Candidates for various seats in Siaya County have received the unprecedented stick from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for breaking the electoral code.
The county, together with Kisumu, Migori and Homa Bay have been fingered by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) as potential violence hot spots around the country, which require adequate security during elections.
Last week, Siaya Returning Officer Ruth Kulundu suspended campaigns in the county following simmering tensions between political rivals that had led to violent scenes.
“I will only lift the ban if I am certain that the candidates and their supporters are able to behave maturely,” Mrs Kulundu said.
Then on Tuesday, the electoral commission took the matter a step further, handing down its heaviest penalty yet.
It disqualified independent candidate Augustine Netto Adhola, who had allegedly used images of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga in his campaign for Rarieda Parliamentary seat in Siaya County.
Mrs Kulundu warned that any candidate who violates the directive and continues with their campaigns will face dire consequences, which include being barred from participating in the August elections.
But an indignant Mr Adhola said he would challenge the decision in court.
A section of leaders in Siaya are now optimistic that the IEBCs directive would restore sanity in the county and ease cases of electoral malpractices witnessed during the campaigns.
Siaya County woman representative, Dr Christine Ombaka, expressed fear that the violence, if unchecked, would result in loss of lives.
She condemned a recent incident in which rowdy youth disrupted an ODM rally in the county.
“I want to call on IEBC to take drastic measures to contain this wave of political hooliganism or else innocent lives will be lost as a result of the confrontation between rival groups,” Dr Ombaka said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Siaya Township ward representative James Obiero Otare, who warned youths against being used by politicians to advance their political agenda.
Mr Otare warned that violence would drive away investors and negatively impact on the county’s economy.
“Something needs to be done to safeguard the economy of the county. These acts of hooliganism should not be left unchecked as they will affect the lives of the residents by the time elections are over,” he said.
When Mr Odinga visited Rarieda on June 26 with his message on “a six-piece voting”, chaos broke out as supporters of independent candidates fought ODM loyalists.
The same chaotic scenes greeted his trip to Migori on Wednesday last week.
In Rarieda, Mr Adhola, lost to lawyer Otiende Amollo in the ODM primaries.
In a petition filed by a local voter Erick Onyango, Mr Adhola is accused of embossing Mr Odinga’s images on his campaign posters.
He appealed to the High Court to delay the fine of Sh250,000 but still lost.
IEBC had given him two days to pay the fine or be disqualified.
On Friday, he claimed Dr Amollo, his rival in ODM, was behind his woes.
“I am going to appeal the verdict and expect me on the ballot. This is purely the work of my competitor in ODM.
“He does not want to contest against me because he knows he came late and he has nothing to show.”
BODA BODA OPERATORS
Dr Amollo laughed off Mr Adhola’s claims, saying he was not the petitioner in his case.
“If I wanted to petition, I would have done so in my individual capacity. Secondly, I am not the IEBC neither do I control it,” Dr Amollo said.
He went on: “He (Adhola) is my friend. I beat him by more than 4,600 votes in ODM primaries and still confident of beating him on August 8.”
Mr Paul Okia, chairman of ‘Siaya County Okoa Boda Boda Organisation’, regrets that boda boda operators were increasingly being used to cause political violence.
In Homa Bay, ODM candidate for Rangwe parliamentary seat, Dr Lillian Gogo, is the latest victim of electoral violence.
Youths suspected to be supporters of her political rivals pelted her motorcade with stones as she campaigned at Ndiru trading centre in Kagan on Wednesday.
Police shot in the air to disperse the youths who chanted anti-ODM party slogans.
Dr Gogo accused police of being compromised in the matter and called on the IEBC to investigate the incident.
“I condemn the incident in which youths hired by my opponent pelted my motorcade with stones. The electoral agency should investigate this violence,” Dr Gogo said.
Homa Bay police commander John Omusanga said police have launched a crackdown on militia groups being hired by politicians to cause chaos.
This comes in the wake of revelations that some top politicians in the county, who already enjoy State security, were also hiring goons to provide them with “additional” security.
Police chiefs have also banned night political meetings across the county and ordered the leaders to inform authorities of any such gatherings before they take place.
Additional reporting by Barack Oduor