Part Five of “The War for History”: “sitting on” the exit poll in January and Febraury 2008

In Nairobi I had remained optimistic through the end of January 2008 that IRI would ultimately decide to release the results of the exit poll.  I had been told by my immediate superior in Washington repeatedly that the then-president of IRI would be the final decision maker and “wanted” to release the results.  I told people in Nairobi, including senior politicians, when it came up that the issue remained under consideration.

After I was told there was to be a final meeting in Washington to make the decision on Friday, February 1, I scheduled lunch for the next Tuesday with Shashank Bengali, East Africa correspondent for the McClatchy papers (now with the Los Angeles Times) who had broken a story on the results previously, with the expectation that I would then finally be able to disclose them. I prepared a memo at the request of my boss explaining details of the poll results and their quality, concluding with my recommendation that they should be made public.  I was told to remove the recommendation from the end of the final document. Then I was told following that February 1 meeting that the decision had gone the other way and we would not be releasing, so I had to report that to Bengali at our lunch instead.  I obtained an agreement from my boss that I would be given the opportunity to “fact check” whatever statement would be released from Washington and advance notice to prepare the local IRI staff for the consequences in Nairobi.

In my “fact checking” role I objected vigorously to the draft statement prepared by IRI’s PR shop asserting that the results had been found to be “invalid”.  Recognizing that the IRI Washington hierarchy had the right to decide whether IRI would release the numbers, I was offended by characterizing the poll in a factually unjustified way and misleading the public to make an excuse. This seemed on par with the decision to tell Ambassador Mark Bellamy that he was dropped from the election observation because we could not buy his plane ticket when in fact it was because Ambassador Ranneberger created a showdown over the assertion that Bellamy was perceived to be unfavorable to the incumbent government–except that being less than truthful about the exit poll was a much more consequential matter.

In discussing the matter with my boss and batting away other notions to justify not releasing the results I was told that the bottom line was they were not being released because to do so was “not in the best interests of IRI”.  Those interests were not explained. Likewise it was said that the decision had been “going that way” since mid-January. On the morning of February 8 Nairobi time I got a call from a staff member in Washington who told me that the offending draft had gone up on the IRI web site overnight, in violation of my agreement, following the events in Washington that day, February 7 (the Senate hearings, which IRI had not attended, where Assistant Secretary of State Frazer and the Assistant USAID Administrator were grilled on why the exit poll had not been released, and a visit to IRI headquarters from ODM representatives to press for release of the poll.  Also that day ODM met with Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte to press unsuccessfully for release of the poll.)

Our longtime pollster, the late Dr. Peter Oriare, who was predictably devastated by the statement from Washington, defended the poll in a story in The Star which quoted both my boss in Washington and me, and was published in print (no website yet) the morning of Friday, February 15.  I had declined to tell The Starthat the Washington statement “reflected my personal opinion”.  I left later that day for my scheduled and overdue trip to Somaliland and the Washington office dispatched Nairobi staff from our Sudan and Somaliland programs to personally deliver copies of the February 7 “invalid” statement to key political negotiators on both sides, including Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Martha Karua–to which I objected from afar. 

These IRI employees had not been involved in the exit poll and would have had no way to know the statement from Washington was inaccurate. It was particularly noteworthy that the delegation, as I learned later, had missed the new Justice Minister Martha Karua in her office and chased her down at the Serena hotel where the Kofi Annan-led mediation was taking place.

Hon. Karua was leading the PNU mediation team and was identified at the time as one of those key Kibaki hardliners who opposed compromise.  She had her own stake as newly elevated to a key cabinet post by Kibaki on January 8 and as the leader of the NARC-Kenya party.  She has said subsequently that she in fact believed at the time that Kibaki had legitimately won the election–I cannot evaluate retroactively her subjective beliefs, but I was and remain troubled by the fact that she was told in person on February 15 that the exit poll, to be released in July and August showing a large Odinga win, was “invalid” and would not be released because of that lack of validity.  The mediation quickly broke down, although Kibaki and Odinga later reached their deal of February 28.

Whatever the machinations of the Ambassador and/or anyone else in the State Department, IRI’s Washington office at that time managed to make the situation more embarrassing and more difficult for the Kenya program aside from failing to have to courage to meaningfully stand against election fraud until too late to really matter.

