Be vigilant, Kriegler urges Kenyans

July 1, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, June 30 – The Chairman of the Independent Review Commission (IREC) probing the 2007 elections, Justice Johann Kriegler called upon Kenyans on Monday to exert the necessary political pressure to ensure that recommendations of his commission and others formed after the post-poll violence are implemented.

Speaking during public hearings at Limuru Kirathimo hall, Kriegler said the much awaited legislative reforms in the country would be futile if the citizens failed to hold political leaders to account.

Kriegler stated, "People have died in elections and each time there has been an agonizing and deep inquiry and each time there has been advice and it has been ignored. May it not be ignored again and if it gets ignored, it is not because of the president but because the people allowed him."

Responding to public pressure requiring him to ensure that the commission’s recommendations were made public the chairman added that giving the Electoral commission powers was not a solution on its own if the citizens don’t play their crucial role.

"Can you imagine what would happen if the ECK were to disband the leader of a political party? The country would go up in flames. You must see that the leaders know that you disapprove of their behavior and you will not follow them if they try to mislead you," the chairman voiced.

The Commission took its public hearings to Central province after splitting into two groups. One sat at the Limuru Kirathimo hall while the other team was at Kikuyu’s Wangige ACK hall.

At Limuru members of public, and mainly Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), voiced their desire for the government to decisively deal with tribalism in the country. Speakers were in agreement on the need to guide the country towards unity and reconciliation.

The speakers told the commission that the post election violence was largely caused by hate speech incited by politicians prior to the elections and propagated through vernacular radio stations. They criticized the media for openly taking sides in the campaigns.

They blamed the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) for failing to enforce the code of conduct which bars politicians from using hate speech and inciting people to violence.

The electoral body was on the spot again over the manner it recruited and posted Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and polling clerks. Presenters proposed that these officials be recruited competitively and posted away from their home districts.

Chairman Samuel Kivuitu got his share of blame for making contradictory statements on the presidential results. People particularly singled out the famous ‘I don’t know,’ phrase as a source of the presidential tally dispute. People insisted that the ECK be re-constituted consultatively and be empowered to deal with electoral malpractices.

"The commissioners should be de-linked from those conducting elections. The elections should be conducted by a director of elections and incase there is a dispute the commissioners should handle this," one of the speakers proposed.

Monday’s sittings were relatively calm albeit high emotions as the internal refugees narrated their ordeals. Kriegler had a hard time dictating the agenda of the day as speakers often veered off into the sensitive land issue and the violence. The IDPs insisted the debate was at the centre of their interest.

"We came here thinking he would help us and now he is telling us to talk about the elections which cannot help us now!" one of the IDPs Mary Njeri, complained.

IREC is probing events surrounding the disputed presidential elections touching on the conduct of the ECK, political parties, security forces and party supporters. It continues with its tour of Central province on Tuesday and Wednesday and will hold hearings in Thika, Muranga, Keruguya and Nyeri. The commission will on Thursday and Friday tour Eastern Province.


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