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Three Venezuelans arrested with election material causes confusion

 

Two weeks to the polls in Kenya, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), is engaged in a war of words with the police after three Venezuelans were arrested on July 21, at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, with possession of election materials.

The three Venezuelans identified as Jose Gregorio Camargo Castellanos, Joel Gustavo Rodriguez Garcia and Salvador Javier Sosa Suarez are employees of Smartmatic International B.V. the firm contracted by the electoral commission to supply election technology for the August 9 election.

The Electoral body, says the arrest of the three experts and confiscating the material they were carrying, which has been identified as stickers, amounts to harassment from the police, and that might derail the election preparedness.

The three were also arrested with a laptop, a personal monitor, five flash discs, one mobile phone and assorted personal computer accessories.

IEBC also says  the three were placed in solitary confinement, despite the commission explaining to the security authorities that the personnel were in Kenya to execute a lawful contract.

“The arrest is an exhibition of intimidation on hardworking persons contracted,” IEBC said in a statement.

What the police are saying

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti has come out to explain that the three Venezuelans were arrested after their personal bags were identified to contain election materials, and raised questions why the materials had been brought in the country as personal property.

Kinoti says , upon further investigations the  police have established that the contracts of the three Venezuelans did not explicitly state they were employees of the electoral body and the IT firm as alleged by the IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

In a statement, the head of Criminal investigation has also revealed that the confiscated bags contained 17 rolls of stickers targeted to be deployed  at 10,000 polling stations in 10 counties.

The report by the police has left Kenyans with a big question, between the electoral body and the police who are telling the truth on this matter, that puts the polling body on the spot.

Surprisingly, the police conclude in their preliminary  investigation that the foreigners had travelled to engage in  personal business with a person identified as Abdulahi Abdi Mohamed, who according to the police is not an employee of the electoral commission.

Political reactions

Deputy President William Ruto, one of the leading Presidential candidates has come out strongly to support the IEBC alleging that the government is using the police to blackmail the electoral body with intentions to favour his opponent, Raila Odinga. Watch also this report by K 24 TV.

Speaking in a campaign rally, he further claimed that the arrest of the foreigners was a plot to force the electoral body to abandon technology and instead use a manual register to compromise with the poll results.

“You’re competing against us, leave the IEBC alone,” he said.

However, Odinga has remained silent on the matter during his campaigns, only his close ally praising the police for the arrest of the Venezuelans.

Kalonzo Musyoka, says the incident is a red flag of a possible election rigging plan and the police did the right thing to arrest the foreigners he claimed were being used to interfere with the upcoming polls.

“We fear that such a move can be used for votes stuffing on August 9.” He said.

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