Carter Center release; Initial observations on the “Frazer v. Carson” controversy

The Carter Center 2013 EOM Pre-Election Statement was released today based on the work so far of 14 long term observers, who will later be joined by short term observers from 19 countries. Not surprisingly, the Statement has no particular revelations pro or con for those following the election situation. While it primarily exhorts good future behavior, the statement generally praises the IEBC on its internal preparatory work while stressing concerns about the adequacy of voter education to date. It praises the IEBC’s willingness to work with judiciary, while noting the huge volume of cases that might arise from election challenges. Discussion of security seems to me quite generic under the circumstances, but read it for yourself.

The environment for comment from “outsiders” is difficult given the growing tension in the closing days of the campaign. With yesterday’s incident with an American academic/investor who was a George W. Bush administration Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs accusing the serving American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs of “essentially meddling” in the Kenyan election for noting that while Kenyans should freely elect their choice of candidates such choices did have “consequences” in their external relationships, I would think it becomes that much more challenging for the Carter Center or other observers to push on any particular pre-election issues.

My initial reaction to Jendayi Frazer’s high profile “denouncement” of her successor is to say that while I would strongly defend Ms. Frazer’s right as a private citizen in the United States to dissent from and critique American foreign policy (as I have done myself), I personally think her comments were quite unfortunate under the circumstances. To me, if her concern was to try to improve on American performance by criticizing current officials’ actions, she would have done better to hold her tongue in public for less than two weeks until the vote was over. The timing of her attack on Johnnie Carson, combined with her specific characterization of the ICC’s case against Uhuru Kenyatta, in the context of her own highly controversial role in 2007-08 in the last election, could suggest that perhaps Ms. Frazer herself was seeking to be a public player in the Kenyan campaign rather than advocating for “non-interference”.

Part of the situation here is that Frazer has a bully pulpit by virtue of her time in the government position before Carson was appointed to serve the current administration. When she speaks in this way, as a practical matter she is identified in the media and otherwise primarily as a recent former senior appointee in the State Department, rather than as someone launching business enterprises, as a professor or any other role or roles that she may play as a private citizen in the context of East Africa today, as opposed to her role five years ago.

More to the point for me is how disappointing Frazer’s statement is for people in Kenya who have supported the rights of the victims of the 2007-08 post-election violence and supported “the reform agenda” and the long, hard and dangerous work of seeking some small measure of justice in whatever legal venue. Kenya is in fact a member of the ICC even if the United States is not; the ICC is involved only because Kenya’s parliament, including Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, voted “don’t be vague, go to the Hague”. Kenya’s government committed to cooperate with the ICC before what Frazer calls a weak case was in fact confirmed to go forward to trial by the Court.

Given that the United States is again the leading donor in the $100 million effort to support the Kenyan election process, I personally don’t think that Carson’s statement was outside the boundaries of appropriate diplomacy in the context of the characterization of the President’s immediately proceeding statement being given in the Kenyan campaign, vis-a-vis the statements of the European donors. There is really no precedent that fits the situation with the Kenyan election and the candidates facing ICC trial and I doubt anyone is very clear about what the consequences of electing an ICC indictee as president would be — but it doesn’t seem controvertible to me to note that there would certainly be some.

Consolidating lasting benefits from “liberation” of Kismayu . . .

Ken Menkhaus addresses governance in liberated Kismayo in “Somalia’s Sarajevo” in Foreign Policy:

Since the onset of state collapse and civil war in 1991, Kismayo has been Somalia’s Sarajevo — a chronically contested city, at times half-emptied by armed conflict, at other times bloated with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. It has changed hands many times over the past two decades but has always been in the control of warlords or jihadists and has never enjoyed a day of good governance. Rival Somali clans in Jubbaland — the region of southern Somalia where Kismayo is located — have never been able to agree on how to share the city and have repeatedly fought over it. Even al-Shabab suffered an internal armed battle over control of the seaport in 2008. Thanks to years of political violence, Kismayo has a well-earned reputation as the most difficult and dangerous place for aid agencies to operate in all of Somalia.

This history of violence and instability is tragic, as the city has the potential to be one of the most commercially vibrant, cosmopolitan urban centers in Somalia. The city’s main value is as the site of an international airport and an all-weather seaport near the Kenyan border. Proximity to the large Kenyan market makes trade through Kismayo’s port very attractive; the seaport alone generates lucrative customs revenue for whoever controls it.

. . . .

Kenya, IGAD, Mohamud, and the local political players tapped to administer Kismayo should meet in Mogadishu and quickly negotiate the terms of a provisional administration over the city. This negotiation should acknowledge the sovereignty of the new government, recognize that the new government currently lacks the means to directly administer newly liberated space, and set clear timetables and limits on the authority of a city administration that will be explicitly provisional in nature. At a minimum, this will buy some time until the new Somali national government can form a complete cabinet and address the urgent question of how local or regional administrations are to be formed in newly liberated zones.

