What Wangari Maathai had to say during the Post Election Violence

Interview on NPR’s Tell Me More, January 17, 2008, “Nobel Laureate Explains Kenya’s Battle for Peace”:

Dr. MAATHAI: I believe that out what we are experiencing is the reason that I lost the seat. Since the year 2003, I’ve been trying to tell our side of the government that it is very important to accommodate Raila Odinga and his team, who at that time, were part of the government.

But we have agreed in a written memorandum of understanding that we would share a power a certain way. And that we did not do when we formed the government. And that was actually the beginning of this problem – that many other issues have happened in between. And for me, because I’ve been raising my voice and been telling the government that we need to listen to what the people are saying, we need to pay attention to the public opinion led by Raila and his team, I was perceived it to be anti-President Kibaki. I was projected as an anti-Kibaki person in the media that is dominantly supporting President Kibaki. And so I was punished for really trying to tell the people that we need to avoid the kind of crisis we are now in.

.  .  .  .

Will Kenyan ICC defendants ever become “too hot to touch” for the U.S. and other Western players in Kenya? If so, when?

With the second round of “confirmation” hearings underway in the Hague for the charges against “the Ocampo Six” this week and next, the U.S. and other Western “donors” and supporters of Kenya’s Grand Coalition Government are confronted with the spectacle of Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in the dock facing charges of egregious crimes of international significance. Of the six, five either have significant current jobs in the Kenyan government or are Members of Parliament (or both in the case of the Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta).

The current Grand Coalition Government was formed as the preferred donor approach to the 2007 Kenyan election debacle–the U.S. quickly asserted that it was impossible to conduct any sort of remedial activity about the election, that both sides “needed each other” and should cut a deal to share power. The Europeans soon fell in line. The current Kenyan government, as represented in the Hague trials, is not a creation of the Kenyan voting public, but rather of the political elites on “both sides” along with the “international community” led by key players in Kenya, most especially the United States. The U.S. is said to have insisted that the coalition not be temporary but remain in place a full five years as if ordinarily elected.  In playing this role, did we not take on some responsibilities besides promoting conceptual reforms that might or might not bear fruit in the future?

I was in Kenya as these crimes were happening. Who really believes that Ocampo is making these things up?

Irrespective of whether Ocampo, or more likely his successor, ultimately wins convictions eventually, what is it that we need to know that we don’t know now to decide whether or not the defendants are ordinary political leaders of an allied country which we support and with whom we conduct “business as usual” or are ordinary defendants charged with crimes against humanity directed at their own people, and while facing trial worthy of some decent level of distance and disapproval?

Make no mistake about the defendants continued reliance on attempts to rally tribal solidarity.  Take note of  Uhuru Kenyatta’s approach to the charges that he was a primary mover in unleashing the Mungiki to murder Luos in the eastern Rift Valley as a political counterbalance to Kalenjin militia attacks on Kikuyu further west, from today’s Standard:

A lawyer representing 233 victims of post-election violence accused Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta of uttering inflammatory statements on the eve of his appearance at The Hague.

The lawyer, Mr Morris Anyah, used press reports carried on September 19 in which the minister was allegedly quoted saying, “we are going to The Hague and we know justice will prevail, because we did nothing wrong and all we did was to support our people”.

He claimed that the statement had tribal connotations and was intended to justify retaliatory attacks that are subject of charges against Uhuru before the ICC.

On Wednesday, the lawyer said the statement, which seems to proclaim Uhuru’s innocence holds a deadly meaning in the tribal context of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

If the defendants at the Hague this week had wanted to “support” any of the Kenyan people, or otherwise defend Kikuyu farmers and villagers in the Rift Valley, they could have used the government security forces at their disposal to secure “hot spots” in the Rift Valley rather than Uhuru Park in Nairobi, and could have more generally used the security forces for security instead of for the election effort.  What Ocampo is laying bare on both sides is tactical mass murder for politics–this was never war, it was politics by Kenyan means.

Kenya shilling continues to fall after hitting record low; food prices continue to rise

Economic conditions remain far more challenging in Kenya in the pre-election period than they were in 2006-2007, as policy makers struggle to respond to another 20 percent decline in the Kenya Shilling versus the dollar this year.  Business Daily reports “Kenya shilling falls to 97.20 against dollar”:

At an emergency meeting last week, the Central Bank of Kenya said it would defend the shilling. But some traders said its
absence from the market on Tuesday when the shilling fell through 96.0 for the first time showed its resolve was weak.

