Kenya is aflame after a presidential election on December 27 widely believed to have been rigged to secure the re-election of Mwai Kibaki. Kibaki’s opponents took to the streets, the government issued shoot-to-kill orders, and hundreds have died at the hands of the police as well as from gang rampages and inter-ethnic violence. The United States has led the international diplomatic response, but its approach has been deeply flawed.
Kenyans voted in vast numbers, waiting in the hot sun for several hours at crowded polling booths around the country. The first results to be counted were for Kenya’s parliament, with Kibaki’s government ministers roundly defeated in their local constituencies. The main opposition alliance, led by Raila Odinga, won about 100 seats, compared to roughly 30 for Kibaki. It appeared overwhelmingly likely that the presidential vote count would similarly show Odinga beating Kibaki by a wide margin.
That, indeed, is how the early count transpired. As the tallies from polling stations from around the country came into Nairobi, Odinga built up a lead of several hundred thousand votes. Then the trouble began. Vote tallies from Kibaki’s homeland in central Kenya were delayed. Independent observers from the European Union and elsewhere began to report serious irregularities in the Kibaki strongholds, where opposition party representatives were denied access to polling sites.
Matters became even more dubious as the vote tallies were collected and recorded at the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK). According to detailed evidence submitted by the opposition, the tallies from the countryside, allegedly already padded for Kibaki, were again manipulated, with additional votes awarded to him. As a result, many more votes were recorded by the ECK for the presidential race than for the parliamentary race, even though voters were clearly instructed – indeed required – to cast a vote in both races.