Part Two of “The War for History”: My emails to Joel Barkan on January 2, 2008

In the immediate aftermath of the 2007 Kenya election I exchanged emails with Joel Barkan who had just returned to Washington from the IRI/USAID Election Observation Mission. On January 2, 2008 Joel was trying to understand why the exit poll had not been released “to calm Raila’s people and perhaps prevent tomorrow’s march.” He wrote:You know, if this is not released before six months out, both IRI and probably the embassy will be accused of a cover up.  I would reflect again on how this should be played . . .“.  This is my response:

Joel,

My e-mail shows that I responded to this message, but the “sent” box does not reflect this.  There was a connection problem and my copy of the text will not come up.  What I drafted was long and I will attempt to reconstruct in some fashion:

I completely agree with your thoughts.  At the urging of our polling firm and UCSD I argued this as vigorously as I knew how within IRI to no avail.  I see a major embarrassment in the works as time passes.

This was a much better poll than our previous exit polls in 2002 and 2005 in which we had expressed pride thanks to the tireless work of James Long/UCSD.  The previous sampling was 3,000 in 55 constituencies. {Ed. note: 2007 sample size was 5500 in 179 constituencies in 71 districts out of a total of 212 constituencies in 72 districts}

My original agreement with IRI DC was that we should not release data to anyone while the polls were still open even though USAID had said that they would like preliminary data that Strategic said would be available around 3pm.  This was consistent with agreed US practice to avoid influence on voting.  In spite of this, Sheryl pressed me while I was still at polling place on the afternoon/evening of the election saying that the primary reason for funding the poll was for “early intelligence”.  She got the data by calling Strategic directly.

I sent Sheryl an e-mail confirming that she had gotten the data from Strategic and that I understood that the data was for “internal use of USAID only” and not to go to anyone else.

Frankly, I was concerned that the data would get to the Kibaki camp and that they would make tactical use of it.

Background:  On Thursday, two week before the election, I got a message from Sheryl that the Ambassador needed a copy of our last delegate list asap and she sent me a fax for him.  I sent the list, noting that it was to be released to media the next day.  On my way to lunch I got a call on my cell from the Ambassador raising hell about Mark Bellamy being on the list, saying that he was “laying down a marker” and that he would hold me “personally responsible” as IRI’s “person on the ground” even though I had in previous conversations explained that I had little or no influence over the delegate selection in DC.

More to follow:  Just got an e-mail from our press office with a mention of our failure to release the poll in Slate.

Ken

The War for History: Was Kenya’s 2007 election stolen or only “perceived to be” stolen?

As the ICC proceedings play out, understanding the 2008 post election violence and evaluating the role of the parties, including the international actors, requires addressing the conduct of the incumbent Kenyan administration in the election itself.

In my estimation, those of us who observed the election in Nairobi watched as the vote tally was hijacked in a shockingly blunt manner. If this election could not be labelled as stolen, the question has to arise as to whether any election in Africa, as opposed to in Europe, Asia or the Americas, could ever be so labelled, in a context in which diplomatic actors valued “stability” as a key interest. Nonetheless, some who came to Kenya after the election, both from Washington and South Africa, have continued to suggest that the theft of the election may have been only a “perception” from ambiguity, or even asserting that the election was not “rigged” at all.

Because the truth matters in understanding the violence, and in preparing for the future in response to the Chairman of the current IEBC who has labelled the 2007 opposition as mere “sore losers”, I am going to devote much of my attention in the blog this year to articulating “the rest of the story” as I know it, as I continue to wait for release of additional public records under the Freedom of Information Act. I will dedicate these posts to my late friends Dr. Joel Barkan and Dr. Peter Oriare, who worked for a better process.

