Lamu in darkness as suspected alshabaab militants bomb Electricity power pylon

The pylon that was bombed. PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: A power blackout in the entire Lamu County has plunged IEBC preparations for Tuesday’s general elections into disarray,after an electricity power pylon was bombed by suspected Alshabaab militants on Monday morning.

The blackout has been on since early morning and is still ongoing.

When contacted, Kenya Power manager Lamu county Bernard Munywere Kataka said an electricity pylon carrying over 220KV of electricity which is located between Gamba and Nyongoro areas in Lamu county where suspected militants also launched an IED attack on a Fuso lorry transporting fish leaving two critically injured, was blown out by suspected Alshabaab early Monday morning.

Kataka said the militants hit the pylon with an explosive instantly rendering it non-operational at around 7.45 am and that the damage can be said to be extremely extensive.

“We say its extensive because repairing such is extremely costly.We are looking at other alternatives so that we have power by 6pm. We need heavy machinery and adequate security to make repairs due to its location and that’s why people should expect prolonged outages,” said Kataka.

“We dont understand why they would target a pylon but maybe because they want to compromise communication and other crucial functions before launching attacks,we can never tell,” he said.

He said there are 100 similar pylons in the county.

Kataka said over 16,000 households in the entire county had been affected by the blackout, however they were in the process of rectifying the hitch.

He however said the hitch might take longer than anticipated to correct but called for patience.

The IEBC officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed concern that the blackout was affecting the setting up of crucial equipment ahead of Tuesday’s exercise.

Most centers are now using generators to set up their equipment but feel that the generators can’t be relied upon especially during the actual voting exercise which is electronic and the relaying of results which is also electronic.

They also expressed concern that they might not be able to effectively charge their gadgets due to the power black out.

“There has been no power since morning and we have been unable to conduct our preparations effectively. We are relying on generators which aren’t that effective too.We need to charge our gadgets for tomorrow and many other stuff that require us to have enough and reliable power but as it is now,we can only pray that the hitch is addressed promptly otherwise,there might be challenges in tomorrow’s exercise and that’s something we don’t want.We contacted Kenya Power who said they had no idea what was causing the blackout but promised to look into it.All we can do now is wait but it might cost us,” said the officer.

Meanwhile, distribution of election materials in Lamu has been marked by delays owing to security concerns in some parts of the county.

Up to the time of going to the press,no single polling station in Lamu had received election materials since police officers expected to accompany them were still being briefed on the situation.

There was also heavy police presence in Lamu town as officers assembled in readiness to be distributed to various polling stations ahead of Tuesday’s general elections exercise.

An IEBC official who spoke on the delay, said they couldn’t proceed to dispatch the election material without police escort and had to wait for them.

“We all understand that there some parts of Lamu which can’t be accessed without police.We are also waiting for facilitation like choppers for those parts considered hostile.Movement from Mokowe to Mpeketoni,we need police on that route,we cant go alone,that’s why we have delayed to dispatch the materials but assure the public that it will happen before the end of the day and that they will vote,” said the officer who didn’t want to be named.

Lamu residents are however eager and looking forward to casting their ballot on Tuesday,with many shuttling between Lamu town and other islands where they registered as voters.

There is a population surge in Lamu town for instance as residents flood back to cast their vote on August 8.

Lamu has a total of 69,776 registered voters.

There are two constituencies namely Lamu east and west and a total of 167 polling stations.