Kenya 2022: Whistleblower’s confession questions IEBC credibility

By Jeff Otieno
Posted on Tuesday, 23 August 2022 16:31

Kenya's opposition leader Odinga files a petition challenging the presidential election result
A petition is seen on the day Kenya's opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga, of the Azimio La Umoja files it to challenge the presidential election result, in Nairobi, Kenya August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A confession by a whistleblower that a team of computer experts hacked the electoral body’s server and manipulated presidential votes have raised more questions about the credibility of the concluded elections. Will the Supreme Court uphold or nullify William Ruto’s win?

A damning revelation by a whistleblower on how the presidential vote tallies were allegedly manipulated has thrown more doubt on the credibility of this year’s elections.

In an affidavit before the Supreme Court, the whistleblower – whose identity is concealed – confesses he was part of a team of 56 people dubbed “The Team” who had been recruited to manipulate results.

“A team of 10 computer specialists headed ‘The Team’ to undertake the task,” says the whistleblower who is quoted in the court documents.

According to the whistleblower, they were commissioned to receive forms 34A that were sent to their server “where ‘The Team’ edited the results before uploading them on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) portal.”

Forms 34A are used to document presidential results from the polling stations. The county returning officers complete and sign the document, which is then submitted to the IEBC portal.

The task was to collect form 34As from Kiems [Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System] Kits and send them to their server/platform, which he called ‘Uchaguzi Tallying’ and used the alias ‘Uchaguzi 2022’.

 “After receiving the data, they would edit the form 34As in accordance with the instructions given and then upload the edited form 34As on to the IEBC portal,” the CEO of Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi organisation, John Githongo, who introduced the whistleblower to the case challenging the presidential election results, says in an affidavit.

The document is part of the evidence Azimio La Umoja Coalition flagbearer Raila Odinga and some human rights activists are using to challenge the declaration of William Ruto as the winner of the presidential election held on 9 August.

Eight cases contesting Ruto’s win

By the deadline day, 22 August, eight cases contesting Ruto’s win had been received and certified by the Supreme Court. The cases are expected to be heard next week. The Supreme Court has 14 days to deliver judgement on the contested presidential election.

As 46 other people were accessing, entering and manipulating the entries, the whistleblower and colleagues were busy overseeing the whole assignment to ensure it succeeded.

The whistleblower and other individuals involved in the scam were allegedly told that they had access to the IEBC servers and that the goal was “to subtract votes from one candidate and add to another candidate”.

In one of the Form 34As from Baringo, Tiaty constituency, the numbers were changed from zero to 35 and had two stamps: one for the IEBC and the other for ‘The Team’, the affidavit adds.

Githongo is asking the court to allow him to submit a video of the young man as evidence to prove that the presidential elections were not free and fair as claimed by the IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

“We managed to convince him to record this evidence in camera. We further assured him that we would cover his face and disguise his voice to conceal his identity and thus ensure his and his family’s safety and security. He accepted this request. We thus recorded this evidence,” says Githongo.

Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi was part of several observer groups that sent representatives all over the country.

Githongo claims that the individual was introduced to him on 18 August 2022 by a colleague at the Batian Hotel’s suites on Argwings Kodhek Road in Nairobi.

“He revealed shocking details of how he and others were involved in a fraudulent scheme to interfere with, and compromise, the IEBC electoral data transmission system to manipulate the presidential election results,” the Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi CEO says.

Video evidence

Some political analysts argue that if the evidence is proven to be true then there is a high chance the judges will rule that the elections did not pass the credibility test.

However, John Charo, a political analyst, says Azimio La Umoja lawyers will have to do a lot to convince the judges to allow the video as evidence, especially one that has been distorted to conceal the identity of an individual.

Charo says that Ruto and the IEBC lawyers will definitely discredit the authenticity of the video and ask the judges not to allow it as evidence.

“Nonetheless, if the confession is proved to be true then the repercussions are dire for those involved in the scam. [The] IEBC will also stand indicted and Kenyans’ trust in the electoral body will definitely decline even further,” he says.

Infiltration of election technology

The alleged infiltration of  technology and manipulation of results is also the basis of a separate petition filed by human rights activists Khelef Khalifa.

Through lawyer Willis Ochieng, Khalifa wants the court to order an audit of all the electoral technology deployed in the August election and for all petitioners to be granted access to the Kiems kits claiming infiltration affected the credibility of the election.

“Technology is meant to be an enabler of the rights of the people to vote, when technology is compromised it ends up undermining the rights of the voters. We are of the view that the technology deployed by [the] IEBC in this election was one that did not facilitate the exercise and actualisation of the right to vote in the manner required under the law,” says Ochieng.

Based on technology challenges witnessed on election day, human rights activist Okiya Omtatah, in another petition, maintains that none of the presidential candidates achieved the 50% plus one threshold required by the constitution to be declared the winner.

Untallied votes

The newly-elected Busia Senator argues that the IEBC’s math is incorrect, adding that the final results were not based on the absolute total number of votes cast and did not factor in some 140,028 votes, which he says would alter the outcome of the final results.

His calculations in the petition places all candidates below the 50% mark, with William Ruto scoring 49.9% and Raila Odinga 48.3%.

“Based on calculations, the 140,028 number of untallied votes substantially affects the final results to the extent that none of the four candidates meets the 50% + 1 constitutional threshold,” he says in the petition.

The petition says the IEBC records show that the total number valid votes to be 14,213,027 votes, while rejected votes is 113,614 bringing the total number of votes cast to stand at 14,326,641.

Chebukati had earlier said that the aforesaid number, if compared to the total number of registered voters, which was 22,120,458, brought the voter turnout percentage to 64.77%.

However, Omtatah points out that a different figure was given by the commission on 9 August after the official closure of the polls claiming that Chebukati said the voter turnout stood at 65.4%, “based on the verification of the Kiems kits which were functional during the process of voting”.

“The chairperson further noted that the 65.4% voter turnout was minus the voter turnout from polling stations where Kiems kits had malfunctioned and the commission had authorised the use of the manual register for voting,” he says in the petition.

Based on the foregoing statement, Omtatah argues that the total votes cast should then stand at 14,466,779, “which now means that some 140,138 votes were untallied”.

The human rights activist adds that the untallied votes (140,138) should then be added to the initial total number of votes entailed in Chebukati’s form (14,213,027) to get the actual amount of the total tallied votes. This totals to 14,353,165 valid votes.

50% plus one target

Omtatah therefore notes that if the new number of votes are calculated against the votes that each candidate got to get their percentage, none amounts to the 50 plus 1% threshold. He says Ruto will have 49.99%, Raila 48.37%, Waihiga 0.22% and Wajackoyah 0.43%.

Lawyer Arnold Maliba says Omtatah’s petition is likely to be weighty based on the arguments made.

“I looked at how he structured it and being a common figure in the corridors of justice, he has become very surgical and precise overtime. I think Omtatah’s is one of the petitions that could easily shape these elections,” says Maliba.

Maliba says unlike Omtatah’s case, Odinga’s petition is more a fishing expedition “with the hope that one of the numerous issues raised will stick”.

According to Aketch Migai, an advocate of the high court, the eight petitions challenging Ruto’s win are likely to be consolidated, with Raila Odinga’s being the main one.

“There are three things that an election court can do: it can recount the ballots cast, it can order a scrutiny of the votes and finally, it can nullify an election […] if it is proved that there was substantial violation of the constitution and the Elections Act.”

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