Kenya in 2012–More institutions, more institutional dysfunction; Uganda in 2012–Specializing in regional military role

Yet again, we have a major list of political appointments from President Kibaki announced, apparently unilaterally, with Prime Minister Odinga objecting that he was not consulted.  In this case “county administrators” for the 47 counties — new units of government under the new Constitution.  The President’s office identifies the job description of these new officials as, among other things, coordinating security, presumably including the upcoming elections when the first county governors are to be elected:

Prime Minister Raila Odinga has rejected President Kibaki’s appointment of 47 county commissioners, saying he was not consulted.

He also wondered what their job would be since the Constitution says it’s governors who will be running counties.

The Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) said the appointments should be done afresh because the President did not follow the spirit of the law in making them.

Five Orange Democratic Movement Cabinet ministers have also opposed the selection, many arguing that they were not fair to all tribes.

On Sunday, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango, said: “The PM says he was not consulted. He also does not understand what their specific roles are because the Constitution says that governors will be in charge of the counties. He feels their appointment is a recipe for chaos in the counties,” Mr Onyango stated.

While making the appointments on Friday, State House explained that they were in line with Section 17 of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The sections says: “Within five years after the effective date, the national government shall restructure the system of administration commonly known as the provincial administration to accord with and respect the system of devolved government established under this Constitution.”

The county commissioners will coordinate security, national government functions and delivery of services, according to the announcement from the President Press Service (PPS).

.  .  .  .

President Kibaki has now come out more personally in advance of ICC pre-trial proceedings scheduled next month in the Hague to try another “Hail Mary” to get the post-election violence cases from the last election pulled away from the ICC by constituting a new international crime jurisdiction in a fledgling East African regional court that has no such authority now.

“Has our new Constitution already failed us?” Muthoni Wanyeki in The East African:

.  .  .  .

Going by the behaviour of our politicians as they swing into the campaigns, our new Constitution has already failed us. The idea was that diminishing executive powers, restoring separation of powers and instituting devolution would lessen the intensity of the scramble for the presidency. Well it hasn’t. It is still do-or-die.

Democracy everywhere is an ideal, rather than a reality. And devolution has done nothing yet other than take the battle for the executive spoils of devolution down to the community level all across the country. And create a new battle, for retention of executive spoils, at the centre.

It is hard not to be pessimistic. But it is vital to not get hot and bothered about the electoral farce; we need instead to work to ensure the fallout every five years is not of the 2007 and 2008 variety. This is where the intentions and plans of our security services matter. And this is where the love-hate relationships between all the would-be pilots matter as well. How they group in formation is critical. It tells us who’s in and who’s out — and who among us is likely to be targeted this time round.

In this sense, all the movements away from ODM could, potentially, be worrying. If Raila Odinga is painted as the “enemy” and that portrait extends to his entire ethnicity, we know where to look for the fire next time. We are meant to have an early warning system now. Is it working?

Meanwhile, in Uganda, hope for a “deeper” democracy continue to become more distant in the short run at least, but the Ugandan military continues to grow into a role as a regional force for multinational missions:

U.S. trains African soldiers for Somalia mission, form the Washington Post:

KAKOLA, Uganda — The heart of the Obama administration’s strategy for fighting al-Qaeda militants in Somalia can be found next to a cow pasture here, a thousand miles from the front lines.

Under the gaze of American instructors, gangly Ugandan recruits are taught to carry rifles, dodge roadside bombs and avoid shooting one another by accident. In one obstacle course dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” the Ugandans learn the basics of urban warfare as they patrol a mock city block of tumble-down buildings and rusty shipping containers designed to resemble the battered and dangerous Somali capital. . . .

“Hundreds of Somali’s Complete Military Training” reports IRIN:

IBANDA, 14 May 2012 (IRIN) – Over 600 Somali troops completed six months of military training in southwestern Uganda on 10 May and are heading home to boost the forces fighting Al Shabab.

Col Winston Byaruhanga, head of Bihanga military training school in Ibanda District, told IRIN the 603 soldiers who trained alongside 248 Ugandans will help bring peace and stability to the country.

“These soldiers will significantly reinforce the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and contribute to more stable conditions to deliver aid and bring the country on the way to development,” Byaruhanga told IRIN.  .  .  .

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”–a timely reminder of policy in the Horn of Africa in 2007-08

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”  this week in The Diplomat:

The complex US-led intervention in Somalia, a decade in the making, represents offshore balancing at its most potent and urgent. The Libyan rebellion was outside the United States’ core interests. For Washington, intervening in Libya was optional. But Somalia, a failed state since 1991 and an al-Qaeda safe haven, represents a direct threat to the United States, and indeed has inspired the first American suicide bombers.

If offshore balancing, with its emphasis on air and sea power and proxy armies, is to define the US strategic approach to Asia and the Pacific, it first must succeed in Somalia.

