Why “the war for history” matters now (authoritarian momentum in East Africa)

Efforts to retroactively legitimize the 2007 Kenyan election and turn away from the questions of why election fraud was allowed to stand also help divert attention from the current questions of what the United States and Kenya’s other diplomatic “partners” will do or not do now in the face of the current retrenchment of hard won freedoms and democratic openness. Kenya is less free and less secure now than it was in 2007. When a few more years have gone by will 2002 still be a remembered as a turning point for democracy in Kenya or just a false “spring” producing only a temporary thaw in authoritarian governance?

Here is some good context from Freedom House from April of this year.

“Authoritarian Contagion in Africa” by Robert Herman, Vice President for Regional Programs, on the Freedom at Issue blog:

The broader phenomenon illustrated by Kenyatta’s actions [seeking restrictions on civil society and the press] is not just a matter of coincidence or independent imitation. Whether they are selling sophisticated technology to track down dissidents online or sharing legislative approaches that provide a patina of legitimacy for their crackdowns on political opponents, repressive governments are actively working together to push back against nonviolent movements for democratic change. Indeed, such authoritarian solidarity has arguably outpaced collaboration among the world’s democratic states, which are often feckless in mobilizing to defend their own values and assist likeminded activists under duress.

In East Africa, evidence of authoritarian contagion is growing. The governments of Uganda, once seen as a great hope for democracy, and South Sudan, the world’s youngest country and a recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance, are contemplating restrictive legislation targeting NGOs.

However, the true regional pioneer of this approach has been Ethiopia. Under longtime prime minister Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, the Ethiopian government issued laws on NGOs, the media, and terrorism that have collectively devastated the country’s political opposition and civil society. The most prominent democracy and human rights groups have been forced to abandon or radically scale back their work, and many of the leading activists have fled into exile.

Other leaders in East Africa and beyond no doubt observed with interest as the international community failed to mount any serious challenge to the Ethiopian government’s repressive actions. Donor countries declined to use their extensive development aid as leverage. Instead they meekly promised to monitor how the new laws were implemented. Whether out of consideration for Ethiopia’s role in combating terrorism in Somalia or fear that the country would turn to China as an alternative patron, the world’s wealthy democracies declined to challenge the Meles regime even after its legislation’s ruinous effects became apparent.

The citizens of Kenya, particularly those who opposed Kenyatta’s presidential candidacy or documented his role in fueling past ethnic violence, may now be paying the price for the international community’s hesitation to act on Ethiopia. It is certainly possible that Kenyatta—facing an international indictment—would have taken the same steps in the absence of a successful model for repression in the region. But his political allies might well have deserted him if they had reason to believe that Kenya would pay some meaningful price for antidemocratic initiatives.

One hopes that the United States and other democratic donor governments will draw their own lessons from these experiences, finally recognizing that the prioritization of security and macroeconomic concerns over democratic performance is a self-defeating strategy. In the long run, repressive states are less stable, less prosperous, and less friendly to democratic partners than open societies, and the spread of authoritarian practices can only damage the interests of Washington and its allies.

Last month Freedom House awarded it annual Freedom Award to Maina Kiai “in recognition of his fearless leadership in advocating for constitutional reform, fighting political corruption, and educating Kenyans of their basic civil and human rights.” The same Maina Kiai who pushed for release of the 2007 IRI/USAID exit poll and challenged the U.S. to live up to its principles: “A Deal We Can Live With” by Maina Kiai and L. Muthoni Wanyeki, New York Times, Feb. 12, 2008.

 

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

New Congressional Research Service report on the U.S. response to the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response was submitted by CRS on May 15 and has been published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The LRA is assessed to remain in much diminished capacity in a territory covering parts of Northern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan and the Central African Republic, but still resilient in these remote areas.

