Panel to probe all aspects of the General Election

Source: Reuters FoundationDate: 13 Mar 2008

Kenyan president appoints panel to probe election


By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI, March 13 (Reuters) – Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki, whose disputed re-election triggered violence that damaged his country’s reputation for stability, has appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the Dec. 27 vote.

A statement sent from Kibaki’s office on Thursday said the panel would “inquire into all aspects of the General Election … with particular emphasis on the Presidential Election”.

The panel is expected to probe the tallying of votes “to assess the integrity of the results” and look into the Electoral Commission of Kenya’s independence among other issues.

Kenya’s post-election crisis which killed more than 1,000 people erupted when Kibaki was sworn in as president, amid allegations of electoral fraud by political rival Raila Odinga.

Though a power-sharing pact signed by the two last month has defused tension in the east African tea and coffee-grower, Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) warned on Thursday that any attempt to undermine the accord could spark more turmoil.

The ODM, the largest party in parliament, was responding to comments by the civil service head implying the ODM would take second rank in the new administration.

The power-sharing deal, which would create a prime minister’s post expected to go to Odinga, has yet to be ratified by parliament and details such as the prime minister’s powers and the division of cabinet jobs are proving contentious.

ARMED GANGS

ODM Secretary-General Anyang’ Nyong’o said anyone trying to undermine the principle of 50-50 power-sharing, which the two leaders agreed to, would endanger the fragile peace in Kenya.

“Any attempt by anybody to ridicule this noble initiative by introducing a hierarchy of relationship between the two parties or the two leaders goes contrary to the spirit and letter of the Grand Coalition and risks causing unnecessary political discomfort,” Nyong’o told a news conference.

Earlier this week, the head of the public service, Francis Muthaura, upset the ODM by saying Kibaki retained the power to appoint the new prime minister.

Muthaura also implied the prime minister’s post would be third in rank after the vice-president. And he said the accord “does not include sharing of jobs in the public service”.

Asked whether such comments could provoke more violence, Nyong’o said yes, and added that the statement had brought renewed calls for mass action from ODM supporters.

“We would not like people to be put under undue stress,” he said. “We didn’t do it because we love grand coalitions. When we go to the butcher’s shop, it is not for the love of the cow that we buy meat. It’s because there is a necessity to live.”

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua defended Muthaura, saying he was setting out known facts to counter speculation in the Kenyan media as to how the power-sharing deal would work out.

“What the government was doing was reminding people of the right road, putting a sign-post,” he said.

The crisis, the worst since independence from Britain in 1963, dented Kenya’s image as one of Africa’s most promising economies, and made 300,000 homeless.

Kenyans say low-level violence — including occasional machete attacks and burning of homes among different ethnic groups — is still occurring in some rural areas.

Non-governmental organisations warn gangs loyal to Kibaki on one side and Odinga on the other remain armed.

(Editing by Katie Nguyen)

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