2013-12-15 (Kenya) Elections in Kenya

By December 15, 2013December 16th, 2015ELECTIONS INDUSTRY, PURCHASING

Kenya’s March 2013 election was marred by significant irregularities. The installed president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Deputy President William Ruto have both been charged with crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in 2007-08 post-election violence.


Freedom: “Partly free” rating 3.5 on a scale of 1-6, with 6 being least free.1

Election Risk: Very High, rated 8.5 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most at risk for election fraud.2

2013 Corruption Perception Index: Transparency International ranked Kenya 136, out of 177 countries, with 177 being the worst rating.3

Kenya’s election risk rating is higher than one might expect based on its relatively decent civil freedoms, high level of political participation, and energetic, sometimes brilliant citizen-initiated transparency innovations. Its high election risk rating stems from the confluence of four factors:

(1) Persistent election fraud over at least a decade;

(2) Recent history of election violence, in which over 1,000 Kenyan citizens were killed and at least 300,000 displaced from their homes. The sitting Kenyan president and his deputy president are both under indictment for their alleged roles in assisting and helping to finance this violence;

(3) Significant public corruption, including procurement corruption for Kenya’s 2012 ballot printing order and also for Kenya’s electronic system (biometric registration, electronic pollbooks, and electronic transmission system for results). Currently four Kenyan officials are under indictment for procurement fraud related to purchase of the electronic systems, and a United Kingdom-based ballot printing firm has been charged with bribery related to Kenya’s ballot printing contract;

(4) Significant, unresolved false numbers in Kenya’s 2013 general election, including a large number of mystery voters appearing unexplained on Election Day voting rosters who were not on the official final voter list; more votes than voters; refusal to provide disaggregated polling place results; large discrepancies in ballots cast reports, a number of significant equipment malfunctions, and several regulatory violations.


There was a dreadful, ultimately violent result in the 2007 general election, in which discrepancies between local results and nationally reported results did not match (following long delays in reporting presidential results, blamed at one point on disappearing returning officers who carried results sheets from local to national — even though the other offices for those same locations somehow had arrived).

Therefore, goes the story, a special automated telephone system was needed to relay results more expediently from local to national reporting. In such systems, the absolutely crucial check and balance is to capture local results first, publicize them, and compare them with what national reports say the local results were. The national aggregation of votes must be parsed out into its local polling places, and the numbers should match.

This time, the persons carrying vote forms did not go missing. Instead, the automated phone system broke down, after opposing candidate Raila Odinga’s strongholds came in, but before prevailing presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta’s results arrived. Two peculiarities here: (1) the information was relayed through the same IP, or Internet host location, as Kenyatta’s party was using, offering “first look” to any curious but ethically impaired party hacks (a tactic also used in the Ohio, USA in the 2004 presidential election, when Ohio Sec. State rerouted results through the Republican Party server); and (2) For some reason telephones were able to sort themselves out to selectively relay results for mostly just one candidate, at first. And he was winning. Then the system broke down. Then the other guy won.

This breakdown necessitated a tallying-up of the physical forms sent in by local officials. These forms would be promptly published on the Internet, officials promised. Except that most of them weren’t. These results should have matched what the local polling place officials had. Except that they never disaggregated the results, and therefore the results could not be compared.

During all this tallying, though observers had been invited, a leading international election observer team wrote: “The Carter Center regrets the IEBC decision to confine party agents and observers to the gallery of the national tally center, making effective observation impossible.”

According to the Carter Center report on the 2013 election, there were also large voter list discrepancies. A final voter list was committed to before the election, yet on election night a difference of approximately 100,000 voters appeared, without explanation. 4

Incentives to win the election might have been greater for Kenyatta than for most presidential candidates. Under indictment for crimes against humanity, he later argued that, as a sitting president, he could not be prosecuted, as it would interfere with running the country.


Kenya has some better-than-average public interest tech enthusiasts focusing on transparency.

Kenya’s Mars Group anti-corruption campaigners created an “inactivity counter” on their website to document government obfuscation.

