Swamp Fever?

Kenya’s Presidential Spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua has expressed great umbrage at the Wikileaks disclosure that his government was referred to privately by U.S. diplomats as a “swamp of corruption”.

No indication that Dr. Mutua has offered to disclose Kenya’s internal diplomatic correspondence for comparison and discussion. Also no indication that he mentioned anything about the scandal involving financial misdoings in the purchase of various embassy properties by the Kenyan Foreign Ministry that has led Foreign Minister Wetangela to step aside to be investigated.

Don’t forget how hard Kenya’s politicians are working to hold the country back . . .

While the Sudan referendum and the Ugandan election take center stage, it is important not to forget that Kenya’s parliament is deadlocked on taking the necessary steps to move forward on implementation of the new constitution and that the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has not been revived. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will be in Nairobi this week for meetings ahead of his planned public submission of request for indictments of key instigators of the 2008 post-election violence (necessitated by the Kenyan leadership’s unwillingness to implement local tribunals).

The Standard reports on more talk by Rift Valley MPs of a Ruto-Uhuru alliance for the 2012 elections. Thus the two most prominently identified suspects in organizing the potion of the post-election violence carried out by private militias would unite.

Capital FM reports that Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for the arrest of gays at a rally Sunday in Kibera.

And the Nation says that it has seen the secret U.S. dossier on Kenyan drug lords:

The report seen by the Nation says Kenya is not only a significant transit country for cocaine, heroin and hashish, but also a money-laundering hub.

“Quantities of heroin and hashish transiting in Kenya, mostly from Southwest Asia bound for Europe and United States have markedly increased in recent years,” the report adds.

The International Narcotics Strategy Report, that reviewed 2009 drug trafficking and money laundering in Kenya, blames lack of resources and rampant corruption for the two vices.

Kenya’s financial system, the report adds, may be laundering more than Sh80 billion ($100 million) each year, including an undetermined amount of drug money and Somali piracy earnings.

It indicates that money laundering continues unabated, despite Parliament passing the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Law, 2009, which was signed by President Kibaki on December 31, 2009.

However, the law has not come into force because the Ministry of Finance has not gazetted its commencement date although the Act indicates that such date shall not exceed six months after the date of assent.
. . . .
The report accused former anti-corruption boss Aaron Ringera, former Police boss Major-General (Rtd) Hussein Ali and the director of Police Training College Peter Kavila of frustrating investigations into the matter. Both have denied the accusations, with Mr Ringera threatening to sue the newspapers for defamation.

Parliament has put the Executive under pressure accusing it of not taking the war on narcotics seriously. MPs are now demanding that names of the senior government officers banned from travelling to the US be made public.

Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh told Parliament on Thursday that he could not reveal the names because he was yet to receive the information from the US embassy.

On Sunday, the envoy declined to comment on the matter. He said he would give an official statement on the matter this week.

Independent sources told the Nation that those affected are three MPs — one each from Coast, Central and Eastern provinces.

More on Moi, KANU and Ruto meetings with Museveni

The Nairobi Star reported this week (link via allafrica.com) that ex-president Moi and aides were in Kampala for three days of meetings with Museveni in the midst of his busy re-election schedule, and goes through some of the history between the two. Combined with the recent Ruto and KANU visits there appears to be a particular interest by Museveni in politicians from Kenya’s Rift Valley.
Why? Certainly Moi and his associate Biwott of KANU are extremely wealthy and control vast business assets in the region by virtue of Moi’s time as a KANU leader and especially as President–so in that sense any poltician might naturally seek them out–but there seems to be more to this. Something interesting to watch.

NPR Stories from Africa–an appreciation

Living in a smaller, lesser-developed state in the U.S., I am thankful this year for National Public Radio which brings news and coverage of the world to areas such as ours ours on a non-commercial basis as a public service. I most frequently listen to the local NPR station during my “drive time” and also when I listen to satellite radio I often find the best, most worthwhile programming on NPR. The satellite radio has audio from CNN, Headlline News, Fox News, etc., most of which is not news, and simply has lower standards and loud, obnoxious and frequently disreputable commercials.

Yes, from a doctrinaire ideological viewpoint, it lacks conceptual purity to have the government provide a partial subsidy for broadcasting. Likewise, you can argue that having public libraries gets the government involved in the flow of ideas and information [full disclosure: I am on my local library board, and check out books for free]. On balance, I think this is a good practical thing that we can do for each other to help build an informed and aware citizenry that is qualified to govern itself and provide a postive example of self-government to others. No one has to listen and most people chose to be entertained instead of informed, but making this available matters, I think. From Mississippi, thanks to those of you in the rest of the country that help provide this service.

Here are some good stories from Africa this week on NPR: “River of Life–Congo Odyssey”; “Helping the World’s Poor Save, a Bit at a Time”; “Tell Me More” interview with a Kenyan village girl who is now a doctoral student at Pitt and wants to be an educator back in Kenya; “Will Kenya’s attempt to root out graft take hold?”

