If Raila Odinga wants to be elected the next President of Kenya, he should expect to be evaluated on his performance as Prime Minister

Personally, from everything I knew professionally in “real time” in Kenya during the last presidential campaign and its aftermath, and everything I have learned since, I am of the opinion that Odinga would have been the President but for the manipulation of the vote totals as ultimately reported.  The lack of any actual investigation of this issue is in itself telling.

Nonetheless, no one is entitled to the Presidency of Kenya.  If the election was stolen on behalf of Kibaki it was stolen from the Kenyan voters, not from Raila personally.  It would appear most likely that a plurality but not a majority of votes went to Odinga in 2007.  In supporting the brokering of a “power sharing” deal following the election our Ambassador Ranneberger was fond of saying that Kibaki and Odinga “needed” each other to govern.  My corollary would be that Kenyans did not “need” either of them to govern.  Both Odinga and Kibaki were credible candidates with plausible cases to be made to the voters based on platform, party and past performance–both were also controversial and had disappointed many who had supported them in various instances in the past.  In my mind at the time, from Nairobi, neither seemed as moved as I would have hoped by the suffering associated with the election debacle and the ensuing violence.

I continue to believe that determining what happened last time and why is a necessary part of trying for a better election process next time in Kenya, and a more effective role for the United States in assisting Kenyans toward that better process.   Nonetheless, Kenyans deciding how to cast their vote in 2012 or 2013 should take account of how Raila has used the power, albeit limited, that he ended up with in the current government.

While there is no confusion about who is President in Kenya, under the “Grand Coalition” Prime Minister Odinga is one of a small  second tier of key actors in Kenyan government–not because of a clearly defined role for the Prime Minister as such, but for the combination of his own stature as the apparent winner of the last race and the perceived front runner in the next, his role as head of ODM as still the largest single party, and his role in consensus appointments with Kibaki on behalf of the “Coalition”.

Kenya has a new constitution approved by a successful referendum–finally, after so many years.  The office of Prime Minister rather than being given a clearly defined role is going away.  Raila may have helped to block some bad appointments and to vindicate a better selection process for the judiciary and election officials–he may have also assented to some other bad appointments.   On corruption, Kenyans will need to be asking whether Raila as Prime Minister has accomplished things to advance reform–or whether he has just been talking the talk like other officeholders.  This is one reason why getting to the bottom of the facts of the  management of the “Kazi Kwa Vijana” programs from the Office of the Prime Minister is important.  What does the stewardship of this program say about what Kenyans could expect from Raila as president?  Likewise, if there is no major scandal here, how do his critics justify baying for his head when there are so many major scandals from this government and its predecessors that have not been addressed and accounted for?

Exciting Opportunity for American Somali and Swahili speakers

A reader called my attention to a  government program that might be a real benefit to some of you:

Do any readers speak Balochi, Dari, Pashto, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, Mandarin, Swahili, Somali, Igbo, Hausa, or Turkish?  If so, the US government offers a great opportunity.

English for Heritage Language Speakers is government scholarship, like the Fulbright or the Boren, but specifically for Americans whose native language is not English.

The goal is to help advanced English learners become fluent enough to work for the U.S. Government.  The scholarship pays for a year of English courses at Georgetown University (complete with a stipend, laptop and health insurance) and helps you find a government job afterward.  Working for the government provides not only a secure job in a tough economy, but also a fulfilling, exciting way to contribute to society.  You can find more information at http://ehls.georgetown.edu/ or http://www.cal.org/ehls/, or just Google “English for Heritage Language Speakers.”

I’ve looked at the websites and this really does appear to be a great program that could provide the right person a major professional breakthrough.  Good luck!

U.S. not participating in Kenyan offensive in Somalia, says State Department

Contradicting the previous reports from Kenyan military spokesmen, the U.S. responded yesterday as reported by the Voice of America:

The United States has denied taking part in Kenya’s operation against al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia.

A U.S. State Department release said Tuesday that the U.S. has helped Kenya build its border defense capacity for years, but added, “The United States is not participating in Kenya’s current operation in Somalia.”

A Kenyan army spokesman said Sunday that so-called “partners” had launched airstrikes against al-Shabab, and indicated that one of those partners was the United States.

The Kenyan army spokesman also said the French Navy had shelled the al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo.  The French navy denied that claim on Monday.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia this month in pursuit of al-Shabab militants, which it blames for a series of cross-border kidnappings.

Somalia’s president said Monday that he opposes the Kenyan intervention.  President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said only African Union troops can operate legally in Somalia.

That drew a sharp response from a top Kenyan lawmaker, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Farah Moallim, who told VOA Somali Service Tuesday that Kenya has a right to defend itself.

.  .  .  .

As reported by the BBC, France, on the other hand, has said that it will provide logistical support to the Kenyan forces–while denying reports that its Navy was involved in shelling Al-Shabaab positions.

