NAIROBI, September 18 – Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived in Kenya on Thursday morning and received a copy of report by the Independent Review Commission (IREC), which he described as satisfactory, just a day after it had been handed over to President Mwai Kibaki.,
Soon after getting the report, Annan who acted as the Chief Mediator in Kenya’s post-crisis negotiations went into a closed-door meeting with the commissioners led by the chairman Justice Johann Kriegler.
Later at a meeting with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Annan said he was pleased with the work of the Kriegler team, but called for the implementation of their recommendations.
“I am happy that both the Prime Minister and the President and the Prime Minister accepted the report and will be discussing it with the Cabinet and forwarding it to Parliament for discussion. Judge Kriegler and his team have done an extremely valuable job for Kenya and the (peace) process,” Mr Annan said before proceeding to State House for a meeting with the President.
He also said that implementation of the National Accord was critical and stressed the need to effect recommended reforms in the agreement.
“The reform of the electoral system was part of the package of reforms the government had undertaken before the report came out, but now they have more edge to move forward with that reform. I am happy to be back and I am happy to see how things have progressed,” Mr Annan said.
Justice Kriegler led a team of eight commissioners in a six-month inquiry that recommended wide-ranging reforms at the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). Among the proposals in the 117-page document was a reduction of the commissioners ‘to such a number as are functionally able to do the work.’
A day after the report was handed to the president, Cabinet Minister Mutula Kilonzo – who was one of the negotiators during the peace talks – said that reforming the ECK alone was not sufficient. He said that other institutions of government needed to be re-evaluated to support the electoral body. –
“We need to have political parties that are democratically compliant; a police force that is democratically compliant, and an electoral process that accepts that I shouldn’t give you money to vote for me. These are issues that are on the surface,” Kilonzo said.
Kilonzo was however apprehensive about the recommendations, noting that the political class had failed to carry out reforms even though many had been pushing for them for years. “I feel so sad because Kriegler has not said anything new. These are things that are known to all of us.”
The Independent Review Commission (IREC) was appointed by the National Dialogue and Reconciliation team that was chaired by Mr Annan and was mandated to probe last year’s disputed polls and make the necessary institutional and legal changes.
On his part, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi assured that the team which participated in the formation of the Independent Review Commission would be proactive in the process of implementation.
“We appended our signatures in terms of saying that we commit ourselves to implementing it. I think we should not take Kenyans for a ride. We set up the commission because we wanted to make the country better,” Mudavadi reiterated.
He however insisted that it would be necessary to disband the ECK. “You cannot overhaul it without disbanding and there are processes to do that. I don’t see what stops the president to go ahead and appoint a tribunal to look into the ECK.”
They spoke as diplomatic missions in Nairobi, welcomed the report and called on President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to ensure the speedy and full implementation of the recommendations.
In a statement signed by the European Union, Canada and the United States the missions noted that the recommendations should help address the identified shortcomings so that they do not recur.
“Kenyans deserve an electoral system that they can have full confidence in. We look forward to an implementation plan in the Sessional Paper that the Government of Kenya is to present to Parliament. As representatives of the international community we stand ready to lend our support,” the statement read in part.
The United Nations Office in Nairobi also said it would closely monitor the implementation of the recommendations. The Director General Anna Tibaijuka said that the organisation was ready to offer any assistance to the government towards the full implementation of the report.
“We are very keen that when you make a deal it is no deal until you honour it because you need the trust of the people,” Tibaijuka said.
While presenting the report on Wednesday, Justice Kriegler challenged the government to seek support from the international community in carrying out the much needed reforms.