cc. If the bi-partisan commission, headed by South African Judge Johann Kriegler, hoped to avoid controversy by making ambiguous statements and generalised conclusions, it walked into the eye of a storm. Although the commission completed its work on schedule and adopted many recommendations Kenyans have been making on the kind of electoral system they would like to have, a keen reading of its report shows that it went off the tracks as soon as it began the search for truth.
Civil society monitors noted that after successful countrywide visits, in which investigators identified 114 potential witnesses, the Kriegler commission chose not to record their statements or summon them to give evidence. Based on the information and evidence received even before the commission was set up, there were complaints about the results from 49 constituencies. The IREC (Independent Review of Election Commission) chose not to summon the concerned returning officers to explain alleged anomalies, which ranged from the alteration of documents to filing improper election returns.
The commission chose not to summon many of the 32 ECK (Electoral Commission of Kenya) commissioners and staff who were at the nerve centre of the discredited tallying system that produced a presidential result that even IREC does not believe. Instead, the commission chose to listen to the ECK chairman, one commissioner and 10 staff. For corroboration, it took evidence from only one domestic observer, and then closed shop.
No heed was paid to allegations of a break-in at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) on 31 December 2007, which is recorded at the KICC police station as OB NO. 7 of 2 January 2008. No attention was paid to issues that required further investigation, such as local administration officers issuing identity cards to schoolchildren so they could vote. Or presiding officers neglecting to accompany ballot boxes. Or fake ballot papers floating around, or even parallel ballot papers being printed.
No inquiry was made into the allegations that security agents were deployed to rig elections, despite the fact that two police officers lost their lives because of such information reaching the public.
The commission did everything possible to avoid getting to the truth. The statistical analysis it chose to use was not only ineffective and poorly employed, but also blinded the commission to what else it could do with the results to obtain the truth. The IREC chose not to draw on local experts who could have performed a more effective analysis.
In sum, the Kriegler report is a half-baked job that attempts to cover up offences committed by people who deserve no such protection. A detailed analysis of its methodological flaws is carried in the Comments & Analysis section of this issue of Pambazuka News, and what follows is an overview of the IREC’s performance.
10 QUESTIONS KRIEGLER REFUSED TO ANSWER
1. Why did President Kibaki choose to ignore the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group (IPPG) in selecting the electoral commissioners?
2. Why was the mandate of the experienced deputy chairman of the ECK not renewed and why was he replaced by Kibaki’s former family lawyer?
3. Why were previous demands for electoral reforms ignored?
4. Why did the ECK choose not to utilise the IT equipment it had access to?
5. Why did the ECK recruit staff who lacked competence, and not give them adequate training?
6. Why were the ECK staff posted to work in their home areas?
7. Why did the Nation Media Group’s database crash on the evening of 28 December, and why did KTN (the other major Kenyan news network) management around the same time tell newsrooms to only broadcast ECK data?
8. Why did the ECK chairman, on the morning of 29 December, complain that he couldn’t reach his commissioners in PNU (Party of National Unity) strongholds on the phone and hint at a ‘cooking of figures’?
9. Why was the counting and tallying marred by ‘massive arithmetical errors by returning officers’ when every mobile phone had a calculator function?
10. Why did the commissioner of police prevent the public from coming near the KICC?
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE INCOMPETENT
The IREC deserves praise for producing its report on deadline. This is a marked departure from the conduct of previous commissions of inquiry.
It is important to point out, however, that the report suffers from two principal shortcomings resulting from the methods the commission adopted:
1. On witnesses, the investigation appears to have largely relied on the evidence of the prime players, that is the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). It failed to look for evidence either to corroborate or contradict what the ECK said. In dealing with complaints about constituency results issues, evidence from others present during the process such as security agents, observers or voters, and not just from the returning officers in question, would shed light and sharpen the findings.
The rules of evidence and investigation require that you do not rely on the uncorroborated evidence of one player. One would also have expected that the interviews of ECK commissioners could have been expanded to include other commissioners (only a small selection of them was interviewed). The total number and spread of people who testified under oath is too thin to have given the commission the totality of the evidence required to arrive at factual and accurate findings.
