A few thoughts about ethnic polarization in Kenya as we wait on the ICC

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I want to touch here briefly on what I have seen and heard in regard to ethnic “issues”–prejudice, discrimination, suspicion, solidarity, hate speech, and such–in Kenya.

An important thing for outsiders to realize is how complex, and deliberately obscured, these things are in Kenyan politics–and how much of what is said in popular fora in the United States is at least misleading if not flatly wrong factually and in some cases deliberately malicious. (I have finally just now brought myself to read the whole Chapter 4 on “Kenya, Odinga, Communism and Islam” in Jerome Corsi’s book The Obama Nation which was published shortly after I returned from Kenya in the summer of 2008 during the American presidential campaign.  It was a major bestseller and thousands of Americans may have read more about Kenyan politics in that chapter than they have ever read elsewhere over their lifetimes.  Corsi has a Ph.D in Political Science from Harvard, so he is certainly credentialed far beyond me, and he is way too smart to get into the “birther” nonsense that captivated so many American politicians for a few years, but he paints a picture of the Kenyan election and the post election violence that is very much at odds with my understanding and experience, as well as anything I heard expressed internally at the International Republican Institute, or through my family’s church in Kenya or from our missionary friends or at my children’s missionary supported school.  In other words, malicious.)

One of the most important and interesting things that I have learned (so far) from my Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department relating to observation of the 2007 Kenyan election was that the Ambassador’s staff reported to him and up the chain during the campaign that while there was hate speech showing up on both sides of the ODM/Odinga and PNU/Kibaki contest, the greater weight of it was directed against Odinga.  This surprised me because I had relatively limited separate interaction with anyone else at the State Department besides the Ambassador and his personal approach and attitude in my dealings with him certainly gave no hint of this background from his staff in the context of his tactics in addressing the Kenyan campaign.

The bottom line here is there is plenty of this “negative ethnicity” to go around and most of it you will never see in the newspaper or otherwise in the media–even in Kenya, much less of course internationally.  My personal experiences before the election in 2007 involved going to lunch with young middle class professional Kenyans–essentially strangers to me–who would openly and unashamedly if privately express the type of stereotypes about members of other tribes that you or I might hear in a private club in New Orleans about “the blacks” (if you are “white like me” anyway).

The attacks on Kikuyu in parts of the Rift Valley that underlie the ICC charges against Ruto and Sang were sick and sickening (as were those in 1992 and 1997) and so were the attacks in Naivasha and elsewhere that underlie the ICC charges against Kenyatta.  So was the post election violence in Nairobi and Kisumu and other places that were not covered in the ICC charges. The families in Nairobi that I knew that suffered personally from the violence in those early weeks of 2008 were from various “tribes”.  The families that sheltered in our compound happened to be Luhya and Luo; my staff were diverse but Kikuyu were more represented than others.  All of us who were there are all colored emotionally I am sure by our personal experiences in that searing time.

Whether Ocampo as ICC prosecutor used good judgment choosing to bring charges against only six individuals as “most responsible” I do not have enough information to evaluate.  To be frank, there are aspects of Ocampo’s approach as a lawyer and public figure during those last years of his tenure at the ICC that I am not personally enthused about.  To be fair, as a real man and a real lawyer, he was never going to be as “big” as so many Kenyans looked for him to be when they were painting his picture on matatus and such, and he realistically never had any chance for more than some very small success against the dragon of impunity in Kenya.  Just as the Government of Kenya was never really going to prosecute the post election killers, the Government of Kenya was never really going to cooperate with the prosecution by the ICC.  Now we will have to see if the Trial Chamber is willing to pursue enforcement of the Government’s obligations or not.

Personally, I am not inclined to believe that the facts of the charges against the remaining three ICC defendants are based on either mistaken identity, or on some massive international conspiracy to frame them.  I could be wrong of course.  As far as Uhuru, I tend to credit the observation of a Kikuyu friend who said “I don’t support Raila, but its an open secret” that Uhuru did the gist of what he is accused of doing.  I heard things about these matters in Nairobi in “real time” in early 2008 from the same types of general discussion that covered a lot of other important information that you won’t ever see in a Kenyan newspaper.  But all hearsay.  Maybe if the cases are dismissed, someday we will find out who really did it.

