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Cablegate: Kenya's Elections - a Positive Process Thus Far

P 281355Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. The relatively smooth and peaceful way
in which the elections were carried out on December 27
represents a victory first and foremost for the Kenyan people
and their democracy. Herculean efforts by the Electoral
Commission of Kenya (ECK), the responsible statements made by
the leaders of the main parties, the constructive role played
by the media, and strong U.S. support and observation all
contributed to this positive outcome. All observers share a
relatively positive view of how the election process was
carried out. I have made an informal positive statement to
the Kenyan media. It is, however, too early to make final
pronouncements. Septel will provide text of a proposed draft
statement that can be issued by Washington on December 29.
The vote counting process will not be completed until the
29th. The potential for last minute fraud cannot be ruled
out. The electoral process in some areas was characterized
by delays and problems with voting procedures and electoral
registers, but these were largely resolved in a way that did
not disenfranchise voters, who turned out in record numbers.
Initial informal results show opposition candidate Raila
Odinga leading President Kibaki by between 3 and 8 points,
but this reporting is uneven and not systematic. The
election is still, in our view, too early to call. End

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Election Process Initially Positive, But Not Yet Complete
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2. (SBU) Although the results of the Kenyan elections held
December 27 are just trickling in, initial indications are
that this election constitutes first and foremost a victory
for the Kenyan people and their democracy. It is useful, as
we make judgments, to think of the electoral process as
comprised of four phases: the campaign; the election itself;
the tabulation and announcement of results; and, finally,
acceptance of the results, including the carrying out of a
smooth transition regardless of who wins.

3. (SBU) Months of intense preparations by the ECK and
strong support from the international community, particularly
the U.S., paid off in helping ensure a relatively smooth
process on election day. This message reflects initial input
from the almost 200 U.S. Mission observers deployed
throughout the country, from the International Republican
Institute delegation funded by the U.S., from the EU
observation mission, from the massive Kenyan domestic
observation effort, from party sources, from media, and from
the ECK.

Resolving Problems

4. (SBU) The main difficulties experienced were delays in
starting voting due to confusion with respect to electoral
registers and alphabetical voting procedures, but these were
addressed and there are no reports that this resulted in
significant disenfranchisement of voters. There were a few
small and isolated cases of violence on election day and a
few cases of alleged fraud. None of these difficulties
appeared due to any nationally organized efforts meant to
disrupt the elections. The most striking impressions from
all observers about election day are the peacefulness and
orderliness of the process. Even the most problematic and
contentious constituencies completed voting in an acceptable

5. (SBU) For example, I observed the opening of the polls in
Kibera slum, which is a key part of Langata constituency,
where presidential candidate Raila Odinga was a candidate for
Parliament. This race was ground zero in the election
process given widespread fears that extra-legal efforts would
be made to defeat Odinga there, thus making him ineligible to
become President (since whoever is elected President must
also be an elected member of Parliament). At 0600 there were
already over 5,000 people lined up to vote at the largest
polling station in Langata, which is Olympic School in the

Kibera slum. The bigger problem was confusion over voting
procedures. People had been lining up since just after
midnight. They were supposed to be guided by ECK officials
to a line with their specific section of the alphabet (A-C,
for example). Since there were 5,000 people already in line
by the time the ECK officials arrived, this did not happen.
Each of the 31 polling stations in Olympic had only their
alphabetic section of the election register. Hours went by
as ECK officials sought to resolve the problem. The ECK
official in charge of voting there showed commendable
initiative in this regard. (She had little choice, telling
me: "If we don't get voting started soon, these people are
perfectly capable of burning this place to the ground.")

6. (SBU) Comprehensive electoral registers were eventually
produced and voting began at 0900. By that point frustration
among the 10,000 people waiting to vote was enormous.
remarkably, however, there was no violence (the only
potential danger was being inadvertently crushed by the
crowds, forcing our team to exit via a window at one point).
Calls from us to ECK were instrumental in getting senior ECK
officials to act quickly to resolve the issues, and I was
able to make some reassuring statements to the media. ECK
Chairman Kivuitu went to Kibera himself to calm people. In
another remarkable testament to the professionalism of ECK
officials, all those waiting to vote were eventually
processed, and by late evening Kibera was quiet (a truck
standing by with riot police was not needed). The problems
seen in Kibera were mirrored in some other parts of the
county. My observations at six other polling locations in
Langata constituency, Nairobi, and Kibaki's stronghold of
Central Province, and those of our observers, indicated that
most polling stations were relatively well-organized with
professional ECK teams.