President Hassan addressed these issues while traveling within Somalia to visit the site of flooding in Beledweyne, as reported by Garowe Online:

Answering a question about the southern port of Kismayo, President Hassan said: “I share my congratulations with Somali National Forces, local forces and AMISOM forces who jointly took control of Kismayo. It is very important that Kismayo gets a civilian administration soon and we are working on this.”

Diplomatic sources in Nairobi told Garowe Online that President Hassan sent a letter to the Kenyan Government last month, urging Nairobi to steer clear of efforts to establish an administration for the Jubba regions of southern Somalia, where Kismayo is located.

One source added: “President Hassan is pushing the sovereignty card and telling Kenya to allow his government the lead in establishing a local administration. However, there is a difference between the type of administration, with President Hassan wanting to appoint a provincial administration similar to Bay and Hiran regions, while there is a consultative process underway in Kenya over the past year to establish a ‘Jubaland’ state administration, in line with Somalia’s federal constitution.”

Assistant Secretary of State Carson set out U.S. priorities and intentions on Somalia more generally in a Monday foreign press briefing:

Somalia is a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself. Over the past 12 months we have seen the completion of the transitional roadmap ending the TFG and creating a new Somali Government. For the first time in nearly two decades, Somalia has a new provisional constitution. It has a newly selected parliament which is half the size of the former parliament and comprises some 18 percent women and whose membership is comprised of some 60 percent university graduates. There’s been a new speaker selected and a new president elected. Great progress has been achieved in Somalia, and this is in large measure because of the combined efforts of IGAD, the African Union, the UN and the international community, and especially the United States.

At this meeting, we heard from Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and it was broadly agreed that the international community would support the new emphasis in priorities of the government.

For our part in Washington, we are determined to do three things. One is to help the new government put in place the infrastructure so that it can run effectively. This means helping to create effective government ministries, have those ministries staffed with effective civil servants and advisors so that they can carry out their government functions.

The second is to help to create a new Somali national army, an army that is subservient to civilian and constitutional control, an army that is able to work alongside of AMISOM and take on increasingly new responsibilities that are much broader than anything AMISOM has been equipped and manned to do. But creating a new strong Somali army, to eventually replace AMISOM is a second priority. And third priority is to provide assistance to the government so that it can deliver services to the people so that it can rebuild and refurbish and re-staff schools, hospitals, and medical clinics, provide assistance so that it can begin to deal with some of its smaller infrastructure issues, providing clean water to populations, helping to restore electrical power and also opening up markets. We also want to help in developing small enterprise and microcredit operations to help the government as well.

So we will be working there. As I said, Secretary Clinton was there. We think Somalia has made enormous progress. We also believe there has been significant military progress against al-Shabaab. AMISOM deserves an enormous amount of credit in driving al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and its environs and also moving against the city of Kismayo. Much credit for the operations in Kismayo go to the Kenyan forces who were a part of AMISOM, but we must praise the leadership of the Ugandan commanders who have led the AMISOM mission over the last four years. But Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya all deserve credit, and they will soon be joined by forces arriving literally today and tomorrow from Sierra Leone to help strengthen AMISOM. But the international community has been in unison with IGAD and the AU, and the U.S. has been a significant and major contributor to this effort.

Reporting on Carson talk with African reporters on Wikileaks–”husbands talking about in-laws”

Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson spoke from Washington with reporters gathered at embassy locations in Africa. The Saturday Monitor reports from Kampala on the message on the leaks:

. . . .

“They are a snapshot in time but do not reflect the totality of the interests we have.” Wikileaks yesterday dumped more dossiers on African leaders on its website, indicating for instance that Mr Jerry Lanier, the US ambassador in Kampala, notified his superiors in Washington last October, a month after taking his posting here, that President Museveni has “autocratic tendencies”.

Asked during yesterday’s teleconference if he felt embarrassed by the disclosures, Ambassador Carson who spoke from Washington D.C., without offering direct apology described Uganda’s relations with his country as “deep and complex”.

He said: “It is a relationship which we value and we are working to strengthen. We will continue to carry on our relationship with Uganda in the manner which is designed to promote our mutual interest and advance our policy objectives.”

He, however, said the leaks were akin to a husband’s secret, uncharitable remarks about an in-law being made public.
Mr Lanier did not attend the teleconference held at the US Kampala Mission in Nsambya, a city suburb.

Ambassador Carson demanded Uganda holds a “free, fair and open” ballot next year on a level playing field.
“The period for stealing African elections is over. Theft of elections should not be part of the democratic (practice).

