Cablegate: Kenya Elections: Electoral Commission Chair: "The
DE RUEHNR #4429/01 3171456
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 131456Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3422
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 9684
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 5584
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 4922
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2389
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1649
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2469
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2394
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 004429
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2017
TAGS: KE PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: KENYA ELECTIONS: ELECTORAL COMMISSION CHAIR: "THE
PEOPLE ARE ON MY SIDE"
REF: NAIROBI 4411 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: PolCouns Andre for reasons 1.4 B & D.
1. (C) Summary: ECK Chairman Kivuitu expressed to the Ambassador his determination to perform his function in a neutral, professional manner, resisting those who would have
him favor one party over the others. He sees the press and "the people" as his allies in this effort. His initial impression of the newest crop of Kibaki-appointed commissioners is that, while they are of little help to him, he has seen no signs of bias so far. He insists on a five-year renewal of his contract to preserve the tenure of the position, but in fact intends to resign after one to two years. End Summary.
2. (C) Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Samuel Kivuitu joined the Ambassador and PolCouns for lunch at a restaurant popular with the political class. Kivuitu explained, "I am followed everywhere I go. I want to be sure no one can say I held a secret meeting with the Americans!" Kivuitu was feisty, determined and upbeat, showing no signs of the illness that had caused so much concern a month earlier. He said that he was countering those who were attempting to influence him to act in an unethical, biased manner by using the press to take his case to the people. He commented, "as long as the people are on my side, the others cannot hurt me."
3. (C) On the newly appointed ECK Commissioners: "I do not know them. As they know nothing, all the work falls on me. I need to get them trained and usefully employed. They are not aggressively against me and they seem to be responsible. I see no signs of bias so far." Kivuitu suggested that USAID might provide a training workshop for the new commissioners (we are arranging this). Kivuitu went on to say that the previous batch of freshly-appointed ECK commissioners "came in with an agenda: it was obvious they had been told to take over. But I have powers as Chairman and prevented that from
happening." Note: The ECK consists of 22 commissioners. As of this date, all but three of the commissioners were appointed unilaterally by the Kibaki government, which is
permitted under the law but contravenes an unofficial understanding that an inter-party consultative process would be used to identify commissioners. Kibaki had championed
this consultative approach when he was an opposition leader, but now chooses to ignore it. End Note.
4. (C) On his future: "I met with the President on Tuesday (6 November). He left me with the impression that he intends to re-appoint me, but no firm commitment was made. He is always like that. You leave a meeting with him never knowing what was decided. He favors whatever view is expressed to him by the last person to see him." Note: Kivuitu's five year term comes to an end on 2 December, 25 days prior to the election. His Deputy came into the ECK on a consultative basis and was recently re-appointed for another five years. End Note. He added, "I insist on a renewed five year term, as it is essential that this position have some degree of tenure. However, my intention is to resign the post after one year or two years at most. I want to write and I want to serve in a new African Elections Institute funded by the Germans that some of my friends are joining." He mentioned in this regard, Dr. Afari Djan, (Electoral Commission, Ghana) and Christina Thorpe (Electoral Commission, Sierra Leone).
5. (C) Kivuitu went on to say, "If they make it impossible for me to run a fair election, I will not quietly resign and fade away. No. I will hold a mass meeting in Uhuru Park and explain to all the world why I had to resign."
6. (C) On International Observers: "We absolutely welcome them. The earlier you inform me of who is coming and when the better. We will set up a welcome desk at the airport and extend full courtesies."
7. (C) On a Code of Conduct Signing Event: "We intend to organize such an event once we officially register all candidates. Our authority to enforce the rules begins with the official campaign season three weeks prior to the
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8. Comment: The Ambassador has advocated for Kivuitu's extension with President Kibaki and his advisors. As a 15-year veteran of the ECK, Kivuitu has the experience and the demonstrated firm commitment to neutrality that is required to guide the ECK through what is likely to be a close election.