07 * Moi Avenue Primary School – Kenya Elections 2013
From the foot soldier’s perspective: The Kenyan elections 2013 from an election observer’s viewpoint
Chapter 7: Moi Avenue Primary School
Once the dust had settled after the power sharing agreement in 2008, it was time for justice and reconciliation.
Though, the decision seemed rather to have been between justice and reconciliation, instead of both of them. While some killers with or without uniform were taken to courts, Kenyan courts were weary to point out the overall leaders of the bloodshed. As the Kenyan judicial system was not able to do right to justice, in the end the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the United Nations stepped in and took over the matter.
The closer I came to Moi Avenue Primary, the more I got a picture of the situation. Also there were excessively long lines.
When I arrived at the polling station, a convoy of big SUV’s with darkened windows were driven into the compound. I, and everybody else were completely amazed to see the Chairman of the IEBC, Issack Hassan, getting out of one of the cars.
He was accompanied by a heavy security detail, which consisted of the ‘Men-in-Black’ (plain-cloth elite Police officers in dark suits), heavily armed and high ranking Police officers. Hassan came to see the Presiding Officer (‘the boss’) of the polling station in person as major irregularities were happening. So massive were the irregularities, that the IEBC boss felt urged to leave the National Tallying Centre in the middle of the crucial election day and to come in person to the largest polling station of Nairobi.
The Electronic Voter Identification System had also failed here and had caused an administrative chaos in determining who was a legal voter and who had not yet voted, here or somewhere else. In fact, a proper determination was not possible any more. Such was the chaos, that a higher number of votes had been cast already during the day than voters were registered at the station.
I followed Hassan into the room where he was meeting the Presiding Officer, as I wanted to observe the meeting and overhear what they had to discuss. Hassan threatened the Presiding Officer of the station to have his whole station being disqualified, as the irregularities where that massive that no credible results could be guaranteed. If that would happen, it would have major legal consequences for him, the Presiding Officer was told. Hassan ordered him to do whatever needs to be done to rectify the situation.
While I was curious to hear what Hassan’s suggestions would be ‘to rectify this situation’, some men in black suits belonging to Hassan’s security detail approached me and told me to leave the room. I told them, that due to my observer status I had the legal right to be in the room and witness the proceedings, particular as there were irregularities happening. The security officers told me literally, ‘this is none of your business’ and kicked me out by physical force. The same happened to all other observers. Only Hassan and a few other IEBC officials remained in the room, while the security cordoned of the building. I tried to come back a second time, this time trying to listen through a window what they had to discuss and was removed from the window by force again.
When the IEBC started to kick out observers, including the international ones like me, I realized that things were going terribly wrong. By doing so, the IEBC was breaching the very electoral law they were meant to uphold!
I also realized that what I had witnessed in Kibra was not a feature standing on its own. If two major polling stations had severe irregularities like these, this must be a system failure. I decided not to go back to Kibra, but to stay at Moi Avenue. That Hassan and his security detail did not like my presence at Moi Avenue, made my desire to stay there even bigger.
I started to circle like a wolf around the buildings of Moi Avenue Primary School, trying to photograph and record whatever I could. A cat and mouse game unfolded. Whenever I reached a new viewpoint, ‘the Men in Black’ came after me and ordered me to go away. It went that bad, that they even threatened to have me kicked out of the polling station all together, despite my official mission.
What might have saved me from being kicked, is that also the people waiting in the lines started to get upset. Most were standing for hours in the lines and the voting process had meanwhile been suspended for more than one hour. Citizens approached Police officers and IEBC officials and questioned them what was going on. Allegations of rigging were made towards the officials and people demanded the voting to continue. At some stage, security had all hands full to cool down the people.
At long last, Hassan and his staff came out of one of the buildings and hurried to their cars. Asked by a meanwhile arrived TV team, he only announced ‘that there were some problems, but they are solved.’ Before he sped off into the night, he ordered the voting to continue. And so it did.
Even as the voting continued, there was still confusion at times. Now and then, people were told to line up into another stream, and around 8 pm the remaining people were being told that the station is now closed and they should go home. The doors got closed in front of them.
This caused another revolt, as people demanded their right to vote. After another round of nervous IEBC officials making phone calls, the order came that voting could continue again. And so it did, again.
I decided to stay, till the last voter would have voted. At long last, around 10 pm, I witnessed how the last voter cast his vote, maybe he was even the last voter in all of Kenya.
After a short break, the tallying started now also for the last stream. For some of the streams which had closed earlier, the tallying went on already for many hours. I strolled from room to room, to sample how the tallying went, but did not come across any irregularity in regards to the tallying. As much as most people present had a long and tiresome day, IEBC officials, observers and Police officers were observing their duties and fighting against sleep. Around midnight I realized that tallying would go on for the night and left the place to get some sleep.
I had enough things to think about for the day.