African bloc calls for Kenya vote probe


A five-nation East African bloc wants "suspect" actions during vote tallying from Kenya's disputed presidential polls investigated and guilty parties held accountable.

Riots and ethnic clashes have killed 500 people across Kenya since President Mwai Kibaki's re-election following the December 27 ballot, which his rival Raila Odinga says was rigged.

The crisis has choked supplies of fuel and other goods to a swathe of east African countries, and forced more than 6,000 refugees into neighbouring Uganda alone.

"The Post Polling Period was characterised by uncoordinated and suspect actions," East African Community observers said in a report seen by Reuters today, citing statements by Kenya's electoral commission (ECK) chairman, who said he could not trace some returning officers who had vanished with crucial paperwork.

It said ECK boss Samuel Kivuitu displayed "incompetence and weakness". His actions, combined with the delay announcing the results, amounted to "gross mismanagement" of the vote counting.

"This critically undermined the credibility of the final stage of the electoral process," said the report by the EAC, which groups Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

"The anomalies cited in the tallying process should be investigated and the ECK officials or any other persons found to be responsible should be held accountable."

The wave of unrest since the ballot, which international observers said was flawed, has dented the democratic credentials of east Africa's biggest economy and shocked world powers.