IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati has defended three Venezuelan nationals arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on Thursday amid questions over their mission in Kenya.
Chebukati insists the apprehended Venezuelans are employees of Smartmatic International B.V., the firm supplying and maintaining KIEMS kits to be used in the August 9 election.
"They are key personnel responsible for deployment and management of election technology infrastructure," Chebukati said in a terse statement shared on IEBC social media pages on Thursday evening.
The IEBC boss, in a toughly worded statement, expressed his disappointment with the authorities for arresting of the foreigners terming it intimidation ahead of the August poll.
Chebukati issued the statement hours after the three personnel were arrested by security officials immediately on landing at JKIA from Venezuela.
“The brazen decision of the security authorities to arrest, detain and confine in a solitary hideout the three personnel without justification, is an exhibition of intimidation on hardworking persons who are only keen to deliver a robust technology infrastructure for conduct of a credible, secure and verifiable election," said Chebukati in a statement.
He indicated that the commission had tried to explain to the authorities why the three Venezuelans were in the country all in vain.
Chebukati has, in that regard, demanded the immediate release of the foreigners to allow the electoral body to proceed with its preparations for the forthcoming general election.
"The Commission has a valid legal contract executed between itself and Smartmatic International B.V. for the supply, delivery, installation, testing, commissioning, support and maintenance of the Kenya Integrated Election Management System," Chebukati went on.
He added, “The Commission is concerned about this unjustified intimidation, harassment and blackmail whatsoever and demands the immediate release of the three employees of SmartmaticInternational B.V."
The statement comes as customs officials revealed that they had nabbed one of the Venezuelans, Comarco Gregoria, with undeclared electoral stickers in his private luggage.
It remains unclear how the foreigners, who IEBC says are IT specialists from Smartmatic, got access to electoral material which are printed by a different company, Inform Laikos, from Greece.
The latest happening shed more spotlight on IEBC amid accusations of lack of transparency in handling electoral material given JKIA had not been informed of the looming arrival of any election-related material.