To begin, let me post here an August 4, 2008 e-mail I sent to Mike McIntire, the investigative reporter for the New York Times who contacted me on July 31, 2008 for an interview about the International Republican Institute exit poll which remained, as of that date, unreleased as allegedly “invalid”:

Mike,

After having some time to reflect on our conversation, I thought it might be useful to emphasize a few points in reference to what we talked about and the documents I have provided:

1. Prof. Joel Barkan at CSIS was our primary (indeed only) Kenya expert on our Election Observation Mission. Professor Barkan was independently identified by IRI to be invited based on his stature as an expert and was also one of those specifically recommended/requested by the Ambassador. Prof. Barkan had headed the Democracy and Governance program for USAID in Kenya during the 1992 elections when IRI conducted a very large USAID-funded observation mission and knew Sheryl Stumbras at USAID and the Ambassador well from his work in Kenya .

2. I got acquainted with Prof. Barkan in the lead up to the observation by e-mail as he offered suggestions, and my discussions with him during and immediately following the election were very influential in forming my own opinions about the nature of the evolving situation with the ECK and the electoral tally and the appropriate handling of the exit poll.

3. Prof. Barkan and I were in agreement that IRI was causing a situation in which it was generating unnecessary controversy and likely embarrassment by refusing to release the poll results on the presidential vote on an ongoing basis.

4. Prof. Barkan was impressed with the methodology of the poll and vouched for the work of Prof. Gibson/UCSD.

5. Again, the decision to involve UCSD pre-dated my arrival to manage the Kenya programs. To my understanding, there was never any question that the point of UCSD’s work was to create data that would be relied on and published–no later than the expiration of IRI’s exclusive right to publicity for the first 180 days. It was also my understanding that IRI was pleased to have Prof. Gibson and UCSD involved because of their strong reputation.

6. With the blessing of IRI Washington, including the press office, I had provided data from the IRI September 2007 public opinion survey to Tom Maliti of the AP in Nairobi for work he was doing on tribal issues as a voting factor. My discussions with Tom and the data were inputs for a story he wrote for the AP that fall linked on the media section on IRI’s website. Tom later asked if IRI would be doing an exit poll as we had done in 2002 and 2005 and I confirmed that we were. It was my understanding that we would have to decide WHEN and in what forum, not IF, the results would be released. [If anyone had asked, I would have been of the opinion that given the way things work in Kenya , we would have to expect the poll results to leak regardless.]

7. The Daily Nation ran a story, I believe the day before the election, in which our pollster, Peter Oriare of Strategic, discussed the fact that Strategic would be conducting an exit poll for IRI. While this was not something that I had authorized or been involved in, I did not consider it to be any type of violation of our relationship or against any wishes that I had conveyed to Strategic.

8. I think it is important to look at the exit poll situation in the context of IRI’s Election Observation Mission Final Report which has now been published as a printed booklet (they FedEx’d me a copy with a cover letter from Lorne in mid-July). The report, which I had the opportunity to provide input on, working with my staff in Nairobi on early drafting and through later editorial input on into April when I was doing follow-up work such as the internal exit poll memo of 4-20 that I sent you, is very explicit that IRI found that “after the polls closed and individual polling stations turned over their results to constituency-level returning centers, the electoral process ceased to be credible”. Likewise, the report states that “To date, there has been no explanation from the ECK as to exactly how or when it determined the final election totals, or how and when that determination was conveyed to President Kibaki to prepare for the inauguration.” The report also notes “. . . the obvious fraud that took place during the tallying of the presidential race . . . ” The Executive Summary states: ” . . . IRI has reason to believe that electoral fraud took place and condemns that fraud. The rigging and falsifying of official documentation constitutes a betrayal of the majority of the Kenyan people who peacefully and patiently waited in long lines to vote on December 27.”

9. It should be recognized that between the time that Kibaki was quickly sworn in and the announcement of the initial agreement at the end of February in the Kofi Annan talks that led to the formation of the GNU in April, there were clear indications that Kibaki and his supporters were using the time to attempt to consolidate power. Initial efforts toward mediation from other African leaders, including Bishop Tutu were dismissed, key cabinet posts were filled unilaterally, etc. Even with Annan talks, the Kibaki position on behalf of the “Government of Kenya” was that it was something less than actual mediation.

