September 18, 2008 / 1:23 PM / 10 years ago

Kenya's election seen as badly flawed

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Elections in Kenya that unleashed a wave of bloodshed earlier this year were so badly flawed that it is impossible to know who won, an official inquiry said on Thursday.

Protesters throw stones at riot police as rival ethnic gangs began fighting in Kibera slums after gunmen killed a Kenyan opposition politician at his home in the early hours in Nairobi in this file photo from January 29, 2008. Elections in Kenya that unleashed a wave of bloodshed earlier this year were so badly flawed that it is impossible to know who won, an official inquiry said on Thursday. REUTERS/Noor Khamis

At least 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes in some of the worst ethnic violence since independence from Britain in 1963.

The report by the commission of inquiry, which was led by a retired South African judge, was handed to President Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday and to chief mediator Kofi Annan on Thursday.

“The conduct of the 2007 elections was so materially defective that it has been and will remain impossible ... to establish true or reliable results for the presidential and parliamentary elections,” it said.

The clashes ended with a power-sharing deal that made opposition leader Raila Odinga prime minister, while President Mwai Kibaki remained head of state.

The seven-member Independent Review Commission (IREC) said the poll was riddled with corruption on both sides, with vote-buying and selling, ballot stuffing and marauding gangs armed with machetes used to intimidate the public.

It said there was no evidence the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) had rigged the results in favour of any of the candidates, but said the crisis was due to the ineptitude and inefficiency of the body at all levels.

“The institutional legitimacy of the ECK and public confidence in the professional credibility of its commissioners and staff have been gravely and arguably irreversibly impaired.”

It said 1.2 million dead people were still on the voters roll, and that the whole system badly needed to be overhauled.

South African Judge Johann Kriegler, who led the investigation, told Reuters he was sure Kenya’s government would take the recommendations on board quickly.

“I have every confidence it will be expedited,” he said. “I know who lost in this election, the people of Kenya lost.”

Many in the east African country remained sceptical, fearing that his report will end up shelved like previous commissions of inquiry, never to be heard of again.

“Maybe they will not implement the entire report, but they have to do something about ECK,” said bank worker Sarah Wanjiku.

The full report is due to be made public on Friday.

Editing by Daniel Wallis

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