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

 

Kenya: Security, Corruption, Terror and Elections (and Railroads)

Nairobi Station - Rift Valley Railways

Nairobi Station – Rift Valley Railways

“On Security, Corruption and Terror Attacks” from the Mzalendo blog:

The link between corruption and the country’s susceptibility to is also recognised in the Parliamentary Report on the Inquiry into the Westgate and other attacks in Mandera in North Eastern and Kilifi in the Coastal Region. The report mentions systemic corruption and the link to terror attack stating:

“Corruption has greatly led to the vulnerability of the country in many cases including where immigration officials are compromised thus permitting ‘aliens’ who could be terrorists to enter the country and acquire identification. This enables terrorists ease of movement and are therefore able to plan and execute attacks without the fear of discovery. Further compromising of security officials enables ‘suspected individuals’ to fail to pursue suspected terrorists and enable them to secure early release when caught or reported in suspicious criminal activities.”

Of the link between Kenyan troops in Somalia and the increase in terror attacks in the country the report states, “It should also be interrogated why other countries such as Ethiopia and Burundi who had earlier sent troops to Somalia have not been attacked by the al-shaabab. Tanzania has also not suffered any terrorist attacks after the 1998 bombings. Is it because our security forces are weak, in-disciplined and easily corruptible?”

The report makes further note of nationwide systemic failure on the part of the Immigration Services Department, Department of Refugee Affairs; and Registration of Persons Department, also “rampant corruption by security officers and other government agents,” and  further that, “police officers are corrupt and lax too. They work in cahoots with alShabaab and are paid to pass information to the latter.”

Last week National Assembly rejected the Joint Committees report and the recommendations made therein. However questions and issues in the report raised with regards to the link between corruption and terrorism still remain.

AfriCOG report: Election Day 2013 and its Aftermath:

In commemoration of this historic election, the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) presents its own findings related to election day and its aftermath in this report. In line with its commitment to promote permanent vigilance by citizens over public life and public institutions, AfriCOG provides an account of voters’experiences at the polling station. In addition, the report details the counting, tallying and results transmission procedures, noting the varied problems associated with these procedures. Overall, in contrast to many observer reports, AfriCOG finds that the failure of electoral technology made it impossible to verify the manual counts of election results. This was compounded by a wide array of problems at the polling station, ranging from names missing from the voters’ register to voter bribery.

To conclude, AfriCOG recommends a series of reforms to ensure that future elections live up to constitutional standards for transparency and verifiability.

And “TransCentury sells Rift Valley Railways stake to Citadel”.  The RVR saga continues, alongside the SGR saga.

Jubilee at 1; Kenya at 50 1/4

Half a Crossing

Africa Confidential‘s free article this month gives the best overall summary of the state of the Kenya government a year after Uhuru and Ruto took office, “A Year of Living Precariously”

Crime, inflation and grand corruption have risen sharply in the last year. Expectations of an economic take-off have dimmed since the cheers that greeted Kenyatta’s disputed election victory. The government has incurred new debt and inflated the public wage bill against a background of falling tourism revenue – the result of the Westgate terrorist attack and Islamist activity on the coast. Beside concern about loans from China and elsewhere, mostly for infrastructure expansion, there are worries about the growing cost of the new, devolved counties.

As for the environment in which to address these challenges, AC says “the politics of sycophancy reminiscent of President Daniel arap Moi’s era [are] now in full flow”.

Of course the most immediate critical issue on the referenced infrastructure projects involving Chinese loans is the construction of a new, “from scratch”, Standard Gauge Railroad. Renowned Kenyan economist David Ndii here explains why the project is far too expensive to make economic sense in lieu of renovating the existing railroad:

Part of the other side of corruption and maladministration in Kenya’s fiscal crisis is exposed in a gutsy report from The Standard this week, “Revealed: How Karuturi got away with denying Kenya millions in taxes“.

And from the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Digest: “Kenya Declares Human Rights ‘Subversive’”.

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.

Continue reading

A Better Story from Kenya and the United States

I may be overdue to write about the problems with current Standard Gauge Railroad project and the latest on the Rift Valley Railroad saga, and of course the new payments by the Kenyan government on the alleged debts from the Anglo Leasing scandal are crying out for more attention. And there is the critical issue in Kenya of the Turkana drought. But I’m more overdue to write about some good people doing good things that can actually make a positive difference and I need to gush a bit about a great experience I’ve had this week.

Growers Alliance Coffee

Since I have been involved in political controversy and deal with sensitive topics here, I avoid writing about my old friends who are working in Kenya in missionary or development work because I don’t want to unintentionally create any association with my personal political views. But this week, I have gotten a chance to meet and start to get acquainted with a Kenyan couple here in Florida who are doing exciting things in trade and business and humanitarian mission, and we connected through coffee here in the U.S., not through anything political, so I think I can give them a little plug without giving them any “guilt by association”.

