My Memorial Day post: If a President Al Gore had invaded Iraq in 2003 with the support of Sen. Hillary Clinton . . .

all the current GOP presidential candidates would agree now that it was a foolish act of hubris given that the administration had in hindsight clearly been shown to have simply not known what they were doing.

I am not now nor have I even been a member of the Democratic party.  I worked in the defense industry throughout the whole bloody course of the Iraq war.  I even voted for George W Bush that first time in 2000 even though I knew deep down he had very thin, maybe too thin, experience on foreign and national security policy.  (In my defense I will say that I don’t think I should have been expected to know how strongly opposed many of his most senior advisers and subsequent appointees would turn out to be to the values he expressed in seeking our votes in his campaign that year.)

I certainly did not wish him to fail, nor did I wish the harm experienced by my country or by Iraq and its region from that decision but I cannot pretend it away.  It seems to me to be deeply misconceived for citizens of a democratic republic to create an “identity politics” around the competition of parties to the point of transcending a larger patriotism, moral and spiritual values, even the ability to observe and process basic facts.  Over 4000 Americans and over 100000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the Iraq war and the pre-ISIS aftermath and no one who wants to be the “leader of the free world” can plausibly duck an assessment of this war, of our choice, because of the identify of the party of the Commander in Chief at the time.

Part of the reason I took leave from my job and moved my family to East Africa in 2007 to work on democracy assistance is that I had seen how badly we were screwing up our relationships in the world by having embraced a doctrine of “preemptive war” that traditionally might have been seen as unworthy of our national ethos by both “hawks” and “doves” of other generations.  And how our biggest democracy assistance program, by far, was going in Iraq were it was in many respects too late in the wake of the invasion, as opposed to places like Kenya and Somaliland that were not at war where we had a bona fide opportunity to make a positive contribution.  The suspicions and damaged credibility of our country made the work more challenging even among those inclined to a positive view of our aspirations.

Other than the “moral injury” to our country as a whole, the Iraq war did me no personal harm–my taxes didn’t go up so my kids presumably get stuck with the bill, although it might cramp my Social Security and Medicare down the road.  I worked primarily in Navy shipbuilding, on which going to war or not going to war had relatively little business impact; we didn’t build more or less ships than we would have if we had not gone into Iraq from 2003-11.  Before we launched the invasion I was convinced by a senior friend in the industry who had been a naval officer that the sectarian situation in Iraq was beyond our grasp and I did not see the decision to launch the war as anything other than a huge risk that would have been warranted only by an extreme immediate threat which the Iraqi regime simply did not pose by any reasoned assessment.

But here at home now my dry cleaner is an Iraqi Christian.  Before we invaded, he was a medical doctor, a specialist, in his country, as was his wife.  He runs the cleaners himself six days a week, but will be closed and with his family for Memorial Day.  I’ll think of him with gratitude that he was able to get here and for the relative safety and freedom he has here, but with sadness that we elected to reach for the war hammer rather than have the patience to continue to turn the diplomatic screw in 2003 and in so doing upended his life, that of his family and community and his country.  (See Waiting for An Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq by Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi, excerpted here.  A must read, to accompany all the war and political reporting, on life for middle class Iraqis following the invasion, for those who want to learn from the war.)

I will mourn those Americans who gave their lives for the endeavor, especially those young people who volunteered out of patriotism to protect our country in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.  The rest of us collectively let them down and the very least that is required of us now is to learn from their sacrifice and do better together whatever our preferences of party or domestic ideology.

I will also be thinking with gratitude of my uncle who volunteered for the Navy in World War II as a 17 year old on the family farm after Pearl Harbor, made it home from the Pacific and is still with us at 90.  He he told me years ago that he did not believe we had any business taking it on ourselves to invade Iraq to change the regime without the support of the United Nations that we created with our allies in the wake of that war that he and his “greatest generation” fought at high but shared cost.  And his grandson, serving in the Air Force now, with his own young son.  Let us use his service wisely, with a judicious and open debate over what we ask him to do for us, being honest enough with ourselves to learn from the experiences that have cost the lives of others.
 