For advocates of the strategy, there are reasons for hope. US offshore balancing in Somalia came together gradually, almost by accident, as separate interventions chased the converging problems of famine, terrorism and piracy. Today, this increasingly unified US effort seems to finally be bearing fruit, as American-supported foreign armies rapidly gain ground against al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist fighters.

However, sceptics too might find ammunition in the United States’ Somalia strategy. For while current US efforts in Somalia have managed to avoid a major ground-force deployment – and  indeed have been essentially bloodless for Washington – they have at the same time failed to bring a speedy end to the country’s crises. The recent territory gains are encouraging but hardly decisive – and certainly reversible.

.  .  .  .

The ICU didn’t explicitly advocate terrorism, and there were probably only a handful of al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in Somalia at the time. But that nuance was lost on the George W. Bush Administration. Washington pledged support for the Ethiopian attack, including ‘intelligence sharing, arms aid and training,’ according to USA Today.

With this backing, plus air cover provided by US AC-130 gunships and carrier-based fighters and assistance on the ground by US Special Forces, the Ethiopian army launched a Blitzkrieg-style assault on Somalia in December 2006.

Ethiopian tanks quickly routed the ICU’s lightly armed fighters. ‘The Somalia job was fantastic,’ Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told then-US Central Commander boss Gen. John Abizaid in 2007.

The Bush Administration agreed with that assessment, at least initially. And the proxy approach to African security challenges quickly became central to Washington’s policy for the continent. In 2007, the Pentagon formed a new regional command called ‘Africa Command’ to oversee operations in most of Africa.

.  .  .  .

In Somalia, the Ethiopian invasion and subsequent two-year occupation only served to rally the country’s Islamic extremists. Al Shabab coalesced from the remains of the ICU’s armed wing and launched a bloody, and surprisingly popular, insurgency against the Ethiopians.

Also targeted: the UN- and US-sponsored Transition Federal Government, formed under the protection of the Ethiopians, plus the new African Union peacekeeping force composed mostly of Ugandan and Burundian troops and funded by the United Nations and Washington.

Al Shabab also strengthened ties with al-Qaeda, which had sent operatives to advise clan forces during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and, more than a decade later, still maintained a small presence in Somalia. The al-Qaeda-Al Shabab alliance helped Al Shabab pull off a twin suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010 that killed 74 people.

.  .  .  .

US support for the peacekeepers and the TFG represents the proxy portion of Washington’s offshore balancing in Somalia. Naval patrols, Special Forces raids and strikes by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles round out the strategy. At first, however, the main air and sea initiatives weren’t directly tied to the proxy fight on the ground.

In parallel with its support for Ethiopia’s attack on Somalia, the Pentagon in 2006 was in the process of standing up an East African counter-terrorism complex anchored by secret bases reportedly in Ethiopia and Kenya. From there, US Special Forces and armed drones struck at terrorist targets in Somalia, occasionally in cooperation with naval forces.

In 2007, Special Operations Command aircraft launched at least two helicopter raids on al-Qaeda and Al Shabab operatives in Somalia. On no fewer than three occasions in 2007 and 2008, commandos spotted targets for US warships firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at Somali targets. Some of the same warships help make up Combined Task Force 150, a US-led international naval force assigned to intercept arms shipments bound for Al Shabab and al-Qaeda in Somalia.

Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Second Wife and Somalia’s New Prime Minister

A little item from this week’s alumni news in my e-mail:

Ali Alumnus named prime minister of SomaliaThe New York Times—Alumnus Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, MA’88, who holds a master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt, has been appointed the new prime minister of Somalia. Full story »

Vanderbilt is not as well known for producing African leaders, perhaps, as some universities. But it does have an economics department that has educated Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, for instance, so it may not be surprising that Somalia’s new Prime Minister got his masters in economics at Vanderbilt.

Cornelius Vanderbilt himself was arguably a quintessentially American character. Surely if he were alive today he would be making money in and around Africa. Maybe in airlines as well as shipping and rail, and maybe fiberoptics and other means of the “transportation of information” along with moving physical goods and people.

From his biography from The New Netherland Institute:

Between the years 1805 and 1810 Cornelius worked for his father and for the ferry services serving Staten Island. In 1810 when he was sixteen years old he convinced his parents to lend him $100 so he could buy a sailboat to start his own ferry and freight business. They provided him with the money but with the understanding that he would share the profits from the business with his parents. He used the money to start a passenger and freight service between Staten Island and New York City. There was a lot of competition in the ferry service business but Vanderbilt competed on the basis of lower fares, asking as little as 18 cents per trip. He was quite successful and apparently was able to repay the $100 loan to his parents within one year. According to local lore, he was even able to earn a $1000 for his parents during the first year of operations as part of their share in the profits.

