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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I acted under pressure, admits Kivuitu



















On Tuesday night, Mr Samuel Kivuitu, chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, made a damning admission that he announced results of the fiercely contested presidential election under pressure. The announcement plunged the country into post-election violence of a scale never witnessed before. The magnitude of the Electoral Commission chairman’s admission and the further dent on the credibility of the election was captured in his answer when asked if indeed President Kibaki won the elections: "I do not know whether Kibaki won the election".

Kivuitu continued with his stunning revelations when he said he took the presidential election winner’s certificate to State House, Nairobi, after "some people threatened to collect it while I’m the one mandated by law to do so". "I arrived at State House to take the certificate and I found the Chief Justice there, ready to swear-in Kibaki," Kivuitu said. On claims that he was under undue pressure to declare results, Kivuitu said: "Some PNU (Party of National Unity) and ODM-Kenya leaders put me under pressure by calling me frequently, asking me to announce the results immediately".

President Kibaki ran for re-election on a Party of National Unity ticket, while Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, made his bid on an ODM-Kenya ticket. Mr Raila Odinga, who has said he was robbed of victory, ran on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket. On Tuesday, Kivuitu said the alleged pressure to declare results came in the wake of parallel pressure from a number of ambassadors from the European Union countries and Mr Maina Kiai of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights not to announce the results until complaints, which arose, were addressed.

"I had thought of resigning, but thought against it because I don’t want people to say I’m a coward," he said. The embattled ECK chairman made the revelations shortly after meeting with 22 ECK commissioners. On Tuesday, Kivuitu conceded that matters that arose from the poll results were so urgent that they should be taken to court, and the ruling done with minimum delay to ease national tension.

Court settlement

"If this matter is finally taken to court, the ruling should be made urgently so that if it were decided that Raila is the President, so be it. If it is Kibaki, so be it," he added. Kivuitu said he made the decision, whose far-reaching implications are now being felt across the country. He said he announced the results because the commission had no legal mandate to investigate complaints raised by the opposition immediately.

Kivuitu fell short of naming the individuals from the two parties — PNU and ODM-Kenya — who coerced him to announce the disputed poll outcome, but went on to announce that the commission was consulting eminent lawyers over the next course of action "so that its actions remain within the law". The EU observer team has discredited the poll results and urged for an independent audit.

On his part, Kivuitu said he backed independent investigation into what may have happened, but added that this would be only if the law would provide for it. "We are culprits as a commission. We have to leave it to an independent group to investigate what actually went wrong," the chairman said, stunning local and international journalists, who had gathered at his Nairobi residence. It has also emerged that some countries concerned with the poll outcome, like South Africa, had sent in their electoral officials to the country.

Kivuitu said the officials would be arriving on Wednesday "to look into the matter".

On Tuesday, Kivuitu was in a meeting with his 22 commissioners, which his deputy, Mr Kihara Muttu, described as "a house-keeping meeting".

In a signed statement, the 22 commissioners condemned the violence, which up to last night had claimed the lives of about 300 people.

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