 

 

Washington sees that Uhuru’s security approach is counterproductive; Kenya’s democrats still must counter Uhuru’s DC lobbyists to hope for better U.S. policy by 2017

As Kenya’s politics shift into more focused attention on the 2017 presidential race, Kenya’s security environment has become so conspicuously bad that all sorts of people are noticing and commentating in Washington, with an unusually broad consensus that the Uhuruto administration is failing: draconian and corrupt crackdowns unnecessarily alienating Kenyans whose cooperation is needed; corrupt diversion of resources from national security needs as notoriously demonstrated in the successful Anglo Leasing scams; gross incompetence as reflected in the tragically late response to the Garissa University terrorist takeover.

For but one small sample, see today’s “DefenseOne” with headline “How Kenya’s Counterrerrorism Turned Counterproductive”.  You cannot get more mainstream DC than a Council of Foreign Relations post republished in Atlantic Media’s DefenseOne.

One might expect that a lot of people in Washington would be moved to take a hard look in the mirror under the circumstances, given the U.S. policy of, at best, actively looking the other way as Kibaki stole re-election in 2007, and the fact that the U.S. ended up doing far more to help than hurt the Uhuruto election effort that Kibaki supported for his succession in 2013.  But that won’t happen; domestic politics in the era of the “permanent campaign” stifles critical self-examination in our foreign policy establishment in Washington.  Thus it is incumbent on Kenyans who don’t want the U.S. to repeat its mistakes of 2007 and 2013 to engage with American policy now before it is too late for 2017.

Let me digress to make sure there is no confusion about the U.S. role in 2013 and the fact that the U.S. did more to help than hurt the Kenyatta and Ruto ascension in 2013.

Yes, I know, Jendayi Frazer vociferously accused the Obama administration of “interfering” in Kenya’s 2013 campaign, against Uhuruto, because her successor Johnnie Carson made a single reference in one statement that “choices have consequences”.  In reality, so far as I know, Carson’s statement was “damage control” from within the Obama Administration after Obama himself issued a statement to Kenyans on the election of fully vetted bureaucrateez, saying nothing.  Because Obama made an affirmative statement, saying nothing, he created, predictably, an opening for the Uhuruto public relations team to take to the media in Kenya with the assertion that Obama had made it clear that the U.S. had no concern about the election of those accused of prime roles in the 2008 post election violence.  The United States was thus embarrassed by the questions of whether it was being hypocritical on human rights atrocities and whether it was again, as under the first Kenyatta, and Moi, and Kibaki, sucking up to local powers-that-be in Kenya.  Carson’s attempted corrective, of course, made matters that much worse as it handed a tool to Frazer in the international, U.S. and Kenyan media, and to others within Kenya in the Kenyan media, to fire up Uhuru’s and Ruto’s supporters through a false (and profoundly ironic) victimization narrative.

Contrary to what I think were the honest expectations of some Kenyan human rights and democracy advocates, the consequences of the Uhuruto electoral success were nothing more nor less than those that followed directly from having these two particular individuals at the helm of state.  The United States, so far as I knew at the time, never had any intention whatsoever of any type of sanctions or penalty against either the two suspects or against the Kenyan government–and it seems to me that the way the U.S. handled its support of the IEBC and the immediate environment with the election controversy  definitively demonstrates that the U.S. had no desire or intention to impede Uhuru and Ruto from taking power even if we were not going to openly favor them.  Of course the knowledge of what had happened in the 2008 violence imposed some bit of color on the relationship after the Uhuruto inauguration but it didn’t have any major policy impact except to make the U.S. more circumspect, if anything, in any criticism of the Kenyan government and more ginger in avoiding anything seen as unduly supporting the old “reform agenda” from the first few years after the PEV so as not to offend those inflamed against the U.S. by the Uhuruto campaign rhetoric.

Substantively, the primary apparent U.S. role in the 2013 election was to spend many millions of dollars on a largely nontransparent basis to underwrite the IEBC, even though it turned out to be corrupt, and to facilitate sale and acceptance of the “results” it chose to announce. The “verification” of the margin of just a hair over the 50%+1 threshold without the actual tallying of all the votes.  In essence, the larger established pattern from 2007 if not the goriest of details from the backrooms.  While Ambassador Godec and his boss Carson did not embrace Uhuru in the way that Ambassador Ranneberger and presumably Frazer embraced Kibaki, the bottom line priority remained superficial “stability” over “deepening democracy”.

So where does that leave things now with the “chickens coming home to roost” on that superficiality as the ephemeral nature of the “stability agenda” becomes apparent?

Kenyan democrats must be more sophisticated in dealing with Washington–it is crucial that they engage to counter Uhuru’s new lobbyist teams from the Podesta Group (along with Uhuru’s hiring of Tony Blair and whatever other moves of this type have not be widely reported in the media).

