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”.

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)

 

“Rival Somali forces send in more troops”–Somaliland and Puntland

Rival Somali forces send in more troops – Africa | IOL News | IOL.co.za.

Somaliland and Puntland are continuing to deploy more troops in the disputed border regions of Sool and Sanaag.  A peaceful, mutually accepted resolution of these disputes with the support of the local population would be a gamechange for the region which has seen these conflicts and tensions periodically escalate for years.

Kenya Government “pranks” U.S. into reassuring on unrequited “partnership” while suppressing protesters (updated)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Kenya’s government is led by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who barely left KANU in form, and not at all in substance. Not surprisingly, as in the past, protests against the government are in general not allowed and protesters are normally teargassed, beaten and arrested. The fact that this is unlawful behavior by the government does not change the facts on the ground, whether under the 2010 “reform” constitution backed by the United States and the Kenyan voters, or under the old Lancaster House constitution as amended. This was the case during the Kibaki interlude when I lived in Kenya in 2007-08, and it has most certainly been the case during the original Kanu regimes and the current Jubilee revival.

The most recent conspicuous episode was on Thursday, February 13.

For people protesting against the Kenyan government to get the attention of the media they need to engage in something especially catchy beyond the usual shedding tears and blood and getting arrested. Last year, for instance, protesters made international news by releasing pigs in front of parliament to protest the extra-legal raises that the MPs, or “MPigs” were giving themselves. Of course the protesters were teargassed, beaten and arrested, but at least they made the news.

Unfortunately, after the fact the use of the pigs became something of a distraction to the issue of the financial avarice in parliament. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan capital in its own way, and for many, naturally, there is a right way to get teargassed, beaten and arrested, and a wrong way to get teargassed beaten and arrested. Everyone is a lot more used to greedy politicians than to real pigs turned loose in front of parliament. So this time organizers of the February 13 protest assured that they would not use any such animal stunts. (This time they had foam dolls to depict an infantile “diaper mentality”.)

With the build up of publicity and momentum for the announced and pre-cleared protest, the police blinked and announced to the media at the last minute that the protest was purportedly “cancelled” because of unspecified alleged terrorism concerns. Overlapping with this some Kenyan media outlets carried what the Standard headlined: “National Security Advisory Committee Statement on plans to destabilize government”:

Continue reading

The U.S. “official” infatuation with Kenya, in numbers

I’ve spent some time looking at “Official Development Assistance” (“ODA”) numbers for Africa to test my perception that the U.S. seems, for some reason that is hard to pin down, to give an inordinate amount of “development” money to Kenya.

At play Monkeys at play on UN vehicle

Sure enough. Going through the ODA summaries by country from the OECD, for each of 47 countries in continental Africa, we find plenty of verification of this. The U.S. is the leading bilateral ODA donor for 25 of the 47, including Kenya (Kenya’s number two donor is Japan). Kenya is the number three recipient of bilateral ODA from the U.S. for a 2010-2011 annual average (the most recent listing) of $642M, behind only the Democratic Republic of Congo at $1,053M and Ethipia at $791M.

On a per capita basis this is $15.53 for DRC, $15.43 for Kenya and $9.34 for Ethiopia. What about “need” based on poverty? PIn the DRC the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is $190; in Ethiopia $400. Kenya, on the other hand, has a GNI per capita of $820, more than double that of Ethiopia and well more than four times that of the DRC.

Across the continent as a whole, Kenya ranks ninth in per capita U.S. ODA. Three countries of those getting more per capita are special cases: Liberia and South Sudan, post-conflict states where the U.S. has a special historic relationship and responsibility relating to the founding of the country itself and Libya, an immediate post-conflict situation where the U.S. government was instrumental in supporting the removal of the prior regime. All of the recipients ahead of Kenya except for the DRC have relatively small populations.

Among the five countries of the East African Community, Kenya receives both the largest amount and the most per capita in ODA from the U.S., even though its GNI per capita is by far the largest:

Country        GNI Per Capita      U.S. Bilateral ODA      Per Capita      Rank/Reference

Burundi           $250                             $48M                      $5.58        2 (1-Belgium 161M)

Kenya             $820                              $642M                   $15.43       1 (2-Japan $139M)

Tanzania         $540                             $546M                    $10.74          1 (2-UK $219M)

Rwanda           $570                             $167M                   $15.32           1 (2-UK $121M)

Uganda           $510                              $388M                   $11.24           1 (2-UK $163M)

————-
And a sampling of other countries of interest:

Somalia           —-                                 $90M                      $9.38           2 (2-UK $107M)

C.A.R.           $470                                $16M                      $3.56           3 (1-France $29M)

Malawi          $340                                $140M                    $9.69           1 (2-UK $126M)

Mali               $610                                $232M                  $14.68          1 (2-Canada $106M)

Niger             $360                                  $97M                     $6.02          1 (2-France $56M)

Chad              $690                                $124M                    $10.75       1 (2-France 45M)

Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors

In the wake of the incomprehensible looting at Westgate, Ben Rawlence, Open Society fellow and former Human Rights Watch researcher has published a candid look at the context in “Kenya’s Somali Contradiction” at Project Syndicate:

. . . if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure . . . In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative, a plan to protect Kenya’s security and economic interests by carving out a semi-autonomous client state . . .

