As the bitter blame game rages within the Azimio One Kenya coalition on the reasons its presidential candidate was defeated, one official who worked closely with agents, who were deployed at polling stations, has spoken out on how the process was bungled.
The official claims the agents had been identified, given a down payment and trained, ready for deployment, only for a top official in the coalition to present a new list of agents on the eve of election day. And that was how things began to go awry, adding to a string of failures that once again undermined Mr Raila Odinga’s State House bid. The official, who sought anonymity, spoke to Mercy Simiyu
I was among the county liaison officers and I worked with the Azimio Secretariat. We had 57 people in charge of the election and they were to manage agents across the country. We have 47 counties, but big counties like Nairobi and Kakamega required two or three people managing the election there.
We had a good programme for the agents, money was available for them. We had structures. Actually, for the chief agents, we employed lawyers to be the constituency and county chief agents. We had 290 lawyers as constituency chief agents and 47 lawyers as county chief agents, and we had the polling agents.
Unlike the previous elections, this time we were more organised and we covered a lot of ground during the campaigns – more than we did in 2017. The messaging was good, and, generally, the management of the campaign was okay.
But many things transpired because it is a scenario where our candidate was working with the President. And Azimio had many parties – 26.
Initially, we had an office in Lavington, then three days to elections, we were offered another office in Westlands – the entire third floor of the office block by one of the President’s closest aides. It was the best office, with good equipment.
“We had a good programme before it backfired. We trained the agents and prepared them on how to handle the elections. We even made the down payment of Sh1,500, and we were to pay them Sh5,000 each.
But on the eve of the elections, one of the top officials, a close ally of Mr Odinga, messed up the agents’ plan. It was a scenario where you have trained people, let’s say 1,500 in a constituency, then he comes and asks ‘how did you find these people?’.
Then he gives you a different list and says ‘Work with these people’; and it is hours to the election, you don’t know who they are, you don’t know where they came from and then you are being instructed to send the letters to people who are not trained.
We messed up with the agents. He (the Odinga ally) did not misappropriate the money, because he was not handling the money for the agents, but he came with a different list and instructed us to use that list, yet we had four hours to opening of the polling stations.
How would we have started sending those letters? How were we to train the newcomers?
In the end, the agents were changed at 2am and there was not enough time to ensure all the logistics were in place, including having their introductory letters ready and accreditation as agents.
As a consequence, on election day, we did not have presidential agents in some areas, including Kisii, Kajiado, Narok, some counties in North-Eastern and Coast. How do you start calling 1,000 people to start going to those constituencies?
(A Nation analysis of the results posted on the electoral commission’s portal confirms this. For instance, Form 34A from Chepkisa Primary School’s stream 1 in Emurua Dikirr constituency in Narok is only signed by a UDA agent. Here, Raila got four votes, Mwaure Waihiga had one, and William Ruto had 285 of the 290 valid votes cast.)
We did not have agents because of those issues. People are saying we did not pay agents. In this scenario, whom were we going to pay? You have two lists – the trained and the untrained.
So, in the morning, the ones we trained reported to their respective polling centres but were not allowed to access polling stations because they did not have letters of appointment. So getting Form 34As became a problem because we did not have agents.
We worked with a Cabinet secretary. The team from State House spent time at the command centre – our office in Lavington. Two days to election, you would find the two, the CS and a PS, staying up to 3am.
We asked them how safe we were but they said ‘kila kitu kiko sawa (everything is okay).
They even said we had a parallel tallying system but they never showed it to us.
They only promised us we would win the election.
For me, Raila was lied to and misled by these people. When I asked him ‘Mzee, is everything okay?’ he would say ‘everything is under control.’ The PS and the CS gave Mzee false hope. We lost because of our ignorance.
Raila tried in this election, but he was let down by his closest allies and maybe he also relaxed, thinking the government would play a big role in this election. I asked the PS, when the results were about to be declared at Bomas, on whose instructions the police officers were working.
He said everything was under control and if you have government goodwill all indications are that it should work in your favour.
They were there physically but their hearts were elsewhere. After the results were announced, they all disappeared. Only the CS came once.
Even one of Raila’s closest advisers, the only thing he kept saying was ‘pima suti’ (‘make yourself a suit’, ostensibly, for Mr Odinga’s swearing-in),” the official concluded.