The most recent concerns are the deterioration of the overall stability and governance of the Central African Republic and South Sudan–with related questions of U.S. and regional priorities.  Likewise there are questions regarding the relationship of continued U.S. support for the Ugandan military to the intention to “review” overall U.S. relations in the wake of Uganda’s new laws targeting homosexuals and more broadly to U.S. support for democracy and human rights within Uganda. In early 2013 AFRICOM’s commander identified the anti-LRA operations, known as “Observant Compass”, as the command’s third highest operational priority after the anti-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Northwest Africa, but obviously a lot of things have been happening since then.

To eliminate redundancy with constrained budgets and growing demand: Is it time to merge IRI and NDI?

Donkey

Mara Herd

This is a post I started a few years ago and let sit.  I usually avoid writing about things that directly mention the International Republican Institute other than as specifically necessary in regard to the 2007 election in Kenya and some advocacy for people arrested in Egypt.   It’s awkward for a lot of reasons to write about IRI,  the most personally important of which is my deep affection for people that work there.  And to the extent I have criticisms it would be my desire that they become better rather than that they be harmed.

Nonetheless, I think the structure of democracy assistance is something we need to think about and almost everyone who is in a position to be engaged is also in a position to feel constrained from speaking freely or has an unavoidable conflict of interest.  And its is an especially challenging time for the effort to share or support democracy so I am going to suck it up and proceed:

—————–

In an era of hyperpartisanship in the U.S. we are also faced with a divided government and a real question about our collective ability to do the basic business of governance in terms of passing budgets, for instance.

More specific to democracy support, the old notion that “politics stops at the water’s edge” is long dead. Every issue anywhere is contested space between Democrats and Republicans in grappling for power. [The attack on the U.S. government facility in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012 being perhaps the most conspicuous example.] There are profound divisions in a few areas of policy and culture between the Republican and Democratic base voters.  Nonetheless, it is also clear, ironically perhaps, that in the present moment there is not any clearly identified and coherent policy difference between the parties on foreign affairs as such. Now in the early stages of the 2013-16 presidential campaign, Republican Senator Rand Paul appears to be his party’s front runner for the nomination. The traditional Republican foreign policy establishment has less disagreement on specific points of foreign policy with the Obama Administration than with Senator Paul. And much of its membership would presumably in private vote for a Democrat seen as somewhat more hawkish and interventionist than Obama, such as for instance Hillary Clinton, than for Paul. Some piece of the base of the Democratic Party might well feel obligated to vote for Paul over Clinton in a general election if it came to it.

Referencing the policies of the most recent Republican Administration, which was in office when I worked for IRI in East Africa, there is no reason to think that Jeb Bush, for instance, believes in the “Bush Doctrine” and certainly Ron Paul doesn’t.  Foreign policy was important in the 2008 Democratic primaries and in the 2008 general election and there was at that time a sharp perceived difference between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin over the aspects of foreign policy that were important to most voters and that difference was essential to Obama’s election.  Not so much in 2012 in either the Republican primaries or in the general election.  All presidential elections matter with great intensity for Washington foreign policy people because they decide who gets what jobs (like do you go to the State Department or stay at IRI or NDI or some think tank) and in general everyone is either Democrat or Republican and either wins completely or loses completely, heads or tails, each time.  For most American voters the relationship of parties and elections to foreign affairs is completely different.

The traditions of the Democratic and Republican foreign policy establishment in Washington are based on the Cold War, like the structure of the National Endowment of Democracy itself, with IRI and NDI along with the overseas arms of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO as its “core” “private” institutes. Relatedly this tradition and structure is also critically Eurocentric. Going on a quarter century after the fall of the Soviet Union the terms of the contest between a democratic Washington and an authoritarian Moscow are very different in Europe itself today–and much less of immediate relevance in, say, Africa. The old days of the American Democrats supporting the democratic left in Europe and the American Republicans supporting the right–both as a pro-American alternative to Soviet-aligned Communists–are interesting history that we should learn more from, but they are history.  And we are not nearly so Eurocentric now in our policies and relationships in Africa, Asia and Latin America, so we have different types of opportunities to support democracy and its related values in those regions rather than dividing everyone up as pro-Western Bloc versus pro-Eastern Bloc.

