Sunday, January 06, 2008

Elections in Kenya

This fall, I had the pleasure of participating in an exchange with environmental lawyers from Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. The program took me to Kenya where I traveled the country meeting villagers facing environmental and land use . . . well, let's face it, catastrophes. And I'm not exaggerating. But the details of that are for another blog post. I made a number of wonderful friends and contacts in Kenya. I met an array of people excited and hopeful about the future of the country and what at the time was an upcoming election. Not only did I speak with lawyers and activists, I spoke with drivers and shop keepers and newstand workers, and they all shared the same glow of hope for a new democratic future.

Below is an e-mail I received yesterday from one of those people. It is his personal account of what happened during the recent election and the conditions of political and social uncertainty that exist there at this moment. I have omitted his name, not knowing whether he might get into trouble for being so candid in his account. At the end of his e-mail, he lists four things people outside of Kenya can do to help.


Dear Friends,
We are still in a state of shock at the manner in which incumbent president Kibaki and his culpable electoral commission, full of his hatchet men has stolen the elections in which Raila had clear lead in a move that takes us back two decades in our democratisation process. we voted overwhelmingly for the ODM in an election that had one of the best turn outs in our history, then in full glare of TV cameras the electoral body bagan fiddling with results that came through from constituencies first by announcing parliamentary results without the corresponding presidential results in places that were the president's strongholds. the intention was to then be able to inflate figures in favour of the president once the other results were in. so from a clear lead of over 1 million votes the president suddenly narrowed the gap to 200,000 in under 2 hours from a paltry five or so constituencies. there were protests that the poll body tried to ignore till the tally centre became unruly. tallying was suspended and a committee of representatives appointed to audit the documents and match them to results announced at polling centres. this group sat whole night and found anomalies in 48 constituencies in which the presidential votes were topped up some to the tune of 50,000 votes. some had 115% voter turn out and lots oof similar nonsense.
the commission was urged to make the report public and allow for a retallying demands which they blatantly rejected. after several hours of waiting the chair emerged only to continue announcing the disputed results. hell broke loose and protests ensued following which the state sent into the tallying centre the military to evacuate everybody. the media was sent out except the state broadcaster who were sent to a private room where the chairman of the commission announced resuts in favour of Kibaki.
the opposition addressed a press conference in which an official of the commission whose consience could not allow to participate in the fraud spoke to the media about what was happening with tallies. as soon as the results were announced a hastily convened swearing in ceremony was televised again by the state broadcaster where the incumbent was sworn in on the same sunday night without even the pomp of the national anthem and in the absence of diplomatic community. this is the shame that we saw between december 27 and 30. ten minutes did not elapse after the announcement as the entire country broke into chaos following the anger and anguish, neighbour turned against neighbour and the post election violence has been unprecedented.
the brinkmanship from the state and its handlers has been characteristic, telling anyone who is aggriveed to go to court and saying they won elections and don't care. the flare up wouldnt be so bad if the state did not unleash its security agents to maim and shoot citizens. the death toll is huge and signs of an end to this is far..
we are pitching for international mediation and the possibility of a transitional arrangement for 3 months to allow afresh presidential election. retallying is useless because the commission chairman by his own admission says the electoral documents are being tampered with by state agents to force the fraud. the court direction is useless as well as the chief justice is a kinsman of the president and led the swearing in of a fraudulent process. you can do many things to assist us in this mess
1. the humanitarian crisis is deep, sharp and acute, food, clothes, blankets and medicine across the country
2. getting voices such as ours in the international media to give the international community the right perspective of this crisis far from doctored state reports
3. protests to kenyan embassies there and pressure on the international community not to recognize this illegitimate government
4. join in campaigns launched so far, petitions and so on which i will forward to you asap to press this illegitimate government to step down.
hope this gives you a sense of what is going on.