Violence mars Msambweni mini poll as MPs exchange blows

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020 00:00 |
A Man is arrested in Msambweni for alleged voter bribery. BELOW: Former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama is led away by security officers after he was arrested in Msambweni, yesterday. Photo/PD/Bonny Msangi

Munira Mandano

Violence, insults and destruction of property marred the Msambweni by-election yesterday when supporters of Deputy President William Ruto clashed with the camp allied to Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Several leaders were arrested in running battles that characterised the mini-poll, with former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama spending hours in police custody.

Muthama was arrested and detained at the Port Police Station in Mombasa County as chaos rocked voting day in Msambweni in neighbouring Kwale.

He was whisked away by heavily armed policemen to “keep peace”

Chaos started after Muthama led a team of politicians allied to Ruto’s camp to the Jomo Kenyatta Primary School polling station to “protect” votes of one of Feisal Bader, an Independent candidate.

Former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale was also briefly arrested before being set free. Also detained when he went to the scene to intervene was Belgut MP Nelson Koech. He was, however, freed minutes later.

By the time of going to press last night, Muthama was still being detained at the station.  

Tension was palpable right from the time voting opened with MPs allied to the two leading contenders, Bader and ODM’s Omar Boga clashing at various polling stations with each side accusing the other of plotting to steal the election.

Caught in the fracas was Nyali MP Mohamed Ali whose vehicle was pelted with missiles after he came face to face with the rival group led by Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho and Nyali politician Abdalla Said alias “Saido” at the Jomo Kenyatta Primary School polling centre.

Ali later reported the attack at the Diani Police Station, accusing Joho and Saido of sponsoring the violence.

In yet another incident, Ali almost came to blows with his Mvita counterpart Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir at Mwaroni Primary School polling station after two supporters of the ODM candidate were assaulted allegedly by Bader’s supporters.

Separately, marauding gangs, one led by a local Member of Parliament who was leading Bader’s campaigns alongside Ali and Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and the other led by a governor engaged in running battles within the constituency for the better part of the day.

Morning chill

This affected the turnout with many residents staying away to avoid being caught up in the violence.

Voting had kicked off peacefully in the 219 polling stations across the constituency at dawn with residents braving the morning chill to troop to the various polling centres to cast their ballots.

Voting largely kicked off to a smooth start across the coastal constituency amid low turnout, with eight candidates cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to contest in the by-election occasioned by the death of area MP Suleiman Dori in March.

They included Boga, Bader, Charles Bilali (Independent), Marere Wamwachai (National Vision Party), Hassan Mwakulonda (Party of Economic Democracy), Mahmoud Sheikh (Wiper Party), Khamis Mwakaonje (United Green Movement) and Mansury Kumaka (Independent).

Boga cast his vote at 8am in Jogoo grounds polling station in Ukunda Township while Bader voted at 10.30 am at Gazi Primary School polling station.

On the eve of the by-election, more than 60 MPs and senators allied to Ruto had stormed the constituency, allegedly to “defend” Bader’s votes.

The MPs arrived on Monday evening and held a strategy meeting at a Diani Hotel to assign duties.

“As the chair of the Team Feisal and Tanga Tanga we will ensure our votes are fully guarded and nobody will steal them,” Muthama had told People Daily on Monday night. 

Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani on his part, said that each of the MPs had been assigned a duty to perform during the voting.

“Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and I are the overall chief agents. We are moving around all the polling stations to make sure everything is going on well with the exercise being smooth,” Mwashetani said.

He noted that the rest of the MPs would camp at the various polling stations within the constituency to ensure smooth running of the exercise.

“Kimani Ichung’wa and his team are at Mwakigwena polling station, Oscar Sudi at Jogoo, Sylvanus Osoro at Muhaka polling station, Vincent Mogaka Kemosi at Mwaroni, Nixon Korir at Vingujini, among others. The ones I have mentioned are just team leaders,” he said.

Sense defeat

At Gasi polling station where Bader voted, Soi MP Caleb Kositany accused the police of intimidating Bader’s supporters, forcing some of their agents to leave.

“We still wonder why the Msambweni OCPD and DCI were forced to leave the area last night and were replaced with other officers from other areas,” he claimed.

“I am the one in charge of security of Feisal’s votes and I will make sure that they are very safe and will not be intimidated by anyone,” Ali said.

“Our opponents’ goons have started intimidating us in polling stations, we are alert and will not accept what they are planning to do,” Ali said.

But Likoni MP Mishi Mboko dismissed Muthama and his team, saying their group team will not be intimidated by their rivals.

“This seat is ours, whatever strategies they are making we do not care after all we know we will win,” Mboko said.

She said that Feisal’s team had sensed defeat hence their complaints about voter intimidation.

The cosmopolitan constituency has 69,003 registered voters spread across four assembly wards of Ukunda, Ramisi, Kinondo and Bongwe/Gombato.

Msambweni Returning officer Yusuf Abubakar said all the 219 polling stations were disinfected ahead of the voting day.

“The Msambweni mini-poll is taking place under the shadow of Covid-19 and thus we have put in place strict regulations in the polling stations to combat the spread of the coronavirus,” he said.

As voting kicked off, specially designated IEBC clerks ensured voters washed their hands and observed social distancing as they queued to cast their ballots.

More on News