“The central bank needs to back up its words,” said another trader. “The trend has been talk big, don’t act.”

Some market players said, however, that if the bank simply offloaded hard currency the reprieve could be short.

“If central bank comes in (to sell hard currency), you may see a reprieve, the shilling may come off its all-time low, but
it’s not sustainable. The shilling will just slip back,” the trader said. “The shilling is on its own.”

Double-digit inflation, deteriorating balance of payments and a crisis of confidence in Kenya’s monetary policy-making
have battered the shilling this year.

Kennedy Butiko, deputy Treasurer at Bank of Africa, said the central bank might not intervene because the shilling’s demise was driven by strong demand for the dollar both at home and abroad.

Another example of the bite of food inflation, also from the Business Daily:

Kenyan households are paying the highest price for breakfast in two years after this week’s double digits rise in the cost of milk.

Leading processors of fresh milk on Monday announced a 10 per cent increase in prices, adding weight to last month’s doubling in the price of sugar and a steep rise in the cost of energy needed to prepare breakfast – the day’s most important meal.

KCC, Brookside and Limuru effected the price changes citing acute supply shortages, and the steep rise in the cost of transportation and packaging.

A half-litre packet of KCC Fresh milk, Ilara and Fresha now sells at Sh33, adding pressure to household budgets – especially at the bottom end of the income bracket.

Part Seven–One last FOIA cable on the 2007 Exit Poll

See the previous posts in this series:  Part One, Two , Three , Four, Five, and Six.

The last of the five State Department cables released to me last month regarding the USAID Kenyan exit poll is from February 21, 2008.  This is the cable with some redaction.  I suppose all of this may be out on the internet anyway via Wikileaks, but as I have noted previously I am not able to use that material and am only working with unclassified information provided through regular lawful means and published news.

The subject matter of this cable is “Secretary Rices’s February 18, 2008 visit with Kenyan business and civil society leaders.”  The names of the Kenyans are redacted.  On the U.S. side of the conversation were Secretary Rice, Ambassador Ranneberger and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer, along with the spokesman for the National Security Council and a notetaker.  Here is the exit poll discussion:

______________ stressed the need for accountability–so that Kenyans who turned out in record numbers for the December election learn what happened to their votes, and the leaders behind vigilantism and state violence be held to account.  Constitutional reform, [s/he] said, is necessary to address two great problems:  gross partiality by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and excessive power held by the executive branch of government.  Noting that Kenya’s Diaspora in the UK reportedly are mobilizing funds to support ethnic militias, ____ asked the Secretary to make sure that the same is not happening in the United States. [ S/he] then questioned why a survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) was not released that suggested that ODM candidate Odinga may have won the December elections.  IRI says the survey was in training analysis and has methodological errors calling into question its reliability.

Secretary Rice clarified that the IRI is wholly independent of the US government and that its views, analysis and conclusions should not be confused with USG policy.  Assistant Secretary Frazer underscored this by relaying that she was asked about the IRI survey by members of the United States Congress, and affirmed that she had no information about why the survey was not released and had no position on whether it should be released or not.

The cable, which was sent over Rice’s name and “from” the Secretary’s delegation, does not provide any information about the source of its statement that “IRI says the survey was in training analysis and has methodological errors calling into question its reliability”.  I never heard the “training exercise” justification for not releasing the poll within IRI, although I did see it from the Ambassador in his “web chat” Q & A a few weeks later in March, as I have noted.  Likewise, there were no bona fide issues with the methodology of the poll as conducted on December 27, as IRI later acknowledged in publishing the results in August.

Again, the “training exercise” notion is specifically contradictory to what Ranneberger wrote in his previous cables–as well as what I was explicitly told by USAID, as well as the purposes of the program set out in the USAID funding agreement to IRI.  Secretary Rice was right about IRI being independent, and the specifics of what she said are unexceptionable–however, the implication that the exit poll in Kenya that the Kenyan civil society leaders were asking for was somehow IRI “private property” is completely wrong as has been explained.  USAID initiated the poll and funded it with tax dollars–“for early intelligence for the Ambassador” as I was told on election day or as a check on potential election fraud as the Ambassador wrote in his cables to Washington before the election–and the US Government owned the rights to the data (not to say that Kenyans didn’t also have rights to it as well).