In the wake of the 2013 mess at the IEBC, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa initiated a critical unanimous Senate Resolution; that resolution never saw the light of day on the House side.  Why?  Arizona Senator Jeff Flake co-sponsored that resolution and is now Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee.  New Jersey Representative Chris Smith on the House side, whose Subcommittee would not take action on the resolution, is ripe for appeal on these issues as he is supporting a globalized Magnitsky Act approach to broaden and make more consistent U.S. sanction against human rights abuse, and he doggedly and successfully pursued the investigation showing that USAID funding was improperly diverted for partisan ends in the 2010 Kenyan referendum during Ranneberger’s tenure.  In this context, Smith should have no sympathies for actors like Uhuru or Ruto as individuals and certainly should have grave concerns about the monkey business with U.S. assistance at the IEBC.

But given that powerful well-connected people are getting paid by the Kenyan taxpayer to grease the skids in Washington the other way, it is imperative that Kenyans get the truth directly to Washington or risk the consequences of more misguided U.S. policy.  Likewise, Kenyans need to engage directly with the Dutch who funded the NDI pre-election polling in 2013 and the other Western donors who plumped for the ECK/IEBC operations in 2007-13 both through the UNDP and otherwise in the U.S. coordinated basket funding.

+USAID Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers.

UhuRuto Campaign Ad Kenya 2013

UhuRuto billboard March 2013

Keeping the bar low for Election Observation Missions? ICYMI, IGAD congratulated Sudan’s Bashir on “peaceable and largely credible” election

From AllAfrica.com:

Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD, extended his warmest congratulations to President Omar Al-Bashir for his re-election to the presidency of the Sudan.
Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, noting the role of IGAD in observing the elections in Sudan, noted that the elections “were largely conducted in a peaceful and credible manner.”
Ambassador Maalim said: “I congratulate you on your victory and wish to express IGAD’s confidence that your leadership will continue to make earnest efforts to achieve lasting peace as well as prosperity for the people of the Sudan.” the Executive Secretary added that “I also wish you every success in these efforts and wish to affirm that you can count on my continued support.”

Here is the AU EOM preliminary statement as reported by the Sudan Vision.  The AU’s pre-election assesment had noted that predicate conditions were not in place for a fair election.

Again: Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling? [originally I asked in April 2013; we are moving that much more quickly along the path with Secretary Kerry’s current visit ahead of Obama in July, as further allegedly necessitated by the Uhuruto administration’s conspicuous incompetence on “security”]

Why the U.S. got started training the Kenya Police Service: 1977 Embassy cable 

R 041148Z MAR 77
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6574
INFO DA WASHDC//DAMO-SSA//
CDRTRADOC FT MONROE VA//ATTNG-PRD-SA-T//
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GERMANY//ECJ4/7-SARA-T//
CDRUSA CRIME LAB FT GORDON GA

C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 2870 {declassified, released 2009}

E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: MASS, PINT, KE
SUBJECT: FIREARMS IDENTIFICATION TRAINING FOR KENYA POLICE
REF: (A) STATE 017363, (B) 76 NAIROBI 13349,(C) DSAA 4058/76 282216Z DEC 76

1. IN REPLY TO JUSTIFICATION REQUESTED IN REFTEL A, EMBASSY
SUBMITS FOLLOWING:

2. PURPOSE OF PROPOSED TRAINING:

A. ENABLE GOK POLICE PERSONNEL TO QUALIFY AS EXPERTS IN
COURT TESTIMONY REGARDING BALLISTICS AND FIREARMS EXAMINATION.

B. TO IDENTIFY WEAPONS USED IN CRIMINAL AND TERRORIST
ACTIVITY BY TYPE, MODEL AND INDIVIDUAL WEAPON USING SCIENTIFIC
TECHNIQUES FOR COMPARISON AND EVALUATION.