I’ll just let Martin Kabaki and Purity Gikunju tell the story of starting the Growers Alliance coffee company in their own words from the website:

Growers Alliance was started by Martin and Purity who grew up on separate coffee farms in Kenya. After moving to live in the United States, they were shocked to see $4 latte cups while coffee growers back in their Kenyan village earn a meager 15 cents for a whole pound of their harvest green coffee beans. In a twist of luck and coincidence, Martin and Purity met each other for the first ever at a coffee conference in Seattle. After discovering each other’s passion (and romance ….we have a beautiful son whose name is Steve) in highlighting the plight of the poor coffee growers in Kenya, they decided to start their own coffee company that would be different from any other. They formed Growers Alliance which is perhaps the only coffee company in America that is owned by actual coffee growers and whose goal is to cut out the several unnecessary middle men and coffee cartels. This helps to empower the poor coffee growers with better prices for their coffee crop and better living standards.

They have been at this for several years now and have really made progress. The Growers Alliance Kenya coffee is sold at Whole Foods and at the major Southeastern U.S. regional supermarket chains Publix and Winn Dixie (the picture above is from the shelf at my local Winn Dixie store).

Beyond the coffee business, which seems exactly the kind of thing that Kenyans need for sustainable steady improvement in economic circumstances, Martin and Purity are engaged in charitable enterprises that have “synergies” with Growers Alliance. First, Growers Alliance drills and maintains artesian wells in areas near coffee farms in Embu to provide safe water. The second is unique and deserves some explanation.

Martin was looking at the opportunity to return ship something from the U.S. to Kenya after the import of the coffee. This ultimately turned into a dialysis clinic in Naivasha, stocked with refurbished machines donated by a foundation in the United States. Unfortunately as Martin and Purity came to learn from their close interaction with the farming communities back home, diabetes and hypertension are increasing with changes in diet and lifestyle in Kenya, not just in the cities, but in the villages as well. With lack of early diagnosis and treatment, this leads to kidney damage and a growing critical need for dialysis–outstripping the facilities available from the public health infrastructure. Martin’s parents who were living in the U.S. returned to Kenya to run the clinic.

Martin and Purity are delightful people who are making things happen. The Kenya coffee, as I can attest, is superior, very competitively priced and easily ordered online at www.growersalliance.com. And check out the gala Kenyan dinner to raise funds for the Kijiji Dialysis Center and Embu wells upcoming on May 4.

Five years after Oscar Foundation murders, Kenya is a “place where human rights defenders can be murdered with impunity”

The fifth anniversary of the “gangland style” execution of Oscar Foundation head Oscar Kingara and his associate John Paul Oulu in their car near State House in Nairobi falls this year on Ash Wednesday.  From the New York Times report the next day:

“The United States is gravely concerned and urges the Kenyan government to launch an immediate, comprehensive and transparent investigation into this crime,” the American ambassador to Kenya, Michael E. Ranneberger, said in a statement on Friday. It urged the authorities to “prevent Kenya from becoming a place where human rights defenders can be murdered with impunity.” (emphasis added)

The slain men, Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu, had been driving to a meeting of human rights activists when unidentified assailants opened fire. No arrests have been reported.

Last month, the two activists met with Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and provided him with “testimony on the issue of police killings in Nairobi and Central Province,” Mr. Alston said in a statement issued in New York on Thursday.

“It is extremely troubling when those working to defend human rights in Kenya can be assassinated in broad daylight in the middle of Nairobi,” Mr. Alston said.

Mr. Alston visited Kenya last month and said in a previous statement that killings by the police were “systematic, widespread and carefully planned.”

.  .  .  .

Unfortunately, in these five years nothing has been done about the murders, and no action was taken on the underlying issue of widespread extrajudicial killings by the police.  Kenya in fact proved itself to be a place where human rights defenders can be murdered with impunity.  The government spokesman who made inflammatory (and baseless according to the embassy) attacks on the victims just before the killings is now a governor, and the Attorney General who stood out as an impediment to prosecuting extrajudicial killing (and was banned from travel to the U.S.) is a Senator. (See also the State Department’s Kenya Country Report on Human Rights Practices, 2013)

Below is the March 19, 2009 statement to the Congressional Record by Senator Russ Feingold who is now the President’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the DRC, courtesy of the Mars Group:

Mr. President, two human rights defenders, Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu, were murdered in the streets of Nairobi, Kenya two weeks ago. I was deeply saddened to learn of these murders and join the call of U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger for an immediate, comprehensive and transparent investigation of this crime. At the same time, we cannot view these murders simply in isolation; these murders are part of a continuing pattern of extrajudicial killings with impunity in Kenya. The slain activists were outspoken on the participation of Kenya’s police in such killings and the continuing problem of corruption throughout Kenya’s security sector. If these and other underlying rule of law problems are not addressed, there is a very real potential for political instability and armed conflict to return to Kenya.