Museveni and Kenyan Politics, with America watching

The interplay of Ugandan and Kenyan politics continues, as covered in a fascinating story in the Standard, “Why Museveni is warming up to Kenyan politicians”. Well worth reading the whole thing.

Aside from the oil and ethnicity issues mentioned in the story, it is worth keeping in mind the value to Kenya–and to the United States–of Uganda’s troops serving in the AMISOM mission in Somalia. See the Jendayi Frazer interview with CFR.org from January 2008 on the impact of the post-election violence in Kenya in delaying a planned deployment to Somalia.

On the “Diplomacy or Assistance?” topic we will once again have dual U.S.-funded election observations for the Ugandan election in February, both the U.S. Embassy and IRI, like in Kenya. I have been waiting for well more than a year now for a response to my Freedom of Information Act request for the documentation behind the public statements made by the Embassy in Kenya about their observation of the Kenyan election. It will be interesting to see how transparent things are in Uganda this time.

See my April post “Odinga and Museveni, ICC”; and from January, “Secretary Clinton Keynote at National Prayer Breakfast and Museveni”, and “Somalia/Somaliland, Moi, Uganda . . . “

“Stars and Stripes” on QDDR and “Civilan Power”

“US Considering Combining Military and International Affairs Budgets” at Stars and Stripes.

Citing the joint planning required between U.S. military and civilian agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposal is one of several that would put the U.S. diplomatic corps and its lead global humanitarian agency on a stronger national security footing, according to a draft of the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered the review last year to be modeled after the Pentagon’s four-year review, intended as a strategic guide for appropriators. It is part of an ongoing White House-led effort to link development and national security.

“To advance American interests and values and to lead other nations in solving shared problems in the 21st century, we must rely on our diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power,” Clinton said in the introduction of a “consultation draft” version leaked to The Washington Post this week. “We must lead through civilian power.”

“Why 300 million more people are suddenly poor”–release of “Multidimensional Poverty Index” and Ethiopia

Why 300 million more people are suddenly poor, by Jina Moore at the Christian Science Monitor:

Kigali, Rwanda In November, 300 million more people around the world were suddenly poor – on paper, at least. The latest numbers on poverty from the United Nations, released Nov. 4, include a new measurement for poverty and reveal some surprises.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) raises the number of poor by 21 percent, to more than 1.7 billion. According to the MPI, sub-Saharan Africa is still home to the greatest proportion of the world’s poor, but more than half of the total number of poor lives in South Asia.

These numbers, and the new index that produced them, are part of the UN’s annual Human Development Index (HDI), a statistical touchstone. It covers everything from the number of women who die in childbirth to how many people have Internet access and can sway decisions on US policy, influence where nonprofits spend money, and help determine where donors give.

For years, the HDI has set the standard for just how little a person has to live on to be considered poor. The answer? $1.25. But some researchers have long said income alone doesn’t define poverty.

“There are some things money can’t buy,” says Sabina Alkire, cocreator of the index and director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, which launched the index in collaboration with the UN. “It might not buy electricity; it might not buy a public health system, or an education system.”

Ms. Alkire’s index looks at poverty more experientially. It uses existing survey data and categorizes households as poor if they lack three or more of the 10 poverty indicators, which are spread across health, education, and basic standards of living. “For the first time ever, it measures poverty by looking at the disadvantages poor people experience at the same time,” she says.

Examining more than income changes the equation. It doubles the poor in Ethiopia, where 39 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day. But 90 percent are “multidimensionally poor,” or lacking at least three of the 10 indicators.

. . . .

Some specialists have raised objections to the new index, including the director of research at the World Bank, which publishes its own income measure for poverty. Among the criticisms is that the measure is still a single standard, even if it looks at many factors.

“If my bosses were to ask for my recommendation on using the MPI as a factor in allocating USAID resources among countries or programs, I would recommend against doing so,” says Don Stillers, an economist for the US Agency for International Development, in an e-mail message. “Rather, I would emphasize the ongoing need to pay attention to evidence on each major dimension of poverty in each country we work in.”

. . . .

Indeed, Alkire of HDI admits her index isn’t perfect. She acknowledges that good data are hard to come by, and not all types of data that researchers want even exist. “These are messy numbers, and comparisons are fraught with danger,” she says. But she also thinks her approach gives existing information more context and helps correct misperceptions.

This seems to me to represent incremental progress in understanding actual living conditions at the type of “overview” level that inevitably influences political decisionmaking and overall public awareness.  While the USAID economist is right about the need to look at specifics country-by-country, comparisons are necessary and inevitable.  The Ethiopia example seems especially useful in evaluating the performance of the Meles regime which claims credit for a significant level of “growth” and seems to use that as political capital with donors to excuse or divert attention from political repression.