Ultimately, this only became complicated because certain people involved could not bring themselves, for whatever reason or reasons, to address the facts in a clear and forthright manner.

The quest for accountability to Kenyan voters has remained unanswered sadly.  A news story in the Daily Nation in 2011, in the final item on my chronology of links to coverage of the Kenyan election, reports from an alleged leaked cable that ten days before this February 18, 2008 meeting at the Ambassador’s residence, the State Department issued “visa bans” against ECK members based on evidence regarding bribery–but did not disclose this circumstance, or the evidence, at this meeting (I checked with a participant).  We, the United States, made clear that we were willing to step up financial and rhetorical support for reforms in Kenya–such as the new constitution–under a deal in which the new Kibaki administration shared power with the opposition under an Kofi Annan-brokered deal–but we brushed aside the issue of the fraud in the election.

[Note on the exit poll methodology and funding:  In preparing for the 2007 exit poll I had looked back at the 2002 and 2005 exit polls conducted under the same USAID program by IRI and Strategic Public Relations and Research–although everyone had been satisfied at the time, the USCD experts and I felt that we needed a lot more from this poll.  The election was expected to be much closer than the 2002 election and 2005 referendum and the outcome could come down to the 25% in 5 provinces requirement–the previous polls were less reliable at the provincial as opposed to national level.  I successfully pushed the polling firm, Strategic, hard to agree to do much more work for very little more money, since the funding that was added extend the polling program was comparable to that for the previous polls.  We had a small amount of additional funding through UCSD, but there was never any “private” IRI funding available to me in the East Africa office for our Kenya programming so I had no choice but to drive a hard bargain.  In a time of very high inflation in Kenya, of course, Strategic’s actual costs would be significantly higher in 2007 than on the 2002 or 2005 exit polls.  After the failure to release the poll on a more timely basis ended up in the New York Times in 2009, IRI pulled out a lot of irrelevant material from pre-contract negotiations with Strategic.  This had nothing to do with waiting for several months to release the poll under the methodolgy that was ultimately agreed to by IRI and UCSD, and Strategic, with the implicit blessing of USAID, shortly before the election.]

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”–a timely reminder of policy in the Horn of Africa in 2007-08

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”  this week in The Diplomat:

The complex US-led intervention in Somalia, a decade in the making, represents offshore balancing at its most potent and urgent. The Libyan rebellion was outside the United States’ core interests. For Washington, intervening in Libya was optional. But Somalia, a failed state since 1991 and an al-Qaeda safe haven, represents a direct threat to the United States, and indeed has inspired the first American suicide bombers.

If offshore balancing, with its emphasis on air and sea power and proxy armies, is to define the US strategic approach to Asia and the Pacific, it first must succeed in Somalia.

For advocates of the strategy, there are reasons for hope. US offshore balancing in Somalia came together gradually, almost by accident, as separate interventions chased the converging problems of famine, terrorism and piracy. Today, this increasingly unified US effort seems to finally be bearing fruit, as American-supported foreign armies rapidly gain ground against al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist fighters.

However, sceptics too might find ammunition in the United States’ Somalia strategy. For while current US efforts in Somalia have managed to avoid a major ground-force deployment – and  indeed have been essentially bloodless for Washington – they have at the same time failed to bring a speedy end to the country’s crises. The recent territory gains are encouraging but hardly decisive – and certainly reversible.

.  .  .  .

The ICU didn’t explicitly advocate terrorism, and there were probably only a handful of al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in Somalia at the time. But that nuance was lost on the George W. Bush Administration. Washington pledged support for the Ethiopian attack, including ‘intelligence sharing, arms aid and training,’ according to USA Today.

With this backing, plus air cover provided by US AC-130 gunships and carrier-based fighters and assistance on the ground by US Special Forces, the Ethiopian army launched a Blitzkrieg-style assault on Somalia in December 2006.

Ethiopian tanks quickly routed the ICU’s lightly armed fighters. ‘The Somalia job was fantastic,’ Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told then-US Central Commander boss Gen. John Abizaid in 2007.

The Bush Administration agreed with that assessment, at least initially. And the proxy approach to African security challenges quickly became central to Washington’s policy for the continent. In 2007, the Pentagon formed a new regional command called ‘Africa Command’ to oversee operations in most of Africa.

.  .  .  .

In Somalia, the Ethiopian invasion and subsequent two-year occupation only served to rally the country’s Islamic extremists. Al Shabab coalesced from the remains of the ICU’s armed wing and launched a bloody, and surprisingly popular, insurgency against the Ethiopians.