The most important question though is whether Kenyans want to treat each other differently badly enough to change the underlying kind of prejudice that makes a dangerous minority of Kenyans vulnerable to the hate speech from the politicians who will continue to use it until it stops working for them. Better democracy and effective governance for broader development in Kenya will depend on this change.

How will the U.S. handle its involvement with a possible Kenyan referendum?

We have the examples of Kenya’s constitutional referenda of 2005 and 2010 for some lessons.

In the fall of 2005, the Government of Kenya, on behalf of the “Wako Draft” constitution being brought to a referendum vote–the “Banana campaign”– loudly claimed that the U.S. was interfering in the referendum in opposition to President Kibaki’s position.  In 2010, Americans campaigning against the “Committee of Experts as Amended” Draft complained that the U.S. was interfering in the referendum by supporting the “Yes” campaign.

I am not aware that there was any substance to the allegations in 2005.  For one thing, it was not clear to me by the time I was on the scene in Kenya in mid-2007 that people at the State Department were necessarily glad that the referendum had failed.  One American official suggested to me that the Wako Draft had not been that bad and certainly better than the old constitution that everyone was left to deal with.  My inclination is that the campaign rhetoric from some of Kibaki’s ministers was just that–campaign rhetoric using the American “bogeyman” as a foil to rally solidarity from Kibaki’s political base (in other words, a somewhat milder version of what the Uhruruto campaign did with more success in 2013, less the ICC “bogeyman”).  Admittedly, I was not involved in 2005 and have made no independent investigation of the matter so I am not purporting to offer any definitive opinion. The International Republican Institute exit poll funded by USAID was consistent with the big victory for the “Orange” side officially reported by the Electoral Commission of Kenya following the vote in November 2005.

In 2010, things were different.  Congressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Chairman of the relevant subcommittee covering Africa of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs pressed the issue and it was eventually reported in the Daily Nation that Smith had received a report from the USAID Inspector General that “found that US funding did go specifically to encourage “Yes” vote on referendum.”  In that situation, however, the Government of Kenya was not complaining because Kibaki himself, along with former “Orange” leader Raila Odinga as Prime Minister, was supporting the Amended Draft.  The Amended Draft was jiggered to accommodate the negotiated interests of most political leaders in the “government of national unity” around both Kibaki and ODM.  There was some organized opposition led by William Ruto which outpolled the Draft in the Rift Valley, but only there.  At the time, Ruto was on the outs with both the President’s faction and with ODM, among other things from pressure tied to allegations about participation in post election violence and certain pending corruption allegations, so no one outside his immediate base was too concerned about his position.

Process purists like myself thought it was wrong for the U.S. to let our funding cross into the campaign itself, beyond simply assisting the process–and to deny it if we did do it.  Americans who opposed the Kenyan Draft because of their concerns about the impact of language on the two “contentious issues”–the Khadi’s Courts and abortion–did not like to have their tax dollars used against them in the campaign.  Kenyans who opposed the Draft may have had comparable feelings in regard to U.S. “democracy assistance” spending, but I didn’t pick up on much complaint–given that their own government was campaigning against them, the U.S. funding as a distinct issue would not be the first and most obvious issue about neutrality, even though the sums of money involved were quite huge for Kenya.

The other key aspect to the context of 2010 is that there was great pent up public demand for a reformed constitution that had been promised for years. The ” yes” side won in a landslide and surveys afterward showed that Kenyans were approaching unanimity in being glad that the constitution had passed. In this environment, the process details about funding do not seem to have so much actual or perceived political significance.

As far as a 2015 referendum triggered by the current petition drive, I have no idea what approach people in our various foreign policy organizations would take on substance.  In general, I doubt people in the U.S. government would care very much directly one way or the other regarding constitutional amendments now unless something unexpected showed up in a draft late in the game.

