Written by Kwani · January 26, 2008


Poverty is the worst form of violence. At its own worst, it is a form of slow genocide. For an example, take the fact that the vast majority of the Native Americans “rubbed out” in the American genocide died (and still die) not from settler bullets, but from poor diets, disease, poor-on-poor crime, stress-related illnesses caused by predatory lending and the like. In short, they are killed by the condition of being poor.

Girls are affected the worst, as it exposes them to all sorts of deprivations that lead to temptations and inducements resulting in angry, enervated young women. Even as an adult, a person raised in poverty often suffers a certain furtive sense of shame and anger that they can never quite shake off. Years of “no” and “not enough” force them to ingest a bitter diet of silent rage, frustrations, thwarted dreams, hurtful choices and humiliation as their parents age prematurely before their eyes, and their siblings learn to mask all feelings of disappointment. It is violence at the deepest psychological, spiritual and emotional levels, long before it becomes physical. I know. I’ve been there. In Kenya.

If Kibera is indeed the world’s biggest slum (I don’t know who measures these things, or how), then it is currently also the biggest single act of violence against African people, carried out over the longest period of time.

The recent magic tricks at Electoral Commission of Kenya (how to breed votes and then count them in the dark; how to speak out of both sides of your mouth, and other marvellous wonders) and the subsequent orgy of gratuitous blood-letting, have given rise to expressions of grief, shock and anger from the Kenyan intelligentsia, in a way that leaves me truly mystified. Have they not been paying attention? If money and land meant for the poor can be stolen from them, then why not votes? If it became a four-decade normality for children to grow up sharing the eating of rotting oranges from garbage skips, why on earth should they not share more direct forms of violence? Having grown up witnessing Kenya’s normalising of the grotesquely abnormal, my only surprise was that these acts -from the rigging, itself, to the rape, pillage and murder- took so long to reach this particular nadir. Kenya was and is an atrocity a long time made and a catastrophe a long time coming.

“There are no stories in the riots, only the ghosts of stories”, as some wise black British woman said of Brixton and Handsworth, a long time ago.

I should declare an interest: though I spent some critical formative years living both near the top and the bottom of Kenyan society, I am not Kenyan. I was a refugee from another atrocity called Uganda, and part of a very politically engaged community that was actively fomenting armed rebellion back home. Since our flight was political, we came to Kenya with a heightened interest in politics generally and were fascinated by the way in which the Kenyatta and Moi regimes were achieving through “sowing acres of cynicism” (to quote Okot p’Bitek, another Ugandan refugee) what Amin and Obote could only attempt through planting killing fields.

Honourable Mwai Kibaki was a particularly interesting study for us. As a graduate of Makerere University, we would wonder if he participated in politics with Ugandan or with Kenyan sensibilities. For me, he answered the question most eloquently when on tour, as a Seriously Big Government Man, of (I think) Kamiti Prison way back in seventies. There had been media talk of increasingly horrific conditions in the prisons, and his visit was supposed to be a fact-finding tour. At one point, as Big Man and Entourage walked through the prison complex, a prisoner displayed incredible dignity and courage by stepping out in front of him, and trying to hand him a letter sealed in an envelope. The prison official next to Hon. Kibaki intercepted the convict’s outstretched hand, took the envelope and pocketed it. According to the news report, Hon. Kibaki paused, watched the entire incident, and then carried on with his “fact-finding”.

Forget about the botched attempts to write a new constitution, forget about the failure to follow up on the Canary Patni Goldenberg song, forget even about the indignity of swearing-in at twilight (quick question: was that really a Bible he was holding up? It looked suspiciously like a pricey desk diary to me. You never know, given the indecent haste), as kids watching their elders paying a much higher price to be in politics, we felt that was a most pathetic display of craven indifference. In truth, looking back, it was at that moment that Hon. Kibaki for me disqualified himself from being president of anywhere or anything. It’s just that nobody realised it, or thought about it hard enough. Now look where we have ended up.

EDITORS NOTE: The views expressed here are those of KALUNDI SERUMAGA and do not in anyway represent the political stand of Kwani? or that of The Concerned Kenyan Writers Initiative.