Also targeted: the UN- and US-sponsored Transition Federal Government, formed under the protection of the Ethiopians, plus the new African Union peacekeeping force composed mostly of Ugandan and Burundian troops and funded by the United Nations and Washington.

Al Shabab also strengthened ties with al-Qaeda, which had sent operatives to advise clan forces during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and, more than a decade later, still maintained a small presence in Somalia. The al-Qaeda-Al Shabab alliance helped Al Shabab pull off a twin suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010 that killed 74 people.

.  .  .  .

US support for the peacekeepers and the TFG represents the proxy portion of Washington’s offshore balancing in Somalia. Naval patrols, Special Forces raids and strikes by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles round out the strategy. At first, however, the main air and sea initiatives weren’t directly tied to the proxy fight on the ground.

In parallel with its support for Ethiopia’s attack on Somalia, the Pentagon in 2006 was in the process of standing up an East African counter-terrorism complex anchored by secret bases reportedly in Ethiopia and Kenya. From there, US Special Forces and armed drones struck at terrorist targets in Somalia, occasionally in cooperation with naval forces.

In 2007, Special Operations Command aircraft launched at least two helicopter raids on al-Qaeda and Al Shabab operatives in Somalia. On no fewer than three occasions in 2007 and 2008, commandos spotted targets for US warships firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at Somali targets. Some of the same warships help make up Combined Task Force 150, a US-led international naval force assigned to intercept arms shipments bound for Al Shabab and al-Qaeda in Somalia.

Museveni defends Gaddafi while inflation soars in Uganda

Museveni reiterated his defense of Gaddafi this week in The Daily Monitor:

President Museveni has reiterated his criticism of the West and attacked Nato for disorganising a friend, whose 42-year rule faces a humbling end.

Speaking at the annual Muslims Iftar dinner at State House, Entebbe on Saturday, Mr Museveni addressed himself on two fundamental issues: The economic crisis at home and the battle for Libya. He accused the West of greed and defended Col. Gaddafi’s mistakes even though, he said, the Libyan leader attempted to go behind his back to hijack his chiefs in Kampala.

“Gaddafi had his own mistakes, he came here and organised my chiefs without telling me. We cancelled that meeting and I warned chiefs because it was wrong,” Mr Museveni said. “But Gaddafi built a mosque for us and as a leader, he had his mistakes, but those Europeans have more mistakes and problems. They think the rest of us are fools except themselves. When there are riots in Africa, they call them pro-democracy and in London, they call them, criminals.”

While inflation in Uganda has hit a 20-year high of 21.4%:

Ugandans will be bracing themselves for even harder times ahead as the continued depreciation of the local currency, rising prices for fuel, essential commodities and food combined to push inflation to a new 20-year high, further threatening the economy’s growth.The Consumer Price Index (CPI) released by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics yesterday indicates that inflation rose from a revised rate of 18.8 per cent in July to 21.4 per cent in August.

This represents a 2.6 percentage point rise, which, though lower than the 3.1 percentage point increase registered in July, still dragged the battered economy over another double digit threshold.

The Director for Macro-Economics Statistics at Ubos, Dr Chris Ndatira Mukiza, said food inflation, which rose to 42.9 per cent from 40.7 per cent, remains the main driver of inflation.

Back in May when Museveni was sworn in for another five year term after 25 years in power, Think Africa Press noted “For the first time in decades, inflation has hit the two digit mark to settle at 11%,” and asked “President Museveni:  Africa’s Marie Antoinette?

One is reminded of Marie-Antoinette of France. Are these leaders in touch with reality? Do they understand the condition of ordinary people of Uganda? And how many Ugandans really depend on land, and how productive is that land? What percentage of farmers are producing for the market? Even for those who have access to land, can they get all that they need from that land? In any case, the root of this inflation can be traced to the colossal amount of money poured into the country during the recent election campaigns. And this was largely by President Museveni himself.

Updated 3 Sept: ICC “Confirmation” hearings underway for Ruto, Kosgey and Sang

A good way to keep up with the proceedings is through the website ICC Kenya Monitor.

The website includes a “watch now” link for the live proceedings using Microsoft Player, detailed daily summaries and various links and resources.

Keep in mind that rulings are not expected until late this year as to whether the charges will be “confirmed” by the judges so as to go forward toward trial in 2012.