Ole Kanchory: Junet, Joe Mucheru and Makau Mutua made Raila lose August polls

Azimio leaders Raila Odinga (centre), Martha Karua and Makau Mutua consult with MPs at County Hall Nairobi on November 24 after the hearing of a petition to remove four IEBC commissioners.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

As the dust begins to settle after the August 9, 2022 General Election, and as the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition picks up the pieces of another presidential election defeat for Mr Raila Odinga — the fifth since 1997 when he vied for the first time — things are not rosy in the coalition as his allies engage in a blame game over the outcome of the election that saw Dr William Ruto declared winner.

The fight among Mr Odinga’s men has threatened to reduce the mighty Azimio coalition that Mr Odinga used to contest the presidential election into the tower of Babel.

Mr Odinga’s chief agent in the August presidential election, Mr Saitabao Ole Kanchory, a city lawyer, has told his boss that he lost the election because the men he trusted — Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, former ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru and Prof Makau Mutua — let him down.

The three were Mr Odinga’s point men in his presidential campaigns. Mr Mohamed was Mr Odinga’s right-hand man, while Prof Mutua was the spokesman of Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign secretariat.

However, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino defended Mr Mohamed, saying Mr Odinga’s loss was caused by individuals in Azimio, as former Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni blamed the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for Mr Odinga’s loss.

“We could not have lost the presidential election were it not for the three. I will tell you how they contributed to the defeat because they are the people I worked with and I respect them, but they take the highest responsibility for the loss,” said Mr Kanchory.

In the heat of the campaigns, Mr Mucheru, on several occasions, was accused by the Kenya Kwanza team, led by Dr Ruto, of using his position to unfairly advance Mr Odinga’s campaigns, an allegation the then CS denied.

Mr Kanchory went on to describe how the failures of the three men contributed to Mr Odinga’s defeat when he “really needed” them.

He described Mr Mohamed as “one man who purported to know everything and he nullified everything and anything everyone else said”.

“He ensured that he kept everyone who could have helped Baba (Mr Odinga) at arm’s length because he wanted to be the alpha and omega of the campaigns and the agents’ management system,” said the city lawyer.

This is notwithstanding “the only person that Baba would listen to without question, was Junet”.

Mr Owino disagreed: “People are fighting Junet for no reason. I can tell you the truth of this matter. Do you think Junet would just let this go and forgo his dream in Baba’s government?

“Junet would have made more money in Baba’s government but there is always someone who has to carry the cross and that is why the cross was put on Junet’s back,” he explained.

Mr Owino put the blame elsewhere. He explained that he called then-Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, asking him to have the chair of the electoral commission, Mr Wafula Chebukati, arrested for bungling elections, but Dr Kibicho instead asked him to stop being confrontational.

Mr Kanchory said Mr Mucheru’s was on a mission to sabotage the agent’s management system. “And he succeeded,” he claimed.

“He ensured everyone who had a role, including the people who printed basic stuff that I signed, were his people. The people who were typing the names were his people and were under instructions not to deliver.”

Mr Mucheru has denied the claims leveled against him, saying media and connectivity for results transmission were his only national responsibilities. 

“It is on record that 99.96 percent of polling stations transmitted their election results, it is also on record there was full uninterrupted media coverage of the elections and the Supreme Court proceedings,” said Mr Mucheru.

Prof Mutua, according to Mr Kanchory, was “exceptionally affable” but weak.

“If I was having a drink, I would not want to have it with anyone else other than Prof Makau Mutua,” said Mr Kanchory, who added that the day Mr Mohamed, Mr Mucheru and others said Prof Mutua would be in charge of the command centre, “is the day that everything else went south”.

“In my book, I have described him as deaf, mute, blind mouse that sees no evil, hears no evil and says no evil and that’s the kind of guy he is. You know, everything that went wrong, he was just brushing it aside,” said Mr Kanchory.

Mr Mohamed and Prof Mutua declined to speak on the matter. 

The question of whether Azimio had poll agents in all the polling stations also came up, after claims that election officers aided in the stealing of Mr Odinga’s votes in some electoral areas. There had been claims that funds meant for the poll agents were misappropriated.

However, Mr Kanchory said no one took a single coin of the money meant for the more than 161,000 agents across the country that were to be supervised by 47 lawyers spread in all the counties. 

However, Mr Kioni said it was wrong to enlist a team of lawyers to supervise the agents.

“It was unclear whether the lawyers were managing the agents or they were collecting information that was supposed to be used in a court of law,” he said, while Mr Owino claimed that some agents withdrew from their work in Central Kenya, “where Baba’s votes were stolen in large numbers”.

“There were agents in Central Kenya, but they withdrew because the person who was to pay them intentionally refused and they withdrew their services,” said Mr Owino.

Mr Kanchory said that although the Azimio coalition had agents in the Mount Kenya region, they were induced by “our competitors” early on the voting day and told to go home.

“In some cases, the presiding officers would tell the agents to go have some meat and they would leave as the elections were going on. We have evidence where this happened,” said Mr Kanchory, although he did not disclose whether this was part of the evidence that was vitiated by the Supreme Court.

Presiding Officers are employees of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and are required by law to be impartial during the elections.

Nevertheless, Mr Kioni accused them of not having been keen to have Azimio agents in the polling stations.

“I will give you an example of one station in Karatina, where when the tallying got under way, and Raila had 402 votes, the Presiding Officer asked; na hizi na mwenyewe hatumuoni, mnataka tufanye nini nazo? (these votes whose agent is not here, what should we do with them?

Weka kwa Ruto (give them to Ruto), the rival agents shouted.”

“So, 400 votes were put kwa Ruto, and two votes were put kwa Raila. That is really mismanagement by IEBC. Even if we mismanaged our agents, look at the dishonesty and the level of stealing,” said Mr Kioni.

The timing of the formation of the Azimio coalition also came up, with Mr Kioni saying that it took too long for the affiliate parties to gel and work together.

“We left it too late. Remember at the last hour, when we were dealing with deadlines from IEBC, we still had the Wiper party out there, not certain whether they were with us, or not,” he said.

This, the former Ndaragwa MP said, is the reason the coalition was not able to field candidates on the Azimio ticket.