In the looking glass: How USAID sees its democracy support in the 2013 Kenya Election

Thanks to a post this week from Government Executive magazine’s NextGov.com I saw that USAID has published on the web its December 2013 “Rapid Assessment Review” of USAID support for Kenya’s 2013 elections.

The post from NextGov’s Emerging Tech by Joseph Marks, “How Technology Failed to Fix Kenya’s Election”:

It’s perhaps the most common story in all of government technology: A challenge arises; new technology seems to offer the perfect solution; but something happens between concept and execution that makes that technology seem more like a culprit than a savior and that leads people to complain the old analog solution might have worked better.

That interference could come from a delayed procurement, miscommunication between different vendors, a lack of testing or training before launch or a host of other factors.

This December 2013 report from the U.S. Agency for International Development describes more than a dozen such interferences that foiled the international community’s attempts to use technology to improve outcomes in Kenya’s March 2013 elections.

.  .  .  .

Kudos to USAID for publishing this.  Although there is one major “glitch” that I will explain, the report is generally quite useful.  In particular for Kenyans who want to understand the process by which their leaders are chosen, there is much here that is not otherwise readily available to those outside the Government of Kenya itself.  Thus, Kenyans active in political parties and civil society, the media and others that are especially interested in elections will want to take time to read the whole report carefully.  Likewise for interested foreign “friends of Kenya” who hope for better elections in the future, especially those of us who are U.S. taxpayers.

The “glitch” is that the report was released with a December 31, 2013 date, which is several weeks after publication of the Carter Center’s final USAID funded Election Observation Report,  but references only a non-published June “draft final” report and the April 4 Carter Center preliminary statement.  So it appears that the report was written without reference to the actual Carter Center final report, likely inadvertently through the fact that the authors were doing this study simultaneously with the Carter Center’s work.  See my post Carter Center quietly publishes strikingly critical final report from Kenya Election Observation.

On one hand this is a fundamental problem leading to a quite critical misunderstanding. The assessment presents a quote from the Carter Center’s April 4 statement that the failure of the USAID supported Electronic Results Transmission system still left a paper tally system that was sufficiently handled to provide “enough guarantees to preserve the expression of the will of the Kenyan voters” which is contradicted by the Final Report.

Nonetheless, this is in prefatory material and the point of the assessment is not to make conclusions about the election process itself, but to self assess USAID’s programming, and a bit of a “rosy tint” that allows the whole thing to be packaged as “lessons learned” for other missions in the context of an overall “success” with various subsidiary failings may have made the difference in getting this ultimately published on the internet, with a lot of pertinent information and a fair bit of candor for a “self assessment” overall.  I am still deep in the bowels of the Freedom of Information Act legal process seeking more modest bits of information about the election support effort for 2007 as an example of what can happen within the bureaucracy when no one can claim “success”.

Please take time to read the whole thing and I will be grateful for anyone who wishes to e-mail thoughts or comments, and of course any public comments here.  I will discuss some details in various upcoming posts.

IRI Poll Releae Press Conference

 

Have ODM and TNA run their course in Kenya?

UhuRuto 2013 sign downtown
The great puzzle for those of us who have worked on “democracy promotion” or “democracy support” in Kenya has been whether there is something that can be done to assist Kenyans in building meaningful, coherent political parties that are more than amorphous vehicles for individual ambitions and a “tribal” spoils system.  The record in this regard has been discouraging.  When I was with IRI in 2007-08, one of my European counterparts of long experience explained that his organization had concluded that the effort was simply not fruitful and resources were better spent in other areas.

At this point I am afraid that we see some history repeating itself.  TNA is having difficulties with the inattention of its titular leader, President Kenyatta.  It is not hard to see TNA now as simply a vessel for Uhuru’s campaign, a means that he created to line up his core Kikuyu support when, supposedly, there was significant sentiment among the elites to find alternatives due to the difficulties of the ICC charges, and even the notion that it might be safer to chose Mudavadi or someone else who was an amenable insider but a member of another tribe.  Certainly Uhuru’s record as a party builder is not encouraging.  After being tapped as KANU leader by Moi in 2002 and losing to Kibaki he kept leadership of the party (with Ruto as a Secretary General) and was one of the leading figures in the formation of the Orange Democratic Movement as leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, campaigning against the “Wako Draft” constitution in Central Province during the November 2005 referendum.