  1. eck on January 26th, 2008 5:49 pm

    ECK response to allegations contained in a newspaper advertisement published in
    the Sunday Nation and The Standard newspapers on January 19, 2008
    The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) has noted allegations made against it and its
    officers through newspaper advertisement published in the Sunday Nation and The
    Standard newspapers on January 19, 2008. The ECK welcomes this analysis and now
    seeks to correct the many factual inaccuracies and wrong impressions contained in the
    said advertisements to set the record straight in the public interest.
    Allegation 1: The Chairman of the ECK is not sure whether Hon. Mwai Kibaki won
    the December 27 General Elections.

    ECK response: This allegation has been widely circulated in the local and international
    media. The actual question posed to the Chairman of the ECK by the media was “do you
    believe that Hon. Mwai Kibaki FAIRLY won the election?”. His response was: “I don’t
    know. That is until I see the original records which I can’t for now unless the court
    authorizes. What we have are records of results from field officers” (Daily Nation,
    January 3). The question on whether one has won FAIRLY is a matter of interpretation
    and not an issue within the competence of the ECK to determine. The media has
    deliberately distorted this question to remove the word FAIRLY to create the impression
    that the ECK is uncertain as to who won the elections.

    The ECK determines the winner of the presidential election on the basis of the final vote
    tally. In this regard, Mwai Kibaki was pronounced the winner having garnered the
    highest number of votes – 4,584,721 votes against Hon Raila Odinga’s 4,352,993 votes.

    Allegation 2: The Chairman of the ECK announced the results under duress from
    PNU and ODM-K.
    ECK response:

    It is public knowledge that PNU, ODM and ODM-K were all captured
    on television at various points pushing the ECK to expedite the process and announce the
    final results citing the anxiety in the country. On January 3, the chairman of the ECK
    was asked: ” Were you under duress when announcing the results? Did anyone from State
    House call you to say this is the winner?”The chairman responded: ” No, no. Kivuitu is
    beyond that”. (Daily Nation, January 3).

    Allegation 3: That the Chairman of the ECK was aware that in several
    constituencies, the total votes cast exceeded the total number of registered voters.

    ECK response:

    The law empowers the ECK to reject the results of any polling station
    whose votes exceed the number of registered voters. In the December 27 elections,
    Maragwa constituency was mentioned specifically as having reported more votes than
    the number of registered voters. However, these were in respect to Parliamentary not
    Presidential votes. Upon verification by ECK at KICC, it was established that the mistake
    arose from a double entry of votes from one polling station. This was corrected and the
    results announced. At the joint verification of constituency tallies on December 29th at
    KICC both ODM and PNU confirmed that the results from Maragwa constituency were
    in order.

    Allegation 4: That the Chairman of the ECK was not in control of his officials in the
    field during the tallying period. In some areas where the results are alleged to have
    been rigged, the ECK officials had “disappeared” or “switched off their phones”.

    ECK response:

    Returning and Presiding officers, Polling Clerks and other ECK
    officials, are bound by the rules and regulations of the ECK. At some point, it seemed
    that ECK could not trace some of its officers or reach them on phone. The explanations
    received by the ECK confirmed that no officials deliberately switched off their phones.
    Some were out of network reach, others switched off as they concentrated on the
    counting and tallying, others were unable to charge their phones during the vote counting
    process having been in the field for prolonged periods, while others were unable to travel
    due to skirmishes.

    Allegation 5: That election documents have been tampered with by ECK officials
    since the announcement of results.

    ECK response:
    Tampering with election results is a criminal offence. Anyone alleging
    tampering is under a legal duty to record statements with the police to facilitate
    investigations with a view to instituting prosecution. The ECK ensures proper custody of
    all documents and would not condone any breach of the law. ECK has faith in its
    officials and could not expect any of them to tamper with such documents. If there is
    anyone who can identify such a person who has tampered with the said documents, ECK
    would be ready to offer any assistance for their prosecution.

    Allegation 6: The ECK allowed Returning Officers to submit their returns in the
    absence of agents which is against the law.

    ECK response:
    There are instances where some agents of political parties may not have
    been present to sign Forms 16A when results were announced at the polling station. The
    absence of an agent (and therefore his/her failure to sign) does not invalidate the results,
    hold back their announcement or their transmission to the tallying centre at the
    constituency level. It is the responsibility of party agents to avail themselves to sign
    Forms 16A. Absence of agents at polling stations applied to all political parties. It is
    their responsibility to be there not ours.

