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Kenya: Police arrest election contractors

July 22, 2022

Kenya's independent electoral authority has accused police of trying to intimidate polling contractors. The three foreign nationals were later released.

Voters lining up to register with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Nairobi.
The three foreign nationals had been contracted by Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries CommissionImage: Donwilson Odhiambo/Sopa/Zuma/picture alliance

Kenyan authorities have been accused of intimidation in the lead-up to next month's election after three polling contractors were arrested on Thursday.

Police confirmed one foreigner had been detained at the airport for carrying undeclared election stickers, but did not mention the two other election contractors who were arrested. They were released after an investigation.

The country's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has condemned the arrests as "intimidation, harassment and blackmail."

Wafula Chebukati, the Chairman of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, speaking at a press conference in Nairobi.
Wafula Chebukati, the Chairman of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, condemned the arrestImage: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP

The IEBC said three foreign contractors represented Smartmatic, the electronic voting system manufacturer that has been contracted to run the presidential election in August. They had arrived in Nairobi from Venezuela.

"The brazen decision of the security authorities to arrest, detain and confine in a solitary hideout the three personnel without justification, is an exhibition of intimidation," IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in a statement.

Police cite 'sentivity' of election materials

Police said they has not been alerted that foreigners would be carrying sensitive election material — in this case, IEBC stickers — without a local electoral authorities accompanying them.

"The stickers were not accompanied by an IEBC official as per routine procedure," police spokesman Bruno Shioso said in a statement on Friday.

He added: "The arrest, impounding and subsequent investigations into the material was necessitated by the sensitivity of elections material."

Kenya's elections have been marred by irregularities in the past.

In 2017, Kenya's supreme court ordered a re-run of the presidential election, citing widespread irregularities in the electronic transmission of results and mismanagement by the IEBC.

zc/wmr (AFP, Reuters)

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