Nonetheless, as things were shaking out to nominate a presidential candidate for the ODM side in the second half of 2007, Uhuru made the unprecedented move as leader of the parliamentary opposition to cross over to support Kibaki’s re-election.  Moi also announced his support for Kibaki in this time frame.  Uhuru kept formal control of KANU but the party was gutted as most of the potential KANU voters stuck with Ruto who formally joined ODM, contested for the nomination there and served as a key figure in the “Pentagon”.  Then Uhuru himself struck out to form TNA for the 2012-13 race.

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A Guest Post on the State of Kenya@50: “Where Did The Time Go and What Do We Have to Show For It?”

Following is a “guest post” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American now leaving Kenya after more than thirty years of Kenya’s fifty year independent history. This was originally written back in May, after the election failures but months before the Westgate fiasco, about which we learned more damning information with the report this week from the review by the NYPD:
Kenya Map at Nairobi School

It’s mid-May, do you know where your election results are?

Good question! As Kenya prepares to celebrate 50 years of Independence – and, remarkably for Africa, largely free of tribal massacres, wars, natural and/or manmade disasters, successive failed or successful military coups d’etat, vicious secret police operations or state sponsored “disappearances – this steadily failing state is increasingly unable to conduct normal run of the mill governmental functions.

The GOK was able to carry out a national census until the late 1990s, deliver mail and inland cables, find the owners of automobiles allegedly involved in traffic offenses, pay pensions, etc. The more international assistance and support for the GOK and its myriad associated agencies, parastatals, universities and authorities the faster state operations have deteriorated.

The incredible investment in “IT” prior to the 2013 General Elections was not only supposed to prevent or mitigate electoral fraud but was also a belated recognition of just how bad government administration had become.

The IEBC was unable to organize or conduct “voter education” prior to the March 4th polls and is probably unable to find all 120,000 (?) temporary workers hired for these elections; media reports indicate that election- related pay owed to the police, NYS recruits and prison warders has still not been paid.

In essence it is an amazingly foolish leap of faith to expect the IEBC to release any election results for President, Governors and members of the National Assembly and Senate. The longer these results are kept from the public the greater will be arguments that these elections were stolen; 50% of the country is already on a slow boil and the new administration is clearly not able to handle long simmering insecurity in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir Counties or in Western Kenya where criminal gangs are terrorizing the populace.

Reports of a resurgence of Mungiki in and around Nairobi as well as continuing MRC related activity in the “Coast Province” counties – including Lamu – show that the state of national insecurity is more serious than anyone will publicly admit. The heavy handed response on Tuesday, 14/05/2013, by some 400 “security personnel” drawn from the disparate forces within the “National” Police Service to only 250 noisy demonstrators – and 15 or so pigs and piglets – outside Parliament showed an usual lack of any police command and control.

Meanwhile the Obama Administration seems blissfully unaware or unconcerned of the situation in Kenya; our bureaucrats just seem to be hunkering down and covering their asses.

Reports that the police fired live ammunition to “break up the crowd of peaceful demonstrators” after tear gas and water cannon proved “ineffective” indicates a lack of discipline or concern for innocent bystanders or onlookers in offices, shops or even the carparks in the vicinity of Parliament right smack in the CBD!

The use of live ammunition to quell demonstrations in Kisumu in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on March 30th elicited little comment in the domestic media and certainly no public protests from the US Embassy. Apparently the rubber bullets procured by the NPS prior to the elections are still in their original packing?

The bottom line is that “Something’s happening here. What it is, is very clear…” To Some!

Andrew J. Franklin, J.D.
Former U.S. Marine, resident of Nairobi since March, 1981

Carter Center quietly publishes strikingly critical Final Report from Kenya Election Observation

Another reversal on a Kenya election observation? Without additional fanfare that I have picked up on, the Carter Center published on the web on October 16th their Final Report on the Election Observation Mission for Kenya’s March 4 elections.

I admit to being pleasantly surprised upon wading through the details to find much more direct acknowledgment of the shortcomings of the process, especially the tallying and reporting of results, than I would have expected from the previous media reporting on the various communications about this observation mission over the months since the vote, as well as a major change in conclusions.