In practice today, I don’t see the Democratic Party in power in Washington really aligned with the “democratic left” in other countries, given the lack of need to shore up against Marxist/Communist forces (among other reasons) nor much particular interest in the Republican Party in supporting more rightist or conservative parties abroad per se.  Generally Republican and Democrat campaign and media consultants, like lobbyists, seem to work for whoever they come to terms with commercially in any given emerging or frontier market rather than on the basis of some coherent party related framework.

Formally, IRI and NDI are completely overlapping as they are both non-partisan.  Occasionally they are said to be “affiliated” with their respective parties, but more frequently they are said to have “no connection” to parties.  Ultimately this is simply confusing and unclear–and not really consistent with the principles that the organizations are trying to teach to others.  In Germany where the government funds overseas institutes of the parties, the law is different and the government provides funding for the parties themselves in a way that would presumably be unconstitutional in the United States.  So you don’t have a counterpart to this strange melange of “nonpartisan Republican” or “nonpartisan Democratic” even though the German organizations are said to be a model for setting up IRI and NDI back in the early 1980s.

In my personal experience, I had the clear impression that IRI was quite serious about being legally compliant in terms of the 501(c)(3) nonpartisan formalities [and this was noteworthy in an  a organization that did not have an overall compliance component at that time–I am not going to be a whistleblower or even a public critic on this but have noted that they have gotten in at least a little difficulty with the government for ignoring cost accounting regulations that I told them they shouldn’t ignore when I worked for them].  I have no reason to assume that NDI is not equally serious.  In the case of IRI, with the chairman running for president two different times during his tenure, they know that the Democrats have had incentive to catch them if they were to get tangled with a Republican campaign; and of course everything is potentially tit-for-tat in that regard for the other side.

At the same time, both parties have an incentive to make as much use of “their” respective unaffiliates as permissible on a mutally backscratching basis.  While there are certain cultural and stylistic differences in how this plays out–as any observer of the current American political scene can well imagine–I don’t think this warrants the whole separate infrastructure of two duplicate organizations.  For instance, unaffliliated Republicans could still do programming at the Republican National Convention and unaffiliated Democrats could still do programming at the Democratic National Convention even if it was under the umbrella of one unaffiliated nonpartisan organization instead of two separate unaffiliated nonpartisan organizations. And the unaffiliated Republicans could apply a conservative orientation to have programming that is solid, on-message stuff supporting the party line; and the unaffiliated Democrats could be liberal-minded and have a “soft power” approach that involves people on both sides at the convention of their side.

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Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Call with South Sudanese President Kiir

Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Call with South Sudanese President Kiir

Press Statement

Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 26, 2014

Secretary Kerry spoke today with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to express grave concern about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, including recent violence in Bentiu and Bor and the deliberate targeting of civilians by armed groups on both sides of the conflict. Secretary Kerry welcomed the Government of South Sudan’s decision to release the four senior political officials who had been in detention since December. He urged President Kiir to stop military offensives and to adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, and noted U.S. demands that anti-government forces do the same. Both Secretary Kerry and President Kiir expressed their support for the IGAD-led peace process. Secretary Kerry noted the important role played by the UN Mission in South Sudan, denounced recent attacks on UNMISS bases and personnel, and encouraged President Kiir to ensure full and unfettered access throughout South Sudan for UNMISS, the African Union Commission of Inquiry, and the IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism.

In other regional news on national unity this weekend, see “Tanzania marks 50th anniversary with mid-life crisis” from Africa Review.

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)

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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)

How is IGAD’s “diplomatic observation” regarding Kenya’s election process helpful?

