KENYA DECIDES

Kenya’s electoral commission denies the voting system was hacked

Quartz africa
Quartz africa

Kenya’s electoral commission called on Kenyans to remain “calm” on Wednesday night (Aug. 9), after protests erupted in parts of the country over inconsistencies of provisional results.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said it was still counting the results of the general election and dismissed the opposition’s claim that hackers gained entry into its electoral database, introducing errors that tampered with the election results. Opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his NASA coalition had earlier in the day called the results “fake.” They later claimed that the electoral system was manipulated using passwords stolen from the slain electoral official Chris Msando, who was in charge of the voting technology.

“Our election management system is secure,” said Ezra Chiloba, the chief executive officer of IEBC. “We confirm there were no interferences before, during and after the polling exercise.”

On Tuesday (Aug. 8), more than 19.6 million Kenyans voted to elect their next president, as well legislative, gubernatorial, women, and regional county representatives. As of 7 am on Thursday, provisional results from the electoral commission’s website put incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta in the lead with over 54.2% of the votes counted to Odinga’s 44.8%—a margin of 1.39 million votes with over 77% of the presidential ballots counted.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki greet each other in a tally centre in Nairobi
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, observers for the general election in Kenya, greet each other next to former Senegalese Prime Minister Aminata Toure in a tally centre in Nairobi, Kenya. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

As the results trickled in, members of the opposition and observer organizations said some of the partial results being streamed online didn’t correspond with those from the paper forms signed at the country’s 40,883 polling stations. Under election rules, the Form 34A is used to tabulate results at the polling stations. Once observers have all signed, they are scanned and electronically transmitted to the 290 constituency tallying centers, which collate all the results into Form 34Bs and send it to the electoral commission’s national tallying center.

In light of the disputed results, the chairman of the commission Wafula Chebukati said the partial results as shown on the commission’s website “are not the official results.” In a bid to show transparency, the commission said it had received 29,000 34A forms, and uploaded 22,257 to its public portal. As of 10:30 pm, only 10 34B forms had been received out of the expected 290. IEBC also said that 1,200 polling stations were yet to report any results more than 24 hours since voting ended.

Angry protests and street battles with the police roiled the opposition’s base in Kisumu county and in the capital Nairobi. At least five people were killed, with flaming tires used to barricade sections of the Kibera slum—an Odinga stronghold—while the police shot dead an Odinga supporter in Mathare slum, according to witnesses.

Meanwhile, former US secretary of state John Kerry called for patience. Kerry said the commission had a strong system that would ensure the results tallied are what is announced. The East African Community’s observer group also commended the IEBC for holding a “free and fair” election, and urged losers to accept the outcome or seek legal redress over disputes.

People walk near flaming tyre barricade in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, August 9, 2017.
People walk near flaming tyre barricade in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. (Reuters/Marius Bosch)

Matt Carotenuto, an associate professor of Kenyan history at St. Lawrence University, says that despite the tension, it is unlikely that it will lead to widespread unrest. “If there is credible evidence of any major irregularities, I expect some protests to occur but for the judiciary to step in to quickly resolve any legal disputes.”

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