. . . the United Nations monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that Kenya’s Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab.  .  .  . [T]he Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals.  Indeed in Kismayu, Kenya’s officials have reverted to their default occupation — the pursuit of private profit. . . .

Read the full piece.

if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure. But there is much more to the story. In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

Going back to my time in Kenya during the 2007 presidential campaign, it is well to remember that the multimillion dollar Anglo Leasing scandal that was subject to John Githongo’s whistleblowing involved corrupt contracts that were to have provided for the purchase of passport security technology, a forensic lab, security vehicles and a Navy vessel, among more than a dozen national security procurements.

Ultimately the exposure of the scandal proved to be a huge missed opportunity for the U.S. and the international community as a whole to address a pervasively corrupt security apparatus that we have continued to help underwrite.  While everyone was grateful for Githongo’s courage, we didn’t match it with courage of our own to take risks for reform and we ended up letting the Kenyan people rather than the Kibaki administration bear the burden.  See my post “Part Five–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 election and new FOIA cables”.

Unfortunately corruption does not fix itself.

Uganda Debt Network

Leaders

Furthermore, contrary to claims that securing Kismayo put al-Shabaab at a disadvantage, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that the Kenyan Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab. The group’s profits from illicit charcoal (and possibly ivory) exported from Kismayo have grown since Kenya took control.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThis highlights a fundamental problem: the Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals. Indeed, in Kismayo, Kenyan officials have reverted to their default occupation – the pursuit of private profit. Instead of working to achieve the diplomatic objective of defeating al-Shabaab, Kenya’s military, politicians, and well-connected businessmen have been lining their own pockets.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure. But there is much more to the story. In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative,
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

Two things to read after the Westgate attack (updated)

Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick has a piece today entitled “Nairobi attack: Why Kenya and why now?”  that strikes me as solid and recommended priority reading.

As far as where things are in Somalia this is probably a good time to read, if you missed it, Matt Bryden’s report “Somalia Redux?: Assessing the new Somali federal government” for the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, which provides a sobering corrective to any notions that recent progress in Somalia is more than a set of limited early steps toward any long term formation of a stable state.

Add this on the Kenyan security situation: “Kenya mall al-shabaab attacks reveal security cracks” Africa Report.

Why Westgate? [updated 9-24]

I certainly claim no special insight into the minds of Al Shabaab, but by virtue of having been around long enough to have been marked in childhood by the memory of the “Black September” attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, it isn’t a surprise to read that “Westgate Shopping Mall is one of several Israeli-owned businesses in Kenya.” “Shopping mall in premier complex that is home to international brands”, Saturday Nation.

Likewise, Nairobi’s upscale malls are hubs for internationals and expats, as well as symbols of the prosperity and comfort that can be found by the affluent in Nairobi and a source of local pride. The psychological and economic impact from mass murder at such a place is entirely different than mass murder of a similar scale in some other town or village, or in the slums.

I have to say I don’t believe these people would be sated if they ruled all of Somalia without challenge.

[Update: This post was an early reaction to news of the attacks. With the crisis nearing an end after three days, we don’t seem to really know much yet about the attackers and the specifics of the operation. Variety of contradictory information and lots of opinions, some derived from some substantial amount of experience and knowledge, some from little.]

Somaliland rejects local UNSOM presence; Kenya reading

Khat Shop Hargiesa

Khat Shop Hargiesa

The Somaliland Sun reports that the Government of Somaliland has informed the visiting head of the new United Nations Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) that Somaliland will not host a UNSOM office. Somaliland wishes to continue hosting and receiving aid through various individual UN agencies and organizations but considers the overall UNSOM mission in support of the Federal Government of Somalia incompatible with Somaliland’s independent status.

In the meantime, the questions of governance for Kismayo and the “Jubaland” region remain an immediate challenge as does the unsettled Somaliland-Puntland border. Somaliland has indicated a desire to strengthen relations with Kenya, which shares a common interest in some degree of regional autonomy for Jubaland on the Kenyan border.

Of note on Kenya:

Wachira Maina–“ICC: Kenya’s is a lose-lose strategy even if African Union has its way” in The East African.

Dr. Stephanie Burchard, “How Fraud Might (Indirectly) Promote Democracy in Africa” in the Institute for Defense Analyses’ Africa Watchdiscussing the judicial review of Ghana’s presidential election in contrast to the procedure in Kenya.

David Anderson on the Mau Mau case, “Atoning for the Sins of Empire” in the New York Times.

Wycliffe Muga on “A Brief History of Election Rigging” in The Star.