C. TO ESTABLISH FROM EXISTING EVIDENCE THE OWNERSHIP AND
ORIGIN OF THESE WEAPONS.

3. USEFULNESS TO GOK:

A. COUNTER-GUERRILLA AND BANDIT OPERATIONS. PRIMARILY
IN NORTHERN PROVINCES DIRECTED AGAINST INFILTRATION
OF SOMALI SHIFTA GUERRILLAS. THESE OPERATIONS TO DATE HAVE
BEEN CONDUCTED BY THE KENYAN ARMY AND THE KENYA POLICE,
PARA-MILITARY GENERAL SERVICES UNIT (GSU). THEY ARE CONDUCTED
AS POLICE OPERATIONS REQUIRING ALL UNITS INVOLVED
TO RESTRICT THEIR ACTIVITIES TO THOSE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT.
THE SERVICES OF A COMPETENT FIREARMS EXAMINER WOULD BE
EXTREMELY VALUABLE TO THE GOK FROM THE STANDPOINT OF INITIAL
IDENTIFICATION OF THE TYPE AND ORIGIN OF WEAPONS USED AND
ALSO AS AN EXPERT WITNESS AT SUBSEQUENT COURT PROCEEDINGS.

B. CONVENTIONAL CRIMINAL ACTIVITY, TERRORISM. GOK
SOURCES ESTIMATE THAT THE NUMBER OF CONVENTIONAL CRIMES
(MURDER, ROBBERY, ETC.) INVOLVING THE USE OF A FIREARM HAVE
INCREASED APPROXIMATELY 50 PERCENT IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
POACHING IN THE NATIONAL PARKS REMAINS A SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH
POSSIBLE LONG TERM DAMAGE TO THE TOURIST INDUSTRY. KENYA MUST BE
CONSIDERED AN AREA OF POSSIBLE TERRORIST ACTIVITY BECAUSE
OF THE POLITICAL ORIENTATION AND MILITANCY OF HER NEIGHBORS.
A TRAINED FIREARMS AND BALLISTICS EXPERT WOULD BE A KEY
PERSON IN THE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF ANY CASES
INVOLVING THE ABOVE TYPE OF ACTIVITY.

4. AS MENTIONED REFTEL B, THE KENYA POLICE, IN ADDITION TO
THE ARMED FORCES WITH FORENSIC LABORATORY SERVICES. THE
KENYA POLICE HAVE ADVISED THAT THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED
IN PROPOSED TRAINING COULD BE SECONDED TO THE KENYA ARMY
IF NECESSARY TO OVERCOME OBJECTIONS RAISED IN REFTEL C.
THE KENYA POLICE IS UNDER THE DIRECT CONTROL OF THE OFFICE
OF THE PRESIDENT.

5. DIRECT USG INTERESTS: Continue reading

Kenya’s security failure – Paul Hidalgo, John Githongo and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights on “Corruption, Injustice, Abuse”

In Foreign Affairs, Paul Hidalgo explains “Kenya’s Own Worst Enemy; Al Shabab Isn’t the Real Problem“:

Corruption, injustice, abuse, disillusionment, marginalization, and radicalization are the legacies of years of misguided policies in Kenya. After an al Shabab rampage in Garissa earlier this month left over 140 university students dead, these issues are impossible to ignore. If Nairobi continues to refuse to address them or fails to do so, the already troubled East African country will soon become even more unstable.

The radical Islamist group al Shabab is responsible for the series of terrorist attacks that have rocked Kenya in past few years. But the reality is that al Shabab is a shadow of what it once was. The al Qaeda-linked group has been pushed out of all major cities in Somalia and cut off from its financial lifelines. Its leaders have been decimated by drone attacks, internal strife, and defections. And that is why the group’s ability to easily attack within Kenya is so puzzling. For their part, Kenyan leaders have long contended that entities outside the government, namely Somalia-based fighters and the country’s minority Muslim population, are to blame. But the truth is that the main culprits are the culture and policies of the government itself.

Take, for example, Kenya’s security services, which are acknowledged as the most corrupt institution in one of the most corrupt countries in the world. . . .

Corruption might clear the way for attacks, but incompetence turns tragedies into national disasters. .  .  .

The security forces’ well-documented history of abuse, discrimination, and heavy handedness is directly connected to radicalization. . . .

Instead of trying to tackle all these issues, Kenyan leaders have fallen back on their usual responses: attacking easy targets and pursuing knee-jerk policies. As before, these simply make matters worse. . . .

.  .  .  .

Pressure is mounting for Kenyatta to enact serious reforms, and his recent admission that there were security failures at Garissa may signal that things are shifting. But Kenyans shouldn’t hold their breaths. Nairobi has proven time and again that it is incapable of or unwilling to make difficult reforms. It may end up that civilians will be forced to take to the streets in a major way to push the government to action, or take matters into their own hands, such as the pledge from the country’s top Muslim organization to root out radical clerics from mosques. However it plays out, the longer Kenya waits to address its problems in some fashion, the more innocents will die and the more dysfunctional the state will become.

