Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Six Kenyans urged a court Wednesday to suspend a controversial decision by election officials to scrap a tender process and directly procure an electronic voting system for the August polls.
The petition is the umpteenth disruption to already chaotic election preparations, a sensitive process in a country where accusations of rigging accompany almost every vote.
The tender was awarded to French defence and biometrics company Safran last month, pushing aside another French company Gemalto, which was lined up to win the contract in a bidding process launched in December.
In court documents seen by AFP, the six petitioners argue that the entire process was “manipulated and rigged… to culminate in an artificial crisis that would then be used to justify the single sourcing”.
The two companies were among 10 vying for a contract to provide biometric equipment to identify voters on the day of the August 8 presidential and parliamentary elections, and send results electronically to a central hub.
The aim of the system is to prevent fraud through double voter registration or impersonation which are rife when manual voter registers are used.
Accusations of fraud after 2007 elections fuelled post-poll violence that left more than 1,100 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Gemalto was the only company to pass preliminary technical evaluations, however on March 22 the electoral commission (IEBC) cancelled the tender, arguing that Gemalto’s offer was too expensive and that they doubted it would be able to deliver the technology on time.
The IEBC then directly awarded the contract to Safran.
Safran is no stranger to Kenyan elections.
In 2013, the company provided kits to register voters — large black boxes equipped with digital fingerprint readers.
However the country’s first taste of high-tech elections turned into a fiasco as massive technical problems on voting day forced officials to revert to manual voter identification.
Losing candidate Raila Odinga cried foul, however urged his supporters to remain calm, avoiding a repeat of 2007 violence.
This year incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta — son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — is seeking re-election.
However it is unclear whether he will once again face off against Odinga — son of the doyen of Kenyan opposition Jaramogi Oginga Odinga — in another round of a long rivalry between the two political dynasties.
Several opposition parties have united in a coalition to try to unseat Kenyatta, but with just over three months to go they are still agonising over who will be their flag-bearer.