I haven’t heard or read anything about “the reform agenda” from Washington in a long time even though it was for some years a constant refrain from the State Department.  “Reform” seems to have happened in 2010 and have borne fruit with the IEBC’s decision on the 2013 election being accepted by the opposition,  challenged only in court.  The lion’s share of “reform agenda” that was envisioned in the 2008 post election settlement has not come to pass–for instance the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission seems to have become just one more Kenyan Commission  producing a report to be somewhat censored then shelved for the edification of future scholars who might want to know more about what has gone wrong over the years.  Likewise, there is nearly universal impunity now settled for all the acts of post election violence, subject only to the three last cases lingering at the ICC–so one way or the other, most people involved will have gone scot free. The biggest substantive recommendation of the Kreigler Commission, which found the whole election in 2007 to have been a bust, was to deploy electronic reporting of the vote tallies from the polling station to Nairobi as opposed to depending on physical carriage of the paper forms.  That single most crucial upgrade was a complete failure in the 2013 election–in circumstances that were left murky–and the IEBC turned out not even to even have a working process to handle the reporting on paper.  Nonetheless, if “we” the United States were going to get too exercised about any of this, surely we would have done so in 2013 when we were faced with the embarrassment of having a relationship with an elected government led by ICC suspects.  Instead we bent over backwards to find ways to praise another poor election process because it wasn’t openly stolen at the the presidential level this time and murder and mayhem didn’t follow.  Now everyone seems to have pretty much gotten used to that formerly unprecedented situation of close diplomatic interaction with ICC suspects.  Bottom line is that I doubt that my government will want to play heavily pro or con in a Kenya referendum in the near future.

Nonetheless, I think we can count on the U.S. being very much involved even assuming we are not much concerned about the outcome.  A State Department report has estimated that international support for the 2013 election was approximately $60M, with more than $37M in “medium term” USAID funding.  We have had IFES embedded with the ECK/IEBC for every vote starting with 2001 for the 2002 election; we have funded polling and election observation each time, along with a gamut of other activities.  One way or the other, I am sure we will be “all up in it”.  On balance, the Government of Kenya has liked it that way–for whatever reason–because that has been the choice that they have made, year in and year out, in accepting our money.  Even if they point and holler during the campaign.

Ahead of Washington Summit, Setback for Kenya’s Attorney General in pre-trial defense of President Kenyatta at ICC

 

Counting-the original tally

Counting-the original tally; December 27, 2007

“ICC acts tough on Uhuru’s assets, phone records” Daily Nation, July 30.

The International Criminal Court has directed that the Kenyan government be compelled to provide the property and financial records associated with President Uhuru Kenyatta if the government was not ready to fully cooperate.

In a ruling on Tuesday, the judges further unanimously endorsed the prosecution’s revised request that Attorney-General Githu Muigai had contested during the status conference on July 9.

The AG seems to have lost his argument, as the Trial Chamber V (B) ruled that the prosecution’s request was right within the provisions of the Rome Statute of cooperation.

.  .  .  .

The judges further directed the prosecution to “pursue all possible means to get Mr Kenyatta’s telephone records.

. . . .

Of the items that Ms Bensouda had requested she was only able to obtain the details of four the vehicles Mr Kenyatta owned or regularly used between November 1, 2007 and April 1, 2008. These were obtained with the consent of the accused.

In fact, Lands secretary Charity Ngilu, in a letter that was read to the court, said that “doing the best with the resources and time available to us, we have not located any land, title or property registered under the name of Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.”

. . . .

. . . .

The Chamber also trashed arguments by the AG that the “work of prosecution investigators was being outsourced to the Kenyan government”. The judges, Kuniko Ozaki, Geoffrey Henderson and Robert Fremr, also validated the extensive requests by ICC prosecutors.

“It is a reasonable investigative premise that an accused with access to substantial resources may choose to act through various intermediary entities, as this would in particular, reduce the traceability of transactions intended to further a criminal purpose,” they said.

Githu had dismissed the request by Prosecution Chief Fatou Bensouda as irrelevant to the charges and too broad. The wide-ranging requests, which were made public for the first time late Tuesday seeks disclosure of the President’s records for about three years beginning June 1, 2007 to December 15, 2010.