In December 2007, Kenya made international news headlines as violence erupted after its general elections. Over 1,000 people were killed, and the international community, under the leadership of Kofi Annan, rallied to broker a power-sharing agreement and stabilize the government. In the immediate term, this initiative stopped the violence from worsening and has since been hailed as an example of successful conflict resolution. But as too often happens, once the agreement was signed and the immediate threats receded, diplomatic engagement was scaled down. Now over a year later, while the power-sharing agreement remains intact, the fundamental problems that led to the violence in December 2007 remain unchanged. In some cases, they have even become worse.

Mr. President, last October, the independent Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence, known as the Waki Commission, issued its final report. The Commission called for the Kenyan government to establish a Special Tribunal to seek accountability for persons bearing the greatest responsibility for the violence after the elections. It also recommended immediate and comprehensive reform of Kenya’s police service. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, echoed that recommendation in his report, which was released last month. Alston found the police had been widely involved in the post-election violence and continue to carry out carefully planned extrajudicial killings. The Special Rapporteur also identified systematic shortcomings and the need for reform in the judiciary and Office of the Attorney General.

Continue reading

New Ipsos Kenya poll: Major loss of confidence in institutions; cost of living remains dominant concern

Today’s release of the latest quarterly “barometer” poll of public opinion from Ipsos Kenya indicates two cross-cutting themes in how Kenyans see public affairs.

First, since November, public confidence has declined in essentially all major institutions, from already generally low levels. Conspicuously, in a measure of progress of reforms under the new constitution, only 12% of Kenyans expressed “a lot” of confidence in the judiciary versus 19% who had “none”.  For the police, 11% had “a lot” of confidence versus 29% who had “none”.

Second, the cost of living remains the most important issue to far and away the largest percentage (50%) of Kenyans. This has been the case for years, and the lack of focus on this issue in the Kenyan and international media, in Kenyan politics and government, and in international policy discussions may well give insight into why Kenyans have little confidence in their institutions. Unemployment (19%) and corruption (9%) are second and third in the “most important issue” question.

See the Ipsos Kenya summary statement and the entire detailed poll presentation.

Worth noting:  Oxford’s Dr. Nicholas Cheeseman offers a critique of ODM’s slide to it’s current low ebb. The latest poll indicates a wide field for a strong opposition party, with continued economic stress facing most Kenyans and little satisfaction with the institutions in power, but ODM will need to find a coherent message and credible voice to rebuild its stature.  The Standard editorializes that “Chaos in ODM is a matter of national concern.”  The Star says “Time for ODM to Re-Invent Itself.”

Also of interest: Andrew Sullivan asks “Why Doesn’t USAID Win Any Friends?”.  Sullivan cites a Reuters piece by Paul A. Brinkley entitled “How to fix foreign aid”:

.  .  .  .

The first step is to end the State Department’s management of foreign assistance, and return to an earlier organizational system in Washington.

The Foreign Service plays a crucial role in the establishment and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. But diplomats are not program executors. The culture of diplomacy, so crucial to negotiation and resolution of conflict, is completely wrong for managing economic development programs. Much less the tactical business development necessary for economic growth.

The primary instrument for implementing foreign assistance, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was moved into the State Department in 2005 — in a misguided effort to better align its programs with security and counterterrorism policies. The verdict is now in on this transition. USAID is not effective in carrying out its principal mission: delivering cost-effective outcomes that advance U.S. foreign policy goals.

.  .  .  .

The priority of the State Department — from staffing, to allocation of resources, to a forbidding security posture that inhibits local engagement of war-torn populations — is to fulfill a diplomatic mission. Not to run foreign assistance programs. Realigning organizations, like this move of USAID into State’s sphere, is a poor means of carrying out presidential policy.

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

2013 Kenya Exit Poll — academic study published (updated)

Professors Clark Gibson, James Long and Karen Ferree have now published an article from their 2013 Kenyan election exit poll in The Journal of East African Studies.

The Star has an analysis in Wednesday’s edition. This is the front page, but the story is not yet up online. (Update: Here is The Star story, “Uhuru didn’t get 50% in 2013–U.S. academics“.)

See my May post with the video from an original presentation at Johns Hopkins SAIS here.