Kenyan electoral chief “coerced” to announce flawed results

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The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) chairman Samuel Kivuitu has admitted being pressurized to announce “flawed” results in the Kenyan presidential race, which saw incumbent Mwai Kibaki emerge as the surprise winner.

“I was under undue pressure from the protagonists,” said Kivuitu.

Kivuitu, who had earlier admitted that delays in announcing the results of last Thursday’s presidential elections were caused by the disappearance of senior poll officials who had gone to “cook for people who were paying them,” had come under extreme pressure lately about the flawed results.

Last Saturday, he told a press conference that senior presiding officers, mainly from central and Eastern Kenya, had gone missing and were not answering their phones as the delays caused political temperatures to rise, leading looting in opposition strongholds in western Kenya, coast and the Rift Valley.

“The European Union (EU) mission and Maina Kiai (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights) chairman wanted me to postpone … by a week so as I can investigate the allegations of irregularities,” Kivuitu told the privately-run Kenya Television Network (KTN).

“In fact Kiai called me four times but the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya (ODM) pressurized me to announce the results. At one point I contemplated resigning by later thought that Kenya is bigger than me,” Kivuitu, largely blamed for the post-election mess, said two days after announcing the results of the elections declaring Kibaki as the president.

The ODM was granted its request to have the results taken through a “limited audit” though party officials said this could not address the level of fraud that had been committed.

The East African Community (EAC), one of the regional bodies founded by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and lately joined by Burundi and Rwanda, is yet to endorse the Kibaki victory. The regional leaders are still pondering their options, sources said.

The ECK chief’s admission came as the police said they would crack down on opposition supporters they said were inflaming internal strife, which had seen at least 148 people killed and 209 buildings torched.

The ODM leader, Raila Odinga, has called for a mass rally on Thursday to protest the results.

Kibaki won the elections with a vote difference of 231,000 votes but the opposition leader said the votes were inflated by an average of 300,000 above the number of voters who participated in the parliamentary polls.

“The police are determined more than ever before to move in and arrest all those people perpetrating crime,” said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.

The Police statement was immediately interpreted as a threat to the ODM leader to stop his mass advance or face arrest and prosecution for the violence.

In Kenya, domestic flights have been grounded for lack of jet fuel as the violence continues.

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