NAIROBI, September 19 – The chairman of the Independent Review Commission Johann Kriegler has defended the report into Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election.,
He said that the mandate of his team was to establish the integrity of the poll and not to declare a winner and asked people to scrutinise it before making hasty conclusions.
“Our mandate was not to find out who won the presidential elections. If it does not happen to fit somebody’s bid as to who won the race, I am sorry about that, but we are not members of a jockey club. We had a different job,” he said.
Justice Kriegler who chaired the eight-member commission said his team conducted its work efficiently and impartially, and did not see why there were doubts being raised about the integrity of the report.
He also dismissed reports in sections of the media that some commissioners had differed on particular findings in the report, saying they amicably resolved any different opinions that arose.
Major reforms at the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) was a key pillar of the report, with most Kenyans who appeared before the Kriegler team saying that they wanted it thoroughly reformed or completely disbanded.
The report accused the electoral body of failing to implement previous recommendations especially the computerisation of voter records and other data.
Kriegler was concerned that pens and paper were used to record and conduct the elections in numerous polling stations, which had almost doubled in 2007 from the previous poll, signalling a high voter turnout. The tight presidential race also proved to be a challenge for the ECK in conducting the elections.
However, he also noted that there was high tension and incitement before and during elections.
“In 2007, did you see a computer being used? Sadly no. This election was worse because national tension and excitement was even greater, there was a major increase in the number of polling stations, you simply cannot handle that number of stations with pen and paper,” he said.
He said the government, the political parties and other relevant authorities failed to respond to ECK’s plea for computerisation despite having written letters severally asking for such support.
Despite this handicap, Kriegler observed that this was not an excuse for the ECK to have failed to get the voting process computerised.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who spoke at a joint news conference with Kriegler said that he had held constructive discussions with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga who pledged their support to honour the Kriegler report.
He urged for support from the rest of the country as the government got down to implementing the recommendations.
“I urge all concerned; the coalition government, civil society, religious groups, the media and all of us to take heed of this report and work to see it implemented. It is your report, it is not for politicians alone,” Mr Annan said.
The report was officially handed over to President Kibaki and Odinga on Thursday and made public a day later.
It can now be accessed by the public at www.dialoguekenya.org.
The Electoral Commission of Kenya which has come under censure by the Kriegler team later confirmed it had received the report and would issue a statement next week.
“The ECK acknowledges that the IREC report makes several salient and fundamental observations not only on the ECK’s conduct of the 2007 General Elections but also on Kenya’s electoral systems and processes,” a statement from the ECK PR officer Mani Lemayian said.
The ECK said the issues raised called for sober reflection of Kenya’s electoral systems and processes to overcome the limitations that had been identified in the IREC report.
“The ECK urges all Kenyans to read the report and ensure their comments are informed by facts based on a synthesis of the report’s findings and recommendations,” Lemayian said.