“Investigations inquiries may not be confined merely to the immediate period of the violence,” the judges ruled. “In the context of certain records, a longer time period may also be justified for comparison purposes where pattern of activity may be significant in revealing unusual communication or transactions.”

This is the second time the ICC Judges are asking the Kenyan authorities to use compulsion to comply with its cooperation obligations to the court. The judges have threatened to refer Kenya to the Assembly of State Parties if it declines to disclose the records.

Already, a separate chamber has issued orders to the govern- ment to compel nine witnesses to testify against Deputy President William Ruto and his co-accused, journalist Joshua Sang. Uhuru’s trial is set to begin on October 7.

. . . .

If you are in Washington for the Africa Summit or otherwise on August 7 you can have dinner with H.E. Kenyatta at the Grand Hyatt from 7-9pm, sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa, for $200 if you are not a member of the Council, or $100 if your are.  Members (only) may wish to join H.E. Teodoro Obiang of Equitorial Guinea, starting at 6pm that night at the St. Regis.  Perhaps with a good driver you can catch both.  To register follow the links here; the Council is also hosting several less controversial events surrounding the Summit.

 

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.

What to read if you are going to Kenya?

There are two key current books for general audiences covering Kenya’s post-independence history and I recommend both.

The more comprehensive is Charles Hornsby’s Kenya: A History Since Independence which I read a few months ago.  Charles brings the advantages of both scholarly training and deep personal experience including several years living in Kenya and much prior research and writing and “Kenya watching”, while at same time offers the independence that comes from earning his living separately, presently as a corporate compliance official.  Hornsby’s book is over 900 pages of deep detail including significant attention to economic policy and the business history that is so essentially a part of Kenya’s politics.   Hornsby’s work will give the basic background on the past interactions and alignments of most of Kenya’s current political figures during the Jomo Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki years.

Historian Daniel Branch’s Kenya: Between Hope and Despair is also excellent and it is the book I recommended for a quick primer for a friend who was considering a short term election-related assignment in Kenya in late 2012.  At just under 400 pages it is a much quicker read and will well serve the needs of the shorter term generalist for a tighter summary of the key events; along with the crucial Chapter 12 (titled “Back to the Future”) of Hornsby’s history–with the best detailed summary I’ve read of the vital 2007 campaign and election–Branch’s book will give general readers some understanding of the lay of the land in public affairs in Kenya in a few short hours.

 

The United States sure could use multiparty democracy, too

Big political news in the U.S. is the election loss of the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, in the Republican primary. Losing a primary is something that “just doesn’t happen” to Majority Leaders (never in the 20th century or the first five elections of the 21st).
While Cantor was substantively to the right of Ronald Reagan and any of the other broadly popular conservative figures of the modern Republican Party, and was known as a key figure in blocking compromise by House Republicans with House Democrats in recent years, there is a perception that his loss will make future legislative compromises even less likely.

John McCain, the International Republican Institute chairman, has previously noted publicly the potential demand for a “third” party that would compete for the plurality of American voters that the Republican and Democratic Parties in present form merely tolerate (naturally he didn’t put it quite that way–he had a Republican primary coming up).

We have a political system that seems to be pretty well ossified under the control of two parties that have both changed quite dramatically during the period of their mutual hegemony. Each party presently has a majority in one house of our bicameral legislature, yet disapproval of this Congress comes about as close to a consensus as you will find in the United States today. Most voters don’t vote in most elections, especially primaries which functionally decide the outcome of vast numbers of legislative seats in districts that are dominated by a single party, often for demographically derived reasons.

The present reality on the ground has departed rather dramatically from our own traditions in important respects, and is at odds with the conceptual rationale for a “two party system” in which each party competes to build a governing majority.

What should we do? My suggestion: let’s enlist our official nonpartisan democracy and party-building experts at the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute. Offer the help to ourselves that we offer others. Heal ourselves first. Certainly in present circumstances it would be unduly controversial to consult any of the foreign democracy groups like the Westminster Foundation or the German party foundations, but IRI and NDI have well established Congressional relations on both sides.