2. On the statutory forms and the allegations surrounding the tallying process, the approach adopted by the commission in determining whether it was error or fraud that occurred at the KICC was also limited. A more thorough forensic analysis would have determined whether it was error or fraud that occurred during the tallying of results and filling of statutory forms. This audit could have included examining documents, such as selected Forms 16, 16A and 17A. In addition, it might have helped, after dealing with the legal issues surrounding this, to have conducted a physical inspection and recount of ballots in a random, select number of ballot boxes.
The commission’s full report is analysed below along six thematic lines drawn from its terms of reference.
1. CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK
The report admits that there is a need to expressly provide for the right to vote in the constitution. It also recommends merging all electoral laws into one, with a provision included to set up a court to resolve disputes over elections.
Not every problem facing the country can be resolved through constitutional and legal change alone, however. Kenya, the report says, must undergo societal change and develop a culture for tolerance, fidelity to the law, honesty and transparency.
Although the report indicts the ECK for incompetence and cites institutional collapse, it fails to assign individual responsibility for critical lapses. This presents opportunities for the Kenyan habit of blaming everything on the need for legal reform without requiring adherence to existing laws. The IREC is right to call for an end to the culture of impunity, but it is not forthright enough in pointing out officials and institutions that did not carry out their mandate as required by law, and suggesting what should happen to them.
The need to change Kenya’s electoral system has been acknowledged for a long time. Part of the blame for the crisis Kenya found itself in has been laid on the first-past-the-post electoral system, which is said to encourage conflict and not conciliation. Although the report points out the shortcomings of the current system and deficiencies in the systems proposed in the Bomas and Wako draft constitutions, its attempts to highlight the shortcomings of a mixed-member representative system are unconvincing.
The report also fails to discuss the law governing presidential elections and thus passes up an opportunity to tie up all the issues requiring reform around the electoral process.
2. THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF KENYA (ECK)
The president’s unilateral appointment of commissioners, the ECK’s unwieldy structure of too many commissioners, and the lack of separation of functions between commissioners and the secretariat are identified as problematic. The report also finds shortcomings in the lack of specific qualifications and qualities needed for one to be appointed commissioner, and the poor training for staff who handled the elections.
The report is thin on the role the appointments played in the ECK’s loss of credibility and performance. A more robust analysis of this issue would have been useful.
Although the report recommends that clear lines of individual responsibility are needed for service delivery among commissioners and staff, it fails to identify instances of the commissioners or staff failing to be accountable.
Due to the inept manner in which the ECK conducted the elections, the IREC should have suggested how to hold individuals and the institution accountable to their mandate and actions. Even as currently structured, it is clear what particular aspects for which individuals are responsible. What measures can be used to review the performance of the institution and of the individuals in it? How do you hold people and the institution accountable to their mandate and actions?
3. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
The report decries the partisan nature in which most institutions carried out their mandates and the pervasive levels of negative ethnicity that accompanied the electoral process. The discussion on opinion polls and the media is largely apt. The discussions about levels of partiality by faith-based organisations and civil society organisations (CSOs) and performance of the Kenya Elections Domestic Observation Forum (KEDOF) are also apt and worth greater introspection by the different categories.
The report proceeds as if there were only two political parties in Kenya: the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Although they were the main protagonists in the dispute, there were other parties, notably ODM-Kenya. A more comprehensive analysis and inquiry is required, incorporating other parties in the discussions on skewed party nominations and performance.
In the run-up to the 2007 elections, political parties were registered and run in a loose legal environment. Although the Political Parties Act is now in force, it is the discredited ECK that is expected to midwife it. A major shortcoming of the report is the failure to lay out how to restore confidence in the ECK.
The section on complaints against civil society organisations and election observers lacks dispassionate and rigorous analysis. It merely catalogues verbatim complaints from various groups without contextual analysis.
4. ORGANISATION AND CONDUCT OF THE 2007 ELECTIONS
The finding that the ECK did not perform its role adequately with regard to redrawing constituency boundaries is overly harsh and misplaced. The current number of constituencies is the maximum allowed by the constitution. The ECK had called for changes and pleaded with parliament, but partisan politics ensured that the review of constituencies never took place.
The discussions on party nominations are also conservative. The high number of irregularities, incidents of violence and outright manipulation during the party nominations was markedly graver than the report paints them.
The report says it is impossible to know who won the presidential election since the results and the process of recording them were heavily polluted. The ECK failed to guarantee that the results accurately reflected the votes cast. There were many problems in the tallying at the polling station and at the constituency level.
