By Alfred Bambanya
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party narrowly won the Tuesday’s Dabaso Ward by-election in Kilifi North constituency of Kilifi County.
Under clouds of voter bribery, intimidation and counter-accusations the two-horse race was decided by a difference of only 138 votes in favour of ODM candidate Dickson Karani’s 2,499 against archrival and former MCA Emmanuel Changawa’s 2,361 votes.
After his 2017-win’s nullification by the court, Mr Changawa sort to defend the seat on his party’s ticket but during nomination process faced headwinds that saw Mr Karani bag the ticket instead forcing the former to use Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) ticket.
While declaring the results, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission returning officer Hillary Kombe said 4,866 out of the 12,620 registered voters cast their ballots, representing a turnout of a 38.56 percent, with 42 votes cast declared spoilt.
Earlier, the KaduAsili aspirant Peter Baraka Ngome pulled out of the race at the eleventh hour but still garnered a paltry 16 votes in the by-election.
Delivering his acceptance speech, Mr. Karani thanked the people of Dabaso for electing him to complete the remaining one and a half years before the next general election and promised to complete the projects that his predecessor had started.
According to him the by-election was conducted fairly and transparently although his challenger claimed that the ODM party had hired goons from Nairobi and other parts of the country to intimidate his (Changawa’s) supporters into not turning out to vote.
As the tallying was going on, Mr Changawa rushed into the tallying centre within the Ngala Memorial Girls’ Secondary School, panting and with a torn shirt, claiming he had been roughed up by goons as he attempted to access the tallying centre.
He identified some of his attackers as his former colleagues in the Kilifi County Assembly but added that his complaints had fallen on the deaf ears of security personnel.
“This is not an election. If this is an election, then there is no need for elections. Let the high and mighty choose the leaders for us instead of wananchi being subjected to sham elections like this,” he said amid sobs.
He claimed that ODM goons caused a lot of tension in polling centres where he believed to be having a massive following, forcing voters to keep off the centres, while a number of his agents were arrested and detained at the Watamu police station and released long after polling stations had been closed.
“I went to the Watamu Police Station to register my concerns but I was not assisted. A mob of uniformed ODM ‘security’ youths mobbed me as I was going out of the station and when I rushed back for my safety, they pursued me inside the station and bayed for my blood,” he claimed.
He said he was later forced to abandon his vehicle and use a bodaboda operator to reach the tallying centre at the Ngala Memorial Girls Secondary School, but when he reached the school, he was roughed up by people who had thronged the gate.
ODM nominated Member of County Assembly Martha Koki, however, denied the allegations, saying the parties’ youths were not involved in the chaos.
“The candidate could have been attacked by any person at the gate because it was night and there were many people, but this was not done by ODM because we wanted a peaceful election so as to get victory,” she said.
Malindi Sub County Police Commander Joe Lekuta declined to comment on the matter.
Observers from the Human Rights Agenda (Huria) Anthony Maganga and Betty Sidi condemned the incident and asked the IEBC and security officers to fully investigate it and bring those culpable to book.