Kenya: Outrage Over ODM's Vote Guarding Unit As Ruto Asks Raila to Apologise

Deputy President William Ruto.
10 November 2019

The activities of an amorphous group linked to the Orange Democratic Movement in the just-concluded Kibra by-election are the focus of investigative agencies in the wake of claims by the Jubilee side that the group intimidated, harassed and threatened opponents.

Deputy President William Ruto and his allies on Saturday claimed they were openly harassed by the "militia group" going by the name ODM Vote Protection Unit.

At the same time, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said that those who instigated the violence in Kibra will be held personally responsible once police investigations have been concluded, but Kibra OCPD Lucas Ogaro last evening told the Sunday Nation that no one had filed any complaint yet.

Mr Haji made the comments a day after ODM candidate Bernard Okoth emerged victorious with 24,636 votes against the 11,230 garnered by Jubilee's McDonald Mariga in the mini-election whose turnout was less than 40 per cent.

NO FAVOURITES

The DPP said that the police are already on the ground "and we are waiting for them to bring the files for action".

"The leaders who incited the youth, including politicians, and the actual perpetrators of the violence will all be brought to book once we access the weight of the evidence brought to us," Mr Haji said on the sidelines of a youth conference on integrity in public service in Nairobi.

He said his office has prosecuted senior officers in government, including Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, MPs and other politicians, and that those who will be found culpable in Kibra will not be an exception.

The ODM Vote Protection Unit, an amorphous group of Raila Odinga's supporters, was tasked to guard the votes of ODM candidate Imram Okoth and to sniff out and deal with any cases of electoral malpractice.

The unit is claimed to have been under the command of Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati and his Embakasi East counterpart Babu Owino.

INTIMIDATION

Mr Arati told the Sunday Nation that his team was in Kibra to guard Mr Okoth's votes and did not engage in any violent activities.

"I actually saved my fellow politicians from mobs baying for their blood after they were accused of buying votes," Mr Arati said.

But Dr Ruto disagreed, noting in a tweet Saturday that "the only strategy and structure Tinga's party had, and which largely succeeded, was violence, chaos, mayhem and terror meted out by organised militia, the same instruments used by terrorist organisations and outlawed groups".

"How sad they have learnt nothing from the handshake!" he exclaimed.

He repeated the claims while on a tour of Gilgil, saying Mr Odinga would have lost the Kibra seat had there been no violence on voting day.

For the better part of voting day on Thursday, scores of youth intimidated and harassed politicians affiliated to the Tangatanga movement.

Some of the politicians who were either threatened with violence, beaten, ejected from polling stations or forced to flee included MPs Nelson Koech (Belgut), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho Senator), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Vincent Musyoka Kawaya (Mwala), Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East) and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.

ELECTION VIOLENCE

The others are Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and South Mugirango's Silvanus Osoro. Mr Gachagua's car was stoned and his bodyguards forced to shoot in the air for them to escape from a mob baying for their blood.

Mr Kawaya, the Mwala MP, asked Mr Odinga to denounce election violence, while Mr Barasa lamented that security agencies were showing no interest in investigating the agony he suffered allegedly in the hands of Mr Arati and Wajir Woman Representative Fatuma Gedi, whom he claimed meted violence on him.

Mr Osoro, who came to the tallying centre wearing sunglasses and a Muslim kanzu, was roughed up and his bodyguards disarmed by the mobs, who later returned the guns.

He said he defended himself by also roughing up Mathare North Ward MCA Jared Okoth.

But Mr Odinga's spokesperson Dennis Onyango told the Sunday Nation that Dr Ruto's allies were using the violence narrative as an excuse for their embarrassing loss.

"The people of Kibra went to polls on Thursday to pick a new MP. They picked the ODM candidate and rejected a candidate presented by the rebel Jubilee wing of William Ruto. ODM resoundingly won that election," Mr Onyango said.

VOTER BRIBERY

He said that the party was using lessons from the victory to plan ahead. "ODM and Raila Odinga are moving forward to equally important battles. Ruto can continue analysing the Kibra by-election. We are plotting for the next contest, not the previous one," Mr Onyango added.

Mr Khalwale, Mr Barasa and Mr Washiali were among those captured on camera engaging the youth in running battles that disrupted voting in some areas.

Violence was reported in various part of the constituency, with residents claiming that politicians who were acting as agents of their party candidates were not required.

They were accused of bribing voters so as to influence their voting.

Officers from the Kenya police service, Rapid Deployment Unit, General Service Unit, Administration Police, Flying Squad and the National Youth Service were deployed to maintain law and order.

NO ARRESTS MADE

Speaking in Gilgil, Dr Ruto called on the ODM party hierarchy to offer unqualified apology to Kenyans over the Kibra chaos, accusing the opposition outfit of thriving in intimidation and violence.

"The party and its leaders should, in public and equivocally, renounce the culture of intimidation and violence which are the tools of trade for terrorists and outlawed gangs and have no place in the decision making process and politics of this nation," he said.

Senator Susan Kihika accused Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i of failing to arrest those she accused of perpetuating the Kibra violence.

"What we saw in Kibra is heartbreaking. Why is the CS and his PS not taking action despite telling evidence? Your silence is very loud and suspicious," she said.

Mr Gachagua also faulted Dr Matiang'i for failing to order any arrests, warning that the culture of violence was likely to take root in the future due to inaction by the police.

Additional reporting by Macharia Mwangi.

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