Raila, Kalonzo reject Waki Report

BY Michael Mumo and Bernard Momanyi (Capital FM)

The Waki report on post-poll violence got further bashing on Thursday, after Prime Minister Raila Odinga beat a hasty retreat and led 75 Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) MPs in rejecting it.

Mr Odinga, who has been vocal in pressing for the full implementation of the report, chaired a four-and a-half hour ODM parliamentary group meeting which declared that the report had “incurable errors, defects and fundamental constitutional contradictions.”

The Prime Minister sat to the right of the Parliamentary Group Secretary Ababu Namwamba as he read out the statement. Mr Namwamba said contents of the secret envelope that was handed over to the chief mediator of the Kenya peace talks former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan could not be subjected to legal proceedings or investigation within or outside Kenya.

“ODM being part of the coalition government will resist and stop any rendition or surrender of Kenya citizens to a tribunal outside its territory as the national jurisdiction and national systems have not collapsed.”

The position taken by ODM came barely hours after the American and German Ambassadors urged President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to implement the Waki report in full as a way of ending the culture of impunity in Kenya.

But speaking elsewhere, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka appeared to take the same route as ODM, saying report should not be implemented in full since it would open up wounds that had started to heal.

Mr Musyoka said it was regrettable that several people were killed during the post-election violence but warned that if careers of politicians implicated in the violence were destroyed it would be detrimental to the healing process in the country.

More on this story from Capital FM news >>

Rejection by Kenya’s government of the Waki Report on post election violence is likely to cause discontent among a public eager to see justice amidst rising ethnic tension sparked by a fractious ruling elite.

The Commission of inquiry into Post Election Violence implicated senior politicians allied to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in ethnic clashes that killed over 1,000 Kenyans early this year. The violence was a result of disputed elections between Kibaki and Raila. International mediation efforts led by Koffi Annan brokered a coalition between the two in March. However, blame over the violence continues.

The Commission was chaired by judge Philip Waki who recommended the prosecution before an international tribunal of all politicians linked with ethnic incitement and financing of the clashes.

IDPs committed atrocities – Raila

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said internal refugees in camps are afraid to return home because they participated in ethnic clashes.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a press conference after disputed election results were announced, January 2008.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a press conference after disputed election results were announced, January 2008.

“Some of those who had left their homes are refusing to return home because they fear retribution for their involvement in violence,” Raila claims.

Raila defended his call for amnesty for the hundreds of people arrested during post-election violence in Kenya in December 2007 and January this year. “The majority of people who just protested and demonstrated, we have said, should be released.”

Raila made the statements to Radio France International (RFI) at the World Policy Conference last week. The conference was held in the town of Evian in Southern France. Heads of state and government were invited to the summit which Raila was given a chance to address.

Though the interview was held several days ago, there has been little discussion of Raila’s remarks in Kenyan media in light of the delicate state of ethnic relations in the country. The statement that internally displaced people (IDPs) were involved in violence is likely to be received negatively by hundreds of thousands of people yet to return to their homes after three months of looting, killing and destruction early this year.

IDPs see themselves as victims of the violence, forced to abandon property and livelihoods they had toiled many years to build.

Ethnic tensions stoked by politicians erupted in violent clashes after disputed elections in December 2007. The top contenders for the presidency were Mwai Kibaki on the PNU party and Raila Odinga of ODM. As happens with most African countries, Kibaki was supported mostly by his Kikuyu ethnic group while Raila got most votes from his Luo tribe. Raila, had earlier formed an alliance with politicians from the Kalenjin tribe and the Kalenjin voted as a bloc for ODM.

Due to uncertainties over the actual winner of the December 27 poll, Kalenjin in the Rift Valley fought the Kikuyu, destroying property, homes, businesses and motor vehicles. Entire villages were razed to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu, Kisii and Kamba fled ODM strongholds in the Kalenjin and Luo heartlands in the Western part of Kenya.

The Kikuyu retaliated in the last week of January 2008, leading to the eviction of tens of thousands of Luo, Kalenjin and Luhya from areas in Central Kenya dominated by the Kikuyu, Kamba, Embu and Meru tribes.

Raila and ODM continually deny organizing the violence. In last week’s interview with RFI, Raila rejected the idea that all those covered by the amnesty had been involved in violence, saying that much of the violence had been provoked by excessive police force.

By March 2008, at least 1,000 people were dead. Half a million were homeless and living in football fields, churches and schools across Kenya. A massive international aid operation was launched to feed the displaced.

Former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan led mediation efforts between Kibaki and Raila, resulting in a coalition government. Kibaki kept the Presidency while a new post of Prime Minister was created for Raila. However, ethnic tension remains high.

While Kibaki and his PNU party insist that everybody has a right to live and work anywhere in the republic, ODM members say that the Kikuyu should leave the Rift Valley. Riots were witnessed at the Coast after rumors circulated that Kikuyu settlers were planning to relocate there. ODM got a majority vote at the Coast.

