From the foot soldier’s perspective: The Kenyan elections 2013 from an election observer’s viewpoint
Chapter 6: Kibra Social Grounds
The bloodshed ended after the UN brokered a power sharing deal between Kibaki and Odinga. Kibaki would stay President, while Odinga would become Prime Minister, hence receiving 50% of Governmental power. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto entered the Kenyan Government as their respective deputies.
I commenced my official election observations in the morning hours of Monday 4th of March 2013 at the Kibra Social Grounds Polling Station, which was located in Kibra (formerly Kibera) right opposite the French Ambassadors Residency.
I was impressed by the peacefulness of the exercise. In Kibra, which is an ethnic hotspot, the situation between the different ‘tribes’ might be often tense. Now representatives of all tribes dwelling in Kibra, were standing in long lines, waiting for their turn to vote. The cross section of tribes standing like brothers and sisters in the lines resembled a miniature Kenya.
The turnout was huge, resulting in long lines and many voters had to wait for hours in the burning sun to reach the ballot boxes. Personally, I thought, how difficult wants a Government to make it for its citizens to execute their democratic right? Voting in Kenya seemed to me almost like a punishment, as a citizen has to be highly motivated and full of democratic belief, to endure to stand for hours in a line under the hot sun.
As the day advanced, the lines grew longer and longer and the voting process became slower and slower. At some stage the voting stopped completely, though no reason was given by the officials. The people waiting in the lines noticed this and tension started to grow. Discussions broke lose, which often turned into heated exchanges of words. Predictable human reactions, not characteristic for Kibra or Kenya, if people go through situations like these.
As I was wandering through the polling station, I realised what was happening. The Electronic Voter Identification System had major failures and had stopped working at some stage all together. This resulted in a manual Voter Identification, based on the printed IEBC Voter Registration lists. Several times during my presence, there was confusion about in which stream (line) particular voters should line up. Several voters where shifted from one stream to another. The explanation by IEBC officials for this was that there was confusion if they should line up according to their first names or family names and secondly, which name was registered in the IEBC Voter Registration System as First name and as Family name.
It seemed to me that the officials at the polling station were inadequately prepared for this situation. As much as they tried to keep their calm, also a sense of utter confusion came over the place. While officials were trying to make the best out of it, many people were wondering how this was possible. As this happened in Kibra’s largest polling station, which was perceived as a stronghold of Raila, people started to wonder aloud if this was actually an act of sabotage and if the same would also have happened at polling stations in Uhuru’s strongholds.
Eager to know if this was only happening at Kibra, I decided to go towards the end of afternoon to the polling station at Moi Avenue Primary School, which was located in an area with a predicted small majority for Uhuru. In case I would find everything working fine over there, I would rush back to Kibra, as I knew then that there was a story developing in Kibra.