How Cord bungled Okoa signatures
The initiative was doomed by major internal defects, glaring collection loopholes, turf wars between the secretariat and experts — and just plain incompetence.
“Truth be told. Okoa Kenya initiative experts were a disaster par excellence. Everything they touched turned black,” Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo junior posted on Twitter.
One of the submitted “signatures” was the scribble of a rhino.
The operation was a self-inflicted disaster, according to several sources detailing numerous problems and missed opportunities to correct them.
On Tuesday, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared the initiative to amend the constitution dead. Analysis of data showed the number of registered voters’ valid signatures was 891,598, short of the one million required. Cord had submitted 1.6 million names.
The commission blamed Cord for failing to meticulously adhere to legal requirements for signature collection and verification. Most booklets were signed by one person, it said.
Cord says the IEBC and Jubilee colluded to sabotage its referendum bid to give more power to counties, among other changes
The Star has established the Okoa Kenya secretariat — created to spearhead the initiative — failed to put in place strong systems to guarantee quality control.
was to professionalise internal operations of signature collection and data verification to seal loopholes undermining the integrity of the process.
The secretariat was initially headed by engineer Carey Orege, then Cord leader Raila Odinga brought in Nairobi-based logistics expert George Mboya last October. That was an effort to end internal wars already undermining the process.
Meanwhile, the Committee of Experts — a legal-technical team chaired by lawyer Paul Mwangi — was to draft the petition and guide secretariat staff on requirements of verification to ensure all stages were above board.
The Committee of Experts is comprised of Mwangi, who is Raila’s legal adviser, Khalef Khalifa, Beatrice Kituyi and lawyers Anthony Oluoch and Kethi Kilonzo.
However, both outfits were feuding over control millions of shillings funding the referendum process.
“They each wanted to take charge of the money released by Cord. You remember, even clerks stayed for some time without pay. A hungry man is an angry man and the end result was clear,” a senior secretariat member confided.
The source said Orege fell outwith Mwangi, resulting in a stand-off for weeks over money to pay clerks. Raila had to intervene.
The secretariat — responsible for contracting signature collection agents and
hiring data entry and verification clerks— lost control of crucial stages, making the whole initiative vulnerable to irregularities.
Most agents lacked facilitation, including offices and financial support to resist monetary inducements from rival Jubilee lieutenants. As a result, many were literally bought and signature booklets were tampered with before they were submitted.
Cord had complained Jubilee alliance had deployed chiefs and clan elders to buy booklets in its strongholds.
Despite these widely reported malpractices, the secretariat is accused of deliberately failing to scrutinise the booklets, which might have averted disaster.
It was also criticised for failing to insist on submitting all signatures in soft copy, as requested by IEBC.
“Cord has itself to blame. We advised them to submit soft copies, they submitted hard copies,” IEBC vice chair Mahiri Zaja said.
Producing soft copies for in-house scrutiny could have could have enabled clerks to eliminate the 741,979 invalid signatures, many containing glaring inconsistencies.
“The secretariat could have at least have been serious in its internal signature verification to ascertain authenticity before submitting them to the IEBC,” university don and statistician Joe Ombuor said.
Invalid entries had missing ID or passport numbers, missing signatures, illegible entries,scribbles and drawings of animals.
Cord blogger Robert Alai criticised the secretariat, saying Mboya and Orege must be held accountable for bungling the process.
Instead of blaming the IEBC, Cord should “clean our house of many unserious mongrels who add no value to the party,” Alai said.
He said he had four copies of submitted booklets, showing “We have frauds in our midst. We must violently eject them if they are going to sabotage this.”
However, yesterday Mboya told the Star he didn’t believe the referendum was bungled by the secretariat.
“If the process could be bungled by two people, something must have been serious,” Mboya said.
ODM Chairman and Suba MP John Mbadi dismissed IEBC’s rejection of signatures.
He questioned how Jubilee learned IEBC would reject signatures a day before the commission announced the death of Okoa Kenya.
“We collected signatures in so many booklets, with limited chance for infiltration and duplication. IEBC must stop playing with our psychology,” he said.
Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, who is also deputy minority leader in the National Assembly, defended the process.
“Cord was not stupid when collecting signatures. Saying there was infiltration is admitting to IEBC’s and Jubilee’s narrative, meant to divert attention,” Midiwo said.