Sunday, September 21, 2008



September 21, 2008
Sunday Standard
Nairobi, Kenya

By Standard On Sunday Team

The verdict has split hairs within the political arena, along the predictable Kibaki-Raila fault-line, and as usual it has no respect for the united front the two leaders put up in the name of the Grand Coalition Government.

"If the process was flawed, as Kriegler stated, then whoever is in power has no constitutional or other moral authority to continue in power but to seek fresh mandate," charged Nairobi lawyer, Harun Ndubi.

"What for?" posed Justice Minister Martha Karua. The Narc-Kenya party leader said the Kriegler report does not — in any way — negate or undermine Kibaki’s position as Head of State. "The report does not say nobody won the presidential election but rather because of the general mess at ECK it was difficult to tell who won," she added.

But former Kabete MP and Safina party leader Paul Muite said the Kriegler report eroded the credibility of the Office of the President.

Muite supported calls for fresh elections to correct the impression the wrong man was sworn-in. But this is on condition that certain "crucial parameters" are fulfilled.

"The calls for fresh elections are a knee-jerk reaction. However, dissolving the Tenth Parliament and asking all legislators to seek a new mandate must be preceded with minimum electoral reforms," says the lawyer, a former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Chairman.

But the President’s Party of National Unity (PNU) is seriously opposed to such a move.

"The coalition is founded, not on the need to recompense "theft of the 2007 elections" as variously averred by ODM (Orange Democratic Movement), but on the basis of maintaining national unity," argued George Nyamweya, secretary of the PNU council.

For the Orange Democratic Movement, though it might not be the best of news, the verdict appeared to lend credibility to the claim the wrong man could have been sworn-in.

Ojienda argues the goings on, including the setting up of the Kriegler probe committee, must be seen in the light of the Coalition Government, legitimised by the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008.

"Everything else coming through, including the Kriegler report, is a product of a negotiated approach by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Such a report, therefore, cannot hold as evidence against the shared government," he argued.

Constitutional lawyer Gibson Kamau Kuria concurs: "The Grand Coalition was formed after Raila, dropped his assertion that Kibaki was not properly elected. Kriegler had to be careful, not to open old wounds."

But in the bigger picture the question now remains how Kibaki and Raila’s teams will take Kriegler’s verdict, how their parties will react, the possible influence on the health of the Grand Coalition, and the road to the 2012 General Election.

For Kibaki and Raila, their long running rivalry and newfound friendship and accommodation aside, the verdict hands them the blank scroll to rewrite their legacies. It could also be another call to unite the country, as Kriegler and the former chief mediator Kofi Annan, warned, and to get constitutional guarantees against electoral manipulation and impunity before 2012.

If they fail on this front, despite the enthusiasm with which they received the Kriegler report, which is on the way to the Cabinet for transformation into a Sessional Paper, the nation will once again have been let down by the two leaders in whose hands it has been since they united in 2002 to whitewash Kanu.

Kibaki and Raila remain, as reactions to the verdict of the chairman of the Independent Review Commission (Irec) showed, captains of the two competing political blocs.

It is around them that the politics that curves out Kenya’s two tectonic blocs, the so-called Western and Eastern alliances that keep grinding at each other on the edge, revolve.

The two leaders, through their parties, fought furiously in the last election, bringing Kenya’s politics to a meltdown from the 2005 referendum, which the President’s side lost.

The next two years saw them in a catfight, Raila amassing his forces from the planks that fell off Kibaki’s gunship.

The President, on the other hand, consolidated his grip on the Civil Service, security forces, and key constitutional offices such as the Electoral Commission. By poll last year, Kibaki had virtually appointed all the commissioners.

Then came December 30, last year, along with the 30 hours that nearly destroyed the country.

As the lights went out, following the release of the disputed results and the subsequent wave of killings, displacements and displacements, with the world shocked and awed, the nation struggled to free itself from the teeter of failed states as pressure piled on Kibaki and Raila to reconcile.

After the forced re-union, power-sharing, following weeks of Kibaki laying claim to the title "your duly elected President", and Raila "the Peoples’ President,’’ they agreed to share power. The bitter after-taste lingered, and it stood out in the form of protocol and portfolio sharing rows that followed.

Nine months after Irec completed its work of inquiring, "into all aspects of the General Election held on December 27, last year, in Kenya with particular emphasis on the Presidential Election,’’ has come with the verdict the winner is unknown, and will never be.

This sets the stage for two possible scenarios. One, because neither is known to have won, the President’s PNU would as it did, argue Kibaki did not steal Raila’s victory.

"Had Orange Democratic Party gone to court, their charge would have been their candidate won, and our candidate stole their victory at the tallying centre at Kenyatta International Conference Centre. Kriegler has found this was not true," said Nyamweya.

In a statement the party intended to read on Friday afternoon before a Press conference was called off for unexplained reasons, the party said Kibaki won fairly, an assertion Kriegler did not confirm.

Instead, Kriegler said his committee could not tell who won last year’s presidential vote.

"Independent Review Commission found allegations by ODM that the election was stolen by PNU are baseless and could not be substantiated. The allegations for rigging led the country to believe the election had been stolen," the statement says.

The party further asserts that PNU was more popular than ODM, and lost 30 parliamentary seats to ODM because of splitting of its vote.

The arguments aside, again Kenya is in the hands of Kibaki and Raila. It is how the captains of the two teams, will steer the ship that is Kenya as it navigates the turbulent sea of politics.


Anonymous said...
September 22, 2008 at 7:01 PM  

Please read the Kriegler report carefully.

The conclusions reached in your report concerning Kriegler's conclusions are inaccurate and are not supported by the contents of the commission's report.