Sunday, October 5, 2008



Published on 05/10/2008
Sunday Standard

By Oscar Obonyo

A lobby group has referred to it as "the 30 hours that destroyed Kenya".

Former ODM spokesman Salim Lone captured it as "the day lights went out on Kenya".

Both accounts summarise the events of December 30, last year, at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) that drastically changed Kenya.

At centre stage of the unfolding drama were the Electoral Commission Kenya (ECK) officials, who on announcing the final ‘cooked’ figures — as Chairman Samuel Kivuitu casually but dangerously described them earlier on — immediately sparked violence.

Although the South African retired judge Justice Johann Kriegler-led probe committee claims in its verdict rigging did not take place at KICC because "the situation was too bad already by the time figures got to KICC", he is convinced the manner Kivuitu wagged his tongue made a bad situation worse.

"Six months later, informant after informant could vividly recall with astonishment and anger at the fiasco and could mimic and quote the ECK chairman verbatim," is the verdict of the probe team.

During the tension-packed tallying the presidential votes at KICC, Kivuitu insinuated that some of his officers could be working in cahoots with people he did not name to tamper with election results.

"This is where cooking could be taking place, but when they bring it to us, we shall ask them to return them to the person who asked them to cook," he said.

But Kivuitu went ahead to pronounce Mwai Kibaki as winner, in live broadcast on the national station, KBC. Kibaki, he announced, had beaten Raila Odinga by 4,584,721 to 4,352,993 votes.


However, Kivuitu later confessed to have announced the results "under pressure from PNU and ODM-Kenya".

Now, ODM-Kenya leader, who is also the Vice-President, is among those defending ECK in the face of round condemnation.

Mr Fred Muteti, the ODM-Kenya national co-ordinator concedes that indeed him and Nairobi Metropolitan Development Minister Mutula Kilonzo, made several trips to Kivuitu’s office at KICC to plead.

"Mutula and I were the sole party operatives at the KICC. The Chairman (Information Minister Samuel Poghisio) was still holed up in Kacheliba still struggling to scrape through the parliamentary challenge. Our presidential candidate operated between his house and Serena Hotel," says Muteti.

The official, who has since fallen out of favour with Kalonzo for allegedly spying on the VP, recalls that his senior colleague, Mutula, was persistent in pushing for immediate announcement of the results. He says they were acting on instructions from the party.

An officer of a private firm that offers security at the KICC premises, who was among those charged with the responsibility of manning the gate leading to Kivuitu’s office at night, recollects what transpired.

"The gate was under lock and we sought Kivuitu’s permission for every individual, including political party officials and even his own ECK officials who wanted to see him. The most frequent callers were (Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister) Martha Karua, (Deputy Prime Minister) Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Amos Kimunya," says the officer.

The officer recalls that at some point, Kimunya and Kivuitu engaged in a heated debate, shouting on top of their voices – a development that caught their attention prompting two of them to run upstairs to find out whether anything was amiss.

"We heard Kivuitu mumble something to the effect that he would not yield to threats from anybody. At this point Kimunya walked back to the conference hall promising to return. Again Kivuitu shouted back that he would not release the results prematurely," recounts our source.

Immediately after, there was prolonged silence and inactivity at the ECK chairman’s secluded office. Except for a brief moment when he went to the washrooms, Kivuitu remained holed in his office undisturbed for close to an hour.


"Then a phone rung in his office. I have no idea who he was talking to or what the subject was, but from the look of things it must have been a critical call. Shortly thereafter, everything changed drastically," he says.

It is at this point, recalls the security officer, that Kivuitu walked downstairs with a final resolve to announce results of the presidential poll.

As expected the drama in the hall nearly turned explosive as the ODM brigade staged a spirited onslaught to stop the ECK chairman from announcing what they perceived as flawed tallies.

ODM key leaders, now Cabinet ministers, Charity Ngilu, William Ruto and James Orengo engaged in heated exchange with PNU colleagues Karua, PNU spokesman George Nyamweya and Assistant Minister Danson Mungatana.

The environment had earlier on been poisoned by Kivuitu’s verbal gaffes and a hurriedly written media statement released by four of 22 commissioners, distancing themselves from the turn of events at KICC.

The four – Mr Jack Tumwa, Mr D Ndamburi, Mr Samuel arap Ngeny and Mr Jeremiah Matagaro called for an independent inquiry into the activities of ECK and their colleagues.

Later, a victor was pronounced and Kivuitu hurriedly rushed to State House for the swearing-in.

"I took the winner’s certificate to State House after some people threatened to collect it while I am the one mandated by law to do so. I arrived at State House and found the Chief Justice there fully dressed and ready to swear-in Kibaki," he explained.

Prior to the announcement of the results, cell phones became handy as members of the civil society made frantic efforts to dissuade Kivuitu from proclaiming a victor in the flawed process. One such personality was the then Chairman of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chairman Maina Kiai.

In its latest special edition, Truth & Justice Digest, a report by Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice dated September 15, chronicles events at KICC right from Saturday, December 29, 2007 at 1.43 pm to 6:24pm on Sunday, December 30, 2007, when Kibaki is sworn in as President at State House, Nairobi. It terms them "The 30 Hours that Destroyed Kenya".