Saturday, September 20, 2008



September 20, 2008
By Standard Reporter
The Standard
Nairobi, Kenya

President Kibaki flies out to the United States tomorrow for the first since he clinched a second term against the backdrop of controversy over who actually won and what next.

The chairman of the Independent Review Commission (Irec), South Africa’s retired judge, Justice Johann Kriegler, and the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who was the chief mediator, warned Kenya it must sort out the electoral mess, no matter who did what, to avoid a repeat.

"If you think it is vital to the future of Kenya that you find out if there were rigging at KICC to determine whether Raila Odinga or Mwai Kibaki won … God help you! We could not find it. Bury it and get on with the road to reform," a tough talking Kriegler said at a live press conference at Serena Hotel, on Friday.

He appeared to take on callers; among them who told him on a televised interview on KTN on Friday he had come to waste taxpayers’ money by engaging in what a civil society member called cut-and-paste.

"Elections in Kenya are notoriously bad. They have been bad over the years and they must be fixed,’’ Kriegler argued, as Kenyans digested his recommendations, among them overhaul of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and electoral laws.

"If it does not happen to settle somebody’s wish as to who won the race I’m sorry about that we are not members of a jockey club we had a job to do,’’ added the retired judge, as he fielded questions from journalists

Forensic audit

He also added: "Before you know it will be 2012 and it’s going to be another repeat of an election year where each time you are beset by pain and suffering instead of joy."

Dr Annan, who received his copy of the report the President, promised he would take to the Cabinet for debate and distillation into a Sessional Paper, said: "They considered everything from a complete recount, re-tally of the presidential election to a judicial process or forensic audit of the electoral process. In the end, all agreed that the only viable option was to establish an independent committee…"

Annan, who led the mediation talks during the heated and hair-raising period, as the nation swayed in the winds of post-election violence and national outrage, once again reminded the country of the hard options Kriegler’s team toyed with, their verdict, and why.

"I consider the report bold, constructive and wise … this report must not simply end up on the shelves gathering dust … I raised the issues when I met the President and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, on Friday. They assured me of their commitment to implement the Irec recommendations."

The curtains rolled on the Kriegler Commission, albeit with mixed reactions over its conclusion, even as it said naming the winner of the disputed elections was outside its mandate.

"Nobody on earth can tell who really won the presidential election. We did sampling. We did research and reached a conclusion that you cannot accept any results of any constituency at face value. You would be wasting your time," he explained.

Victims and villains

With the wave of the hand, the commission buried expectation from a section of the country that it would unmask the faces that muddied the elections as well as its victims and villains.

When Kriegler appeared on KTN, Newsline Anchor Peter Opondo asked him: "You said the elections were so flawed you could not tell who won. Then what does that mean of our leaders, the President, MPs, civic leaders … are they not in office illegally?"

He responded: "No I don’t think they are in office illegally, but I do think the question of the legitimacy of the elections will become a very serious problem in future if people do not decide that they are tired of playing games of democracy and decide that they are entitled to choose their leaders through the ballot."

The President, who is struggling to keep his constellation of parties, that constituted his Party of National Unity re-election vehicle, checks out as the nation weighs Kriegler’s verdict, that the presidential election results were, "irretrievably polluted".

"The integrity of the process and the credibility of the results were so gravely impaired by these manifold irregularities and defects that it is irrelevant whether or not there was actual rigging at the national tally centre. The results are irretrievably polluted,’’ said the judge who presided over South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections. He chaired the commission, which wound up its mandate of inquiring, "into all aspects of the General Election held on December 27, last year, with particular emphasis on the presidential election.

Balanced report

"I want Kenyans to accept that my team of eight honest and fairly skilled people, to the best our ability dug as hard as we could, as far as we could within the time available but could not come up with an answer as to who won the election," Kriegler said.

Annan spoke as President Kibaki prepared for appearance at the gathering of the family of nations at the UN’s New York headquarters, to join leaders and heads of delegations from 189 countries. It was from here that a few years ago, the man Kenyan’s fondly refer to as the ‘Mediator’ had the workstation that gave him a bird’s view of and influence over the world.

It was also from here that the UN under Mr Ban Ki-Moon decided, at African Union’s request, and support from the US and the European Union, that the international community had to move into Kenya and broker peace.

According to a despatch from the Presidential Press Service: "The summit will also serve as a medium term review on the attainment of the eight Millennium Development goals, which respond to the world’s main development challenges. The goals envisioned a better life for the citizenry of the signatory countries."