Read it for yourself if you are interested in Kenyan elections and the extent to which the announced presidential result in this most recent election was or wasn’t reliable, but the bottom line here is that the Carter Center has commendably stepped back from their previous assurance from April 4, a month after the election, that “in spite of serious shortcomings” the IEBC’s improvised paper-based tally process “presented enough guarantees to preserve the expression of the will of the Kenyan voters”.  In the Final Report the tally/tabulation process is discussed in Pages 51-58, concluding in summary, “Overall, Kenya partially fulfilled its obligations to ensure that the will of the people, as expressed through the ballot box, is accurately recorded and communicated.” (p. 57).

The report itemizes and discusses five categories of “Challenges in Tabulation”:

I.  Failure of Electronic Transmission of Provisional Results

II. Inadequate Publication of Tabulation Procedures

. . . .

Therefore, the available instructions appeared to be insufficient to guarantee the integrity and accuracy of numerical tabulation. . . . (p. 54)

III. Inadequate Observer and Election Agent Access to National Tally Center

. . . .

However, the national tally center did not provide enough transparency for observers or party agents to assess the overall integrity of tally of presidential results.  Unfortunately, the Center regrets the IEBC decision to confine party agents and observers to the gallery of the national tally center, making effective and meaningful observation impossible.

The Center observed many of the same kind of discrepancies in the tally procedures that had generated so much criticism and speculation in 2007; results announced at the national tally center differed from those announced at constituency level, missing tally forms, inconsistencies between presidential and parliamentary tallies, instances of more votes than registered voters, discrepancies between turnouts of the presidential and parliamentary elections, and expulsion of party agents from the tally space at the national tally center.

. . . . (p. 54, footnotes omitted)

IV. Discrepancies Between the Published Voter Register and Announced Results

The Center’s examination of reported final results for the presidential election, recorded on form 36, showed noteworthy discrepancies. . . .  (p. 55)

V. Nonpublication of Detailed Election Results

One of Kenya’s core obligations concerns promoting transparency in elections and other public processes. . . . The Center remains concerned that the IEBC has not published detailed official results disaggregated at the polling station level. (p.55)

For more information on the Kenya election vote count, although not cited by the Carter Center, please see the audit performed by the Mars Group Kenya, noting the “missing” status of the Form 34s recording the tallies from each of 2,627 polling streams.

See Africa Confidential: “Carter’s quiet doubts“.

Previously:

*Are “free and fair” elections passé in Kenya?

*Carter Center calls it as they see it in the DRC

*Why would we trust the Kenyan IEBC vote tally when they engaged in fraudulent procurement practices for key technology?

Canadian High Commissioner misses the point in warning Kenyan politicians about ICC pullout

A diplomat has warned that the move last week by law makers to have Kenya pull out of the Rome Statute could jeopardise future search for international justice for Kenyans.

Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi David Angell said pulling out of the Rome Statute, that established the International Criminal Court (ICC), would deal a blow to any future victims of violence that Kenyan judicial system would not handle.

“Canadian envoy warns in Kenyan ICC pull-out” Daily Nation

What search for international justice? Kenya’s last Parliament did not follow suspect William Ruto’s “Don’t be vague, go to The Hague” lead out of a preference for “international” justice over trying the suspects locally–rather it was an excuse for not prosecuting anyone themselves. Likewise the last Parliament did not then turn around and vote in December 2010 to withdraw from the ICC as soon as the charges came down against Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Sang and the three others in consideration of the interests of “justice”. If the members of Kenyatta and Ruto’s Jubilee coalition who voted again to withdraw from the ICC on the eve of Ruto’s trial were in the least concerned about a “search for international justice” for victims of election violence–past or present–they would not have done so.

Kenyatta and Ruto as KANU leaders were on the side of election violence in Kenya in 1992 and 1997 and they certainly have not done anything to express remorse or “search for justice”–international or otherwise–for the victims. The very idea that there should be such a search for justice for victims of electoral violence is an affront to the political order in Kenya and on this Kenyatta and Ruto can easily circle the parliamentary wagons against the threat to their private sovereignty and that of their cohort.