It would be sort of like the instructions we all get when flying. Even if you are accompanying a child or disabled person, if there is a problem, put the oxygen mask over your own nose and mouth first, so you can breath freely enough to help.

Egypt: PRESS RELEASE AND PRELIMINARY STATEMENT: Disregard for Egyptians Rights and Freedoms Prevents Genuine, Democratic Presidential Election | Democracy International

PRESS RELEASE AND PRELIMINARY STATEMENT: Disregard for Egyptians Rights and Freedoms Prevents Genuine, Democratic Presidential Election | Democracy International.

Update:  Here is the podcast link for a very interesting conversation on Wednesday on CBC’s The Current with Eric Bjornlund, President of Democracy International, along with Professor Susan Hyde of Yale, on “The Ethics of Observing Egypt’s Presidential Election.” I think it ultimately comes down to simply calling it as you see it. The ethics of “observation” are thus very different than the norms of diplomacy; Democracy International seems to have done a fine job– saw and were willing to say that the process was not genuinely democratic.

Why is IRI’s report on the Kenya 2007 Exit Poll missing from the USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse? (FOIA Series Part 13)

This is the latest on my ongoing Freedom of Information Act requests to get the U.S. government records on the USAID programs I supervised for the International Republican Institute as East Africa Director for the 2007 Kenya election.

In mid-2009 I assisted my former colleagues from the University of California, San Diego on the 2007 Kenya exit poll in submitting a FOIA request to USAID for a broad set of basic records under the USAID/IRI polling program, including comparative materials from the prior 2002 and 2005 USAID/IRI exit polls. Unfortunately, it took USAID roughly two years to produce anything, and when they did it was rather aggressively nonresponsive.  They simply sent a copy of the Cooperative Agreement under which the program operated from 2005-2007 (the final agreement started with the exit poll for the 2005 constitutional referendum and went though pre-election polls in the fall of 2007, with an amendment to add the 2007 exit poll at the end) with none of the reports, results, correspondence or anything else at all.  My academic colleagues had expected to get the historical documentation from IRI in consideration of the supplemental funding they povided to IRI for the exit poll, but were left to FOIA when IRI didn’t come through.

Upon returning from the 2013 Kenya election when there was another round of questions on the USAID/NDI/ELOG sample PVT and the communications around it, I submitted a new USAID FOIA of my own to try again for the 2007 exit poll records. This time I have been fortunate enough to have what appears to be active and engaged efforts by the current USAID FOIA office to seek records and keep me up to date on the request.  Unfortunately it has still been another 13 months now of waiting.

A key document that should answer a number of questions is the IRI final report on the 2005-2007 polling program, which was originally due during my tenure at IRI in early 2008. At the time I completed my IRI service to return to my permanent job in the U.S. IRI’s second extension to file the report was winding down. At that point, IRI was faced with a quandary as it had posted on its website on February 7, 2008 a statement that it was not releasing the exit poll results because it had determined that they were “invalid” the evening following a demand by Senator Russ Feingold in a hearing of his Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and the Africa Assistant Administrator for USAID report back to him on why the exit poll had not been released. Previously, however, in January IRI had filed its quarterly performance report with USAID reporting that the poll had been successfully conducted.

According to the requirements of the Cooperative Agreement between USAID and IRI, three copies of the final report were to be submitted by IRI, one to the agreement officer in Washington, one to the Democracy and Governance lead in Kenya, and another to the USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) in Washington. I was able to learn in a conference call with the FOIA office last week that they have been unable to find such a copy on file in Development Experience Clearinghouse. Likewise, the other copy in Washington has not yet turned up, so it is being sought through the mission in Kenya.

Strange.

In the meantime, on the State Department side I have written, again, to the Appeals Officer to request a decision or the status of my April 2013 appeal of the withholding of a document about the USAID exit poll from my 2009 FOIA request on the asserted basis of a “deliberative process” exemption from the FOIA.The documents produced to me under the 2009 request show the Africa Bureau at State mischaracterizing the exit poll in response to media inquiries as a capacity building “exercise” that was never intended to be released. To the contrary, both the USAID contractual documents themselves and the Ambassador’s own released State Department cables from before the election describe the exit poll as a key part of efforts to prevent election fraud and support a democratic process, along with the IRI election observation mission. My appeal argues in a nutshell that there is not a legitimately protected agency deliberative process for the State Department to decide whether or not to be truthful in response to after-the-fact press inquiries about a USAID program.