John Githongo on Garissa: Kenya’s corrupt chickens have come home to roost,” from Kingsley Kipury and Simon Allison in Daily Maverick:

.  .  .  .
Githongo’s main argument is that corruption has prevented Kenya from establishing an even remotely effective security sector, leaving it vulnerable to Al-Shabaab-style attacks. “Kenya has had a problem with terrorism for some time, and recognised the need for much improved equipment and technology for our security service to be able to deal with it. However national security is the last refuge of the corrupt, and there are those in government who decided that those are the contracts we are going to make money from. And in the pushing and the shoving and the disagreements and squabbling of people fighting for their cut, and things stopping and starting, goods being delivered half-baked or not at all, Kenya lost a tremendous opportunity to establish a very solid framework for defending itself against terrorism,” he said.

That’s the first problem. The second is the culture of corruption, engendered by the country’s political elite, which means that, for often trifling sums, individuals at all levels of the state are willing to turn a blind eye to threatening activity. “When people lower down the ladder in the security services, whether it’s in the police, immigration, intelligence, the military, when they see them [their superiors] steal from large scale security contracts, they then start perpetrating corruption lower down the ladder. That becomes a problem that becomes pervasive, and it is exemplified most starkly by the ease with which it would apparently seem possible for terrorists to be able to cross through our porous borders by paying small amounts of money to junior officials,” Githongo said.

For Githongo, it’s impossible to separate the current insecurity in Kenya from its history of corruption. “I think it’s definitely a case of chickens coming home to roost, vis-à-vis Anglo Leasing. If we had properly executed those contracts starting from around 2001 into 2004, we definitely wouldn’t be having the kind of problems we have right now, or at least they wouldn’t be at the scale they are at now.”

Crucially, however, corruption is not just history. According to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, corruption in Kenya has worsened since President Uhuru Kenyatta came to power. Kenya is currently ranked 145th in the world for corruption, only just above the Central African Republic and nine spots below Nigeria.

In this context, it’s hardly surprising that Githongo reserves some of his strongest criticism for the current administration of Kenyatta. “This is the most corrupt administration since the [Daniel arap] Moi administration, if not more corrupt. . . .

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Condemns Listing of Human Rights Groups as Terrorist Organizations in Kenya:

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is deeply concerned over the most recent steps taken by the Kenyan government to further restrict the legitimate activities of domestic civil society organizations, under the stated auspices of countering terrorism. Earlier this week, alongside terrorist groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram, Kenya’s Inspector General of Police listed several notable human rights groups to be declared “Terrorist Organizations,” froze their bank accounts, and gave them 24 hours to clarify why they should not be designated.

“Governments have a real responsibility to meet the threat of terrorism and protect the welfare of their citizens, and civil society groups are indispensable to achieving these ends,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “The Kenyan government has gone too far by including human rights groups in a list of possible terrorist organizations. President Kenyatta and the relevant authorities should take immediate and transparent steps to remove these human rights groups from this list.”

. . . .

Now to that next step: evaluating the Kenya Defense Forces role in Somalia and Kenya’s security needs

Andrew J. Franklin’s “Terrorism and the rising cost of Kenya’s war in Somalia,” in The Standard gives a perspective on cost and “mission creep” since the original Operation Linda Nichi incursion of October 2011.  Take time to read his assessment that over the course of what is best understood as a war rather than participation in a “peacekeeping mission” Kenya has come to face an insurgency in the border counties that now poses an existential threat to the county such that the priority for Kenyan security needs to be a focus by the KDF on a comprehensive border security initiative and finally implementing the critical domestic security reforms set out in the law since 2010.

Do not forget my post of last July highlighting the reporting of Amb. George Ward at the Institute for Defense Analyses: “Kenya Defense Forces essentially collaborating with Al Shabaab in illegal charcoal exports.”  And from October 2013: “Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors.”

Kenyan political leaders had unsuccessfully sought U.S. support for an operation to secure a “Jubaland” buffer region long before the October 2011 action.  There were probably a variety of motives to proceed when Linda Nichi went forward, some of which related to security and some of which related to various opportunities and schemes of a more “commercial” nature.