10. To this day, there has been nothing done to reform the ECK and there has been no accountability for the misconduct discussed in the IRI EOM report. As best I can tell from what I have read about the hearings conducted around the country by the Kreigler commission, the situation remains one in which partisans of the PNU side argue that there was rigging and misconduct on both sides, that it was as bad in Nyanza by ODM as by PNU in Central and that the ECK decision was appropriate, while partisans of ODM argue that the election was stolen. Because “the ECK is not an independent institution and is subordinate to the executive branch of the Kenyan government” [Finding 1 from the IRI EOM report] the IRI exit poll is the best source of actual disinterested data available under the circumstances.

11. To my understanding, I was charged with managing a foreign assistance program that was intended to be for the benefit of the Kenyan people, funded by USAID, but managed by IRI as an independent NGO. To me, this is something entirely different than something the State Department would do on its own for its own internal purposes–although in that case they would still need to be accountable to the American public and Congress.

12. I think we did a pretty good job with limited resources on the actual election observation. I think we did a pretty good job with the exit poll, too. On balance, my experience as Resident Director of the East Africa office was good, with the exception of the specific situation that arose about the exit poll–just as I had had a positive experience as a volunteer with IRI in Central Asia that led me to be interested in making a bigger commitment to go manage IRI programs in Kenya on leave from my primary career. IRI is a fairly small organization in some ways, but they work all over the world, with programs large and small–ours in Kenya was a small one. As best I know, the program in Kenya had a good reputation and had done good, albeit limited, work in Kenya , over a period of years, due in greatest part to the Kenyans on the local staff. This is not anything like what may have happened in Haiti where the program itself may have gotten out of bounds (and in fact I was told that my successor could not be a member of my local staff because of policy in place as a result of that kind of past experience requiring expatriate leadership in the Country Director position). Whatever happened in Washington regarding the exit poll was a departure from my expectations and experience with IRI otherwise.

13. I am told that things have been “different” in IRI recently by people who have been around the organization for awhile, and it is frequently attributed to a hypersensitivity to the situation where John McCain as the long-time Chairman of the Board has been a leading presidential candidate and then the presumptive Republican nominee. This was something that I did not think about in the context of deciding to take the Kenya position at this particular time (and in the spring of 2007 McCain didn’t look very likely to be the nominee anyway). Another twist in regard to Kenya is Obama’s background there and most recently, the things that are circulating against Obama within the “religious right” regarding some notion that Obama was somehow involved in conspiring in Kenya with Odinga on behalf of Muslims against Christians in the context of the Kenyan election and in the context of the post-election violence–laid against a backdrop in which the policy justification for the State Dept. to support Kibaki would presumably tie into the “extrodinary rendition” controversy and more generally the notion that Kibaki has been an ally of the US in sealing the border with Somalia after the engagement of the Ethipian troops to attempt to restore the TFG and otherwise in anti-terrorism efforts, as well as in regard to other regional issues.

14. Ironically, IRI’s mission in Kenya has to a significant degree focused on working to bring minorities, in particular Muslims [the program is primarily funded through NED as opposed to the specific agreements with USAID for the EOM and the polling], into the mainstream of democratic governance. The most striking difference between the voting reported in the IRI exit poll, and what was reported by the ECK is the opposite outcome in North Eastern Province –by the ECK’s reckoning, Kibaki won in a landslide–in the exit poll, Odinga did. I am no expert on that part of the country, but we did do training for candidates in the province in Garissa, the largest town, and in Mombasa for others in the region, and my expectations would have been much more consistent with the exit poll results than with the ECK tally. Given the requirement that a presidential candidate has to get more than 25% in five of the eight provinces, the NEP vote looms larger than it would based on its limited population in a strict nationwide popular vote.

Ken

So what matters in Kenya? David Ndii reminds us that most Kenyans do not have enough food . . .

Not to distract from the “news”, the big events like a second Nairobi Carrefour coming to Karen and competing with Nakumatt. . . but for anyone who is interested in Kenya and
has not actually lived there in recent years, I highly recommend David Ndii’s latest Friday column from Daily Nation, “On hunger, and a nation in need of a conscience“:

Hunger stalks this land. One third of the respondents to Ipsos Synovate’s latest opinion poll answered yes to the question whether they or other members of their households ever sleep hungry.

The facts are much worse that the poll’s finding.

The most comprehensive information on our food situation is in a report published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in 2008 titled Food Insecurity Assessment in Kenya.