The High Commissioner ought to appreciate that he is speaking to an audience which has, over many years, shown that it takes these thing deadly seriously. If the Canadians want to step into the current diplomatic vacuum in Nairobi to address the situation, I certainly applaud the intention, but they if they want to have influence they need to speak of things that their audience cares about.

Party hardly? [but buy these books . . .]

A quick plug for Sebastian Elisher’s new book Political Parties in Africa: Ethnicity and Party Formation from Cambridge University Press. The cover photo is one of my shots from Kenya’s election day in Kibera in 2007. Pre-order now for release on September 30.

Political Parties in Africa: Ethnicity and Party Formation

Likewise, the paperback is just out from one of the other Oxbridge publishers for “From Parties to Protest: Party Building and Democratization in Africa”, last year’s African Studies Association award-winner from my friend Adrienne LeBas. 

The great thing about books about Kenyan political parties:  the books and the analysis are always more substantial than the parties themselves.  I will hope to develop this theme further and discuss both books here later in the year.  In the meantime, enjoy your choice of hard or soft power publishing.

“Choosing Peace Over Democracy”

“Kenya’s 2013 Elections: Choosing Peace Over Democracy” has been published in the new Journal of Democracy by James D. Long, Karuti Kanyinga, Karen E. Ferrer and Clark Gibson.  Important and worthwhile reading for anyone interested in Kenyan politics or democratic process in Africa or the developing world more generally.

This is the first of formal publications using the exit poll and other polling data that were presented by Professors Gibson and Long at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS on May 2 and widely covered in the Kenyan media.  See my post with the video:
“Fraud and Vote Patterns in Kenya’s 2013 Election: Evidence from an Exit Poll”–Gibson and Long event in Washington Thursday.

Long and Gibson were the researchers who also carried out the 2007 IRI/USAID/UCSD Kenyan exit poll that showed an opposition victory.

Voting Procedure

134 days after election, Kenya’s IEBC fails to produce election results in Parliament

Daily Nation, July 16, “IEBC fails to submit final poll tally” :

The electoral commission failed to furnish Parliament with the final results of the March 4 General Election Tuesday amid claims that some commissioners refused to sign the report.

 

The commission was expected to submit the final tally to the Justice and Legal Affairs committee at a meeting scheduled with the team at Parliament Buildings Tuesday. The committee was to relay the report to Parliament.

 

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan and chief executive James Oswago appeared before the committee but were turned away after the chairman indicated that the tally was not ready for submission as per the request from Parliament. . . .

Here is the Standard story.

 

“The long, long vote count” –new reporting from Kenya in Africa Confidential

Election Observers

The new “free article” from this month’s Africa Confidential says better what I have been getting at about the extraordinary delay in releasing the results from the Kenyan election, along with new independent reporting on the facts:

. . . In the longer term, such doubts could prompt a re-evaluation of foreign election monitoring missions in Africa. Some on the European Union mission, for example, had serious doubts about the integrity of the process, but it quickly endorsed Kenyatta’s election. By that stage, the EU had contributed more than 50 million euros (US$66 mn.) to the cost of the elections, reckoned to total over $400 mn. One diplomat in Nairobi joked that it was a case of ‘responsibility without power’, meaning that the EU would be blamed for a messy result due to its financial involvement but had no power to change anything.

The IEBC found that a million more votes were cast in the presidential election than in any other, Africa Confidential has learned, although all were held on the same day. Opposition and civil society activists have raised questions about such discrepancies for several months.

An unnamed electoral commissioner quoted in the Nairobi daily The Star appears to confirm their suspicions: ‘We are having sleepless nights reconciling the presidential results and those of the other positions. Over a million votes must be reconciled with the others and if the requirement is not changed, then it will cast the IEBC in a negative light.’

Kenyatta’s supporters reject the concerns, arguing that it is natural that voters were more worried about selecting the national president than candidates for other positions. Few neutrals see this as credible. In the past, dramatically higher turnouts in presidential elections than in others on the same day have been taken as a sign of ballot-box stuffing.

It seems far-fetched that over a million Kenyans would queue for several hours to vote and then ignore all of the ballots apart from the presidential one, especially since there was great excitement about the contests for new, powerful positions such as senator and governor. None of the many election observers we asked said they had seen significant numbers of voters putting a ballot paper in the presidential box but not the others.

