Poll officials to be airlifted to insecure regions as more officers deployed


Security officers at Nyeri Polytechnic in Nyeri County where polling clerks were collecting election materials yesterday in readiness for today’s polls.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The electoral commission will airlift poll officials and materials to at least 10 polling centres in Mandera County due to insecurity, even as authorities temporarily lifted the dusk-to-dawn curfew in Marsabit to allow residents vote today.

Marsabit County Commissioner Paul Rotich said the night curfew had been suspended temporarily from yesterday until tomorrow.

“We have suspended the dusk-to-dawn curfew for three days to give residents enough room to exercise their democratic rights,” Mr Rotich said.

But he maintained that the ongoing security operation will still be in place until further notice.

Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Mandera County Elections Manager Adan Harar said most of the affected polling centres are in Lafey and Mandera South constituencies.

“We will be airlifting a number of poll officials and materials to specific polling centres in the constituencies of Lafey and Mandera South for at least 10 stations and this number is likely to go up as we continue to assess the security situation,” Mr Harar said.

According to the poll officials, the more than 10 polling centres cannot be accessed by road due to insecurity posed by the al-Shabaab terror group.

“We are in touch with the county security team and an elaborate plan has been developed to make sure all materials and election officials are secured and are safe,” he said.

He said his team in Mandera is well prepared and that all strategic and non-strategic materials have since been dispatched to all the six constituencies.

Areas of Elrhamu, Kotulo, Borehole 11 and Elele in Mandera South have recorded increased terror attacks, while Alungo, Warankara and Fino in Lafey constituency remain under close watch by security agencies.

Yesterday, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said two attacks had been reported in Turkana and era.

In Turkana, bandits attacked a centre in Kapedo and as a result voters in three polling stations have been displaced.

Mr Chebukati said the commission will move the voters to new polling stations.

In Mandera arsonists burnt two classrooms in a polling centre in Mandera East constituency.

“Security has been beefed up and polling will proceed,” Mr Chebukati said.

In Isiolo, there was tension following the killing of six people in two separate banditry attacks in Yamicha and Degogicha.

Last Saturday evening at Yamicha, a herder was shot dead by a group of armed bandits suspected to have come from neighbouring Samburu and Marsabit counties before five people were killed and four injured on the wee hours of Sunday morning following a clash between groups of herders.

In Kirinyaga, authorities said at least 16,000 police officers will provide security during the polls in Eastern region.

Regional Commissioner Evans Achoki said aerial surveillance would be carried out in Isiolo and Marsabit counties during voting.

He announced that all electoral materials have been received in the region and distributed to the 7,741 polling stations.

The officers will also be sent to all the 56 tallying centres.

Presiding and deputy presiding officers for various polling stations in Soy Constituency, Uasin Gishu County, and security officers at County Hall in Eldoret town, the constituency tallying centre, on August 8, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

And quick response police teams will be deployed in security hotspots of Meru County.

Meru County Commissioner Fred Ndunga said besides the deployment of two police officers per polling station, the quick response teams will be in Meru town and Igembe where incidents of violence were witnessed during the campaigns.

He said GSU officers and the military are on standby along the Meru-Isiolo border where incidents of cattle rustling are common.

More than 3,000 police officers will provide security in the polling stations and tallying centres in Meru.

Residents can also report election related incidents to a command centre based at the county commissioner’s office on a toll free line 0798 252 620.

“We have distributed all the materials, including the ballot papers and by evening, they will be at all the polling stations. Security has also been tightened in all areas especially at the Meru-Isiolo border and we are set,” Mr Ndunga told journalists in Meru town.

The government has also scaled up security surveillance in various parts of the expansive Rift Valley region, including in banditry-prone areas, ahead of the General Election.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Maalim Mohamed yesterday assured residents that their safety would be guaranteed before, during and after the polls.

“We are set and ready for Tuesday’s elections. I want to assure residents of the Rift Valley region that security has been beefed up and our officers will be ready to respond swiftly to any concern. The government is determined to ensure the election period is peaceful,” said Mr Mohamed.

“An election is a one-day affair. Everyone must be allowed to exercise their democratic right peacefully without blackmail, threats or violence. We will do everything to prevent election-instigated violence.”