Large numbers of IDPs are unable to return home because of continued threats from their former neighbors. Indeed, many who attempted to return have been attacked. The government is giving out Shs10,000 (US$138) to each family but the money is simply not enough to start life afresh.

Some of the refugees are pooling the money and buying land elsewhere. They have given up hope of ever returning to the Rift Valley.

2007 election not rigged – Kriegler

The 2007 General Elections were not rigged but Kenya’s Electoral Commission messed up the exercise making it impossible to tell who really won the poll

Johann Kriegler

Johann Kriegler

This was the verdict of the Independent Review Commission on the 2007 Elections. The Commission, headed by retired South African judge, Johann Kriegler, presented its report yesterday to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The President and Prime Minister promised to discuss the report in the coalition cabinet in order to decide how best to reform Kenya’s electoral system.

Supporters of Raila’s ODM party have expressed disappointment with Kriegler’s findings and insist the elections were deliberately rigged in Kibaki’s favour. However, during the Commission hearings, evidence emerged that all political parties committed electoral fraud within their ethnic strongholds.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were the two top protagonists in the tightly-fought presidential race. After Kibaki was declared winner, supporters of Raila rejected the results. Riots and ethnic clashes, especially in the Rift Valley, caused the deaths of over 1,000 people and made half a million homeless.

International peace talks led by Koffi Annan resulted in a coalition government, with Kibaki keeping the presidency and Raila appointed to the new post of Prime Minister. Johann Kriegler’s Commission of Inquiry was formed as part of the peace talks to analyze what went wrong with the elections.

According to Kriegler, the Kenyan people need to change the way they view and conduct elections. “Even if you fired the entire Electoral Commission of Kenya, and you appointed new people to conduct an election under the same circumstances, they will fail,” Kriegler has been quoted as saying.

While the casting of ballots proceeded smoothly, vote counting ruined the credibility of the polls. In many constituencies, incomplete results were declared. In other constituencies, election clerks were hired the day before the vote and sent to work without training. However, political parties were also to blame as each thought it would get an advantage by influencing the employment of clerks.

Final tallies were misinterpreted, there was too much pressure from political parties while, on numerous instances, people were allowed to vote more than once. In Kibaki and Raila strongholds, police officers and election observers were removed from polling centres which went ahead to, “declare” results.

Voters who queued for hours will be dismayed to learn that elections officials simply made up the final figures. The Returning Officer for Changamwe Constituency confessed to announcing wrong results because he was tired and hadn’t slept for three days. But the worst revelation came from a Returning Officer from Kirinyaga Central who admitted before the Commission that the current Member of Parliament for the constituency had infact lost the election.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission of Kenya spent thousands of dollars buying 210 laptop computers to assist in the tallying of election results. The computers were never used.

On its part, the Electoral Commission has blamed politicians for piling excessive pressure that disrupted its election procedures. Many constituencies had at least twenty candidates vying for the legislature and dozens for local authority seats in addition to at least ten presidential candidates. Since electoral law states that all party agents must assent to the final count in each constituency, getting unanimous agreement among the many agents and observers proved impossible.

State authority collapsed during poll chaos

A report by Kenya’s official human rights body highlights the extent to which state authority collapsed as ethnic clashes raged following disputed elections last December.

A group of armed policemen were seen looting a shopping centre under the command of a police inspector.

Chiefs on government payroll led gangs of youth in an orgy of killing. Well-known politicians attended meetings to lay strategies for death and destruction. Business people availed free use of matatus, trucks, land and machinery for training and logistical operations. Funds drives were held to import weapons from Somalia and Ethiopia.

While police in the towns of Kisumu and Nairobi used desperate tactics to assert government authority, commanders in the rural areas abandoned their stations and took sides with their ethnic groups. A senior police officer in one of the worst hit areas told victims of clashes to take care of themselves.

The revelations are contained in a report released last month by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights. Due to the ongoing Waki Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence, the press has been barred from mentioning the names of those linked to ethnic clashes. The Nairobi Chronicle has obtained a copy of the explosive report, which is freely circulating on the Internet. However, we are unable to publish names for fear of legal and other consequences.

Since release of the report, several politicians implicated in the violence have cited their innocence. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Tourism Minister Najib Balala, Higher Education Minister Sally Kosgei and Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama have denied organizing and funding the clashes.

In an interesting twist of events, three of the top politicians named in the report have since died. One was murdered by a policeman while the other two died in an accident. Its not clear whether the unnatural circumstances of their deaths have anything to do with the political and ethnic clashes.

By March this year, close to 1,000 people were dead and half a million rendered homeless. International mediation efforts resulted in a coalition government that has presided over a tense peace. Many of the displaced are still in camps due to continued threats. A few thousand have settled in Uganda.

