Economist’s Boabob Blog features UCSD work on “smart” election monitoring

More great work to fight election fraud from my former colleagues on the USAID/UCSD/IRI Kenya exit poll, Clark Gibson and James Long:

“African elections:  How to save votes”

COULD smartphones help reduce electoral fraud in Africa and in other regions? At a recent forum hosted by the Brookings Institution on the ways that wireless technologies are affecting politics in various countries, Clark Gibson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego (USCD), presented findings from experiments in Afghanistan and Uganda which suggest that they can. Local researchers were deployed to polling stations armed with digital cameras and smartphones to take photographs of the publicly posted election tallies. The research found that this alone can cut electoral fraud by up to 60%.

The experiment was first developed during the 2010 Afghan elections by James Long and Michael Callen, then UCSD graduate students, with funding from the Development Innovation Ventures section at the United States Agency for International Development. . . . The research concluded that as a result electoral rigging was cut by 25% in the polling stations in the treatment group and the theft of ballot boxes and other election materials was reduced by 60%.

Mr Gibson replicated the experiment during the Ugandan presidential election last year, using a bigger sample of 1,000 polling stations scattered all around the country.  .  .  . using a special app developed by engineers at Qualcomm, a big technology company based in San Diego, the researchers this time were able immediately to send their data back to a server at UCSD. Academics there could then check to see if the voting numbers had been falsified by looking for give away number-patterns. They found again that vote tampering and ballot-box theft were much lower among polling stations that had received warning that a photo would be taken of their tally than among those that did not.

The technology is relatively cheap—smartphones cost around $250—and allows  more locals to get involved in monitoring elections. There is a great hunger for democracy in Africa and elsewhere, says, Mr Gibson, you can tell just by looking at the queues of voters who turn out on election day. Nothing is more dispiriting than to learn that their vote has been manipulated.

Unfortunately we didn’t have funding for separate electronic verification efforts in Kenya in 2007, but this should be that much cheaper and more readily feasible in Kenya for 2012/13. Knowing what happened last time there is no excuse not to have digital image verification this time.

The Michuki Rule

Much is being said and written about John Michuki with his passing this week.  The best I have read so far is here from Charles Onyango-Obbo: “Michuki was the bad guys’ good guy, and he was not afraid to take action.”

To some, Michuki gets some real credit for the fact that Kenya’s economy isn’t worse (Ken Opalo’s blog: “Michuki was among the group of super-wealthy conservative elites who at independence took over power and managed to quiet the more radical elements of the independence movement. Under their watch Kenya emerged as a capitalist enclave even as its many neighbors flirted with communism and African Socialism, with disastrous consequences.”)  I am not an enthusiast of that view.  My perspective would be to say that perhaps a bit of credit is due, in the sense that Kenya could certainly have done worse, but it could also be said that Michuki and his cronies helped assure the triumph of neo-colonialism over a robust national market economy, helped assure the growth of tribalism over the development of national identity and more generally stymied the opportunity for a competitive democratic system and political liberty.  As far as the economy, lets not forget that State ownership has been a big presence in Kenya’s economy even if less than in some others.  Likewise, privatization remains a highly politicized and extremely opaque process that seems to tie to the funding of election campaigns rather than to “technocratic” considerations (witness “Mobiltelea” and the Safaricom deal rushed through at the end of 2007 and unaddressed since).  In other words, to me not going Communist/Socialist is not nearly enough to justify the costs imposed on Kenyans by KANU and its successor as served, with effectiveness, by Hon. Michuki.  By any account, the Cold War has been over for a long time.

I did not meet Hon. Michuki and I do recognize that he was an accomplished man with friends beyond his politics and I appreciate that his command of “the Michuki Rules” was missed on the roads and highways during my time in Kenya in 2007 and 2008.  At the same time, the Standard raid cast a shadow over the Kenyan election campaign when I arrived in mid-2007 and he was the identified proponent of the raid (I give him his due for the courage  to “own” the raid, when others, including the President were relatively speaking “shrinking violets,” but the conduct was indefensible).  LIkewise, Michuki was the Minister of Internal Security when the country became insecure with the election crisis and the security forces protected Uhuru Park instead of the public, and he issued the order banning live broadcasting.  I respected his abilities, but I wished that he had stuck to his positive strengths when I was working to assist Kenyans in their democratic processes.