    Allegation 7: That in 42 constituencies, presiding officers at polling stations refused
    to make Forms 16A available for signature by agents. This was meant to enable
    fictitious results in favour of Kibaki to be completed at KICC.

    ECK response:
    ECK received these complaints and sought explanations from our
    officers. We have sent to ODM copies of the statement of those officers for their

    Allegation 8: In some cases, ECK officers at KICC altered Forms 16A e.g. Juja

    ECK response:
    Form 16A is completed and signed at each polling station confirming
    the results. It is signed by the Presiding Officer and the agents of political parties
    present. The Returning Officer then prepares Form 16 which is a summary of the results
    contained in all the Forms 16A from all polling stations in a constituency.
    The case of Juja: The total number of registered voters in Juja constituency is 163,657.
    There are 231 polling stations. There was no evidence for anybody to conclude that
    alterations to any documents were made by ECK officials at KICC. The Chairman noted
    alterations on Form 16 with no explanations. He did seek explanations from ECK
    officials at KICC and Returning Officer. Both groups confirmed the provisional results
    announced were the unaltered ones. He then ordered the files to be secured. Later on
    when the Chairman found the results announced included the altered results, he directed
    the Returning Officer to write a statement explaining how the errors arose and what
    eventually were the final results.
    The Returning Officer explained that as at 1.00 pm on December 28th, he had tallied
    votes from 111 polling stations. By then, President Kibaki had 48,293 votes as clearly
    indicated in the Sunday Nation advertisement. After results from the remaining 120
    polling stations were tallied, Mwai Kibaki’s votes totalled 100,390. By the time the
    Commission had no way of verifying this further since there were no other channels
    available. The voter turn-out in Juja was 73.3%. The total votes cast in the presidential
    poll was 119,964 while the total for parliamentary elections was 114,808.

    Allegation 9: Agents of ODM were forcefully thrown out of some polling stations

    ECK response:
    The ECK has not received any written complaint from ODM regarding
    any of its agents being thrown out of any polling station(s). Any such complaint should
    be formally made to the ECK.

    Allegation 10: The ECK failed to establish a national tallying mechanism as obliged
    by law

    ECK response:
    The law mandates the ECK to announce the results of the presidential
    poll upon receipt and verification of Forms 16 from the 210 constituencies. This is the
    legal requirement and procedure used in all past elections starting 1992, 1997 and 2002.
    It is, therefore, misleading to say that the ECK failed to establish a national tallying
    mechanism as obliged by law.

    Allegation 11: 5 ECK Commissioners have come forward to confirm rigging

    ECK response:
    This is news to us! All the ECK Commissioners were present to
    confirm the final results of the Presidential Poll as announced by the Chairman of the
    ECK on December 30. The ECK is not aware of any Commissioner(s) who has
    confirmed this allegation of rigging.

    Allegation 12: The ECK received “results” away from public scrutiny from
    candidates or their agents, and then announced these “results” which is against the

    ECK response:
    Under Kenya’s electoral law, results are announced at each polling
    station in the presence of party agents before transmission to the constituency tallying
    centre. In fact ECK had offered to train the agents at its cost and very few came forward.
    So if some did not sign the forms it was either out of arrogance or ignorance for which
    ECK cannot be blamed. The law does not provide for the presence of agents when the
    ECK is receiving election returns from Returning Officers.

    Allegation 13: ODM agents were barred by armed police and paramilitary officers
    from accessing the tallying room at KICC.

    ECK response:
    This is misleading. Ordinarily, the tallying room at KICC was limited to
    the ECK and not to party agents since the facility was to merely receive and verify results
    from Returning Officers. These results would already have been witnessed by party
    agents at the polling stations and constituency tallying centre. If they had asked to access
    the facility ECK could have considered it. As a matter of fact on December 29, the ECK
    allowed each of the three main political parties – ODM, ODM-K and PNU – to send their
    representatives in to the tallying room to verify the presidential tally from all the
    constituencies. These representatives were: ODM (James Orengo, Dickson Ogolla),
    ODM-K (Mr Muteti) and PNU (Martha Karua, George Nyamwea).The following
    observers were also present: KEDOF( Hassan Shanman, Nassir Ahmed, Koki Muli);
    Association of Professional Societies in East Africa (Julius Melli, Ben Sihanya). It is,
    therefore, misleading to say that agents of political parties were not allowed into the
    KICC tally room.

