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Independent Commission to Investigate Kenya’s Disputed Election Friday

An independent commission set up to investigate Kenya’s December 27 disputed elections would begin its work today (Friday). This comes after members of the commission, headed by retired South African Judge Johann Kriegler, were sworn in Thursday. The commission would among other things study all aspects of the controversial vote, in which the main opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claimed President Mwai Kibaki rigged.

Some political analysts are, however, displeased with news that the commission may hear some evidence behind closed doors.

Paul Mbatia is a Kenyan political science professor at the University of Nairobi. He told reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Nairobi that the prospects look good for the commission.

“This is part of the national accord that was signed between Honorable Raila and President Kibaki. According to the components of the agreement, these are the items of the agenda that were supposed to be implemented very fast, and it was agreed by the two opposing parties, and therefore, viewed in that context that it was part of the deal between Raila and Kibaki. One would say that Kenyans are looking forward to seeing the result by the committee,” Mbatia noted.

He said if news that the commission would be holding some of its hearings in secrecy is true then it would undermine the commission’s authenticity.

“If they conducted (hearings) like in camera then that would discredit its credibility because I don’t think there is anything that is sacred about what they are trying to do. We knew the elections were flawed at a point at different levels, and I think Kenyan would want to hear people giving evidence exactly what happened, including whatever was happening within the doors of the ECK (Electoral Commission of Kenya). So, if they are going to do it in camera, I think then that will not satisfy or meet the expectations of many of us. We would want to actually hear verbatim people confessing or what they know about how the elections were rigged or not rigged,” he said.

Mbatia said the recent power sharing deal signed between the opposition and the government could face challenges.

“There are areas of potential conflict of interest. One is even within the PNU (Party of National Unity) that is on Kibaki’s side. We expect power struggle because there is limited space even for the ministries and whatever other positions would be created. So we expect competition and conflict of interest, and the competition would be even stiff within the ODM, which would virtually not have a lot of space as initially anticipated. And of course remember that the ODM had promised that it would give and reward people who were supporting it. Even as they get half of the space as they anticipated, we expect a lot of competition,” Mbatia pointed out.