Most recently, Michuki has been Environment Minister and will be remembered in this last role for spurring the cleanup of the Nairobi River–certainly a task of government for the “common good”.  Here is a clip from NTV covering his recognition at a UN environment meeting he would have hosted:

Part Eight–new Kenya FOIA documents: Diplomacy vs. Assistance Revisited or “Why Observe Elections if We Don’t Tell People What We See?”

We are in full swing now in the 2012/13 presidential campaign in Kenya, but unfortunately there remains much confusion, misunderstanding and simple lack of awareness over what actually happened in the 2007 elections.  I have gotten a couple of additional partial releases of a few documents from the State Department in December and again this month from my 2009 Freedom of Information Act requests about the State Department’s 2007 election observation and the exit poll, and since we are running out of time to get ready for the upcoming elections, it seems time to start introducing some more of this information.

New this month is the release of a grand total of three documents purporting to be the entirety of the releasable documentation from the Africa Bureau (as opposed to the cables in the central State Department records) related to and derived from the State Department led observation of the Kenya elections.  One (undescribed) document was withheld in full bringing the total Africa Bureau documentation to four items.  In other words, in sprite of the fact that “160 Embassy officials in 56 U.S. Embassy observation teams successfully deployed nationwide to monitor the elections” according to the election day Africa Bureau press guidance (one of the documents released) they did not generate records.

The question could be raised then whether the point of the State Department observation through the Embassy became not so much to observe as to be observed observing.  Being observed observing gives an extra patina of gravity to whatever narrative you wish to present about the election afterwards; and who can question without an independent look at your data? [or an independent exit poll?]

Again, this highlights the difference between the diplomatic function with its command structure to carry out foreign policy with its multiplicity of interests and objectives, but clarity in who is being served, on the one hand, and the function of an independent international election observation mission, funded as a matter of “democracy assistance” intended to serve the very much narrower interest of the internal democratic process in the host country to advance values shared by the funding nation/s and a broader international community (and accepted in theory by the host country).

The one document released that substantively describes observation of voting by State Department personnel is a November 20, 2007 email which is a headquarters “readout” of a video conference held “with Post to discuss the experiences of Post’s first-ever observation of the political primary process in Kenya.”:  Here is the text:

The Observation Effort:
*21 teams (total about 60 people) deployed to the field. This is our first time observing the primaries. We expect to deploy about 50 (100+ people) teams to the general elections as part of the larger international observer effort. The EU plans to deploy 150 people.
*These will be Kenya’s 4th multiparty elections but only the second “free and fair”.

Negatives Observed:
*The process was very poorly organized. We would say the the parties embarrassed themselves, except most of the party leaders have no shame and are thus immune from embarrassment. General feeling is that apparent total lack of organization is not an accident, but reflects efforts to rig/manipulate the outcomes.
*There were obvious deals between the incumbents and local party operatives.
*The process was well-run and by the book only in where parties had no hope of winning in that area anyway. Where there were real stakes, manipulation was rampant and obvious.
*Ballots were delayed for many hours in many locations; some politicians felt this was intentional and especially disenfranchised women voters, who either couldn’t wait all day or had to go home before dark for safety reasons.
*Hate literature observed to date is overwhelmingly generated by PNU supporters.

Positives Observed:
*Turnout was surprisingly good. People were very determined to vote. Many waited from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. or later for ballots to arrive. In some cases where ballots were delayed, people agreed amongst themselves to vote on whatever pieces of paper and honored the results.
*Dozens of outgoing MPs (including some we are very happy to see go, i.e. [REDACTED] were eliminated at this stage, which suggests that you can’t always manipulate the results.
*Our sample was biased as we purposely went to areas where trouble was expected and/or stakes were high, so we likely observed a disproportionate amount of rigging, etc.
*With the recent passage of the Political Parties Bill, this is the last time that the party nomination process will be run by the parties themselves. In the future, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) will run it (at least, for all parties who want public money). PNU contracted with the ECK to run their primary this time, but it didn’t happen in practice–party leaders took over and wouldn’t let ECK do its job.

After the Primaries:
*We expect a lot of horse trading. Some winners were DQed on appeal and even without an appeal. There were also many “directed nominations,” which led to the resuscitation and handpicking of many old dinosaurs/unpopular incumbents notwithstanding voter opposition.
*There may be blowback with an impact on turnout for Dec. 27. There were widespread feelings of bitterness and disappointment, especially among ODM supporters, who expected to participate in a “new beginning.” Many people complained that, populist image notwithstanding, ODM is run like a dictatorship and that the way of doing things is no different than KANU used to do in the past. The positive difference is that the electorate is much more vocal and active in demanding transparency and participation in the electoral process. The howls of protest regarding some of the directed nominations show the electorate’s increasing maturity and lack of interest in this kind of politics.
*Many unsuccessful candidates have jumped to smaller/marginal parties. There is a cottage industry of sorts selling nominations.