    Allegation 14: In 48 constituencies, results had no Forms 16A which made them
    unacceptable under the law as true and accurate results.

    ECK response:
    For the record, Forms 16A are completed by Presiding Officers in the
    presence of party agents and observers at each polling stations. The Returning Officer
    then prepares Form 16 which is a summary of the results contained in all the Forms 16A
    from all polling stations in a constituency.
    The claim on the 48 constituencies was first made by the Hon. William Ruto on
    December 30th when ODM addressed an international press conference at KICC. Hon.
    Ruto knew or ought to have known that his claim was misleading and misdirected. At the
    conclusion of the tallying exercise on December 30th, only results from 11 constituencies
    did not have Forms 16 received at KICC. The Returning Officers from all these 11
    constituencies had already phoned in the results (as required), but by law, the ECK could
    not announce the final results until it had verified the returns from each of these
    constituencies. The chairman of ECK announced that a helicopter had been dispatched to
    collect these returns from the pending constituencies and these were received and verified
    before announcement of the final results.

    Allegation 15: That the law gives the presiding officer a legal duty to ensure every
    voter marks the three ballot papers and places them in the proper ballot boxes.

    ECK response:
    On the election day, there were three distinct elections — civic,
    parliamentary and presidential. While each voter is expected to fill in three ballot papers,
    it is not mandatory that one must vote in all the 3 elections – civic, parliamentary and

    All along ECK has said it publicly that it is ready to go with all the parties concerned and look at all Form 16s and verify what they state and tally them. But instead of ODM taking advantage of this offer it has preferred to aggravate the dispute by involving the public in the streets which has lead to injuries and deaths of innocent Kenyans, and also by making it an international agenda.

  2. Fave of BG on January 27th, 2008 5:11 am

    The ECK response in it self is a further slap on the face of already tired Kenyans. It does not address issues raised by many observers. For example; different results announced and published for Molo how some constituencies had more than 100% turnout (Based on Kivuitu and simple math).
    Why do results from more remote locations arrive earlier than those from locations near Nairobi? How come results from a single region were systematically delayed? I might not have the hard evidence by circumstantial evidence exists to trash the ECK talk. Anybody with some knowledge of law know circumstantial evidence is admissible.
    ECK does not even satisfactorily address the issues and allegations raised by their own commissioners about fraud. Only saying such allegations are news. In his appointment of ECK commisiioners, Kibaki trashed each and every IPPG agreement available. Packed the organisatin with his cronies. ECK is basically packed with Octogenarian losers who remind any one of the great saying. ‘The good die young!). l The indictments against the ECK are too numerous to dwell on here.
    How can ODM verify documents that even the disgraced chairman of ECK says have been tampered with (He says previously ‘dirty’ documents looked clean the next time he saw them. Finally justice is about perception and action. The perception of the entire world (Save Somalia, Swaziland, Kuwait and Uganda) is that the election was fraudulent. The perception of many Kenyans is that the elections was stolen. The action is police (state sanctioned) murdered of citizens which has metastasized into a low grad ethno-civil war. No amount of wriggling and newspaper adverts can change perception. Quoting acts and sections of; to poor Kenyans does not help. ECK is a huge failure.

    On a more mundane note. How come Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in at twilght? Kivuitu says he was pressurized? Any way, ECK should await its disbandment. It is too late to release press statements that no one trusts.
    I am not an ODM activist or supporter. I am a neutral who wonders why democracy is in the hands of politicians. But for God’s sake, how come the Majority of Kibaki’s cabinet lost? Why have Kenyans who voted for Kibaki in 2002 turned against him?
    For both altruistic and selfish reasons, I abhor the Killing of Kenyans. Altruistic because we are all Humans, Africans and all of us are someones loved ones. For selfish reasons, because I have family and friends that live all over the country.I have and worry about them every day. Like most people of Kenyan origin wherever we might be we worry and spend hours on the phone .
    The bizzare swearing in ceremony is just an example of an organized plot to disenfranchise Kenyans as the author clearly puts it; …’Kibaki for me disqualified himself from being president of anywhere or anything. It’s just that nobody realised it, or thought about it hard enough. Now look where we have ended up’. He (Kibaki) joins the annals of failed African leaders. The rioting and mayhem in Kenyan show how much confidence the population have in him. His government appointees read like a class list from a particular region. Kenyans can not pay taxes to benefit a few.

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