7. (SBU) One embarrassing stumble by the ECK actually became
one of the day's best examples of Kenya's maturing commitment
to a responsible democratic process. The ECK inexplicably
failed to include Raila Odinga's name in the voting register
of his own polling station in his Langata constituency,
resulting in a potential crisis when Odinga was turned away.
Instead of inflaming the Kibera slum, Odinga simply drove to
the ECK headquarters and officially protested the omission.
The ECK made no excuses and acted immediately to amend the
register to include Odinga's name. There were a few quick
press conferences and the situation ended peacefully with
Odinga casting his vote.

8. (SBU) That the voting process was so relatively smooth
and peaceful despite delays and organizational problems
testifies to the commitment of the Kenyan people to
democratic values. The leadership of the President and the
opposition candidates in calling for peaceful elections and
respect for the results was also crucial to this positive

Historic Turnout

9. (SBU) The other remarkable aspect of the elections was
the unprecedented high turnout (which will average somewhere
between 65 and 80 percent). Not surprisingly, Kibaki's team
produced a record turnout of around 85 percent in his home
area of Central Province, and Odinga produced a high turnout
in his home area of Nyanza Province. Many people waited in
line for six hours or more. Some of the turnout was clearly
the result of increased participation by youth. It appears
that Odinga will profit from youths' perception that he
represents a younger generation (though he is 63 to Kibaki's
76, and both are from the same political class) and that he
will be more decisive against corruption.

Observer Statement

10. (SBU) The electoral process thus far deserves a strong
statement of support, and clearly meets a high standard for
credible, transparent, free and fair elections. I made an

informal statement last night that was carried extensively on
Kenyan television. It is, however, too early to make
definitive pronouncements. The ECK will likely not announce
final results until December 29. The EU and Kenyan domestic
observation missions will make statements on the 29th. By
OOB Washington time on the 29th we will send a proposed draft
for a statement by Washington. IRI will make a largely
positive statement the afternoon of the 28th.

Vote Counting Process

11. (SBU) The ballot counting process is carried out in
three stages, each fraught with the potential for fraud.
First, the ballots are counted at each polling station in
front of party agents. Party agents were given copies of the
results and they were also posted publicly at each station.
My observations and those of our observers indicate that this
counting process was generally transparent and efficient.
Second, the ballots were taken to central tally stations in
each of the 210 constituencies. Observations indicate that
this process has also been carried out well. Finally, the
ballots and results of the tally stations are, where
possible, being called or sent by e-mail to the ECK and then
physically carried to ECK headquarters. This process, which
will be carried out during the course of today and this
evening, is where the potential for trouble is currently
greatest. Ballots can be lost, burned, or otherwise
destroyed. Even though results will have been posted at
polling stations, any interference with the final phase of
the count would raise serious issues that the ECK would have
to address (especially if the ballots delivered to the ECK in
any way differed from results tabulated at polling stations).
During this period tensions will rise as inevitable rumors
circulate (given the history of extensive fraud in all
previous elections except the one in 2002). We have
received, for example, unconfirmed reports that the police
had to fire into the air at several tally centers to disperse
unruly crowds worried that ballots were being tampered with.
Commissioner of Police Ali gave a press conference this
morning and said all the right things to assure people of his
commitment to ensure protection for ballots and to highlight
the non-political role of the police.

Media and Initial Results

12. (SBU) As a result of its generally responsible,
extensive, and timely reporting, the media also deserves
credit for how well the process has proceeded thus far.
Since before polls closed the media has been reporting on a
24-hour basis. They are reporting vote totals based on the
results posted at polling stations, but making clear that
only the ECK can announce official results. The results that
the media are reporting reflect uneven inputs from around the
country, but so far show Odinga leading Kibaki by about
almost 10 points. Two exit polls (with uncertain
methodology) also show Odinga winning by 3-8 points. The
race is, in our view, still to early to call. It appears, as
expected, that these elections will result in a sea change in
Parliament, with up to 70 percent of incumbents replaced.
This may in part be due to a wave of ODM support, but is even
more the result of dissatisfaction with the incumbents'
perceived inattention to their constituencies and to the
exorbitant pay raise that they awarded themselves. Initial
reports indicate that some of the most corrupt incumbents
have been defeated.

Advancing U.S. Interests

13. (SBU) We will keep the Department closely informed as
results become clearer. At this point, there are sound
reasons to believe that this election process will be a very
positive example for the continent and for the developing
world, that it will represent a watershed in the
consolidation of Kenyan democracy, and that it will,

therefore, significantly advance U.S. interests. The Kenyan
people will view the U.S. as having played an important and
neutral role in encouraging a positive election process.


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