This should be a lesson to the whole of Africa,” he said, referring to the hung situation in Ivory Coast where both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Allasane Ouattara claim to have won the presidential re-run.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Carson yesterday flagged strengthening democracy, supporting economic growth, addressing public health, conflict prevention and tackling transnational threats such as terrorism, human and drug-trafficking as priority areas of engagement with Africa.

* Another interesting link today: new discussion from CFR on “Smarter Measures in Fight Against Piracy”

High level U.S. Delegation carries requests to Museveni on fair elections and Iran sanctions

Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was joined by the acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Security Affairs and Non-proliferation, and by General “Kip” Ward, AFRICOM Commander, in meeting Wednesday with Ugandan President Museveni. According to the Daily Monitor the U.S. was requesting that Museveni agree to reconstitute the Ugandan Electoral Commission ahead of next year’s election and support a U.S. draft resolution on Iran sanctions with Uganda’s current vote on the UN Security Council.

Museveni rejected the request regarding the Electoral Commission. Inter-Party Cooperation (“IPC”), the grouping of four opposition parties, has said that it will boycott next year’s elections if the composition of the Electoral Commission is not reconfigured. No word on the answer on the U.N. sanctions vote but it doesn’t sound positive.

On the electoral issues, The New Vision reports:

Museveni advised the delegation and other foreigners, who are approached by the “opportunistic” opposition members about Uganda’s problems to always, offer them a cup of coffee and send them back because Uganda has structures that can solve its problems.

On international issues:

Museveni challenged Americans to give him concrete evidence that the Iranians are developing nuclear weapons and that they have refused to comply with the regulations.

On Somalia, the President said there was need to take tougher action against the terrorists and ensure a roadmap towards elections so that the Somali people recover their sovereignty from the gunmen.

Discussing the Sudan issue, the Americans assured Museveni of their commitment to full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Carson said they were preparing for the eventual outcome of the referendum expected to take place in April next year.

Carson’s immediate predecessor at the Africa Bureau, Jendayi Frazer, is with the Whitaker Group, the lobbyists for the Museveni government in Washington.

Washington and Nairobi

House Committee on Foreign Affairs March 24 hearing: “An Overview of US Policy in Africa”. Johnnie Carson’s prepared statement.

Carson refers to “flawed elections in places like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Kenya” and notes the importance of upcoming elections.

Over the next two years, 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa will hold elections. We encourage those governments to get it right. To level the playing field, clean up the voter rolls, open up the media, count the votes fairly, and give democracy a chance.

To stay abreast of developments in these important contests I’ve instituted a monthly meeting with NGO’s to discuss upcoming elections, including sharing experiences and best practices, and ensuring that scarce resources are equitably spread throughout the continent.

In Kenya, for example, which is scheduled to hold elections in 2012, we have redoubled our efforts to strengthen democracy and governance in the wake of 2007-2008 post-election violence. Our multi-year investment in strengthening Parliament continues to show strong results: as a result of U.S. institutional capacity building and material support, Parliamentary business is now broadcast live across the country to an eager and interested audience. We also co-hosted, in conjunction with the strong assistance of the House Democracy Partnership, Members of Parliament in order that they benefit from the experience of their peers here on Capitol Hill. As part of our efforts to empower independent voices in Kenya, we sponsored the National Youth Forum, which brought together leaders from all youth-oriented civil society groups to work jointly on democracy and reform initiatives. On the other hand, the Secretary warned that there will be “no business as usual” with those who impede democratic progress. This is not an idle threat as we already revoked the visas of selected high-ranking government officials and sent warning letters to others.

We will continue to work with, support, and recognize Africans who support democracy and respect for human rights. This includes working with governments, local NGOs, and international actors to highlight concerns such as security force abuses, infringements on civil liberties, prison conditions, corruption, and discrimination against persons due to their sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, back in Kenya Macharia Gaitho writes in The Nation about the start of voter registration and the fear and skepticism faced by citizens when they hear the politicians extol the process–Kenyans Must Be Promised Peaceful Elections in the Future.

A common thread is that registering to vote will only be worthwhile if there is a true and honest account of what went wrong in 2007; and if there is rock-solid assurance that the elections will never go so badly again.

State Dept Press Conference in Rome to Respond to Media Reports on Somalia–Carson speaks to NY Times piece

The State Department held a press conference Friday in Rome (and quickly released the transcript) with Asst. Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Ambassador to the UN Mission in Rome Ertharin Cousin to respond to media reports about US Somalia policy. In response to the first question, from the AP, to be specific about the media they were responding to, Amb. Carson said:

the most prominent article was one that appeared approximately a week ago in The New York Times, written by Jeff Gettleman, and I think co-authored by one of his colleagues, which asserted or carried the assertion that the U.S. Government had military advisors assisting and aiding the TFG, that the U.S. Government was, in fact, helping to coordinate the strategic offensive that is apparently underway now, or may be underway now, in Mogadishu, and that we were, in effect, guiding the hand and the operations of the TFG military. All of those are incorrect. All of those do not reflect the accuracy of our policy, and all of those need to be refuted very strongly. I think my statement clearly outlined what we are doing and why we are doing it.

