Probe on polls fiasco begins
March 12, 2008
By David Ohito
Kenyans may finally know what happened at the hotly disputed and
discredited December 27 presidential election.
An Independent Review Committee begins inquiry into the election
this week. The team is mandated to investigate all aspects of last
year’s presidential election and make findings and recommendations
to improve the electoral process.
Focus shifts to the doors of the embattled Electoral Commission of
Kenya (ECK) Chairman, Mr Samuel Kivuitu, and his commissioners as
they are expected to shed light on the election saga.
In the elections, President Kibaki of Party of National Unity was
declared winner with a slim margin over Orange Democratic Movement
candidate’s Mr Raila Odinga after garnering 4,584,721 and
ODM-Kenya’s Mr Kalonzo Musyoka tailed in third position, garnering
879,903 votes. Kibaki later named him Vice-President.
The committee will be a non-judicial body made up of Kenyan and
non-Kenyan electoral experts of the professional standing and
On Tuesday, details emerged how respected South African Judge,
Justice Johan Christiaan Kriegler — expected in the country by the
weekend — was settled on as chair.
Kriegler is also a former head of South Africa’s Independent
Electoral Commission who delivered the country’s first democratic
election, which was won by Nobel laureate, Mr Nelson Mandela.
The committee is expected to be credible, independent and
impartial and not controlled by any party.
Its scope and terms of reference are to be gazetted on Friday to
give it legal muscle.
"We want the team to have its territory clearly spelt out and its
rules of procedures tabled, like in past inquiries of the
Goldenberg and Ouko commissions," a source privy to the details
The issues to be determined include inquiry into the conduct of
the ECK and the role of observers in the presidential elections,
including declaration results.
It will, among other issues, address the composition of the ECK
and remedial action to be undertaken to ensure it is independent,
impartial and has the capacity to effectively discharge its
constitutional and statutory mandate.
ODM has proposed the names of Ms Catherine Muma and Mr Francis
Angila, both said to be experienced in matters electoral
The committee is expected to identify measures to help restore and
sustain voter confidence in the electoral process.
Its findings would be included into the envisaged comprehensive
Sources close to the Panel of Eminent African personalities, which
is mediating the talks, said it was keen to ensure that the
Independent Review Committee beats the March 15 deadline when it
should begin work.
By Tuesday, the mediation team had recommended that the Government
be tasked with finding a suitable office to house the committee.
The disputed presidential poll sucked Kenya into a political
crisis characterised by widespread violence that left at least
1,000 people dead and more than 350,000 displaced.
Before he left, lead mediator, Dr Kofi Annan, said: "The truth has
to be told and Kenyans have to know what happened. We agreed that
the system must be reformed so that such a crisis never happens
The former United Nations secretary-general explained that the
Independent Review Committee would help heal and reconcile the
The committee was settled on after it became apparent that there
was no viable way to get the truth of the election saga and
outcome through a recount, re-tallying or other measure.
Kriegler was born in Pretoria in 1932 and studied at King Edward
Vll School in Johannesburg. He attended the South African Military
Academy for two years, and then acted as a judge’s clerk while
studying law at the University of Pretoria and the University of
After obtaining his law degree in 1958, he was called to the
Johannesburg Bar in 1959. Kriegler headed the Independent
Electoral Commission, and was instrumental in establishing the
permanent electoral commission, which he chaired until 1999.
He participated in a National Democratic Institute mission in
Angola (1999), International Commission of Jurists / International
Bar Association (IBA) judicial independence missions in Palestine
(2000), Malawi (2002) and Uganda (2007), United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) judicial training in Namibia (2001),
advocacy training in Lesotho (2001), the United Kingdom (2002),
Hong Kong (2006) and South Africa (1983 to date), IBA judicial
training for Iraq (2005) and Swaziland (2005) and IBA-South Africa
Bar observer missions in Zimbabwe (2004), and been briefed by the
United Nations Electoral Assistance Division on a number of
election-related assignments in Afghanistan, East Timor, Iraq,
Liberia, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.
Kriegler is the author of a textbook on criminal procedure and
co-drafter of a judicial code of conduct. He has lectured on
judicial and electoral matters in Angola, Belgium, Botswana,
Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Namibia, the
Netherlands, Palestine, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland,
the United Arab Emirates, UK, US, West Indies, Zambia and
Under the previous South African government, Kriegler was involved
in establishing human rights and public interest advocacy bodies.
He took part in advocacy/transformation training with the Black
Lawyers’ Association (BLA) from the early 1980s and was a founding
chair of Lawyers for Human Rights (1981) and founding trustee of
the Legal Resources Centre (1978).
Today, he is an extraordinary professor at the University of
Pretoria Law Faculty and a trustee of the Nelson Mandela
Children’s Fund, Project Literacy (adult education), the
University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights and the Aids Law
Project, patron of Advocacy Training for the General Council of
the Bar and chairperson of the Constitutional Court Trust.
Kriegler is an honorary life member of the Johannesburg Bar, an
authority on criminal procedure and an author. He is a board
member of the University of South Africa Law Faculty, board member
of the University of Pretoria Institute of Human Rights Studies,
and a trustee of a number of charitable trusts.
He is married and has six children and five grandchildren.