An employee of Smartmatic technology firm arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) airport in Nairobi has been released.
The foreigner was arrested on Thursday, July 21 shortly after arriving in the country to help the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) deploy the election technology ahead of the August polls.
Smartmatic won the electoral commission tender to provide technology for Kenya's general election set for August 9, 2022.
In a statement on Friday, the National Police Service blamed the incident on miscommunication by the electoral body.
NPS Spokesperson Bruno Shioso said the foreigner was picked up by authorities for possessing undeclared election stickers in his personal luggage.
"The arrest, impounding and subsequent investigations into the material was necessitated by the sensitivity of elections material," Shioso said.
"The said stickers were not declared as per the law."
Further, the police said the stickers were not accompanied by an IEBC official as per routine procedure.
"Police, as per standard procedure and arrangement with IEBC, were not notified of such an import beforehand to provide necessary security and escort," he added.
The police boss noted that the Venezuelan was freed after investigations revealed that the stickers were bonafide property of the electoral agency.
"Subsequent investigations have revealed that the stickers are bona fide property of the 1EBC and part of the election-related material. Based on the above finding, the suspect has been released from lawful custody and the stickers released to IEBC," Shioso stated.
IEBC demands release
The statement comes hours after IEBC protested the arrest and detention of the personnel the commission said were three in number.
"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," IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati said in a statement on Thursday night.
IEBC said the commission has a legal contract with Smartmatic and its staff should be allowed to work in the country to ensure the election process is smooth technologically.
"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.
"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," Chebukati said.
Chebukati said the arrests could affect the commission's election preparedness.
"The arrest and continued holding of the personnel has the inevitable effect of hampering the deployment of technology in the forthcoming general election.