Possible Impact on Main Parties:
*The disappointment and frustration with the nominating process was greatest among ODM supporters. Will this experience sap the energy of ODM supporters, or can ODM redeem itself? Will people continue to be willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity?
*Fear/stability is a powerful motivating factor in Kibaki’s reelection prospects. The contest between ODM and PNU can be characterized as “hope vs. fear.”
*PNU has much less internal discipline and message consistency. Virtually all PNU parties are fielding their own candidates for Parliamentary seats, so not much of a real coalition.

Political Violence
*Two possible types. One, aspirant (often incumbent) MPs use paid gangsters (and sometimes local police officials) to intimidate or disrupt the polling process (trash polling stations, threaten voters waiting in line and/or election officials). Two, spontaneous voter uprisings, where voters feel they are being disenfranchised and attach the presiding officers. If the ECK runs an efficient process as expected, this should lessen the possibility of voter violence. —–END—–

For context, this November 20, 2007 summary of what was observed during the primary elections was roughly a month after the Ambassador’s intervention in the public opinion polling as described in previous documents and a month before the Ambassador’s public statement predicting a “free and fair” election the week before the general election. Nairobi is the State Department’s biggest Sub-Saharan post; it was staffed with smart and observant people and obviously well funded–the problem was not what the State Department did not know, rather it was what it would not say.

Meeting

Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 elections from the truth trickling out bout 2007–new FOIA cables (Part One)

Election Observation–Diplomacy or Assistance?

State Department to Kabila on DRC Presidential Election: “Nevermind”?

The State Department issued a Valentines evening statement on the “ongoing” electoral “process” in the DRC.  Hard to know what the point of this is.  Perhaps it is simply an example of the maxim “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  Maybe it means:  “since we are looking the other way on the presidential election, we do expect that surely you can do a bit of something on some of these parliamentary races, please.”  I’ll have to defer to the “Congo Watchers” and be interested to hear more from the various election observations over time.

Ongoing Electoral Process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 14, 2012

The United States continues to closely monitor the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the hundreds of legal disputes against some legislative election results. We urge Congolese authorities to conduct a full, thorough, and transparent investigation into these disputes, and to release vote tabulation and other records related to the elections and their outcome.

We remain deeply concerned about multiple allegations of human rights abuses by security forces, including illegal and arbitrary detentions throughout the electoral process. The Congolese government should fully investigate such reports, hold anyone found responsible fully accountable, and take concrete steps to ensure that security forces exercise restraint and respect people’s rights of assembly and of peaceful protest. We call on all Congolese leaders and their supporters to act responsibly and to publicly renounce violence.

Despite these concerns, we encourage all political parties to participate fully when the National Assembly is seated in order to preserve and protect the basic democratic principle of representative government in the Congo. The United States remains steadfast in its support of the Congolese people as they work to build a brighter, more democratic future for the DRC.

PRN: 2012/220

 

Related:  U.S. and other Western donors support review of election irregularities in DRC–offer technical assistance

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

DRC: “We have to debunk the idea that it is peace versus transparent elections. The idea that lousy elections are going to bring peace is madness.”

 

Orange Democracy, Exit Polls and Egypt

Kansas City Star–Commentary:  Egypt’s Democracy Falters (special to the McClatchy papers):

.  .  .  .

But it is no surprise that hard line authoritarian rulers have suspicion and disdain for U.S.-backed democratic movements.

The Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 might never have taken place if not for U.S. aid. First, the former communists in control of the Kiev government declared their candidate won an election. Then, a U.S.-funded think tank tallied up exit polls that showed the government had lied and it really lost the election.

Next, a Ukranian TV newsman trained by a U.S. aid program broadcast the exit polls and set up its cameras on the main square for an all night vigil. Up to one million people came to join the vigil. Then the Supreme Court — which had been brought to visit U.S. courts in action — ruled the election was invalid and the government had to step down.

Furthermore, U.S. legal, legislative, journalism and other trainers taught judges, prosecutors, legislators and journalists how to do their jobs in a democratic system.

