Ballot mix-ups that threaten to beak up family

Ballot mix-ups that threaten to beak up family

Publication Date: 1/5/2008

While the nation’s attention orbits around the presidential saga and the violence it has spawned, who knows how many sub-plots are spinning away in the dark like so many undiscovered moons?

One waiting for the light of day occurred at Dagoretti’s Mutuini ward, where three family members vied for the same seat. 

Though irrelevant to the national trauma, their struggle for a small slice of power illustrates the many ways an election can be lost – or won – with little  regard for the people’s choice.

The three protagonists, chosen not at all at random from a field of 13 candidates are Mr John Ng’ethe, the area councillor from 1997 to 2002; Mr John Mwaura Moiruri, the incumbent and Mr Ngethe’s son, and Mr Daniel Muiruri Nduati, a grandson of the first and nephew of the second, a reformed street child with no political experience whatsoever. Everyone knows him as Muiruri.

Like many of Dagoretti’s thousands of street children, Muiruri had everything he needed at home as a child. But the lure of a hustler’s freedom drew him away at the age of 14, and he spent the next three years living on the streets.  Where his story departs from the norm is the religious vision that struck him at 17, convincing him to return home and finish his education.

His performance earned him a theology scholarship in Norway, where he completed a diploma in evangelism. On returning at 20, Muiruri started up Emmanuel Boyz Centre on land his father had given him near Dagoretti Market. 

The shelter took in the street boys, weened them off glue and put them through school giving over 300 of them a new life in six years.

In the last few months, he also helped many of them to get the voter’s card.

Muiruri put his evangelical training to good use during the campaigns, and as the elections drew near it appeared as though he stood a good chance of wresting the civic seat from his uncle. 

But poor literacy combined with a botched ballot foiled the best laid plans. 

Enter plot twist No. 1: John Mwaura Moiruri’s name was misspelled on the ballot to read not Moiruri, but Muiruri. 

This was the name by which everyone knew his nephew. Because the ballots listed the candidates’ last name first, and put just that one in bold, it happened to be the first name voters saw on the list. Further down, the real Muiruri was listed as Nduati – his own name, true, but one that few people recognised.

When the incumbent won by a landslide, the young Muiruri came to the natural – but helpless – conclusion that many of the street kids who meant to vote for him had put the magic check mark next to his uncle’s name by mistake. A poor loser’s logic? Perhaps. Sadly, it will remain yet another of the elections’ many unsolved mysteries. Or must it?

Enter the grandfather, Mr John Ngethe: His party symbol was supposed to be a flag, but appeared as the No. 7 instead. Who knows how many votes he lost because of this second error on the ballot? 

Not he – which is why he complained to the ECK about the mistake, together with yet another candidate whose party symbol of a thumb came out as a pot. 

With so many kerfuffles to consider, it looks as though the ECK will grant Mutuini a second round of voting. This time, the councillors will make sure their names and party ballots appear the way they should.


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