in Siaya and Homa Bay counties on Wednesday and Thursday respectively where incumbents and their preferred line ups of MCAs won, eliciting talk on the return of the ghosts of algorithms mentioned at the Supreme court during Mr Odinga's 2017 presidential petition against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election which was subsequently annulled.

Scampering for safety: Part of the scene at the Homa Bay tallying centre after police lobbed teargas canisters to restore order last night.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group.

In Siaya and Homa Bay, elections were only conducted for the seats of Woman Rep, MPs and MCAs.

Former MP Jakoyo Midiwo's brother Dr Jalang'o Midiwo, University don Dr Nicholas Kut and Andiwo Mwai who contested against Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, Sam Atandi of Alego Usonga and Gideon Ochanda of Bondo, respectively have already appealed the results which gave the incumbents victory, citing massive irregularities and electoral violence.

Dr Midiwo has cited massive violence during the polls in Gem and urged for the nullification of the results.

"Goons numbering about fifteen were arrested in Gem during the election day on Wednesday in possession of grenades, crude weapons, teargas canisters, handcuffs and guns at Ndegwe polling center in North Gem and we expect the law to take its course," Dr Midiwo said.

He said the goons also attacked former councilor Mr Emmanuel Ominde leaving him with head injuries before he was rushed to Royal hospital in Yala town.

Dr Kut, on the other hand, also raised violence concerns where three of his supporters; John Oketch, Patrick Achuoyo were attacked and reported the matter at Uranga police station while Maurice Ouma reported to Karemo police station.

Jonathan Bii Chelilim, after he won the United Democratic Alliance Party (UDA) nominations to garner the Uasin Gishu County gubernatorial ticket. He was announced the winner at the county tallying center at Hill School Primary in Uasin Gishu County on Friday April 15, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

"It was unfortunate that my supporters were met with violence that affected polling stations such as Kirindo, Nyalula and Rapogi primary schools," said Dr Kut.

Distribution of kits was also skewed to favour incumbent, he said.

"Incidents of voter bribery were reported in Karapul, Boro, Central, Gombe, Kirindo and Segere primary schools," he said.

In Homa Bay, Ndhiwa MP Martin Owino and his Karachuonyo counterpart Adipo Okuome won the elections amid chaos witnessed at the Homa Bay High School tallying centre.

Riot-police dispersing supporters of various aspirants who gathered outside Moiben Constituency Tallying Centre in Uasin Gishu County at the Teachers Advisory Centre in Eldoret town, on April 15, 2022 during tallying of the UDA party nominations results.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Mr Samuel Opinde, an MCA aspirant for Wang'chieng' Ward told Nation that the declared figures did not emanate from the poll kits.

"We believe the results were simply cooked and demand the board to reveal their logs to ascertain whether there was voting, the winners of this process can only be referred to as vifaranga vya computer as Mr Odinga said in 2017," Mr Opinde who was declared number two in the race said.

ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohamed denied allegations that the election kits were configured in favour of the incumbents and their line ups.

"It is fake," he told Nation on allegations of an algorithm to favour certain candidates, particularly incumbent legislators.

National Elections Board (NEB) Commissioner in charge of Nyanza region, Ms Syntei Nchoe said she was not in a position to respond to allegations of flawed results.

"The chain of command does not allow me to speak to the press. Please contact Catherine Mumma, the NEB chairperson," she said.

Algorithms

Ms Mumma challenged those claiming the kits were configured with pre-determined results to favour incumbents to produce evidence.

"They should provide the evidence of all these wild allegations," she told Nation.

On the existence of algorithms, she said: "not true."

An ICT guru Mr Ben Wasonga denied working in cahoots with certain leaders by configuring the algorithms to favour them in the primaries.

"I am aware of the claims and will certainly take legal steps to deal with the originator of the smear allegations which I have already established," Mr Wasonga said.

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