In a nutshell, Carson is saying that the US strongly endorses the TFG; the TFG is a reflection of the “Djibouti peace process”; that the “Djibouti peace process” is an African-initiated process supported by the IGAD and “the key states in the region” as well as the African Union, and the EU and the other various international powers that be–along with the US. BUT, don’t blame us for whatever the TFG is talking about doing, or is in the process of doing, militarily to escalate an offensive against the extremist Al-Shabaab. (“However, the United States does not plan, does not direct, and does not coordinate the military operations of the TFG, and we have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives. Further, we are not providing nor paying for military advisors for the TFG. There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia.”)

As for details of US spending:

But with respect to U.S. support for AMISOM, the United States, as a member of the Contact Group and as a member of the international community, has provided something in the neighborhood of $185 million over the last 18 or 19 months.[2] And that is in support of the AMISOM peacekeeping effort – Uganda, primarily, but Burundi and Djibouti as well. Funding going to the TFG from the United States has been substantially smaller, and that number is approximately $12 million over the last fiscal year.[3] So the amounts of money that we are talking about are really relatively small. [the footnotes say that Carson's figure for AMISOM is cumulative to 2007; that Djiboutian troops aren't there yet; and that the $12M to the TFG is "in kind" with about $2M in direct cash]

In other words, we spend most of our money on the military peacekeeper mission.  Short press conference, no follow up on this.  Like, why so little money for the TFG when we so strongly endorse it rhetorically?

On TFG requests for US military assistance:

I have not, in my office, received any formal or informal request from the TFG for airstrikes or operations in support of the offensive that may be underway right now. I have seen newspaper comments of TFG leaders responding to questions that have been posed to them about whether they would be willing to accept outside support. But we have not received any, I have not received any, my office has not received any requests for airstrikes or air support or people on the ground to assist the TFG in its operations. The TFG military operations are the responsibilities of the TFG government.

That seems quite clear, and explicitly narrow.

On the Somalia Monitoring Group report leaked to the NY Times about the diversion of food aid, no claim that the report itself is inaccurate or that the reporting is inaccurate.  The report will be reviewed by the Security Council next week.  The issues are not new.  The World Food Program has taken some action in the recent past.  The World Food Program board decided just this morning that it would apply and follow all its policies in Somalia. The World Food Program follows its policies in all countries, etc, etc. . . .

Kenyan Constitutional Reform and Michel Martin interview with Johnnie Carson

NPR’s Michel Martin interviewed Obama’s Asst. Secretary of State for Africa last week on “Tell Me More”–transcript is up on NPR.org.

Interesting that Martin starts with Kenya and the second anniversary of the election violence.  Carson is very specific that Kenya needs a new constitution and that it needs to include “a sharing of power” between “the” president and “the” prime minister, devolution of power to the provinces, and “a land reform bill”.  This raises the question of what the US role might be in moving the constitutional negotiation in that direction–and why.

Also significant is that Carson specifies the new constitution in the context of increased “goodwill and cooperation” among the current Kenyan political players.  Nothing said about impunity, the ICC, justice, corruption, et al.

Personally, I am more interested in “power sharing” between branches of government than in having a shared executive role, which in my view doesn’t do much for accountability.  I’m old enough to remember (from junior high school days) the brief flirtation with the idea of a Ford and Reagan “co-presidency” at the Republican Party convention.  Seems like everyone ended up agreeing it just wasn’t workable here.  It’s hard to make this succeed as a compromise deal negotiated between two individuals; not sure it isn’t harder to come up with a way to structure it systemically as a permanent choice in the constitution.

Land reform is crucial, of course, and the problem gets worse and worse as the population grows at a 2.7% clip–but the present Kenyan instutitions and the present crop of political leaders are, to my way of thinking, “no how, no way” ready, willing or able to tackle this until other reforms are effectuated.  Start by admitting that the problems are, in fact, unfixable and have no good solutions.  There is a price to be paid for all those years of corruption, venality and tribalism.  I wonder what the United States and other Western countries were doing about this back when the Kenyan population was 20 million instead of 40 million and the options were better? 

Regardless of any of the policy preferences of any of us in the US, however, I do completely agree that Kenyans need the opportunity to have the constitutional reform process move forward at pace, and go to vote in a referendum on the final product.  It seems to me that Kenyans are pretty well aware at this point that, in general, the political leadership does not have their best interests all that much in mind–giving the public the opportunity to have a direct say, for the first time since December 27, 2007 is crucial to restoring functional democracy.