Thursday, September 18, 2008



September 18, 2008
By Ben Agina and Beauttah Omanga
The Standard

It was flawed through and through — that is the verdict of a team of experts probing Kenya’s bungled 2007 General Election.

"Even if you wanted a re-tallying of the results, still you won’t have sorted out the mess. It would have been impossible to tell who won or who lost between the two of you. The decision to work together was the best for this country," South African judge Justice Johann Kriegler, who chaired the commission, told the then Big Two presidential combatants, Messrs Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

The two are now President and Prime minister of Kenya respectively.

The team recommended the immediate overhaul of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, in a drastic move that could see the exit of Chairman Samwel Kivuitu and his team of commissioners at Anniversary Towers. The team has been roundly condemned by Kenyans for bungling the elections.

The flawed elections touched off unprecedented violence, leading to the killing of over 1,000 people and the displacement of more than 350,000 others.

Kriegler’s Independent Review Commission (IREC) handed over its 117-page report to the President at his Harambee House office, and called for major reforms in the electoral system.

The experts ruled that widespread bribery, vote-buying, intimidation and ballot-stuffing — compounded by defective data tabulation, transmission and tallying — impaired the integrity of the electoral process and irretrievably polluted the results.

They also found that the allegation of rigging at the KICC tallying centre could not be sustained, contrary to widespread rumour, speculation and supposition. However, two members out of five dissented.


Sources at the Harambee House meeting attended by Raila, Justice minister Martha Karua and the IREC Vice-Chairperson Prof Amina Aboud, intimated that Kriegler told the President they were willing to assist the Government streamline the electoral system, even if without pay.

After six months of investigative work, analysis and report writing, the Commission recommended the enactment of a dedicated law with detailed provisions on ECK’s institutional aspects, its relative complexity and its responsibilities.

It called for legislation of a broad consultative process prior to the appointment of ordinary members and the chairman of the ECK.

They called for the reduction of the number of ECK commissioners from current high of 22.

Speaking after receiving the report, President Kibaki and PM Raila promised to ensure all recommendations are implemented.

The experts said the ECK failed to discharge its constitutional mandate because of weaknesses in the manner of appointments to the commission, its composition and management system.


The panel of experts ruled that grossly defective elections, accompanied by violence, have been and will remain a feature of life in Kenya unless major reforms are put in place.

It urged the Government to adopt an ongoing programme to initiate and sustain a national commitment to electoral integrity.

"Accept that external assistance for this programme would be indispensable," noted Kriegler.

And the experts’ desire is a total overhaul of the ECK.

Says the commission: "Radically reform or replace the ECK, with a new name, image and ethos, composed of a lean policy-making and supervisory board, selected in a transparent and inclusive process, interacting with a properly structured professional secretariat".

The new electoral body, Kriegler’s team said, must be empowered to perform its constitutional functions.

Kenyans should agree on an electoral system, to put to rest the continuous discussion about a new electoral system, the team said.

President Kibaki directed that the report be published and made public tomorrow (Friday) for all Kenyans to know it contents.


"The report will be presented to the Cabinet in its next sitting for consideration and approval of an implementation plan," said Kibaki.

The Head of State assured the country that the Grand Coalition Government would examine all the issues and recommendations in the report with an aim for speedy implementation.

He said even though Kenya had in the past experienced problems in elections, last year’s was particularly controversial.

"It is therefore appropriate that for the first time, we have initiated a major review of the electoral process so as to reform it," he said.

The President and the PM thanked Kenyans who turned up to give evidence and make recommendations to the Kriegler team.

Raila said Kenyans should remain united and use the aftermath of the last elections to carry out a better-organised election.

He appealed for a united Kenya despite the differences that arose as a result of the elections.

"It is not foolish to make a mistake. But it is only a fool who repeats a mistake," said Raila.

"We will look at the report in a bi-partisan way. All we want is to continue building a united Kenya as we leave the past behind us and forge forward," said the PM.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Dr Kofi Annan, who chaired an eminent panel of African personalities to mediate over the crisis that threatened to plunge the country into civil war, is expected in the country this morning to also receive a copy of the report.


The Annan team brokered a deal that led to the signing of the National Accord, that gave birth to the formation of a Grand Coalition Government.

It also led to the formation of two commissions, the Kriegler Commission that looked into the elections and the Justice Philip Waki-led team that is investigation the violence that engulfed the country following the declaration of Mwai Kibaki as the duly elected President of Kenya.