Chaos at Kriegler team hearings

June 26, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, June 26 – Heckling and jeering dominated the second day of public hearings of the Independent Review Commission (IREC) in Nairobi on Thursday.

The Commission was forced to adjourn its morning session prematurely after rowdy party supporters disrupted the proceedings.

Chairman Justice Johann Kriegler and his commissioners had to leave the KICC hall after they were unable to calm the crowd. 

"This is our meeting, keep quiet or get out; you might know what she is saying but we don’t know and we want to hear," shouted the Judge at one of the attempts.

The situation deteriorated when Justice Kriegler ordered security officers to evict ODM activist Irshad Sumra after he defied orders to sit down and allow a speaker to give his evidence.

Rowdy youths blocked security officers from carrying out the order which culminated in a scuffle and the walk-out by the commissioners.

The sittings continued later in the afternoon with minimal disruptions.

Speakers pointed accusing fingers at party agents, polling clerks and security officers for interfering with the voting and tallying of votes through vote intimidation and bribery.

"A polling centre is supposed to be manned by security officers. (But) it was run by youths and access was on their right," noted one of the speakers.

"When we were transporting the ballot boxes for tallying we were pushed away by the GSU and they transported the boxes; others were beaten," Alice Mbugua, who was an agent in the elections alleged.

For the second day the recruitment of returning officers, presiding officers and polling clerks was criticized for lacking transparency and being politically influenced. Discrepancies in the voter registers were also blamed for multiple rigging.

The speakers proposed drastic electoral reforms in the country.

Most of the speakers want the independence of the electoral body given priority besides giving it more powers to punish election offenders. Although the commission fined some candidates in the last year’s polls for instigating violence it was criticized for its leniency in the fines.

"Let us amend the rules so that the ECK has the power to disqualify any candidate who preaches hatred and spreads rumors," Jennifer Macharia voiced.

"ECK should be networked so that immediately results are declared they come in to the national tallying centre," Sumra proposed.

"If we don’t have a clear winner let us have a re-run so that nobody can claim to be president on two extra votes," added university of Nairobi lecturer, Reginate Ochieng.

Other recommendations aired include the adoption of a parliamentary system of government and the inclusion of a provision of a Presidential run-off should an aspirant fail to secure more than 50% of the total vote.

Nearly all speakers were in agreement over the need for a new constitution that would demystify the presidency and settle historical injustices of land ownership and imbalanced development.

Nevertheless tribalism took most of the attention in the day’s proceedings with presenters blaming it for dividing the country.

IREC is tasked with investigating circumstances surrounding the disputed presidential results. The commission will sit again in Nairobi on Friday before heading to Mandera next week.


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