Thursday, September 18, 2008



The Standard Editorial
September 18, 2008

On Wednesday, the Independent Review Commission (Irec) presented its final report to President Kibaki, making it the first of three probes agreed upon by ODM and the PNU alliance under the National Accord to complete its work.

Its two key findings: That last year’s General Election "lacked credibility and integrity", but that talk of fraud at the Electoral Commission’s national tallying centre was "mere speculation".

While there was unanimity on the first, two of the seven Irec members dissented with the second.

There was widespread public expectation that some level of culpability, perhaps even criminal, might be concluded for ECK officials.

But the Justice Kriegler-led team’s findings have a bearing not just on the future of the ECK (whose admitted failures still warrant Chairman Samuel Kivuitu’s immediate departure), but also on what is expected of political parties and voters.

Irec found that these actors, as Kivuitu had charged in his testimony, contributed to the lack of integrity through "widespread bribery, vote-buying, intimidation, ballot-stuffing" and other electoral malpractices.

Government is now tasked to adopt a programme to "initiate and sustain a national commitment to electoral integrity". How effective this is depends partly on how the nation reacts to the idea of collective responsibility for what happened last year.

This is an important point because Irec also concludes without major reforms, grossly defective elections accompanied by violence will remain a perennial feature of local life.

The Kriegler Commission’s final verdict on whether there was proof the presidential election was "stolen" at KICC may not be to many people’s liking, but it is clearly the only one Kenyans could have expected given much of their input into the process.

When the team travelled around the country to gather evidence of irregularities, its public hearings were marred by partisan heckling and characterised by unsupported allegations or hearsay from witnesses.

When it invited the main political parties to present evidence for claims they made in public during the post-election crisis, they hid behind lawyers and provided no damning proof of electoral fraud. When observers and other interested parties got a chance to be heard, nakedly biased witnesses tested the patience and credulity of the commissioners and the public.


The commission may be partly to blame for this: Civil society groups like Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, which Kriegler was so scathing about over allegedly unproven claims of fraud, claim they were denied a more active role. That said, the nation will study the report with an eye to determining what the commission made of credible witnesses’ evidence.

Dr Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary-General who headed a mediation team of eminent persons in an African Union-backed process, will receive a copy of the report this week on behalf of the international community.

This will provide an opportunity for them, the PNU alliance and ODM to review progress on two other fronts: The Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, still on the go after requesting more time, and the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, on which legislation is pending. It should also spark dialogue on how to prevent the errors Irec reports on from occuring again.

Review commissions have a strong educative function. This, we believe, is of far greater importance than merely cataloguing the litany of failures that beset last year’s General Election.

The presentations to Irec by various parties went a long way to showing what went wrong.

When a picture of all that went on outside the tallying centre is formed, the damning truth is that all our elections have lacked integrity — it just took one that was incredibly contentious and close to spark more blatant attempts to influence the outcome. Therefore, a national commitment is what we need, not just an overhaul of ECK.