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Kenya Poll Dispute Prompts AU Call for Review of African Electoral Laws


The African Union is calling for a continent-wide examination of electoral procedures in light of the deadly election dispute in Kenya, and similar poll-related violence in other countries. From AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports Kenya's new chief peace negotiator is predicting difficult times ahead as a commission appointed by President Mwai Kibaki begins its investigation into the disputed December election.

The African Union Peace and Security Council Friday called for continued engagement of the panel of eminent persons that brokered a power sharing agreement between Kenya's political rivals.

After a briefing from the newly appointed chief mediator, Oluyemi Adeniji, the Council issued a statement urging the eminent persons panel to keep up its work. Adeniji, newest member of the panel headed by former U.N. Secretary-Genral Kofi Annan, told reporters Council members are concerned that the peace deal could falter under the weight of heavy issues still to be resolved.

"By and large, the panel continues to be mandated by the AU to follow up the process, because they do not believe signature on the agreements meant the end of the mediatory process there," he said.

Adeniji said there are hard weeks and months ahead as the newly appointed commission charged with investigating the disputed election takes up a number of difficult and divisive issues.

"I don't know which would be the most difficult, but definitely the issue of looking into processes that led to the election, the process that led to the announcement of the results of the election, and the culpability of some of the participants in the electoral process. It's going to be quite a demanding task."

In light of post-election turmoil, not just in Kenya but in several African countries, the Peace and Security Council's statement called for a thorough review of electoral practices across the continent. Adeniji says tough standards are needed to ensure the independence, and thereby the credibility of national electoral commissions.

"Because that invariably is where the problem of elections focuses in most countries. The role of the commission. How independent it truly is and the method by which the commission is chosen in many countries, and then the attitude of people towards winning and losing elections. Invariably, those who lose complain… these days people just don't believe, rightly or wrongly, and that is what caused the perpetuation, or the continuation of the conflagration," he said.

Adeniji expressed concern that public mistrust would undermine the work of the commission named to investigate Kenya's election failures, regardless of its conclusions.

President Kibaki appointed highly-respected Judge Johann Kriegler to head the commission. Kriegler headed South Africa's electoral commission during its first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

But Adenaji told reporters Friday, 'there's going to be a dispute, particularly if the commission tries to assess blame for the post-election violence that claimed the lives of an estimated one thousand Kenyans.

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