Africa Review reports on the statement of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from this week’s visit to Nairobi by executive secretary Mahboub Maalim (himself a Kenyan) and others from the Addis headquarters under the headline “IGAD confident of peaceful Kenya election”:

In his statement, Mr Maalim said: “Igad has come to the conclusion that Kenya’s election is not an event. It is a process and that March 4th is not the end; it is the beginning of a process that could last till June 2013. Kenyans must therefore brace themselves for the long haul.”

Mr Maalim said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the judiciary are crucial for the success of the polls.

“The efficiency of the IEBC during the voter registration process must be lauded. We expect that the same efficiency will apply to the March 4 poll. This is critical if Kenya is to avoid petitions arising from IEBC system failure. The efficiency and believability of the Supreme Court in dealing with the presidential election petitions is also critical. This will determine whether or not the transition is successful,” the Igad executive secretary said.

He said IEBC should be encouraged to conduct a systems dry-run with peer reviewers to seal any loopholes that would affect its efficiency.

Dr Kimani said the recent party nominations in Kenya were inclusive, open and transparent and that it was what the rest of the region had expected.

Igad brings together six countries in the Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – for development and drought control in their region

“Party nominations were inclusive, open and transparent”. Wow, that is certainly a unique perspective that contradicts the reporting in the Kenyan and international press, the reporting of Kenyan civil society umbrella KPTJ, and, for example, the reporting of the Center for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya which is a well established and leading presence in Nairobi on these matters. So who is right here? Might it be relevant that IGAD is an organization of governments that are all far more “challenged” in terms of democratic practices in general, and elections specifically, than even Kenya in the wake of power-sharing and the debacle of 2007, along with the Government of Kenya itself?

I am all for whomever exhorting peace, although I am substantially skeptical that official pronouncements of this type have actual impact on ultimate behavior. Likewise, I am all for encouragement, hope and reasoned, well-grounded optimism in the context of pushing for the best election possible from where things really stand today. But this type of statement about the primaries is a “diplomatic” position rather than an observation or representation of fact. It undermines the credibility of whatever else is said in the same statement as being connected to the facts. At best it is unhelpful–it might be dangerous.

Secretary Clinton visiting South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya (including TFG meetings) on six nation Africa mission

Here is the official State Department language describing the diplomacy:

Secretary Clinton travels to South Sudan where she meets with President Kiir to reaffirm U.S. support and to encourage progress in negotiations with Sudan to reach agreement on issues related to security, oil and citizenship.

In Uganda, the Secretary meets with President Museveni to encourage strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights, while also reinforcing Uganda as a key U.S. partner in promoting regional security, particularly in regard to Somalia and in regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army. She will also highlight U.S. support in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The Secretary will then travel to Kenya where she plans to meet President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga, and other government officials to emphasize her support for transparent, credible, nonviolent national elections in 2013. To underscore U.S. support for completing the political transition in Somalia by August 20th, Secretary Clinton will also meet with President Sheikh Sharif and other signatories to the Roadmap to End the Transition.

 

 

Should the U.S. do more about corruption in South Sudan? Are there historical lessons from Kenya?

 

Alan Boswell of the McClatchy papers has an interesting story today, “U.S. not probing allegations of massive South Sudanese corruption”, highlighting a difference of opinion between Senator Leahy and the Administration about how to apply U.S. law on foreign corruption.

Travel bans are one of the few tools available to American officials to fight corruption, and U.S. law requires that they be imposed if the State Department has credible evidence that foreign officials are profiting corruptly from a country’s natural resources. The law allows for exemptions only for travel to the United Nations in New York, though an individual ban can be lifted if the reason for the banning has been corrected.

In June, the South Sudanese government admitted that it’s missing $4 billion in stolen funds, or roughly double its annual revenue since the mostly autonomous administration was established in 2005 as part of a U.S-brokered peace deal that led to South Sudan’s independence last year from Sudan. . . .

Boswell reports that the U.S. is not considering such visa bans and that Presidential Envoy Princeton Lyman has indicated that the U.S. is looking to the South Sudanese to investigate the situation themselves.