U.S. Drones and TFG Join in Kenyan Offensive; Embassy Warns Americans in Kenya

From the Daily Nation:

Al Shabaab militants were on the back foot on Saturday evening as they faced heavy bombardment from multiple fronts from a combined force of Kenyan troops, US drones, African Union peacekeepers and Transitional Federal Government fighters.

Reports from the battlefront indicated that Kenyan troops were advancing towards four al Shabaab-controlled towns as they launched a final push to capture the Kismayu port and Afmadow in Central Jubaland.

There was progress on the diplomatic front, too, when the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) member states endorsed the military offensive against the militants during a special conference held in Addis Abba Ethiopia on Friday.

The Igad Council of Ministers urged the United Nations Security Council to impose a blockade on Kismayu, a move which will effectively cut off billions of shillings collected by the militants to fund their insurgency.

A statement from the military said Kenyan security forces were advancing towards Burgavo town in southern Somalia after capturing Oddo on Friday. (READ: Kenya targets al Shabaab’s lifeline)

Another group was marching towards the town of Badade from the direction of Kolbio which they conquered on Friday. The troops had earlier bombed areas around Munarani near Oddo from the air, flattening an al Shabaab command centre.

“US Warns of Imminent Threat in Kenya” from Reuters in The Standard, indicates that the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi Saturday issued a warning with the usual language regarding risk to Americans in Kenya from reprisal attacks on prominent facilities or places known for concentration of Westerners, and indicated that official American travel to Kenya would be curtailed.

Will Kenyan Military Engagement in Southern Somalia Disrupt Kenyan Reforms?

Readers will undoubtedly be following the news of the Kenyan military moving to challenge al-Shabaab well across the border in southern Somalia.  I don’t feel that I have anything particularly profound to add to what is readily available on the direct events, but I did want to suggest some questions that need to be considered as to how this military action will interact with democracy and governance at a critical time in Kenya.

In Nairobi, three names have now been passed to the President and Prime Minister for consideration for nomination to chair a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.  Preparations for the next election are running behind as is the overall “reform agenda” including other key aspects of implementing the new Constitution.  There is progress in some areas, “backsliding” in others, and time is short.

The threat of terrorism by Islamist extremists has been a part of the fabric of Kenyan governance and international relations for a long time now, especially since the 1998 Embassy bombings.  Al-Shabaab has been willing to starve civilians and commit a variety of atrocities on Somalis, and engaged in external terrorism in Kampala last year.  Kenya has a right to be concerned and a right and obligation to protect its citizens and territory.  At the same time, it would be naive not to recognize the potential for this new military action to distract and divert resources from other critical work that needs to be done within the Kenyan government.

Likewise, this new environment will present a big challenge to the United States, and perhaps to the UK and EU in supporting the reform process.  We went through this before in 2006 and 2007.  Compare U.S. criticism of corruption in the Kenyan government before and after the Ethiopians invaded Somalia in December 2006.  (I have no evidence of any correlation between the dramatic change in tone on corruption and events in and relating to Somalia–and no one has ever suggested one to me.  But then, no one has really offered any other clear explanation either, so I have had to wonder about this.)  Heightened military interaction with Kenyan forces could in theory make it harder for the U.S. to push consistently for reforms in Kenyan governance or lower reforms on the list of U.S. priorities.  To me, reform is the best medicine to fight the threat of terrorism and regional instability, and terrorists will always have access to Kenya as long as key pieces of the Kenyan governance structure can be purchased.  But sometimes it is hard for us to keep our eye on that ball when there are challenges from immediate disruptions.

An then there is the upcoming election itself.  If it was ultimately “best not to know” who won in 2007, how much risk can be tolerated to try for a freer and fairer Kenyan election in 2012?

(Updated 10-12) Ugandan Parliament Votes to Suspend Oil Deals on Corruption Charges

BBC News is reporting that the Ugandan parliament has asserted its independence by acting to freeze new oil agreements after bribery allegations are brought forward by an MP:

Uganda’s parliament has voted to suspend all new deals in the oil sector following claims that government ministers took multi-million dollar bribes.

MP Gerald Karuhanga said in parliament on Monday that UK-based Tullow Oil paid bribes to influence decisions.

Tullow said it rejected the “outrageous and wholly defamatory” allegations.

The vote is a big blow to President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, analysts say.

The BBC’s Joshua Mmali in the capital, Kampala, says it means the government will not be able to sign new oil deals until a petroleum law is enacted.

.  .  .  .

Update–from Wednesday’s Daily Monitor:

The British High Commission in Kampala yesterday said the country’s Metropolitan Police is at liberty to start investigations into allegations that Tullow, one of London’s 100 listed companies, paid bribes to senior Uganda government officials. “Bribery of foreign public officials is of course an offence under UK law, and it would therefore be for the British Police to decide whether to open an investigation into allegations made against a British company,” a spokesperson for the High Commission said in reply to our email enquiries.