Russia was panicked by the success of these democracy aid teams, operated by the Congressionally funded National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, the U.S. Bar Association and other groups. It began clamping down on them in Russia. Other autocrats expelled the democracy trainers as well, fearing they aimed to help the opposition overthrow their regimes.

In a bitter irony, although U.S. aid did help democratic forces hold elections and win power in Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, and the Palestinian territories, these countries backslid into coups or else the old guard won back power.

Either the new democratic forces were incapable of managing their countries, or the old guard rapidly learned the techniques of advertising and marshalling political forces to win back control. In some cases, people turned from the chaos of democracy to the firm hand of strongmen like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine.

People don’t change. They may like the feeling of liberty but they also fear the lack of guidelines.

In Egypt and in many Middle East countries, there is a huge youth population lacking jobs, housing and opportunities. People fear the young will erupt into crime and violence — similar to the soccer riots in Port Said and Cairo, and the ongoing rock and tear gas fights at Tahrir Square. Because they fear the youth, people have long accepted the ruthless power of the secret police and the authority of the kings and strongmen from Rabat to Baghdad.

While I love my liberty and would like every other country to enjoy it as well, maybe it’s wise for us to accept that what other countries choose for their way of life is best for them to decide.

If someone comes into my house and tells me better ways to plant my yard and build my bookshelves and paint my walls and cook my meals, even if they are right I will resent it and probably ignore all they suggest. So what is happening in Egypt is no big surprise.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Ben Barber has written about the developing world since 1980 for Newsday, the London Observer, the Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, Foreign Affairs, the Washington Times and USA TODAY. From 2003 to August, 2010, he was senior writer at the U.S. foreign aid agency. His photojournalism book — GROUNDTRUTH: The Third World at Work at play and at war — is to be published in 2012 by de-MO.org. He can be reached at benbarber2@hotmail.com.

A “Must Read” on the “Egyptian Circus” from South Africa’s Daily Maverick: “A dangerous habit, spreading of democracy”

This piece from the Daily Maverick‘s J. Brooks Spector is the most detailed and explanatory coverage I have run across on the Egyptian charges against the international and local NGO employees.  Do read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

In theory at least, the social and political explosion of the Arab Spring should have been NED and its associated bodies’ next golden moment in the sun. All those regimes, previously frozen in time, now suddenly with their societies breaking out into a new, more open style of politics and freer elections should be making bountiful times for groups like the NED. Instead, these organisations seem to be running into a growing wave of suspicion about their ulterior motives.

Traditionally, of course, authoritarian rulers have viewed these pro-democracy groups with deep suspicion, routinely denouncing them as meddlers or spies – and sometimes directly harassing their staffers. But Egypt’s move breaks new ground in announcing it wanted to try 19 Americans and several dozen others on charges that have left the Obama administration shocked and surprised – and put the major American military aid program to Egypt at risk as well.

In the wake of the announcement of the charges, the Egyptian government quickly recalled a senior military aid delegation that was just about to begin some intensive discussions with members of Congress. The charges, as they were publicly announced, included operating without licenses, “conducting research to send to the United States” and supporting Egyptian candidates and parties “to serve foreign interests”. The fresh winds of last year’s Arab Spring and the heady embrace of the ideas of Gene Sharpe and Saul Alinsky and the power of the Internet, satellite TV and social media appear to have shifted more than just a bit.

In response, the IRI and NDI have argued their activities consisted of teaching the methodologies of grass-roots organising, political campaigns and democratic elections to anyone willing to listen, just as they have been doing in other places for years – without favouring any particular Egyptian political faction. An allied group, the Freedom House NGO, said that for its part it had been training young activists and carrying out international exchange programs while another NGO, the International Centre for Journalists, was doing its training on media issues. All four bodies insisted that had been trying to comply with Egyptian laws and be transparent about their activities. As Freedom House executive director David Kramer told reporters, “Everything we did was out in the open.” Where’s the beef?

Oddly, perhaps, the NDI and IRI seem to have come into the sights of prosecutors because of their role in supporting opposition to President Hosni Mubarak, before he fell from power last year. Sinister stuff that. Former chief of intelligence under Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, explained in his court deposition, “Data was collected about the activities of the American Embassy through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.” Moreover, back in March 2011, when US officials had announced grants of some $65-million to pro-democracy groups, Fayza Abul Naga, Egypt’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation – and a holdover from Mubarak’s regime – had renewed her longstanding campaign against foreign financing. Some analysts speculate she is close to the country’s highest-ranking military figure, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and their relationship is tied up with the crackdown.