The KNCHR report unveils a financial angle to the violence. Youth were paid between Shs400 to Shs500 (US$5.8 – $7.3) a day for their “services.” The monetary inducement is obviously appealing due to widespread poverty and high rates of unemployment in Kenya. There was a monetary scale of payment depending on the ethnicity of the victim: even in death, certain tribes attracted greater wrath than others.

Eyewitness accounts reveal that there existed a logistical and financial chain between politicians in Nairobi and youth on the ground. Mobile phones were used to issue orders and to confirm implementation.

Entire ethnic groups rose up against their perceived rivals and politicians played a key role in mobilization. Its possible that majority of ordinary people were not initially inclined to violence. However, there were threats of death for those refusing to participate. Indeed, many who resisted the call to arms had their property destroyed. This happened in all sides to the conflict.

Serving and retired security officers trained militia groups at the behest of politicians. In several instances, the use of firearms by civilian combatants was recorded. Its not clear how these militias obtained guns. Bridges were destroyed using explosive material. The KNCHR report has confirmed claims that top politicians plotted on importing heavy weapons from Ethiopia and Somalia.

There has been a lot of debate over whether the post election violence was planned. It may well be true that the early violence was a spontaneous reaction to a botched election. However, once the violence began, it assumed a life of its own and became a monster.

People felt that the Kenyan government had stopped existing. The security structure, the civil service, all of it collapsed. There was no government to protect the people.

Trade, transport and agriculture stopped functioning. Vast swathes of land were cut-off from the outside world. Chaos reigned as food and fuel supplies ran out. Nobody knew what was happening in the next district, let alone the rest of the country. Every man had to do whatever was necessary to defend families and property. That explains why ordinary citizens went to extraordinary lengths to donate their time, energy, money and other resources.

Amidst all these, the politicians were comfortably placed in Nairobi, issuing orders from the comfort of their plush residences. When asked to stop, they adamantly refused. By the end of January, newly elected Members of Parliament started earning hundreds of thousands in salaries as the countryside lay in ruin. It may just be possible that some of that cash was channeled into financing more chaos.

Has Kenya learnt anything from events of the past nine months? Only time will tell.

Incompetence, not rigging, ruined Kenya polls

Preliminary findings from the Kriegler Commission of Inquiry indicate that last year’s General Election failed due to incompetence by the Electoral Commission of Kenya and not because of a diabolical plot to rig the elections.

Both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were shortchanged in the vote tally.

From evidence adduced before the Commission, its becoming clear that the true winner of the election may never be known. Final tallies were misinterpreted, there was too much pressure from political parties while, on numerous instances, people were allowed to vote more than once. In strongholds of the two leading presidential candidates, police officers and election observers were removed from polling centres which went ahead to, “declare” results.

Voters who queued for hours will be dismayed to learn that elections officials simply made up the final figures. The Returning Officer for Changamwe Constituency confessed to announcing wrong results because he was tired and hadn’t slept for three days. But the worst revelation came from a Returning Officer from Kirinyaga Central who admitted before the Commission that the current Member of Parliament for the constituency had infact lost the election.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission of Kenya spent thousands of dollars buying 210 laptop computers to assist in the tallying of election results. The computers were never used.

The Independent Review Commission investigating the 2007 General Election is a result of peace talks brokered by former United Nations Secretary General, Koffi Annan, in March this year. The Peace talks ended political and ethnic clashes that erupted following the election. At least 1,000 people died between December 2007 and February 2008. Half a million were evicted from their homes.

The violence pitted supporters of Raila Odinga against those of Mwai Kibaki. The two men were the top contenders in December’s polls. Kenya’s Electoral Commission declared Kibaki the winner but Raila’s supporters rejected the results due to anomalies in the vote counting process.

The Koffi Annan peace talks led to the formation of Kenya’s giant coalition cabinet. Kibaki retained the presidency, while Raila got the new position of Prime Minister. The Independent Review Commission is expected to establishing why the polls failed. The Commission is headed by Justice Johann Kriegler from South Africa.

Previous evidence at the Kriegler Inquiry has revealed that thousands of electoral clerks were literally picked off the streets and sent to work without training. However, political parties were also to blame as each thought it would get an advantage by influencing the employment of clerks.

On its part, the Electoral Commission has blamed politicians for piling excessive pressure that disrupted its election procedures. Many constituencies had at least twenty candidates vying for the legislature and dozens for local authority seats in addition to at least ten presidential candidates. Since electoral law states that all party agents must assent to the final vote tally in each constituency, getting unanimous agreement among the many agents and observers proved impossible.

Electoral Commission Chairman, Samuel Kivuitu, has criticized political parties for presenting conflicting lists of candidates. This, according to Kivuitu, contributes to confusion during elections.

Since the disputed elections, Kivuitu and his team have resisted calls to resign, saying that their actions were lawful. Days after declaring President Kibaki as winner, Kivuitu was quoted as saying he did not really know who won the election.

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