Conrad Akunga, a blogger on Kenyan affairs, together with Ory Okolloh decided to create www.mzalendo.com (Kiswahili for “patriot”), a website bathing Kenya’s parliament in transparency in order to make it more accountable to voters.5

Ushahidi Inc. (Kiswahili for “testimony” or “witness”) uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, creating “activist mapping,” initially through a website (http://legacy.ushahidi.com) in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election. So successful was this technology that it has since been used in South Africa, eastern Congo, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia, and to help monitor elections in Mexico and India.6

In 2010, transparency and civic participation enthusiast Rachel Brown approached two firms, Waita and Safaricom, proposing to use innovative approaches to mobile phone technology in order to increase civic engagement and prevent violence in Kenyan communities. They identify vulnerable areas and as Kenyans head to the polls, use mobile messages to provide peaceful alternatives to violence when deceptive or violence-inciting texts appear; their collaboration, called SNA-K, also provides the public with facts about political candidates as part of their effort to counter hate speech sent by certain political groups.7

In fact, it is crowdsourcing that would neutralize, without cost and quickly, one of the election-rigging tactics used in the last two Kenyan presidential elections. Another effort, this time in Afghanistan, has a promising approach: James Long, a doctoral candidate at the University of California-San Diego, recruited Afghan volunteers to take photos of vote tallies at polling sites during the 2010 election, a low-cost method of detecting and reducing ballot tampering. A modest effort initially, data from his trials has shaken things up, and managed to gather data from more polling places on its first try than the largest election monitoring group in the country.8

High interest levels and an excellent reservoir of Kenyan talent for transparency innovation may turn the election fraud beast on its head, showing Western nations how to improve election accountability themselves.


Procurement: In 2012, Kenya entered into purchasing over $20 million in new election technologies. Some or all of the funding for this came from the United Nations Development Program “election basket,” whereby donor countries provide project-specific funding for developing nations.9

Kenyan politicians have a history of appropriating international aid to put some, or occasionally all, of it in their own pockets, from whence it returns to the West in the form of hidden bank accounts. The UNDP funds were supposed to help pay for a biometric voter registration and identification system, and whatever didn’t end up in someone’s pockets did indeed procure technology. 2012 purchasing involved three different and unique sets of technology for use in Kenya’s 2013 elections:

1. A biometric voter registration system, ultimately (after a number of irregularities and a special procurement workaround) provided by Morpho Canada and their principal, SafranMorpho based in France;

2. A biometric voter ID system, involving portable electronic pollbook devices, apparently to interface with Morpho’s biometric database; these devices were reportedly procured from Face Technologies (also referred to as Face Technology and FaceTech),10 a firm which is most often reported to be South African, but which was also mentioned fleetingly (but described as an American company)11 during a massive procurement scandal known as Anglo Leasing. That contract was for biometric passports, but it turned out to be passing through a non-registered shell entity in Liverpool, England, which — ahem — actually was a front for Kenyan politicians pigging out on graft.

To add to the muddle, a firm going by the name of Symphony, but also under the name Systems Integrated Limited, of uncertain lineage, aroused curiosity in connection with a letter it presented from the CFC Stanbic Bank indicating that it expected to receive US$46.3 million for supplying Kenya with biometric voter registration kits.12

For further elucidation, see the money laundering section, particularly the use of pass-through entities to disguise kickbacks, in the Political Money Report here: http://blackboxvoting.org/reports/money/

3. A third technology was used to transmit local vote results from the polling stations to the National Tallying Centre, involving 32,000 specially configured cell phone devices to electronically send results to a dedicated IEBC server. The project was developed in-house by Kenya’s election administration body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), subcontracted to local firms. At least one of those local firms was reported to be KenCall, whose servers are alleged to have shared an IP with the winning president’s political organization.13

In connection with a portion of the above election procurement, four officials have now been charged with corruption over a $15 million purchase, ostensibly to prevent vote fraud.14

Kenya did not use electronic voting machines in 2013, limiting its electronics to the biometric registration, biometric pollbooks, and automated phone transfer of local results.

Kenya printed its 2013 ballots through a United Kingdom firm called Smith and Ouzman, signing a contract in Nov. 2012 for a single-sourced 3 billion Kenya shilling ($35 million) contract; In October 2013, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office charged four fellas from Smith and Ouzman in connection with paying £413,552 ($700,000) in bribes to win ballot printing contracts in Kenya, Mauritania, Ghana and Somaliland between November 2006 and December 2010.15

2007 Election Fraud: On December 27, 2007 voters lined up, resoundingly voting out the sitting government ministers. Though results forms had been announced for lesser positions, the presidential race was simply not announced. They knew not the whereabouts, they said, of the returning officers who carried the results sheets. The sheets from whence the parliamentary and civic election results had already been announced.

