The presidential election in Kenya has triggered major violence. Tribal rivalries have been ignited, taking upwards of 300 lives so far. The incumbent President, Mwai Kibaki, has claimed victory over Raila Odinga. Strangely, the parliamentary and presidential contests, which were held simultaneously, produced impossible-to-reconcile outcomes. The Orange Democratic Movement led by Mr. Odinga, which led in every opinion poll except one, unseated most members of the incumbent Cabinet and took 100 out of 210 parliamentary seats while Mr. Kibaki’s Party of National Unity won just 35 seats. In the presidential election, the early counting trends heavily favoured Mr. Odinga and media computations also had him ahead. But the three-day counting process lacked transparency and suffered unexplained delays in vote tallying. In some constituencies the votes polled exceeded the number of registered voters. All this naturally fuelled allegations of rigging. The head of the Electoral Commission himself has publicly doubted whether Mr. Kibaki actually won, and the Attorney General has called for an independent investigation. The European Union’s Electoral Observation Mission has issued a damning report on the election process, saying it fell short of “key international and regional standards for democratic elections” and calling for a swift, independent investigation of the results. The United States initially welcomed the election result but has now joined Britain, the former colonial ruler, in questioning its credibility and accuracy.
Sadly, hopes of a true democratic revival in Kenya, which has East Africa’s largest economy, have been shattered. Mr. Odinga, a former political prisoner under the dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi and son of nationalist hero Oginga Odinga, has been projected as an agent of progressive change. The voter turnout was huge and the polling broadly transparent and peaceful. What is clear is that the presidential election was stolen in the counting and tallying process. Mr. Odinga’s demand that the President must admit the brazen fraud is wholly just and seems to imply one of two things: Mr. Kibaki must step down or the presidential election process should be gone through all over again. In either case, an independent review and scrutiny, under credible supervision, of what went wrong would be a requirement. At this vital moment for democracy in Africa, the African Union, the European Union, and the Commonwealth need to do all they can to help Kenya come out of this crisis with its head held high. The only way to overcome this huge setback to democracy in Africa and for “national healing,” which Mr. Kibaki has called for, to have a chance is for him to go.