Kenya 2022: Three Venezuelans arrested with election material, causing confusion

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 26 July 2022 15:05

Ballot boxes and election materials are seen at a tallying centre in Kisumu, Kenya 27 October 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Two weeks to the polls in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is engaged in a war of words with the police after three Venezuelans were arrested on 21 July at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi in 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 9 August election.

The IEBC says the arrest of the three individuals and confiscation of the materials they were carrying, which have been identified as election stickers, amounts to harassment from the police and might derail the preparation process.

The arrest is an exhibition of intimidation on hardworking persons contracted [for the job].

They were also arrested with a laptop, a personal monitor, five flash discs, one mobile phone and an assortment of personal computer accessories.

According to the IEBC, the three were placed in solitary confinement despite the commission explaining to the authorities that they were in Kenya to execute a lawful contract.

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

What the police are saying

The Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti later explained that the three Venezuelans were arrested after their bags were found to have election materials, which raised questions as to why the items had been brought into the country as personal property.

Kinoti said upon further investigations, the police established that the contracts of the three Venezuelans did not explicitly state they were employees of the electoral body or the IT firm as was alleged by the IEBC.

In a statement, Kinoti revealed that the confiscated bags contained 17 rolls of stickers targeted to be deployed to 10,000 polling stations in 10 counties.

 

The police also concluded that the foreigners had travelled to engage in personal business with a person identified as Abdulahi Abdi Mohamed, who is reportedly not an employee of the electoral commission.

The trading of accusations between the electoral body and the police, just weeks before the general elections, has left Kenyans wondering who is fooling who?

Political reaction

Deputy President William Ruto, one of the leading presidential candidates, has expressed his support for the IEBC, alleging that the government is using the police to blackmail the electoral body, with intentions to favour his opponent, Raila Odinga.

Speaking at 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 the poll results.

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

Odinga, for his part, has remained silent on the matter, with only his close ally, Kalonzo Musyoka, praising the police for the arrest of the Venezuelans.

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.

“We fear that such a move can be used for votes [rigging] on 9 August,” he said.

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