What about democracy in Djibouti?

Just asking . . . in light of the “Egyptian Circus” noted in my last post.

Perhaps you will recall that in March of last year Djibouti ordered the U.S. funded election observation mission led by Democracy International out of the country and declared its activities illegal. The sort of conduct that we have seen for years from Egyptian autocratic leaders–although fortunately they stopped short of arresting assistance workers.

Is Djibouti an example of a place where other priorities override our priority for supporting democratic rights? See Democracy Digest: “Stark division” in Arab Spring underlies U.S. policy too”.

Here I noted the spotlight on Djibouti as host to a small but established AFRICOM forces contingent in the form of the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, CJTFHOA, with the recent special forces hostage rescue. see “U.S. sees Djibouti base as ‘central’ to its plans” in this week’s East African for further discussion.

How is Djibouti doing on democratic rights now? Here is a new report from Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns radio journalist Farah Abadid Hildid’s abduction by the police yesterday and the threats and torture to which he was subjected during the 24 hours he was held. Hildid works for La Voix de Djibouti, a radio station that broadcasts on the shortwave from Europe and is now also available on the Internet.

He described his ordeal to Reporters Without Borders by telephone two hours after his release:

“I was in Djibouti City yesterday waiting for a meeting. It was 11:30 am. Two men in a car with tinted windows stopped next to me. It was a uniformed policeman and a man in plain clothes. They asked me to get in. I refused but they forced me into the car. They blindfolded me so that I did not know where they were taking me. I found myself in a cell. They removed my clothes and handcuffed me, and that is how I spent the night, sleeping on the floor.

“They beat my feet very violently with pieces of rubber. They also broke my glasses. ‘We’ve had enough of you,’ they said. ‘You must stop broadcasting information about us. You must stop bothering the police and the Department for Investigation and Documentation. It will be the worse for you if you continue.’ At midday today, they brought me my clothes and blindfolded me again. Then they drove me to a piece of waste ground in the Gabode 4 district and left me there.”

Reporters Without Borders has decided to refer this matter to the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and will remain in regular contact with Hildid in order to be kept informed of his security situation.

“The physical mistreatment and psychological torture inflicted on this journalist are a disgrace to Djibouti’s authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on them to put an immediate end to this sort of intimidation. If anything happens to Hildid again, we will know who is responsible.”

Hildid was detained twice in 2011 and was tortured and mistreated both times. This was confirmed by medical examinations after both periods in detention. The first time he was arrested, in February 2011, he was held for more than four months in Gabode prison on a charge of “participating in an insurrectional movement.”

The second time he was arrested, on 21 November, he was charged with encouraging an illegal demonstration and insulting the president. He was released four days later after being placed under the supervision of an investigating judge attached to the supreme court.

As a result of these and other events, Djibouti fell 49 places in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is now ranked 159th out of 179 countries.

Can we wait and take up the issue of democratic reforms later, sometime into the future? Take note of the “comment is free” op/ed in the Guardian from May 2009 about Obama being seen as continuing U.S. support for Mubarak:

Obama in Cairo is a blow to democracy; Obama’s decision to give a speech to the Muslim world from Cairo is an endorsement of Egypt’s brutal dictatorship

Wajahat Ali
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 May 2009 15.30 EDT
Article history

By choosing Cairo, Egypt as the platform for his long awaited address to the global Muslim community, President Barack Obama predictably leans on a reliable dictatorship suffocating a country that is teetering toward religious and political irrelevance.

Indeed, modern Egypt resembles its ubiquitous tourist attraction, the Sphinx, the symbolic temple guardian adorned with a human head on a prostrate lion.

Similarly, the near-30-year, brutal autocracy of Hosni Mubarak weighs heavily on the immobilised body of an

Continue reading

Egyptian Circus

From the Washington Post story reporting the announced intent to prosecute Americans working for IRI, NDI and Freedom House:

Pro-democracy groups have worked openly in Egypt for years, although the government has long refused to grant them operating licenses. The groups were buoyed last year when the government allowed them to monitor parliamentary election, the first time foreign monitors were allowed to observe polls in the country.

Hopes that Mubarak’s fall a year ago would be a boon for pro-democracy activists were dashed on Dec. 29 when Egyptian authorities raided the offices of 10 NGOs and seized files and computers. The current investigation, led by two investigative judges who were state prosecutors, is predicated on a 2002 law that bars organizations from accepting foreign funding if they are not licensed by the state.