. . . .

Please read the whole piece; this is important for the future of Kenya and for future elections everywhere.

 

[Updated June 3] “Kenya’s Elections: Observing the observers”

The new June issue of Africa in Fact published by Good Governance Africa based in South Africa has an article, “Kenya’s Elections: Observing the observers” by Mienke Mari Steytler.  I hope you will take time to read it.

The article included some observations on the work of the Election Observation Missions from interviews in Nairobi with yours truly as an independent consultant and responses and comments from others.  Here is one example:

The EU and the Commonwealth missions are also known for their independence and diplomacy, but others—particularly groups representing intergovernmental bodies—are less critical and independent, according to Mr Flottman. The AU mission had 69 observers and visited 400 polling stations throughout the country. The IGAD/ EAC/COMESA coalition deployed 55 observers to this year’s election.

Kenya is a member of the AU, IGAD, the EAC and COMESA, and they share geopolitical interests. Mr Flottman emphasised that observer missions representing the regional groupings are unlikely “to challenge any position of government”. For instance, the IGAD coalition mission declared the party nominations stage a success, Mr Flottman said. “They said the primaries were good. This is a nonsense statement. No one said that, come on.”

“Observer missions from the AU, SADC [Southern African Development Community], EAC, ECOWAS [Economic Community Of West African States]…because they are intergovernmental bodies, there is the ‘you rub my back, I’ll rub yours’ approach to certifying elections,” EISA’s Mr Owuor said, supporting Mr Flottman’s view. “In other words they were not very critical in an effort not to offend the current government.”

 

Update: on the issue of the use of the term “free and fair”, see The Star, “March 4 polls free, fair – EU”:

EUROPEAN Union election observers have said that the March 4 general elections in Kenya were “overally successful, free and fair” despite reported flaws.

They have however said the processing of the final results by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “lacked the necessary transparency as party agents and election observers were not given adequate access to the tallying centres”.

Speaking yesterday in Nairobi while releasing the final report, EU elections observation mission chief observer Alojz Peterle said there are several lessons from the difficulties that arose during the process.

 

Here is the link to the entire issue for pdf download:  Africa in Fact:  June 2013–Elections: Make Them Count.

So who is “Good Governance Africa”?  Here is an interview by Africa in Fact editor Constanza Montana of John Endres, CEO of this “new kid on the block” of organizations working to improve governance in Africa.

Update:  See also this recent piece from Think Africa Press by Dr. Judith Kelley at Duke: “Watching the Watchmen: The Role of Election Observers in Africa”:

. . . There are certainly sometimes questions about the conduct of outside observers.

Elections in Kenya unfortunately often provide a case in point and the latest is no exception. The EU monitors have been dragging their feet, with their final report now overdue. EU observer mission spokesman, Peter Visnovitz, reportedly promised the report would be made public by 4 May, but we are still waiting. Furthermore, in its initial press release (before the counting was complete), the EU was positive despite noting that the biometric voting process disenfranchised more than 3 million voters.

Why is the EU taking so long for its final assessment? The Kenyan Star claims that an internal report revealed strong reservations about the processing of the results. Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group (ICG) noted numerous problems and criticised the swiftness with which international observer groups pronounced all well in Kenya’s vote.

Earlier commotion around international observers in Kenya includes their muted response to the problems in the 1992 election; the mission was eager to send positive signals to calm fears of upheavals and resume aid. Their conduct in Kenya’s 2007 election also drew criticism from the UN Independent Review Commission; the body reported that monitors had at times based their claims on misunderstandings.

Time for an African solution?

International observers are clearly not perfect. But the final part of Obasanjo’s argument – that cure for the problem is for African monitoring groups to take over from international missions – rests on equally shaky grounds.

It is true that African groups have become more active. The AU, SADC, ECOWAS, and the electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA), among others, all now feature election observer missions. The AU started as far back as 1989, and the other groups have joined in the last 10 years or so.

That, however, is where the argument stalls. By and large, these groups are not ready to take over as the sole option for election observation on the continent. They have limited resources and experience, their sponsors or member-states are often not particularly democratic themselves, and most importantly, because these organisations are even more embroiled in politics on the continent, they are often more biased than non-African observers.