Guns were drawn and wielded, security officers attached to VIPs literally exchanged blows as then Deputy President William Ruto gave stern instructions to former chairman Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Wafula Chebukati to declare him the winner as he was sure that he won the elections.
The piecing together by Nation of the untold story of the drama at the Bomas of Kenya boardroom and auditorium from various stakeholders one year after the August 9, 2022 General Elections, reveals chaos that characterised the last hours of the process that culminated in the declaration of William Ruto as President elect.
By 9am on Monday, the 15 verification desks at the floor of the auditorium were largely idle with only one having some two officers who were not doing anything, an indication that the electoral commission was going to announce the final presidential results.
Ten minutes later, IEBC officials together with security officers started clearing the verification tables that were being used by presidential agents to verify the results from the Returning Officers.
At this time, nobody knew who had won as the two big screens that were placed inside the auditorium were no longer showing real time results garnered by the four Presidential candidates.
The screen was only updated twice on Saturday 13, 2023 at 10.43am in the morning and at 1.03pm. When the commissioners who announced the results in turn were asked about the display of the results in the screens, they casually replied that they would look into it.
In both instances, when the screen was updated, Mr Odinga was having a slim lead against his main competitor. At 10.43am, Mr Odinga had 2,061,909 while Dr Ruto had 1,708,801, and at 1.03pm, Mr Odinga had extended the lead to 2,288,315 while Dr Ruto had moved to 2,036,795.
However, leaders from Kenya Kwanza and Azimio Coalition, those already elected and those who lost, started streaming in each exuding confidence of their candidate’s win.
At around 1pm, IEBC sent out invites that they will finally release the results at 3pm, however that was not the case as the country had to wait for another three hours.
At around 2pm, a number of religious leaders led by Anglican Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit arrived at Bomas and were ushered into the VIP lounge. They got into a brief meeting with Mr Chebukati before proceeding to the auditorium.
At this time, there was already a sharp split among the commissioners and tension was high. Sources indicate that the chairman brought this to the attention of the religious leaders but it was too late to mend fences as the dissenting commissioners were already planning to exit Bomas and address a parallel press conference at Serena Hotel later in the day as the chairman together with the two remaining commissioners were getting ready to declare Dr Ruto as the winner of the presidential contest.
It is reported that Mr Chebukati had also dismissed a number of Azimio officials from setting their eyes on the final results although he kept telling them that all was well. This was not until the presidential agents led by Saitabao ole Kanchory were called in to sign the final results.
They were shocked, claiming the numbers do not add up and that a number of votes from a number of constituencies were added in the final tally by the chairman without their verification.
Mr Kanchory together with other Azimio leaders addressed a press conference outside the media centre saying their candidate (Mr Odinga) will not come to Bomas until they verify the results Mr Chebukati was about to announce.
Inside the auditorium around 1.30pm, one of the event organisers in Azimio was frantically making calls inquiring where the seat of the former Prime Minister is, saying he is about to arrive.
“Where is that seat for Jakom, I can’t see it, you know he is about to arrive,” the person said as the choir was making necessary noise with Christian tunes to calm the nerves of the public who had been anxiously waiting for six days for the final presidential results.
“We still don’t know up to now who has won. IEBC tells both camps that they have won. When Azimio goes into a meeting with them, they tell them they have won, they tell the same thing to our competitors,” said an MP from Nyanza serving his second term.
A few minutes to 2pm, protocol officers from the Deputy President’s office made a grand entry into Bomas, making a statement that their boss was just about to arrive.
Azimio, without being told anything, saw the environment was becoming more unfavourable to them as they were not getting proper information about what had happened. One by one, they started jumping into their fuel guzzlers and left Bomas in a huff.
Outside the boardroom where Mr Chebukati and his team were holed up, there was a push and pull of security agencies, mostly in plain clothes.
The situation became so fragile and in no time, guns were drawn, words exchanged, and it was clear that the situation had become dangerous by the minute.
However, the security team of IEBC, attempting to clear the path for the Chairman and his team to make their way to the podium, faced resistance from DCI detectives and other plain clothes officers split the team. This somewhat confused the resisting police units, moving the entire crowd out.
Also read: Kenyan election in facts and figures
Back in the boardroom, Mr Chebukati called his legal director Mr Chrispine Owiye to take the boardroom through ‘in the shortest time possible through article 138’. As soon as Mr Owiye finished, the chairman announced to the room “I have that person, his name is William Ruto.”
Article 134 (4) states that a candidate shall be declared elected as President if the candidate receives more than half of all the votes cast in the election and at least twenty-five per cent of the votes cast in each of more than half of the counties
Upon taking the agents through the provision, Mr Chebukati then asked the agents of all the presidential candidates to sign form 34C. The law requires that agents append their signatures on form 34C.
All agents, except Raila Odinga’s agent Kanchory Saitabao, signed form 34C.
Mr Kanchory expressed frustration with the process claiming there was an elaborate plot to rig the elections.
“We will not allow you to announce these results,” Mr Kanchory said while leaving the room in protest with Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina in tow and addressed a press conference.
It is at this point that Chebukati and his team, feeling satisfied with their steps, attempted to make their way to the podium to announce the results; they were informed by their security detail that they might not make it to the auditorium. Less than 50 metres walk, chaos erupted.
As Mr Chebukati and others were leaving to the auditorium, four commissioners led by vice chairperson Juliana Cherera, Irene Masit, Justus Nyang’aya and Francis Wanderi left Bomas and headed to Serena Hotel to address a separate press conference where they dissociated themselves from the final results that were being announced by Mr Chebukati, saying the final tallying stage of the presidential results was opaque.
While acknowledging that the tallying process had been efficient, they faulted the final verification of results saying it was not transparent.
Back at Bomas, there was chaos and in that melee broadcast live on television, security units obviously at this point taking instructions from different quarters engaged each other in fist fights while protecting their VIPs.
Shell shocked, the members of the diplomatic corps were whisked away back to the boardroom, and the entire IEBC team, also over-powered, retreated back to the boardroom.
At this point they realised the cost of the brief encounter; Prof Guliye was bleeding from a wound on his right knee, and CEO Hussein Marjan appeared to have been hit by a blunt object on the head and was bleeding from an opening on the side of his head. The Chairman, without any physical injury, was sweating profusely and was in panic.
All this while, UDA candidate William Ruto had gained access to Bomas and was following live the incidents on TV from his designated holding room. Those in the room say, the room was well briefed of the goings on and the presidential security team that the deputy president had was coordinating well with the IEBC security team.
Getting restless, Ruto asked his security team to take him to see the chairman of IEBC. He was escorted and made his way to the boardroom where the IEBC chairman, commissioner, and staff were holed up.
As soon as he arrived, Ruto asked the chairman to go back to the podium and announce the results.
“I know I have won this election,” he said, “I am the president elect, my entire family is here. I am directing my security detail to escort you back to the podium and make that announcement.”
At this point, Chebukati protested, “I would rather we call the media here in the boardroom,” he said. “We also have families; we have just been assaulted and I am not willing to bear more risk.”
The room fell silent, only to be interrupted by IEBC’s legal director, who reminded the chairman that while there is no legal requirement for him to go back to the podium and can essentially announce the results from the boardroom, “perception is important, you would be another Samuel Kivuitu.”
Even so, both Prof Guliye and Molu at this point said they were not willing to go back to the podium and they had essentially done their work.
Mr Chebukati, with those words from his legal director and assurances from Dr Ruto of his security, agreed to head back to the podium one final time and finally, after a short ceremony, Mr Chebukati declared William Ruto as the President elect.