Evidence of ballot-stuffing grew. There were glaring discrepancies between figures announced locally and what should have been the same figures announced by the national government.

Presidential results, when finally announced, conflicted with polling numbers and were the opposite of trends in other offices. Riots erupted. Looting. Hundreds killed, then 1,000, then 1,500. Land grabs, displacing 300,000 people. And though the looting appears to have started with supporters of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga, “Much of the eventual 1,500 death toll could be laid at the door of the government, which announced an unnecessary ban on public demonstrations and then ordered the mainly Kikuyu GSU, issued with live ammunition, to ruthlessly enforce it,” writes Michela Wrong, in her absolutely brilliant book, It’s Our Turn to Eat. “Eat,” meaning stuff yourself with public money. 16

Financing of post-election violence has allegedly been tied to sitting president Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy President, William Ruto, now under indictment with the International Criminal Court (ICC).17

I think you’ll agree: Kenya’s elections are at risk for fraud. Still, don’t count the Kenyans out for inventive use of social networking, and technology to generate transparency surprises.

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  1. Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2013- Kenya Report. New York, US: Rowman & Littlefield (2013) ISBN 978-1-4422-0122-4
  2. Election Risk Rating: compiled by Black Box Voting by applying an election integrity taxonomy to public records, news reports, citizen reports and field observations.
  3. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (see: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/ ) ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 – 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived as very clean. A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories included in the index. This year’s index includes 177 countries and territories.
  4. The Carter Center Finds Kenya Election Results Reflect Will of Voters, The Carter Center, 04/04/2013, http://www.cartercenter.org/news/pr/kenya-040413.html
  5. Wrong, Michela. It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower. HarperCollins. (2009)
  6. Ushahidi, Inc., Wikipedia, 11/19/2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushahidi
  7. John Hoffmire: Kenya, violence and mobile technology, Deseret News, 09/30/2013, http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865587346/Kenya-violence-and-mobile-technology.html
  8. Joseph Marks: Tackling government innovation through a new funding model, Nextgov.com, 03/14/2012, http://www.nextgov.com/health/2012/03/tackling-government-innovation-through-a-new-funding-model/50822/
  9. Ben Agina: EU warns against meddling on elections, Standard Media, 07/27/2012, http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000062733&story_title=EU-cautions-on-interference-with-IEBC-work
  10. David Mwagiru: Points of clarification: Electronic Systems Used in the 2013 Kenyan Elections, Canadian High Commission, , http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/kenya/highlights-faits/2013/Election_PC.aspx?lang=en
  11. Wrong, Michela. It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower (p. 78). HarperCollins. (2009); She writes: “…a 2002 tender opened up by the previous government to supply Kenya with a computerised passport printing and lamination system. … The highest bid for that tender had been made by De La Rue, a British company, while the lowest came from Face Technologies, an American firm. What was strange … was that the tender had gone to neither. A payment voucher showed a Central Bank downpayment to a British rival called Anglo Leasing and Finance Company Limited.” Note that De La Rue at that time also owned Sequoia Voting Systems, one of the leading electronic voting vendors in the USA.
  12. Arizona Mosley: Problems plague Kenyan electoral biometrics contract, BiometricUpdate.com, 07/26/2012, http://www.biometricupdate.com/201207/problems-plague-kenyan-electoral-biometrics-contract
  13. Geoffrey Mosoku: Raila: Poll opened 2007 wounds, CORD shall exploit other means, Standard Digital Media, 2013-04-01, http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000080570&story_title=Kenya-Raila:-Kenya-needs-a-solution
  14. Kenya: Election officials charged over faulty vote count equipment, Reuters, 10/30/2013, http://mg.co.za/article/2013-10-30-kenyan-election-officials-charged-over-faulty-vote-count-equipment
  15. Katy Migiro: Kenya: UK Supplier of Kenya’s 2013 Ballot Papers Charged With Graft – Report, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 10/25/2013, http://allafrica.com/stories/201310280317.html
  16. Wrong, Michela. It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower (Chapter 17). HarperCollins. (2009)
  17. Kenya refuses to give up Kenyatta records, New Vision, 12/02/2013, http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/650106-kenya-refuses-to-give-up-kenyatta-records.html



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