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.

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Constitution reforms not a priority

A new survey reveals that 89% of Kenyans don’t care about reforming the constitution, but want the government to address poverty, insecurity and healthcare.

With rising food and energy prices, majority of Kenyans are more concerned with inflation than with a constitutional process seen as the preserve of politicians. Security emerged as a major concern for a country traumatized by political and ethnic clashes that left over 1,000 dead and half a million homeless. Land reforms featured consistently among poll responses.

The findings were released by Gallup International, a respected polling organization.

According to Gallup, only 9% of respondents feel that constitutional reforms are a priority. Apart from concerns about the economy, health care and security, Kenyans are anxious about the state of infrastructure in the country. Road rehabilitation has been slow as water and electricity shortages bite harder.

The findings were a big disappointment to civil rights activists and politicians, who have been lobbying for constitutional reforms since the early 1990s. Non-governmental organizations, politicians, lawyers and religious leaders – all backed by foreign diplomats – have persistently driven the view that a new constitution is the only path towards a wealthy society. The findings of the Gallup poll will question the legitimacy of these groups.

This is not the first survey showing Kenyans’ disregard for constitutional issues. Last December, just before the elections, another survey revealed that Kenyans want jobs, medicines in public hospitals, clean water and safe roads.

In spite of the rhetoric by politicians that Kenyans “want” constitutional reforms, the ordinary man and woman on the street is not fooled. Kenyans know that this obsession with changing the constitution has more to do with the trappings of power than it has to do with making a better country. A good example is the so-called Bomas Draft that some political parties want to implement.

If the Bomas Draft becomes a reality, every politician in Kenya will have a job thanks to multiple layers of government. There will be government at village level, locational level, the district, province and right to the national level. There will be mini-parliaments for the provinces and districts. Each layer of government will levy its own taxes. According to the Bomas Draft, retired politicians will be accommodated in some form of national council of elders.

There is little mention in the Bomas Draft of expanding economic production in order to provide jobs, food and housing to the growing population.

Political meddling in Kenya’s constitution has resulted in numerous amendments since independence. Most of these were designed to deal with a prevailing political threat. For instance, in 1966, President Jomo Kenyatta’s administration introduced an amendment that forced Members of Parliament who dissented with their political parties to face fresh elections. This amendment was targeted at Kenyatta’s critics, such as opposition leader Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

In 1992, Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi, amended the constitution to make his Kenya African National Union (KANU) the only legal political party. The amendment was removed in 1991 after international pressure.

Throughout the 1990s, President Moi’s opponents wanted the constitution changed in order to give themselves a better chance of winning. After the 1997 elections, the opposition began lobbying for the creation of a Prime Minister’s position after realizing that removing Moi from the presidency was impossible. Moi resisted their calls for a new constitution saying that the opposition was not sincere.

In 2002, Moi agreed to have a National Constitution Conference at the Bomas of Kenya. However, he made the conference so big that failure was a guarantee. The Bomas conference had over 600 delegates with all 222 Members of Parliament included. It was the largest constitutional conference in the history of the world.

Just before the conference completed its work, Moi dissolved parliament in readiness for the 2002 General Election. With most of the delegates being politicians, the Bomas conference was postponed in order to give them time to campaign. Mwai Kibaki won the elections and was sworn into office on December 30th, 2002 promising the enactment of the Bomas constitution within 6 months. That was not to happen.

Kibaki had made a political alliance with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others based on the enactment of a new constitution. Raila was promised the position of executive prime minister. In the first few months of 2003, Raila and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) continually reminded Kibaki of his pledge to change the constitution and make Raila a prime minister.

John Michuki, a Kibaki ally, dropped the bombshell. Michuki announced that the purpose of constitutional reforms had all along been to remove Moi and KANU from power. Since these objectives had been achieved, it was no longer necessary to reform the constitution.  Raila and LDP were outraged, and his alliance with President Kibaki came to an end.

In 2005, Kibaki wrote another draft giving the prime minister much less powers. Raila and LDP campaigned hard against Kibaki’s draft constitution and it was defeated in a national referendum held in November 2005. Since then, no further progress has been made in enacting a new constitution.

Gallup’s recent poll demonstrates that ordinary Kenyans clearly understand the intention behind constitutional review. With Kenyans being the most educated Africans, most realize that it takes much more than a constitution to create a better society. Constitutions do not build roads, power lines, hospitals and schools. All these are day-to-day responsibilities of a government.

The orgy of self-destruction seen this year was not driven by the current constitution. If anything, our present constitution criminalizes murder, rape, arson, looting and incitement. The present constitution, which has guided the country for 45 years, gives every Kenyan citizen the right to work, live and own property anywhere within our borders. The current constitution recognizes the rights of all racial groups in Kenya, that is, Africans, Caucasians, Hindus and Arabs.

As it was noted after the post elections violence, Kenyans need to re-examine the way they conduct politics. If people can kill and steal under the current constitution, why should they obey a new constitution?

Kenyans are suffering from a political class that is nurturing the values of impunity, racism, ethnic hatred, sexism and hereditary politics. It is unthinkable in the 21st century that politicians want a constitution that violates the rights of specific racial and ethnic groups. If such a constitution were enacted, life in Kenya will not get better. It will only get worse.

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.