The regional commissioner also said more security officers, including GSU, have been deployed to volatile areas of Samburu, Baringo, Laikipia and Elgeyo-Marakwet to protect residents.

A watchman at African Inland Church Moi Girls School, in Maralal, Samburu County, was shot dead by armed bandits on Sunday. Samburu County Police Commander David Wambua said the bandits stole 11 cattle from the school.

Mr Wambua told the Nation that police officers were pursuing the criminals. “Armed gunmen stormed the school with the intent of stealing cattle. They managed to drive them away and killed the night guard in the incident,” Mr Wambua said.

Moi Girls is among schools set to be used as polling centres today and was a training centre for poll workers and election observers.

In Nakuru County, additional security personnel were deployed to Molo, Kuresoi South, Kuresoi North and Njoro.

In Molo town and Chepkeneio and Kamwaura centres in Kuresoi North, dozens of police lorries, armed personnel and water cannons were spotted on Sunday as the General Service Unit (GSU) and other police service units were deployed mainly to election violence hotspots in the region.

GSU officers in a lorry patrolled as residents went about their business.

An officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that they were deployed on Wednesday and were driving around to familiarise themselves with the area ahead of the elections.

“We have been here since Wednesday. We will be here for at least 10 days until the elections are completed. We are here to respond to any security needs,” said the officer.

The officers are operating from several police stations, including Kamwaura, Molo, Njoro and Keringet, where they have set up camps, with a multi-agency command centre at the regional police headquarters in Nakuru City.

“We want to ensure there is enough security. We are not here to scare them, we just want to ensure that the region is peaceful and protect citizens during the election period,” the officer added.

Meanwhile, residents have praised the government’s move to deploy more security personnel ahead of today’s polls.

Ms Jackline Kemunto, a resident of Kuresoi North, said the presence of officers had restored calm among locals, saying that they will now cast their votes in peace.

“The officers have been here for two days now. We are happy that they were deployed here. We were in fear but now everyone is going about their business as we wait to cast our votes,” said Ms Kemunto

Mr Leonard Koech, a boda rider, called on young people to desist from being used to cause chaos during polls.

“We want to come out in large numbers and elect our leaders peacefully. As much as we praise their deployment, we want to ask them not to use force while doing their work,” said Mr Koech.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i last week assured Kenyans that the government was ready and prepared to offer adequate security before, during and after the elections.

Dr Matiang’i, who spoke in Molo, also announced the deployment of additional security in parts of Eldoret and in Molo and Kuresoi.

Sources told the Nation that the decision to beef up security in Eldoret, Molo, Njoro, Kuresoi South and Kuresoi North was informed by previous election violence and intelligence briefs.

In Laikipia, police officers, including from the GSU, have heightened security in banditry-prone and volatile parts of the county.

County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri told the Nation that additional officers had been deployed to Kirima sub-county, which comprises Ol Moran, Sossian and Githiga wards.

“More security officers have already been deployed to the insecurity-prone areas neighbouring Ol Moran ward to ensure that peace prevails before, during and after the August 9 polls,” he said.

Police in Ugenya intercepted a vehicle loaded with pangas and clubs at Siranga trading centre. The vehicle that was said to be speeding developed a mechanical problem and stalled at Siranga, where police and residents intercepted it.

Siaya County Police Commander Michael Muchiri confirmed the incident, saying security officers are investigating the matter.

“The incident occurred when two rival groups of the Ugenya parliamentary candidates clashed at Simur sub-location. We are yet to establish the number of people who sustained injuries in the altercations,” said the county police boss.

He added, “We have the vehicle at Ukwala Police station and we shall establish who the owner is and how the crude weapons found their way into the vehicle. The security team is on top of things and nobody will get away with any criminal activity.”

Reporting by Eric Matara, Geoffrey Ondieki, Mercy Koskei, Steve Njuguna, Alex Njeru, George Munene, James Murimi, David Muchui, Gitonga Marete, June Imetur, Bethel Vugutsa, Waweru Wairimu, Mwangi Muiruri, Mwangi Ndirangu, Jacob Walter and Kassim Adinasi