Obviously the Egyptian Government could have expelled American and other foreign NGO democracy workers at any time, or not let the organizations operate to start with.  Prosecuting people now for doing what they were definitionally in the country to do and have been doing openly–using funding from the U.S., Germany, and or other democratic governments–is blatantly unfair to the individuals targeted as well as to the organizations.

This is not a criminal matter–Egypt has real crimes to address and these prosecutions are obviously a sideshow for ulterior motives.

Early handicapping in Kenya’s presidential campaign

David Throup, in a commentary up on the Center for Strategic and International Studies website, handicaps the impact of the ICC charges on the Kenyan presidential campaign.  In a nutshell, Throup posits that Raila gets elected easily if Uhuru and Ruto are allowed to stay in the race as Uhuru is not popular enough, broadly enough to pose a strong challenge.  If Uhuru and Ruto are disqualified, this would allow Saitoti to come to the fore as the establishment (non-reformist) alternative and that Saitoti could give Raila a run for his money, so to speak.

Will the decisions of the ICC and the Kenyan court make any difference to the election battle? Perhaps, but not in the way that many people think. The banning of Kenyatta and Ruto is more likely to work against Raila Odinga, current prime minister and election frontrunner, than to weaken his opposition. It is becoming increasingly evident that Kenyatta is unelectable. .  .  .

Ruto may personally be willing to endorse Kenyatta—after all he was his presidential campaign manager in 2002, and relations between the two men remain good—but Kalenjin community elders are unlikely to agree, especially as the Kikuyu and Kalenjin fight over the political spoils in the new Nakuru County, a major center of violence in 2007–2008. Local Kikuyu leaders are demanding almost complete control, precluding any agreement between the communities. As a result, at least two-thirds of Kalenjin voters will end up supporting Odinga in the second round, whatever Ruto says.

.  .  .  .

On this calculation, the winner of the presidential election seems likely to be Prime Minister Odinga, who since he first contested the presidency in 1997 has built up a broad coalition, centered on his Luo ethnic group. Odinga commands the support of 40 to 45 percent of voters, stretching from Lake Victoria to the Indian Ocean and from the isolated Somali-populated Northeastern Province to bustling Nairobi. He is the frontrunner, and neither Kenyatta nor Ruto is capable of effectively challenging his momentum.

.  .  .  .

If Kenyatta is banned from contesting the presidency, Saitoti seems likely to emerge as the frontrunner to take over the mantle of Kikuyu candidate. His 20 years in Moi’s government, moreover, means that he has good relations with many Kalenjin leaders, stretching far beyond the former president’s inner circle. Thus, Saitoti could bring together the Gikuyu-Embu-Meru and the Kalenjin-Maasai-Turkana-Samburu in a formidable challenge to Odinga. An Odinga-Saitoti contest would be a closely fought two-horse race, and it is difficult to predict who might emerge victorious. Odinga would present himself as the candidate of reform, while Saitoti would clearly represent the old order.

Saitoti’s profile is certainly raised by the war Kenyan troops are fighting in Somalia while he serves as Minister of Internal Security.  Certainly this Ministry played a key role in the 2007 election campaign and the immediate aftermath.

It’s interesting to reflect back on Saitoti’s appointment by Kibaki along with Kalonzo Musyoka and the rest of the “half cabinet” during the post election violence.  Here is Xan Rice in The Guardian, January 8, 2008 “Fury as Kenyan leader names ministers”:

“This is simply another attempt to undermine the mission of John Kufuor,” the opposition leader’s spokesman, Salim Lone, said. “It’s not only a blow to the peace process, it shows that Kibaki is has no intention of even starting the process.”

Analysts agreed. Mutahi Ngunyi, a political scientist, said the move was in “bad faith”. “He has already concluded peace talks before they have begun,” he added.

Mwalimu Mati, a civil society leader, said the appointments – especially that of the internal security minister, George Saitoti, who is deeply unpopular in Kenya and was forced to resign a cabinet post in 2006 over links to the country’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, was “like raising a red flag to a bull – and the bull is going to charge”.

However, Amos Kimunya, a key Kibaki ally who was reappointed as the finance minister, denied the move would further alienate the opposition.

“The critical ministries of the government have to run,” he told the Guardian. “Other players can join the government at a later stage, and the president can change his mind on his ministers any time.”