It shows that over half of Kenyans, 51 percent, consume less than what they require on a daily basis. They consume an average of 1,261 calories per day, against a requirement of 1,683 calories — a shortfall of 422 calories or 25 percent of the daily requirement.

Simply put, half of the country suffers from chronic hunger. . . .

Uganda: “bursting at the seams” says State OIG inspection

The State Department Office of the Inspector General released this afternoon its latest regular inspection report for the U.S. Embassy in Uganda. The Kampala mission, the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa, gets good marks, but is facing critical physical space problems from ongoing and expected growth–“bursting at the seams”. More of general interest, how does the IG summarize the context of the mission of the United States in Uganda? Here you are:

Uganda has experienced nearly three decades of domestic stability, except in northern areas. President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement took power in 1986. Irregularities marred his reelection in 2011, and he is expected to run again in 2016. Uganda has never experienced a peaceful transition of political power, and civil society does not effectively hold government accountable. Uganda’s record on democracy, human rights, and anticorruption is poor, but it has become an important force for regional stability in East Africa. It contributes to the African Union Mission in Somalia, leads regional efforts against the Lord’s Resistance Army, and has mediated talks between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 rebels.
The passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in early 2014 prompted Washington to reassess the bilateral relationship, including U.S. foreign assistance, which was taking place during the inspection. Bilateral security cooperation has included peacekeeping training for Ugandan forces in Somalia and Ugandan support for the 2013 evacuation of U.S. diplomats from South Sudan.
Economic growth over the past decade has averaged 6 to 7 percent, with inflation in the single digits, and the percentage of the population in poverty dropped by half. Uganda’s population is projected to grow from 35 million to more than 60 million over the next 20 years, threatening to erode and even reverse development progress. The economy provides one job for every 40 new entrants to the job market. By the end of this decade, Uganda may be an oil- producing country, which would significantly raise government revenue but could also exacerbate corruption. U.S. exports to Uganda in 2012 totaled $100 million, half of which consisted of aircraft and machinery.
HIV/AIDS prevalence rates declined in the early 1990s to less than 7 percent, one of the lowest rates in Africa, but has begun to rise again. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) FY 2013 assistance budget for Uganda was $67.5 million for development, $11 million for Food for Peace, and $84.95 million for the Global Health Initiative. The Department of State (Department) also provided $316.14 million for the Global Health Initiative, $190,000 in foreign military financing, and $522,000 in international military engagement and training. International narcotics control and law enforcement funding of $600,000 went directly to Uganda.
With 712 employees, the embassy is the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and includes 147 U.S. direct hires compared to 91 in 2007. Other departments and agencies represented in the embassy include USAID, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Peace Corps. The embassy chancery accommodates all employees and has annexes in Gulu (CDC) and Entebbe (CDC and DOD), which are 7 hours away and 90 minutes away, respectively, by vehicle. In addition, the general services office and warehouse facility is located 6 kilometers from the embassy compound, and it has more desks than some smaller embassies in Africa.

Uhuru Kenyatta, Jendayi Frazer and Paul Kagame walk into a commodity exchange in Kigali . . .

Swiss trader looks up and says, “You must be here to save Kenya’s small family farmers!”

Post-election IDP camp at Naivasha, Kenya, 2008

Post-election IDP camp at Naivasha, Kenya, 2008

“Could Rwanda’s Kagame get thrown out of the ‘smoke filled room’?” AfriCommons, 13 March 2014

“East Africa Exchange Formally Launched” BizTech Africa, 4 July 2014

“Carter Center release; Initial observations on the ‘Frazer v. Carson’ controversy”  AfriCommons, 21 Feb. 2013

“Beth Mugo Admits Kenyatta Family Owns Huge Tracts of Land, But Defends Uhuru” Mwakilishi, 12 Feb. 2013

“How Kosgei pulled strings to block U.S. from endorsing Kibaki presidency” Daily Nation, 13 July 2012

“Kenyan PM Odinga Speaks Out on Election, ‘Dubious’ Role of Jendayi Frazer and Ambassador” AfriCommons, 4 March 2010

Part Ten–FOIA Documents from Kenya’s 2007 election–Ranneberger at ECK: “[Much caan happen between the casting of votes and the final tabulation of ballots and it did” AfriCommons, 30 April 2012

