It’s all systems go for Bonchari by-election
A high-powered security team was yesterday deployed in Bonchari constituency ahead of today’s by-election raising questions about the motive even as candidates conducted low-key campaigns.
Local politicians led by Governor James Ongwae, Senator Sam Ongeri and Woman Rep Janet Ong’era have accused Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i of using state machinery to campaign for one of the candidates.
Police raid at Ongwae’s Kisii home on Thursday last week has particularly raised tension and angered Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leaders, even as the National Police Service refuted claims that the CS was interfering with the poll.
Matiang’i has dissociated himself with the by-election that is being held in his backyard.
The race seems to have narrowed to three candidates, notably ODM Pavel Oimeke, Jubilee’s Zebedeo Opore and UDA’s Teresa Bitutu. The three have rallied strong support from their clans.
Yesterday, hundreds of armed security officers patrolled Suneka town, which will be the national electoral agency’s command centre. This happened even as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) dispatched ballot materials to all 103 polling stations in readiness for the mini poll.
Returning Officer Benson Ambuko said polling officers have been deployed to the stations ahead of the polls, which will be conducted in strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols.
“Voters will be required to wear masks, sanitise and their temperatures will betaken before they are allowed to vote,” Ambuko told the press during a briefing at Suneka Tallying Centre, adding that the area has 52,995 registered voters.
He said the Ministry of the Education had allowed the commission to use schools in the area, which double up as polling stations. Earlier, Party of Economic Democracy (PED), Victor Omanwa, differed with the RO after word went round that a box with registers for Bogiakumu Ward had been damaged, prompting the latter to explain the registers had not been affected.
“ We have checked the registers and they are intact. The election will be free and fair,” Ambuko assured.
Omanwa, accompanied by his rival, Kevin Mosomi (Party of Democracy Unity) during the inspection of the materials said he was not satisfied with the RO’s explanation, claiming the election will not be free and fair.
“In an election, everything has to be clear so that we read from the same script,” Omanwa told the press after the briefing.
Progressive Party of Kenya ( PPK) candidate Charles Mogaka lauded the government for deploying adequate security to protect the candidates and voters, adding he expected the election to be peaceful.
“We are going to the election with high expectations. The election will be over and there is life beyond politics,” Mogaka told People Daily on the phone yesterday.
Mary Otara, United Green Movement party (UGM) echoed his sentiments and appealed to voters to turn up early and in large numbers to elect their leader.
Other candidates in the race include Jonah Ondieki, The New Democrats (TND), David Ogega, Kenya Social Congress (KSC), Jeremiah Atancha, Agano, Paul Matagaro, Mwangaza, United Democratic Alliance ( UDA), Eric Oigo, National reconstruction ( NRA) and Teresa Gesare, Maendeleo Chap Chap.
On Sunday, Nyanza Regional Commissioner Magu Mutindika warned that stern action will be taken against those who will dare cause chaos and disrupt the election.
The commissioner said they had received information that armed goons had been hired by some individuals to cause mayhem during the voting.
“There are also two vehicles going around loaded with machetes to be used by the goons. We will deal with the situation firmly and decisively,” the commissioner said.