Luke Awich, Sarah Ndung’u and Sandra Wekesa @PeopleDailyKe
The race for State House for the National Super Alliance (Nasa) candidate Raila Odinga and running mate Kalonzo Musyoka kicked off in earnest yesterday after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC ) cleared them to vie in the August 8 General Election.
Raila was the second candidate to be cleared after Thirdway Alliance Party candidate Ekuru Aukot.
The presidential aspirants made their way into the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) accompanied by jubilant supporters. When it was Raila’s turn, business at KICC and its surroundings came to a standstill as crowds of supporters surged and chanted his name and Kalonzo’s.
At the VIP lounge, the candidates were first briefed on the nomination and verification process to ascertain they were registered voters and fulfilled other requirements, before sitting before the IEBC commissioners, led by chairman Wafula Chebukati, to be handed the clearance certificate.
Chebukati, who is the presidential election returning officer, engaged the candidates in an easy chat, outlining the requirements as the other commissioners scrutinised the papers.
Wearing white shirts with a band of their party colours on the buttons strip, Raila and Kalonzo struck a familiar picture of 2013 when they sat before then IEBC chair Issack Hassan to present papers for their joint bid.
Raila had sat on the same chair in 1997 and 2007 to present his presidential nomination papers to the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya chaired by the late Samuel Kivuitu, while Kalonzo had vied on his own in 2007.
It was a hive of activity yesterday in and outside KICC as security personnel, media corps and supporters of the candidates jostled for space to catch a glimpse of the leaders. Security was tight on City Hall Way with General Service Unit officers manning the thoroughfare.
Candidates were, among other requirements, supposed to provide the electoral body with campaign schedules, hand in a banker’s cheque for Sh200,000 and passport size photos. They were also expected to sign the Electoral Code of Conduct binding them to main law and order during electioneering.
The candidates were given a sample of the ballot paper with their photograph and name to verify details.
Chebukati addressed each candidate after receiving the papers, telling them they had a role to play in conducting peaceful campaigns.
The certificate only bore the name of the presidential candidate but Chebukati told them the official ticket for the joint bid would carry both the presidential and running mate names.
The commission later cleared Alliance for Real Change’s Abduba Dida in a second attempt after he had earlier been turned away over certification of academic papers (see separate story).
Today, Jubilee candidate President Uhuru Kenyatta will submit his papers, setting the stage for what has been billed as a titanic duel between him and Raila.
Others expected to present papers today are former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, Michael Mwaura, Joe Nyagah and Justus Juma.
Raila and Kalonzo told IEBC to ensure a free and fair poll, committing to accept the results “if the exercise will be free and fair”.
The leaders, immediately after being cleared, kick-started their campaigns with a rally at Jacaranda ground in Nairobi’s Embakasi East constituency accompanied by other Nasa co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Isaac Ruto.
The Nasa leaders committed to conduct themselves peacefully before, during and after the elections and appealed to government urgencies especially the National Cohesion and Integration Commission not to use the hate speech rules to gag Opposition leaders when they make fair comments.
“We are thankful to IEBC for approving our documents. I want to assure the commission that we will conduct peaceful campaigns,” said Raila shortly after he was cleared by the poll’s body.
Earlier, Chebukati said his commission will rein in all politicians propagating hate messages during campaigns.
“We are very concerned with cases of hate speech; we want this country to be peaceful before, during and after the election,” said Chebukati moments before handing Raila the clearance certificate.
Raila maintained civil servants and the police, chiefs and other government resources should not be part and parcel of the campaigns.
“We have serious concerns on the use of police to try and intimidate opposition leaders during campaigns. The government should not use government resources in the campaigning process,” stated Raila.
Kalonzo called for enhancement of Raila’s security detail claiming being a presidential candidate his security should be reinforced to ensure his safety during the campaigns.
“We will commit ourselves to conduct peaceful campaigns and we also expect the Commission to be free, fair and transparent,” stated Kalonzo.
The presentation of papers which was attended by a large crowd of opposition supporters was not without drama as Nasa leaders Mudavadi, Wetangula and Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama lost their mobile phones, falling prey to pick-pockets who took advantage of the melee to do what they know best. A laptop belonging to a Nasa official was also grabbed.
At Jacaranda ground, Raila excited the crowd with his trademark ‘football commentary’ following his speech and dancing jigs with his running mate Kalonzo.