“Africa Bureau under Frazer coordinated “recharacterization” of 2007 exit poll showing Odinga win (New Documents–FOIA Series No. 12)” AfriCommons, 18 March 2013

Kenya Defense Forces essentially collaborating with Al Shabaab in illegal charcoal exports

The Institute for Defense AnalysesAfrica Watch publication (PDF below) has a discussion by Amb. George Ward of the recent report for the UNEP and Interpol on the banned charcoal trade from Somalia (“The Somali Charcoal Industry–Strange Bedfellows”). Rather than shut down the trade that has been the primary revenue source for Al Shabaab, the Kenyan Defense Forces have continued the trade out of Kismayo, which they captured nearly two years ago, along with their present day allies in the Ras Kamboni militia. Further, the KDF is apparently participating in the same overall network of deforestation, charcoal production and brokered export trade that includes continued unmolested shipping by Al Shabaab itself from Baraawe. The traders include businessmen established in Nairobi and Garissa, so Kenya profits on that end too.

Fortunately for the Kenyan taxpayers, the EU and the United States primarily fund the AMISOM mission which has covered the Kenyan forces since mid-2012. Something tells me the charcoal proceeds generated through the KDF are not going to the Kenyan treasury.

africawatch-july-10-2014-vol5.pdf

Of course, other reports of KDF dealing in the charcoal trade have been out there for a long time.  See my post “Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors”.

Democracy Reading–Waltzing with a Dictator; history and lessons for today

Raymond Bonner’s Waltzing with a Dictator: the Marcoses and the Making of American Policy (©1987, 1988) is long out of print, but used copies are readily available.

This is well worth a read by those interested in American foreign policy and its relationship with authoritarian governments and democratic transitions anywhere, and in international election observation.  One lesson here for Americans, and for those seeking American support for reform, is to appreciate the power of illicit wealth in the hands of foreign authoritarians to help charm key people in power in both Democratic and Republican administrations in the United States.  Nonetheless, in a pinch in the Philippines, we eventually helped with the restoration of democracy irrespective of Cold War interests that had been previously asserted to justify support for the Marcos dictatorship.

The 1986 election in which Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by Corazon  Aquino was a pioneering effort in international election observation and internationally supported domestic observation to combat state-supported election fraud.  Aquino’s accession to the presidency as summarized in her Wikipedia entry:

A self-proclaimed “plain housewife“,[1] she was married to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., the staunchest critic of President Marcos. She emerged as leader of the opposition after her husband was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon returning to the Philippines from exile in the United States. In late 1985, Marcos called for snap elections, and Aquino ran for president with former senator Salvador Laurel as her Vice-President. After the elections were held on February 7, 1986, the Batasang Pambansa proclaimed Marcos and his running mate, Arturo Tolentino, as the winners amidst allegations of electoral fraud, with Aquino calling for massive civil disobedience actions. Defections from the Armed Forces and the support of the local Catholic Church led to the People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos and secured Aquino’s accession on February 25, 1986.

Of particular current interest from the Bonner book is the role of Republican Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Richard Lugar of Indiana as election observers who held the line against election fraud and provided key support for “moderates” back in Washington in the Reagan White House against the pro-Marcos “hardliners”.  After seeing blatant election misconduct by the regime, Cochran sent a message by donning his yellow golf pants during the observation–yellow being Aquino’s campaign color.  Lugar was defeated in the 2012 Republican primary by a hardline “tea party” challenger, and Cochran has just been certified as the narrow winner of a primary runoff against a “tea party” challenger in Mississippi.  Within the Carter White House in 1977-81 there was similarly a divide between hawkish pro-Marcos Democrats, people we might think of now as more or less “neocons”, and early human rights advocates.

Mpeketoni: Terrorism and Politics as Ususal

Muthoni Wanyeki’s column this week in the East African strikes me as hitting exactly the right point:  “Mpeketoni: Get on with finding out who and why”.  Take time to read it.

The Jubilee Government was in a tizzy about stopping Raila Odinga from leading opposition CORD rallies around the country before the Mpeketoni attacks just over a week ago.  The attacks then became the focus of attention for Kenyans and the Kenyan media, with Uhuru Kenyatta deflecting things back to Raila and CORD by as much as accusing them of undertaking the attacks and explicitly denying a role for Al Shabaab.