“You have to know exactly who you are going to target. It’s not exactly clear who did it,” Lyman said. “We are looking to the Sudanese to do the investigations. President Kiir has promised a vigorous anti-corruption policy and we encourage him in this direction.”

Under American law, foreign officials and their immediate family members who steal from the public treasury or display other significant corruption are ineligible to enter the United States. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the state and foreign operations subcommittee and the author of the “anti-kleptocracy” law, said he didn’t think the State Department was doing enough to find out who stole the money.

“If the State Department has such information, we expect the U.S. Embassy to determine if it is credible and to apply the law rigorously,” Leahy said.

The U.S. has known about the scale of South Sudanese corruption for some time. “From early on, I had people who knew the SPLM well citing this problem and very worried about it,” Lyman said.

Lyman said corruption wasn’t unusual in young developing countries. He pointed to the example of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who was well-known for welcoming gifts and kickbacks as part of official business.”You don’t like to see it happen, but it happens. That doesn’t excuse it,” Lyman said.

Obviously this puts the U.S. in a difficult position because of our “special relationship” with South Sudan, the tremendous other challenges the new country faces, and the ongoing brutality from Khartoum.  At the same time, it can also be argued that we have unique responsibility to address the problem because of our role in facilitating South Sudanese independence and our place on the inside through our support for the new government.

Ambassador Lyman cites Kenyatta, so what are the lessons from Kenya?  Kenyatta’s corruption begat Moi’s, which begat that within the Kibaki administrations.  In the course of fifty years after independence the U.S. and the international community as a whole never found the will to consistently stick to a strong, clear anti-corruption effort in Kenya–there have always been other priorities to intervene.  Yet Kenyatta’s heirs and cronies, and Moi and his partially overlapping set of cronies still literally own an awful lot of Kenya, and have done very well through Kibaki (who was part of the Kenyatta and Moi circles himself for many, many years).  While the press is now free enough to report scandal after scandal after scandal, and write more of the history, the deals are not undone and no one is prosecuted in almost all significant cases old and new.  While there may be some hope for the future from movement toward a more independent judiciary, the track record so far is just plain bad.  The precedent seems risky.

 

Some good reading on South Sudan’s first anniversary–Updated

From bloggers I follow:

“To mark South Sudan’s first anniversary read this” from Jina Moore is a great linked digest covering a range of perspectives.

“South Sudan’s Unhappy Anniversary” from Terah Edun

“Is a little balance too much to ask?”  and “99 problems, but Bashir ain’t one” from Roving Bandit (Lee Crawford)

. . . the core of impact evaluation; the counterfactual. Imagine what would have happened if the event we are examining had not happened. So let’s imagine for a second what would be happening in South Sudan if there had not been independence. Peace and prosperity? New schools, roads, and hospitals? There are a couple of approaches we might use to think about what would have happened. We could look at the history of South Sudan pre-independence. We could look at all of the sterling development initiatives led by indicted war criminal Bashir in the South between 1989 and 2005. All of the schools and hospitals that he built. Or we could look at some of the people still living in the North. Perhaps those who have fled their homes to hide in caves from Bashir’s bombers. Or the 100,000 who have fled to the South from Blue Nile. The counterfactual for South Sudan is not flowers and kittens, it is rule by a man wanted for five counts of crimes against humanity; murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. Happy Birthday South Sudan.

WALKING TO COLLECT WATER IN JAMAN REFUGEE CAMP–“SOUTH SUDAN, ONE YEAR AFTER . . . “
A young women walking to collect water, Jamam refugee camp
Photo by John Ferguson/Oxfam; some rights reserved by Oxfam International under Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives generic 2.0 license.

UPDATE 11 JULY–A new “must read” from Reuters:  “Special Report: the wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan” from Rebecca Hamilton.

•  Some thoughts on “Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide” (africommons.com)