Democracy International Observers express pessimistic realism ahead of Egyptian vote

I had missed this last week   I thought it was very much worth noting in terms of what election observation missions can do to add clarity before a vote.

“Mass Death Sentences, Arrests and Crackdowns: Why Egypt’s Elections Are Already in Trouble” from BuzzFeed, May 13:

United States election observers say they are pessimistic about Egypt’s chances of holding free and democratic elections in two weeks, the first time that an international monitoring group has spoken up to criticize Egypt’s presidential elections.

Democracy International, a U.S.–based NGO has had a team on the ground for weeks, said the widespread arrest of Egyptian activists, a crackdown on protest groups, and mass death sentences were all signs that Egypt’s elections, slated for May 26–27, can hardly be part of the “democratic roadmap” that the White House has required of Egypt in exchange for releasing aid.

“The environment for political participation is not as you would hope would be the case in a democratic transition,” said Dan Murphy, the director of elections and political processes for Democracy International. Last month, U.S. officials announced they would resume some military aid to Egypt, following a previous decision to withhold aid until the country made progress on a “democratic roadmap.” The decision to restore aid was criticized by many diplomats and observers, who said the decision was “baffling” considering Egypt’s current human rights record.

U.S. officials have expressed hope that following this month’s presidential elections, billions of dollars in aid will be once again delivered to Egypt. They have said that following the elections, the White House will determine whether Egypt is pursuing a democratic roadmap that would see a inclusive, pluralistic political environment.

According to the observers who have already been on the ground for weeks, Egypt’s current state of affairs is hardly a transition toward democracy.

.  .  .  .

There have been no debates, and very few public forums in which Egyptians can educate themselves about the upcoming vote, according to Democracy International, a private U.S.–based NGO funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which operates in more than 60 countries. The group recently took part in monitoring Egypt’s national referendum on a new constitution, of which they expressed “serious concerns” about the political climate, which they said virtually guaranteed a yes vote.

“There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent,” read a statement released days after the vote, citing “a backdrop of arrests and detention of dissenting voices.”

Murphy said the Democracy International team was currently in Egypt to see if any of the recommendations issued following the referendum vote had been heeded. At the moment, he added, there was a great deal of concern.

“Have some of these problems, which we cited in the referendum gotten better at all? Have any of our recommendations been heeded? Is there space for people with dissenting views to participate in debate more than after referendum process? At the moment we are very concerned that this is not the case,” said Murphy.

Democracy International and a team led by the European Union are the two largest foreign groups set to monitor the presidential vote. Both groups are already on the ground . . . .

.  .  .  .

Democracy International releases Final Report on Observation of Egyptian Referendum; EU to observe presidential vote

Nasser Sadat Sisi

Nasser Sadat Sisi

Democracy International (DI) organized a comprehensive international observation mission for the constitutional referendum in Egypt on January 14 and 15, 2014. Although the actual administration of the process on the referendum days appeared to allow those citizens who participated to express their will, DI concluded that the restrictive political climate in Egypt impaired the referendum process. The referendum took place against a backdrop of arrests and detention of dissenting voices. There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s “roadmap” or the proposed constitution to dissent. This constrained campaign environment made a robust debate on the substance and merits of the constitution impossible.

Download the full report here.

EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton announced today that the EU would be observing the presidential election scheduled for May 26-27. See the Project on Middle East Democracy Egypt Daily Digest. This may make it more difficult for any decision not to mount a full American observation under USAID, but it strikes me as premature to commit to observing without seeing some progress on the types of concerns that are identified in the Democracy International report on the campaign environment back in January.  The ability to “witness”  on the ground and report accurately on the environment has value but in a presidential election under the circumstances there is risk of being seen as inadvertently giving legitimacy if there is not a bona fide effort by the existing authorities to allow a real competition.