Any reasonable observer recognizes that the Mpeketoni attacks in a sensitive area very near the border have less ambiguity about them as an incidence of terrorism than most of the individual bombings routinely attributed to Al Shabaab in Nairobi or even the Westgate attack last year. Yes, the methodological details vary–as they did in each of these from the previous Al Shabaab World Cup attack in Kampala.  Here is former Marine and security expert Andrew Franklin, who has written here previously, discussing Al Shabaab and Mpeketoni, along with unfulfilled security reform, on KTN.

With the victims largely now out of sight and out of mind in the hinterlands the media has moved on to the incessant tribal politics that makes for easy punditry in lieu of actual investigation and in-depth reporting.

I have never been a big fan of rallies in Kenyan politics–not in 2007 campaign when I was trying to help support a better process, not in 2011-12 when they were used to try to stop the ICC, and again, not in the 2013 campaign.  Nonetheless, I am pretty well inured to the fact that the usual suspects in Kenyan politics, on whatever side they happen to be at any given time, use these rallies as a primary means to connect directly to their supporters and to get national media for their messages.  I wish Kenya’s politics was a little more creative, but then, the political class as it exits always wins, so I guess they don’t feel a lot of incentive to change.  Regardless, the rallies are not in and of themselves generally dangerous except to the extent the security forces are engaged to make them so.

Tribal animosities were clearly more raw and pervasive in the spring of 2013 when I was in Nairobi for the election than they were when I left in May 2008 during the immediate post-election period.  It appears that the last year has not seen marked improvement.  An obvious reason why all this should be expected is that the parts of the February 28, 2008 election peace deal that were to address the underlying issues have not been implemented and the politics of 2011-2013 were so explicitly tribal.

Why haven’t they been implemented?  One reason is that the February 28, 2008 deal was made by Kibaki and Raila with Kofi Annan after the larger mediation process between PNU and ODM broke down.  PNU was a coalition of parties and not all of them ever supported the deal from the inception.  Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU being one such at the time.  Raila and Kibaki cooperated to support the passage of the new constitution in 2010, but the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission plodded along on the backburner.  The biggest single thing to galvanize government attention during the remainder of Kibaki’s second term was the fight to block the ICC, and, of course, Raila was running for president again, along with Saitoti and Uhuru and some others.  By the time the TJRC report was finalized, the new State House was not prepared to accept it as written.

Rallies will come, and rallies will go.  The question is whether the long term work of protecting Kenyans from the persistent threat of terrorism and the long term work of “tribal” reconciliation will be taken up or yet again deferred for some future generation.

Uhuru Park March 3, 2013

After the Rally  (Uhuru Park)

 

As tourism yields to terrorism, Kenyan government moves to pay Anglo Leasing “ghost companies” for security deals that never materialized, to clear way for more borrowing

Yesterday it was two explosions in the Nairobi’s crowded Gikomba market, one reportedly on a bus and another in a stall. Perhaps a dozen killed and 70 injured.

Two British companies loaded up roughly 400 tourists in Mombasa and flew them home early. U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec told the Associated Press that the American Embassy has increased security measures–more security personnel are being brought in and other staff reduced.

Since the Westgate attack in September, there have been a dozen of these bombings.

In the meantime, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta had directed to pay almost 💲17M to two sketchy entities for claims for financing bogus security acquisition contracts in the Anglo Leasing scam uncovered by John Githongo. After Githongo’s whistleblowing Kenyatta himself as leader of KANU as the official opposition identified the claims as bogus. Kenyatta now claims that the Attorney General dropped the ball and allowed these entities to successfully sue and take judgements in court in the UK. He has directed that payment be made to clear Kenya’s credit to undertake large new borrowings on through the “Eurobond” market. The Law Society of Kenya says that the Government is lying and did not lose in court but rather agreed to pay.

The UK and US criticized the corruption of Anglo Leasing back when it was revealed in 2005-06. Neither the whistleblowing, nor many millions of dollars spent on alleged “good governance” programs seem to have deflected the ultimate success of the scam. . . .