Kriegler downplays chaos in Nairobi hearings

June 27, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, June 27 – The Chairman of the Independent Review Commission (IREC) Judge Johann Kriegler on Friday moved to allay fears that the cheering and heckling experienced in its sittings would interfere with its work.

Speaking to the press after the conclusion of three days of public hearings in Nairobi, Kriegler described the scenes as normal and insisted that his commission was in a position to control the proceedings.

"If the political parties think it is their interest to come to influence us by sending us groups of people, good luck to them. We are putting no measures to avoid them because its part of the political process. If people get angry I disapprove of it but it is not my election and it is not my emotion."

Kriegler said he was happy with the progress of its proceedings that has so far taken the commission to 19 stations across five provinces.

Friday’s sittings were relatively calm compared to Wednesday and Thursday. The commission was forced to adjourn its Thursday morning session prematurely after the chairman was unable to control disruptions from supporters of PNU and ODM.

The public hearings process enters part two of phase one of its operations next week and splits into two groups holding public hearings in Central and Eastern provinces before heading to the Rift Valley the following week.

The chairman said the electoral Commission, political parties and others will have a chance to cross-examine witnesses in the second phase which begins in mid July.

"The commission will have formal hearings where if there are factual disputes between particular witnesses versions they will be asked to take an oath they will be questioned and those who are adversely affected by what the say will be given an opportunity to cross examine them."

He exuded confidence that the commission would finalize its report by the set deadline in September.

Friday’s submissions centered on the violence and voter intimidation that took place on voting day and the supposed role played by the Police and Provincial administration in election malpractices.

The hearings were highly dominated by former party agents who claimed that the process was controlled by armed youths especially in the party strongholds. 

"We met armed youths who obstructed us and cut one of my colleagues," lamented Vennetis Macharia.

"The police obstructed us from accompanying the ballot boxes in the vehicle to the tallying hall in Kayole," one of the agents claimed.

The conduct of the presiding officers and the polling clerks on the voting day was also criticized with many claiming that most of them acted in favor of candidates from the parties they preferred.

The three-day hearings in Nairobi were characterized by massive rigging claims from both PNU and ODM supporters especially in Lang’ata, Embakasi and Starehe Constituencies.

"Two presidential ballot boxes disappeared, when we asked the presiding officer he claimed that he had forgotten them. He later produced them," one of the agents Dominic Oulu claimed.

The speakers continued with the push for a more independent Electoral body empowered to deal with electoral Violence and other malpractices. Members of the public were also in agreement over the need for a new constitution and transparency in the recruitment of polling officers.

Other key issues that emerged included the manner of announcing the results with a section of the crowd calling for a transition period of the presidency that will enable aggrieved parties challenge the results before the president is sworn.

"The ECK should state which set of materials should go into the polling station," one of the speakers noted.

"What we want are changes that will help the common man, because the current constitution does not help us!" stated Beatrice Nyongesa.

IREC was named by the president under the mandate of the African Panel of Eminent persons and is tasked to investigate events surrounding the conduct of various players during last year’s general elections. On the spotlight in the investigations include the ECK, political parties, security forces, and party supporters. Kriegler assured that he will petition the president to make the report public.


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