Police in Kenya have arrested three contractors working for the electoral commission when they landed at the country’s main airport in Nairobi. The arrests could add to tensions in the run-up to the August 9 general election, as previous votes have been marred by allegations of fraud.
The electoral commission had said in a statement that three employees of voting technology firm Smartmatic were arrested on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. IEBC has contracted Smartmatic to supply, test and maintain software, hardware, and accessories for the election.
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 IEBC has condemned the arrests as "intimidation, harassment and blackmail."
"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 said they were not notified about the import of election materials beforehand. “The stickers were not accompanied by an IEBC official as per routine procedure,” police spokesman Bruno Shioso said in a statement.
Deputy President William Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza coalition, former prime minister Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja coalition are leading contenders in what will prove to be a tight race.
Wiper leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, has asked the IEBC to ensure the forthcoming election is free and fair. Kalonzo who has been ODM leader Raila Odinga's running mate in two elections spoke during an Azimio rally at the Mkunguni Square in Lamu Island on Saturday.
“Raila and I have previously been victims of vote rigging but now we are more alert than ever, and we will not allow that to happen again. In 2013 and 2017, we were elected by Kenyans, but we were out rightly denied that win. This must not be allowed to happen again,” he said to a cheerful crowd.
Wetangula and the Kenya Kwanza coalition of Deputy President William Ruto who is one of the leading presidential contenders, however, dismissed the claim as far-fetched and dared anyone with evidence to table it.
Past elections have descended into violence, with the most recent one in 2017 culminating in a nullified result, a runoff vote, and street riots. Experts are already predicting that the results could be challenged in the Supreme Court, and the decision could provoke violence and a prolonged period of unrest