Sunday, October 5, 2008



Published on 05/10/2008
By Standard On Sunday reporter

Details of how badly Electoral Commission chaired by Samuel Kivuitu bungled last year’s elections continue to emerge even as he leads his team in resisting calls for honourable exit.

Mr Raila Odinga walks out of KICC after ODM disputed presidential election results in 2007.

Its highlights, sourced discreetly within the realms of ECK, include a secret plot that was later dropped, to declare Prime Minister Raila Odinga the winning presidential candidate, but at the same time the loser in Lang’ata constituency. That would have still seen him lose the top seat because the President must be an elected MP.

There are also footprints of three ministers who stepped in when things took unexpected turn, with Raila opening an early lead in Western and Rift Valley provinces.

Through Kenya’s turning point, as the badly manipulated and later hotly disputed presidential election took place, the ministers stuck to their ‘work’ and chose ECK commissioners played ball.

Investigations, coming against the backdrop of Justice Johann Kriegler’s Independent Review Commission’s verdict it is impossible to tell who won, unmasked a shocking web of conspiracy among some ECK officials.

It also lifts the cover, though those we spoke to would not have their names quoted because of fear of reprisal and tagging as betrayers, on how some returning officers were turned away while approaching Nairobi to go back and embellish the figures of a presidential candidate because, "things were not well".

Though it comes by the trickle, it sears the conscience of the nation, questions the interests and independence of the election managers, and continues to nibble away credibility of the Kenyan leadership.

Still even as it is bound to stoke criticism it is like scouring at the wound that was festering only a few months ago, as Kenya was rocked by a wave of killings, displacements and dispossessions, this legitimate consideration pales when looked at against the question: ‘What went wrong and when did the rain begin to beat us?"

Swept Away

It also reinforces Kriegler’s verdict ECK must be swept away and a new re-branded electoral body set up with adequate constitutional guarantees for independence. On the flipside it also shows how murky the election was, with external pressure bearing on ECK, whose membership from 2005 owed their lofty positions to the President who was seeking re-election.

Our enquiries reveal, for which there was no response from those adversely mentioned as they neither responded to messages or returned calls, the extent to which some commissioners and three Cabinet ministers, were willing to go to have results tilted in a certain direction, even as dark clouds gathered over Kenya ahead of the announcement that President Kibaki had won.

Two of the ministers who pushed for doctoring of results lost their seats. Sources within the ECK say trouble began in the final week and worsened a day to the poll, when ‘rigging’ machinery, which was known to only a few commissioners, began to fall apart.

It got worse when results came in indicating Raila and his party, the Orange Democratic Movement, had won in Baringo Central constituency.

When Nyanza erupted in violence a day to the polls, flushing out and killing some of the Administration Policemen who had been ferried to the region in suspicious circumstances, a key plank of the rigging strategy plotted by politicians and sold to a section of ECK commissioners collapsed.

ECK commissioners had been dispatched to various parts of the country with instructions to help PNU win, according to one source.

Commissioner Jack Tumwa was in charge of Western Province, Jeremiah Matagaro South Nyanza, while Ms Mildred Apiyo Owuor took care of central Nyanza.

Commissioners Ms Josephine Hamisi Dena and Pamela Tuitui were in charge of the Coast. Rift Valley was under commissioners Samuel arap Ngeny and Joseph Kipruto Sitonik.

The Cast

The rest of the cast – Riunga Raiji, Muturi Kigano, Kihara Muttu, Njeru Ndambiri, Anne Wambaa, Anne Mwikali Muasya and Mwenda Thuribi took charge of the Mount Kenya region, including Central and Eastern provinces.

Other commissioners were sent out to man sub-regions of expansive provinces.

Kivuitu remained at the base, together with Suleiman Chege, who was deputy commission secretary in charge of administration during the polls, and Ayub Imbira, the IT manager at the ECK.

The instruction was that the commissioners would fly back to Nairobi as soon as voting closed.

As to what happened inside ECK during the chaotic period, sources claim Mr Chege and Mr Imbira may know more about the poll chaos than Mr Kivuitu, who was grappling with ill health, unexplained mood swings and outbursts.

As results began to flow in, panic and blame-game began at ECK headquarters and inside the tallying centre at KICC. With polls showing Raila had sailed easily in Nyanza and was having an easy time in Western, commissioners who had been in charge of Mt Kenya region are said to have began accusing their colleagues, particularly those who were in charge of Western and the Rift Valley of "doing nothing for Kibaki".

"Some commissioners felt their colleagues had not helped Kibaki in their areas. I remember Tumwa engaging in furious exchange with the people who were in charge of Mt Kenya over the accusation," a source said.

The source said Tumwa, who was unavailable for comment, tried to protest the manipulation, but he, too, could not go far because he had been seconded to ECK by Ford- Kenya, which was a member of PNU.

One of the ministers who later pitched tent at KICC seeking to influence results was from Ford- Kenya, the source said.

But things only got worse when results from the Rift Valley started flowing in.

A source says the projections of those who wanted to tilt the polls in favour of President Kibaki was that Raila would win Nyanza, but lose Western and the Rift Valley. When the Lang’ata MP appeared to be sweeping Western, the hope of the commissioners pushing the PNU case remained that he would lose Rift Valley.

Riding High

Even among the commissioners, there was agreement that Raila was riding high and was likely to win more votes than President Kibaki. Nobody gave Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka a chance.

ECK insiders say some commissioners, who acted with impunity and were taking instructions from elsewhere, planned that if Raila gathered more votes than Kibaki; he would be declared the winner of the presidential race.

But Raila was to be declared to have lost Lang’ata constituency to Livondo. Because the Constitution requires the President must also be an MP, Raila’s win would have been inconsequential had he been declared a loser in Lang’ata.

In the first and most of the second day of the counting, that was the plan, which, according to sources, Kivuitu did not know. All that changed when results showed ODM had taken Baringo central.

The commissioners went into a meeting where they resolved they would all have to meet and agree before the chairman could announce the winner, taking away Kivuitu’s power to act alone.

"There were still many constituencies to go in the Rift Valley, but when Baringo Central fell, it became clear to the commissioners Raila was sweeping all the provinces to the West of Nairobi. There was tension between commissioners who manned these places and those who were in the Mt Kenya region," one source said.

Loser In Langata

The fall of Rift Valley to Raila raised questions on how workable it was to declare Raila a loser in Lang’ata with so many votes in his favour across the country. All that time, a Cabinet minister piled pressure on the returning officer for Lang’ata to declare Livondo the winner.

On December 29, inside KICC, Chege is reported to have drafted a letter for publication in the Kenya Gazette notice declaring Raila the winner of the presidential race. That was being done with the assumption Livondo would be declared the winner in Lang’ata.

Chege’s boss, Mr Joel Tsola, who was then the commission’s secretary is said to have refused to go to KICC and remained at the Anniversary Towers – ECK head office

He retired in May, and in a letter to the Public Service Commission, Tsola wrote: "I have reached retirement age and I did not opt for an extension of my term." A source said the ECK tried to renew Tsola’s term but he refused.

The returning officer in Lang’ata, Ms Josephine Mwengi put her foot down. According to a source, Mwengi told the minister who was pushing her to declare Livondo the winner that her reading of the situation was that "the fate of Kenya lay in Lang’ata."