UK’s 2010 Bribery Act imposes “strict liability” on UK corporations or business firms that fail to make “adequate processes” to prevent bribe payments. In yesterday’s statement, the High Commission said it was following the ongoing oil debate in Parliament “with interest”, but understand that “Tullow Oil totally rejects those allegations”.

The Company had by press time not replied to specific questions this newspaper raised based on allegations in Parliament that the firm between June 1 and July 16, 2010 paid out up to $100m (Shs280b) to “experts”, among them powerful ministers, for “professional services” from accounts with Bank of Valetta in Malta.

.  .  .  .

A Warning Re-visited . . .

Daily Nation:  “British envoy warns of election crisis”

This was a headline from mid-June, almost four months ago.

Uncertainty over the date of the next General Election and lack of a substantive electoral body could expose the country to chaos.
This was the message of British high commissioner Rob Macaire to the principals and MPs on Thursday.
Mr Macaire said the country needed a transparent Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that will restore confidence in national elections.

Speed up reform

The envoy noted that delays in passing key reform laws could undermine growth, and make investors shun the country.

And as we stand here in June 2011, still without an Electoral and Boundaries Commission in place for elections in 2012 and, above all, without an agreed date for those elections, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that political manoeuvring is taking us into the danger zone.
“No one wants to see the country go into elections with uncertainty or division over the fairness and transparency of the institutions governing the process,” Mr Macaire said.

Kenyan Supreme Court to begin hearings to determine next election date; preparations lag

Although the Supreme Court is set to begin preliminary hearings Tuesday on the question of the interpretation of the new constitution to determine the proper date for the first general election, the Cabinet with substantial support among MPs will seek to move its bill in Parliament to amend the constitution to set elections in
December rather than August.  Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo says that it is already too late:  “As the minister of Justice and in charge of election matters, I cannot give you an election in August [2012].”

Anxiety is building in the august House over the date of the next polls with most of the MPs keen to stay in the House until the end of “their unexpired term” according to the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

While Cabinet ministers have vowed to push the Bill to amend the Constitution to alter the election date, some MPs among them Gatanga’s Peter Kenneth (left) and Gwassi’s John Mbadi have vowed that they will scuttle any plan to push for December elections.

On Monday, the Gwassi MP repeated the threats to oppose the Bill in the House, terming it as an “affront to the Judiciary”.

Unfortunately, the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission has not yet been established and potential members are being vetted, so there is clearly a lot of work remaining to get ready for the next election.

Kenyan Civil Society will need to play a key role in serving as a “watchdog” throughout the election preparations.  Resources will be available from international donors to support the process, as they were in 2007, but as we have seen, these resources do not help if they are not ulimately used.

East Africa ranks fourth of five regions in 2011 Mo Ibrahim Foundation Governance Rankings–Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya each move up from 2010

2011 Governance Rankings for East Africa
Rank (of 53-followed by raw score)

4th Seychelles 73
13th Tanzania 58
20th Uganda 55
23rd Kenya 53
25th Rwanda 52
29th Djibouti 49
31st Comoros 47
34th Ethiopia 46
37th Burundi 45
47th Eritrea 35
48th Sudan 33
53rd Somalia 8

Here is a link to a summary brochure of the East Africa findings.

Here is my post from last year’s release.  Tanzania has moved up from 15 to 13, Uganda from 24 to 20 and Kenya from 27 to 23.

Famine Aid for Somalia/Horn of Africa this morning

This morning at church, on a beautiful, sunny, cool day in coastal Mississippi, we had a “packing event” for international food aid for Somalia through the group “Stop Hunger Now”.  We also donated $5,000 through special offerings collected by our youth.  We have done these events before, but our minister was aware of this crisis now and called to say that we wanted to respond.

Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency that has been fulfilling its commitment to end hunger for more than 12 years. Since 1998, the organization has coordinated the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in countries all over the world.

Stop Hunger Now has provided more than $70 million dollars worth of direct aid and 34 million meals to 72 countries worldwide.

Stop Hunger Now created its meal packaging program, in 2005. The program perfected the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of five years and transports quickly.

Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country. Stop Hunger Now primarily ships its meals to support school feeding programs, but also provides meals to our in-country partners for crisis relief.

The packaging operation is mobile, (i.e. it can go wherever volunteers are located), and can be adapted to accommodate as few as 25 and as many as 500 volunteers at a time. One SHN packaging event can result in the packaging of more than 1,000,000 meals or product servings. The use of volunteers for product packaging has resulted in an extremely cost-effective operation while, at the same time, increasing awareness of global hunger and food insecurity issues across a broad cross-section of the US population.

Here is more information about the work of Stop Hunger Now in Somalia and Kenya.