The report adds that there was no evidence of crime or irregularities at the national tallying centre. The commission appears to have handled the national tallying centre differently from the field, adopting a defensive approach to some of the issues raised, including KPTJ’s reports.
The most important aspect of the election cycle, requiring utmost integrity, is the counting and tallying. Yet the commission does not say whether these two processes met the standard. The report says counting and tallying at polling stations and/or constituency tallying centres lacked integrity, but shies away from making a definite conclusion on the integrity of the tallying process at the KICC. The report dismisses the complaints raised about the tallying process. If one puts aside the complaints, what does the commission think of the integrity of the tallying process at the KICC? Failing to address this question adequately is a negation of the IREC’s mandate. Without addressing this aspect of the process, is it not possible to reach a conclusion on the integrity of the results of the 2007 elections.
A more thorough and factual analysis was needed to determine whether the pollution of the results was due to errors from the field, errors at the KICC, or both. Were these errors deliberate and schematic, pointing to some element of fraud, or were they accidental and due to incompetence?
6. ANNOUNCEMENT OF RESULTS
The report reveals that provisional results announced at the KICC differed from the actual results captured in the original Form 16. The manner in which these errors were treated differed from case to case. In some cases, the errors were corrected, while in others they were not. The report indicates, however, that changes continued being made to the results even after the declaration of the winner, some of which were evident in the published results of 9 January 2008 and after.
Officials at the ECK seem to disagree on whether it was permissible to make changes once the provisional results had been announced. The results announced by the ECK are, therefore, not accurate. The issue that the IREC should have answered is the reasons for these anomalies. It fails to do so.
Although the IREC concludes that there was no evidence of fraud or rigging at the KICC, two issues stand out in the chapter discussing this fact. First is the dissent by some commissioners. Since this was a critical component of the IREC’s mandate, one should not just take the finding at face value. The commission was unable to arrive at a unanimous verdict on the accuracy and integrity of the national tallying process. Several commissioners, who were not convinced about the conclusion on the lack of fraud at the tallying centre, dissented.
Normally, dissenting minority opinion is noted as the position of the majority is adopted. In this instance, the totality of unanswered questions and errors documented by the commission – including differences between announced figures and those on some copies of Form 16, and wrong entries in the forms and the ECK database resulting in the supply of false information – points to two possibilities:
a) That all these were due only to the poor training and poor calibre of staff; or
b) That this resulted from a deliberate and planned scheme to rig the elections, as the dissenting commissioners imply.
Without attempting to conclusively determine which of these two groups is factually right, the commission should not have conclusively taken either of these positions on the basis of gut feelings or inconclusive investigations, as is evident from chapter six of the report.
The report discusses the hurried and low-key swearing-in ceremony of the president and the reported unhappiness of the ECK chairman with the manner in which the ceremony was conducted. This event needs to be viewed on a continuum with the announcement of the results. If the ECK chairman says he was not happy yet played along, does it suggest that ECK was fully in control of the elections? If the evidence was that the ECK was not in control, then who was?
Although the report says that it is unnecessary to reach a verdict on whether the stated complaints and irregularities result from human error or fraud, this issue is crucial to the integrity of the presidential results. The report only says that the conduct of the 2007 elections was so materially defective as to make it impossible to determine the true and reliable results for the presidential election. What does this mean in practice and in law? The commission needed to answer this question.
One of the key issues that has bedevilled Kenyan society is the culture of impunity. Many Kenyans, especially in public service, operate in total disregard of the law. In many cases the public officers who disregard the law do so fully aware that no legal action and culpability will follow their actions. Invariably, the manner in which the legal system has operated supports this position. This culture was neatly evident in the manner in which the 2007 elections were conducted.
Although falling short of assigning individual blame for the 2007 election debacle, the report touches on the cause of the problem. The IREC correctly identifies the culture of impunity as having pervaded most sectors of the Kenyan society and recommends urgent redress. However, except for these positive statements, the report fails to identify any participant in electoral malfeasance. It does not even say that such and such person or institution requires further investigation.
After determining that the ECK is structurally and functionally defective, the commission should have proposed a way forward. It should have offered Kenya a clear roadmap to deal with the failure of the ECK and its managers.
The Kriegler report did not provide Kenya with that roadmap for dealing with the ECK. Neither did it determine the extent of electoral offences committed, or identify who committed them. Simple as these actions may appear, they would have gone some way to restoring Kenyans’ faith in the power of the ballot.