Kenya: South African judge to head poll fraud investigation

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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has formally appointed a team of electoral experts to undertake investigations into the disputed Presidential elections that saw him re-elected before Kenya plunged into a two-month-long crisis.

South African Judge Justice Johan Christian Kriegler has been appointed the head of the Kenya Independent Elections Review Commission, alongside a Malawian, a Ugandan and an Argentine expert who will begin the election probe this weekend.

President Kibaki has authorized the constitution of the team and formally gazetted the names of the appointees late Thursday, setting the stage for it to begin work on 15 March as stipulated under the newly signed national reconciliation accord.

The accord authorized the formation of the independent review panel to look into all aspects of the December 2007 general elections to determine who really won the elections and also to identify the weaknesses in the electoral system in Kenya.

The team will compile its report within four to six months which would then be passed as part of Kenya’s future electoral laws. The team’s work will also be used as part of the national healing process in Kenya.

South African High Commissioner Tony Misimanga said on Thursday that Justice Kri egler, who formerly headed the Independent Electoral Commission that conducted S o uth Africa’s first post-apartheid elections, will arrive in Nairobi early next week.

The team begins its work on 15 March with the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK ) as its first witnesses. The team has been granted non-judicial powers; that means it would not have powers equivalent of the High Court in Kenya.

It would summon all witnesses as it deems right for questioning in order to arri ve at a verdict into what transpired during the final tallying of the Presidential votes that gave President Kibaki a razor-thin majority of 230,000 votes over his rival Raila Odinga.

The former rivals have agreed to a power-sharing accord but this has been lately dogged by lack of trust with the Kibaki-allied legislators claiming the power-sharing accord does not make Odinga the head of the government to be formed as a result of the peace deal.

Odinga, the Prime Minister-designate, met his top foe, Martha Karua, who is the Justice Minister, as the top Kibaki lieutenant for a lunch meeting, a sign of the thawing of relations between the two bitter rivals.

Meanwhile, the ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu, who has been heckled throughout the week for the way in which he conducted the elections, returned to Nairobi on Thursday after a weeklong meeting in Mombasa where he clashed with angry civil society activists.

Activists questioned Kivuitu over the conduct of the polls and attempted to eject him from a beach resort where he was meeting with 22 of his Commissioners. The civil society activists questioned why Kivuitu was having files from some of the constituencies where the worst cases of electoral fraud where discovered.

The Police later claimed the files had “disappeared” from the hotel where the ECK officials where meeting.

Kenya’s National Civil Society Congress, the non-governmental organization that harassed Kivuitu over his handling of the polls, has denied confiscating the files.

The team said in a statement late Thursday the accusations it took files from th e ECK were meant to hide the files from the independent review team. Panapress

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