Speaking of Ethiopian governance, Meles has attacked the EU Election Observation Mission for its report issued this week on the May election, which he called “trash“.  Thijs Berman, the Chief Observer, responded as reported by VOA:

“If we say 27 percent of the results in the cases we observed had changed between the polling station and the final aggregation, then this is something that warrants a serious investigation about what went wrong and is this something that can be corroborated by other investigations in the rest of the country,” Berman adds.

Tensions about the EU mission have been building, even before the election.  The government had laid down strict rules for conduct of the observers, arguing that a previous EU mission observing the disputed 2005 election had violated its mandate. The government has also criticized the long delay between the May 23 election and the release of the final mission report.

But Berman tells VOA the report was ready months ago.  He says the release was delayed and the report eventually released in Brussels after it became clear he would not be allowed to present it officially to Prime Minister Meles. “In more than 80 missions in more than 50 countries, it has never happened that the inviting government refuses the presentation of the final report before the first, who are entitled to get this information, namely the Ethiopian citizens.  Which is bad for the long-term future of Ethiopia because real stability can only be brought about by improving the democracy in Ethiopia,” he said.

“Linkage”–remembering how we got here, from “rules of the game” with the Russians and the “Carter Doctrine” to Al-Queda in East Africa and the Embassy Bombings

A mixed verdict today in the Ghailani trial from the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania led me to pull of the shelf Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-1981. These were my high school years and I wrote a paper contrasting the views in Brzezinski’s book and Jimmy Carter’s memoir Keeping Faith as an undergrad. Kenya was handed off from Kenyatta to Moi during this time. My children are roughly the age I was then.

So what did Brzezinski have to say, writing in 1983, about U.S. policy in Kenya and Somalia and the Horn of Africa generally? For him it was all about strategic confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, globally and in regard to the Middle East, most importantly Saudi Arabia. “Linkage” was between the Ethiopia-Somalia conflict and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty negotiations.

The more immediate source of friction between Vance and me was the Soviet-sponsored deployment of the Cuban military in the African Horn. In the summer of 1977, the long-standing territorial disputes in the Horn of Africa were complicated by the dramatic switch in allegiances of the Ethiopians and Somalis. The increasingly extreme leftist government of Ethiopia broke with the West, while the Somalis, who had been aided by Moscow, turned to the United States. The unsettled situation was of serious concern to Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and us, because we all had evidence that the Soviets were providing increased aid and using Cuban forces in the already tense border war. Of course, our ability to assist the Somalis was not helped by the fact that they were the nominal aggressors in the Ogaden, having crossed over an established border into territory they claimed belonged to them.
However, in my view the situation between the Ethiopians and the Somalis was more than a border conflict. Coupled with the expansion of Soviet influence and military presence to South Yemen, it posed a potentially grave threat to our position in the Middle East, notably in the Arabian peninsula. It represented a serious setback in our attempts to develop with the Soviets some rules of the game in dealing with turbulence in the Third World. The Soviets had earlier succeeded in sustaining, through the Cubans, their preferred solution in Angola, and they now seemed embarked on a repetition in a region in close proximity to our most sensitive interests.
I was strengthened in my view by the repeated, like-minded expressions of concern by both Giscard and Sadat, leaders with a refined strategic perspective. Both warned Carter on several occasions not to be passive or to underestimate the gravity of an entrenched Soviet military presence so close to weak, vulnerable, yet vitally needed Saudi Arabia. Sadat let it be known that he was afraid the Soviets were seeking to embarrass him specifically by seizing control of territory crucial to Egyptian interests. We had a report from the Shah, who had traveled to Aswan and to Riyadh, that both the Egyptians and the Saudis were increasingly concerned by the increased Soviet activity. In fact, the Shah reported that the Saudis were “petrified” by the prospect of a Soviet presence across the Red Sea. The Sudanese had also expressed to Carter their worries about Soviet activity and U.S. lack of activity. In a personal message the Sudanese President wrote: “We believe that the Soviet Union is pursuing a sinister grand strategy in Africa leading to some definite goals. We are truly alarmed . . .
Yet in spite of such expressions of concern, throughout the late fall of 1977 and much of 1978 I was very much alone in the U.S. government in advocating a stronger response: Vance insisted that this issue was purely a local one, while Brown [Sec. of Defense] was skeptical of the feasibility of any U.S. countermoves. But by the late summer of 1977, intelligence sources provided mounting evidence of growing Soviet-sponsored involvement. As a result, I promoted . . . a recommendation to the President, which he approved, to accelerate our efforts to provide support to the Sudan, to take steps to accelerate our efforts to reassure and strengthen Kenya, and to explore means of getting as many African leaders as possible to react adversely to the Soviet-sponsored Cuban military presence.
. . . . Continue reading

World Bank–current circumstance “calls for a new approach–Africa as an investment proposition . . .”

Apparently the World Bank has noticed the same shifting environment that private investors and the rest of us have and has released a draft of a revised Africa stategy this week at least in part to help position itself “in front of the parade”. Claire Provost has a good discussion at the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters blog: “What role does the World Bank have in Africa’s future?”