Without a coalition government in place as there was in 2011, President Kenyatta has the power and the accountable responsibility as Commander in Chief to articulate the mission of the KDF and the strategy to be employed, now.  Kenyans are clearly less safe than they were three-and-a-half years ago, so continuing to pursue a muddled mission without an obvious strategy seems quite dangerous.

Kenyans going for water

Kenyans going for water

Thirty eight years after the U.S. started Kenya police training in 1977, yet another failure in Garissa University massacre

The trained elite forces of Kenya’s Recce Company Crisis Response Team of the Kenya Police Service’s paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) do not lack for personal courage and technical competence, as they showed once again in dispatching the four terrorists who spent the day Thursday murdering Christian students at  Garissa University College after killing the two guards and seizing control of the campus.

Sadly, as we also saw in the Westgate tragedy, the top ranks of leadership in Kenya’s security apparatus lack the will and/or the focus that would be required to use such forces effectively to protect Kenya’s citizenry from even such small bands of terrorists.

The infuriatingly obtuse mediocrity of Kenya’s political elite was perhaps most conspicuously on display in Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed’s characterization of the police response to the university siege as “adequate” in her interview yesterday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, going so far as to conclude “we did all that we could do.”  While it is true that the Kenya Defense Forces did not intervene with “friendly fire” as at Westgate, the terrorists were left in control of the school for hours on end while the Recce Squad remained in Nairobi before finally departing by plane in the early afternoon, followed by two hours of briefings on the ground in Garissa before the successful assault.  Reporting in the Sunday Nation indicates that the Recce Company members, trained in the U.S. and Israel, are regularly being diverted to ordinary policing tasks in diverse locations and not maintained as intended on standby for the emergency Crisis Response Team at their Nairobi headquarters.

Surviving students reported being aware of their insecure environment long before the attack, which was preceded by specific warnings of attacks on university campuses, as well as the British and Australian warnings of threats which so angered President Kenyatta in the preceding days.  Most individual politicians in Nairobi have more security than this inviting cluster of “upcountry” Christian young people sitting in Garissa which has long experienced small scale church attacks and other terror incidents, as well as mass “security” repression on a periodic basis.

In an interview with the Daily Nation about the background of the middle class Kenyan among the terrorists, the assistant principal of the high school attended by the now notorious killer noted that student had finished at the school “way back in 2007 when radicalization was unheard of.”  “Terrorist was a gifted, obedient student

Even “way back in 2007″ when I went to Garissa to train prospective parliamentary candidates the area was insecure enough that police escort was required from a checkpoint on the highway east of Mwingi in Eastern Province on into Garissa, crossing the Tana River into North Eastern Province.  It is hard for me to understand the idea that some grand foresight would be required to see the need for more security for this particular campus.  On its website, the University reports that it “benefits greatly from Garissa’s urban setting.  It feels closely tied to and responsible towards the city and county.  For its part it contributes to the cultural life of the city and region, and in all its activities pays regard to community and urban needs.”  The University came into being as the first full university in the old North Eastern Province in 2011 as an upgrade to an older Garissa Teacher Training College.  A noble initiative toward the crucial long term endeavor to begin the work of bringing this historically neglected region more fully into the Kenyan nation–one that made it an obvious target for Islamist extremists opposed to this endeavor.  And now shuttered indefinitely in the wake of the horrific mass executions.

Jeffrey Gettleman’s story in the New York Times “Shabaab Militants Learning to Kill on a Shoestring” identifies the extremist ideological counter-narrative. In claiming credit for the attack on one of the largest concentrations of non-Muslims in the area a Shabaab spokesman called the University part of a scheme by the Kenyan government to spread “their Christianity and infidelity” in a Muslim area that the Shabaab consider a “colony” under Christian control.

Nonetheless, Radio France International in a story headlined “Not enough Kenyan police in Garissa because its considered a ‘punishment zone'” quoted analyst Adam Hussein Adam saying “This is something that has been there since independence, and we continue to see that place [Garissa] as an outlier, and therefore we don’t deploy enough state authorities there until we have a problem like we now have.”

To me, the idea expressed in various quarters that pulling the Kenya Defense Forces out of AMISOM in Somalia now would resolve the underlying contested nature of the broader northeast within Kenya seems naive.  I don’t think the original 2011 incursion into Somalia was well considered or the best priority for Kenyan security at the time, and the AMISOM role for the KDF ought to be evaluated on its own merits now and going forward.  Nonetheless, I do not believe that there is a de facto bargain to be struck by withdrawing the KDF that would assuage those fighting what Nairobi-based security consultant Andrew Franklin has described for many months now as an insurgency within Kenya’s border counties.