Jaindi Kisero on “There is more to the Kenya Pipeline Company saga than nepotism; is it someone’s turn to eat?” in the Daily Nation.

Paul Wafula on “Hidden pain in financing Jubilee’s bag of goodies” in The Standard.

George Kegoro, “There’s need for an independent team to probe conduct of election” in the Daily Nation.

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Before noting the choice of speakers for the Uhuruto inauguration, the idea that governance in Kenya might be in the process of falling in line with its East African neighbors has been much on my mind since the IEBC’s decision on the election on March 9.

Museveni as the featured speaker–and what he had to say–certainly fits this theme.  Museveni can readily castigate the ICC and “the West” for meddlesome advocacy of international standards, knowing that he has a mutual “security” relationship at a deeper level with the United States.  He gets criticized by the U.S. for changing the constitution to stay in power, and for taking and keeping control of the Ugandan electoral commission–but without discernible “consequences”.

Uhuru himself in his speech said nothing about corruption–a major theme in the KANU to NARC transition and the original Kibaki inauguration, and well understood to be the Achilles Heel for Kenya’s economy.  And as I have noted before, the Jubilee platform’s only “plank” relating to governance is a proposal for active state intervention in the civil society arena.

Museveni and his NRM have been associated with the KANU of Moi and of Uhuru and Ruto over the years and at some level Kenya post-Moi has been an outlier in the East African Community of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.  As well as Museveni, one naturally thinks of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and the recently departed Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia as authoritarian heads of state who could count on strong support in Washington at a variety of levels–both in terms of underlying security relationships and friendships with American politicians who could be counted on for advocacy in the face of international controversy.

Uhuru himself, quite the contrary to his short-lived campaign rhetoric this year as an ICC indictee, has been a favorite Kenyan politician of many in the American establishment.  He talks the talk well.  He was educated in the U.S. and has been a frequent visitor.  A “family friend” of former Assistant Secretary of State Frazer by reputation.  Rich even by American standards, and a business owner whose inherited fortune was generationally cleansed from openly kleptocratic political origins.  Before the confirmation of the ICC charges but after the 2008 post-election violence when the issues with the alleged funding of the Mungiki attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru were well known, he was a primary lobbyist for the Kenyan government in the U.S. seeking things like a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact.  Before the 2007 election, he entertained official American visitors including Senator Obama as the “Official Leader of the Opposition”.  He was singled out for positive recognition in a report by CIPE, the Center for International Private Enterprise (the National Endowment for Democracy’s core institute under the United States Chamber of Commerce) and was spoken of in government as a Kenyan who “says the right things”.

A U.S. foreign policy establishment view on how the United States should deal with a Kenyatta administration was offered in a Foreign Affairs piece by Bronwyn Bruton of the Atlantic Council just before the election:

. . . In all likelihood, the first round of voting will lead to a runoff election on April 10 between Raila Odinga, the current prime minister of Kenya’s hastily-constructed unity government, and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s deputy Prime Minster and the son of Kenya’s first president. The tightness of the race bodes ill; it is unlikely that either side will be able to score a quick victory, and it will not take much vote rigging to influence the election’s outcome. The losing party is virtually certain, therefore, to contest the results. Some violence, in other words, seems all but assured. The question is how long it will last, whether it will spread nationwide, and how many people will be displaced, injured, or killed

Most of the piece is behind the firewall so I won’t copy it here, but she goes on to argue that U.S. interests counsel what I would characterize as essentially a business as usual approach to Uhuru (and by implication of course Ruto) unless and until they end up eventually convicted by the ICC.  I shared this with a friend in Washington with the comment that this could be read as a Washington argument not to get too exercised if Uhuru helped himself to some extra votes to win–the risk of instability was very high and the downside to having Uhuru in office wasn’t that great.

The Carter Center has released another round of reporting on the election, “slamming” the IEBC, but concluding with a factually unsupported pronouncement that in spite of the electoral commission’s many failures their announced result happened to “reflect the will of the Kenyan people”.  This was language being tossed around in certain circles before the election with reference to Moi’s races back in the ’90s.  How to say an election is bad but the incumbent or other beneficiary of the state misconduct would have won anyway? The big difference in 2013, of course, should have been that the Kenyan voters had approved–with much U.S. support–a new constitution that was supposed to end the “first past the post” system that so benefited Moi and require a “runoff to majority”.  When you read the Carter Center report it is clear that there is no way they can offer any substantive assurance at all for the IEBC’s award of just enough to Uhuru to avoid that runoff.

But, there are interests at stake besides justice–there is also “stability”, and “peacekeeping” troops in Somalia, etc., etc.

So we shall see.  I hope for the best for Kenya, but the Uhuruto ascendancy looks to me like a big win for tribal chauvinism and a real step back in terms of democratic ideals.  Kenya is very different from either Rwanda or Ethiopia, and from Uganda, too.  Whatever excuses one makes for Kagame and Museveni in their own postwar environments, to me, ought not to apply to Kenyatta or Uhuru in Kenya.