Saturday, September 27, 2008



September 27, 2008
The Standard Editorial
Nairobi, Kenya

The tumultuous event of the fortnight was the verdict by the Kriegler Commission the December General Election was "irretrievably polluted’’.

It jars the ear and claws the heart but that was not its mandate.

If we elect to learn from the flaws and extent of manipulation of the poll through ballot stuffing, bribery, intimidation, and executive interferences, then we could be out of the woods.

If we chose not to instal the necessary constitutional vanguards against the shambolic and fatally defective national exercise, then the killings, displacements and dispossessions will be repeated. That is what the former UN Secretary General Dr Kofi Annan and South Africa’s retired judge, Justice Johann Kriegler, who chaired the Independent Review Commission, warned us against.

Much as the verdict rekindled the bitter memories of the flawed elections and subsequent outrage and violence, at best we should accept it as the counsel that would salvage the nation.

By the leading contenders agreeing to share power, albeit reluctantly, was in itself a concession we were on the precipice.

The National Accord and Reconciliation Act was itself a result of sacrifice.

We would not have revisited the Kriegler verdict; despite the fact that we, too, have problems with such sweeping conclusions as that there was no evidence of rigging at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

This is despite the claim on the dark day by the disgraced Electoral Commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu the results were being cooked behind his back and he had lost touch with key election officials. Days later he again was on TV ranting alterations were being made to vital poll documents behind his back.

By preaching fire and brimstone

There was also the security menace, harassment of journalists, ban on live coverage, and curiously the hurried swearing-in of the incumbent.

It was not lost to the nation that after 2005 virtually all the commissioners owed their positions to the President.

It is incontestable State machinery was used to whip support for the incumbent as was evidence in the truckloads of ‘executive’ freebies during the campaigns.

The larger Orange, too, had its share of blame with claims in areas where voter turnout was as high as 95 per cent, there was a likelihood even the dead voted. There were also accusations it laid the ground for confrontation by preaching fire and brimstone.

It is against this background that we take issue with politicians; some of whom have been linked to revenge attacks, asking one party to apologise for disputing the poll.

It is insensitive, looking at our blood-soaked footprints for one party to claim victory and demand apology from the other. Kenyans have no doubt come through what took place during the poll. We plucked a rotten fruit off the flawed election.

It is iniquitous for the other party to the electoral dispute to fight back with the claim it, too, won. Not that we should gag them. But rather we should be careful we do not walk the nation back to the dark season. The passions are still raw, the anger still runs deep.

We would rather let our leaders who chose to reunite and reconcile the nation to carry on. That is the price we must all pay, knowing that one day, as history hardly fails to unmask the truth, we shall know what exactly happened and who did what. The most urgent business of the day, even as we pray for justice, is to first make sure we have a country.