Attention also needs to be paid to the experience and motives of the 27 year old Nairobi law graduate and banker, the son of a local chief from Mandera County who came to the capital for high school, followed by university.  Reportedly he wanted to join IS but settled for Al-Shabaab because he did not have a passport to travel to the Middle East but could transit the porous border into Somalia.

U.S. press coverage of Garissa University massacre

The Big Picture: Attack in Kenya” photographs in The Boston Globe.

Kenya attack targets Christians, putting new pressure on religious leaders” Ariel Zirulnick in the Christian Science Monitor.

Kenya faces grim aftermath of school massacre” Abagail Higgins and Jessica Hatcher in the Washington Post.

Kenyan religious leaders urge unity after Shabab Muslim extremists slaughter Christian students  Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles Times.

Christians warned, then killed in Kenyan university massacre” Margot Kiser in The Daily Beast.

“University attacks marks Al Shabaab’s pivot to ISIS” Ashish Kumar Sen interview with Bronwyn Bruton in New Atlanticist.

Kenya mourns 148 dead in university attack by militants”  Christopher Torchia and Tom Odula for Associated Press.

3850455481_f0db94e43c_bKenyans agonize over student massacre” Martina Stevis in The Wall Street Journal.

Nigeria example shows U.S. and other donors should act now on Kenya IEBC technology procurement corruption

For the 2013 election, I have a copy of one last minute USAID procurement through IFES for the Kenyan IEBC related to the failed electronic results transmission system; I would assume there were other USAID procurements involved for the IEBC.  Notably, the Supreme Court of Kenya found that the main cause of the failure of the electronic results transmission system and the electronic voter identification system appeared to be procurement “squabbles” among IEBC members. “It is, indeed, likely, that the acquisition process was marked by competing interests involving impropriety, or even criminality: and we recommend that this matter be entrusted to the relevant State agency, for further investigation and possible prosecution.”   “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court opinion” April 13, 2013.  See also, “Why would we trust the IEBC vote tally when they engaged on fraudulent procurement processes for key technology?”, March 24, 2013.

From “USAID Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers“, February 17,2005.

Election technology can work, in Africa, just as elsewhere, when it is not sabotaged by corruption.  Nigeria, a much harder case than Kenya, proved that this weekend.

While technology is “not a panacea”, it would have mattered in Kenya in 2007 when it was purchased for Kenya’s ECK at the expense of American taxpayers as an important part of our USAID assistance program if it had not been simply “shelved” by the ECK at the last minute (in a meeting the records of which the ECK refused to turn over to the “Kreigler Commission” charged with investigating the failed election).  It was a central part of the planned assistance program for 2013 shaped on the basis of the Kreigler Commission’s recommendations for what was required based on what was done and not done in 2007.  It was also in 2013 a central and necessary part of election process under the new Kenyan law for the new IEBC, replacing the discredited and disbanded ECK.  It mattered that it did not work, and that it could not have worked because of the failure to procure what was needed when it was needed.

Aside from the basic issues regarding the technology procurements that we have all known about since the 2013 election (and before in some cases)–so thus for more than two years at a minimum–we now have in addition–the “Chickengate” matter where bribery of IEBC officials for ballot paper printing contracts by a British company and its officials, through a Kenyan agent formerly employed by the IEBC, was proven in a court of law to the standards required for criminal convictions.

Yet we see no indication of legal action by the Kenyan government to follow through even on those bribes already proven in the British Court, much less a serious fulfillment of the two-year old recommendation of the Supreme Court of Kenya for the Government to investigate and possibly prosecute the technology procurement cases.  We certainly see that corruption issues are admitted to be remain pervasive at all levels of the current Kenyan government–and perhaps there is a newfound intention to address some of them (time will tell) but apparently no new mention of the IEBC. See “Read the list of public officers implicated in corruption and what the EACC accuses them ofThe Star, March 31. And “Analysis: Kenyatta’s corrupted corruption probe” by Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick, March 30.

What are we waiting for?  Shouldn’t we (the United States) have enough self respect to at least suspend our underwriting of this nonsense and to at least make it clear that we will investigate how our own dollars were spent regardless of what the Government of Kenya elects to do or not do?  Likewise other donors who may have paid for part of this?

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