The war of 1812 provided new opportunities for growth. The forts around New York City expanded and Vanderbilt obtained a government contract to supply them. Between 1814 and 1818 he expanded with additional schooners for freight and passenger services in Long Island Sound and in the coastal trade from New England to Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1818 he sold all his sailing vessels and became a steamboat captain and partner with Thomas Gibbons who operated a ferry service between New Brunswick, New Jersey and New York City. The Vanderbilt-Gibbons partnership charged only a quarter of the competitive fares. It soon became the dominant ferry service on the busy Philadelphia-New York City route. During the 1818-1829 time period the partnership made a fortune.

In 1829 Vanderbilt decided to go on his own and began passenger and freight service on the New York City-Peekskill Hudson River route. Again he competed on the basis of price and quickly eliminated the competition. He then expanded his service to Albany, New York. He also opened passenger and freight service to the Long Island Sound, Providence and Connecticut areas. By the 1840s Vanderbilt had a fleet of 100 steamships and he had become the biggest employer in the U.S.A. At that point he not only competed on the basis of price but also on the basis of comfort, size, speed, luxury and elegance of the steamship passenger transportation industry.

During the California gold rush in 1849 Vanderbilt began steamship service to San Francisco by way of Nicaraqua. His competitiors used the Panama route which was longer. Vanderbilt was able to cut two days off the length of the trip to San Francisco, and it was 600 miles shorter. This part of his transportation business netted him over one million dollars per year. As a result he became the principal transportation service provider on the East Coast to San Francisco route.

In the 1850s he did two possibly foolish things. In 1853 he decided to take his first vacation ever. He had a steam yacht built and made a triumphant tour of Europe. While on his trip he had left the management of the business to contract managers. They tried to fraudulently take over the business while he was away in Europe. Although they were not successful, his temporary absence from his business proved to be costly, but he quickly recovered. .  .  .

In the 1860s he became aware that the big growth in the future for the transportation industry was not by way of water but by way of rail. So he became interested in railroad transportation . . .
. . . .
A year after the death of his wife Sophia, Vanderbilt now 73 years old, married a distant cousin named Frances Armstrong Crawford, and known as Frank. She was 34 years his junior. The marriage was probably a good one because it gave him a new outlook on life. It is doubtful if his children approved of it. After all, his new wife was younger than seven of his twelve children. It appears that the marriage to a younger woman gave him an imagined extension to his life.

Although Vanderbilt had not engaged in philanthropy at all until that point in his life, through his new wife’s influence, he perpetuated his name through a gift of one million dollars to Nashville’s Central University. One million dollars may not sound like a lot of money, but in the 1870’s it was. Based on the gross domestic product per capita in 1870 and at the present time, the conversion ratio would amount to about 260. So the one million dollars was essentially equal to $260 million in today’s terms. The University would become, and to this day still is, the prestigious Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Somalia Policy Update

At The Sahel Blog, Alex Thurston discusses Assistant Secretary Carson’s recent comments on Somalia in an interview with allAfrica.com.  In summary:

Stepping back, Washington is clearly happy to see AMISOM make headway against al Shabab, but it seems that Washington’s disappointment with the TFG outweighs that happiness. The parliament’s reach for more time alienated the US, and it appears that going forward Washington will decentralize its political contacts in Somalia even more. What that says for the TFG’s future I can’t say, but August is not far off, and from the TFG’s standpoint it’s a bad time to have run afoul of Washington.

I’ve added a link to a good site from the “Movement for an Independent Somaliland” to the Organization roll at right.  As Washington’s “two track” policy seems to be becoming more established and bearing at least some fruit, perhaps the next evolution is a “three track” policy that moves closer to “the facts of the ground” in acknowledging Somaliland’s functional independence.  At some point, it seems to me there needs to be some type of grand bargain among Somaliland and Puntland and the local groups to establish a relatively understood and stable border between Somaliland and Puntland.

In the meantime, Burundi is sending 1000 more troops to the AMISOM mission.

For an interesting look at a policy challenge in Somaliland, an article from IRIN discusses a recent run-up in the price of charcoal, which is the dominant fuel source for urban residents (and of course helps drive deforestation which impacts the rest of the population which is primarily pastoralist).

Somaliland election as pivot point for US?

Kevin J. Kelly’s piece in this week’s East African, “US urged to cut lifeline to struggling TFG”, comes as the Progressio international team and IRI’s observers have made positive statements on the status of the voting in Somaliland Saturday.

It seems that at least some people in Washington are taking stock of the gravity of what Jeffrey Gettleman reported on in the Times on the TFG’s use of child soldiers. Perhaps the “now what?” is a different approach.

To me, an orderly election in Somaliland in which the violence was limited to confrontation with militia supporting Puntland in the disputed region should not come as a surprise–this reflects society in Somaliland. This should be appreciated and “recognized” by the rest of the world. Nonetheless, let us see the electoral process to a conclusion before we offer our own conclusions.

Gettleman reports on Somali TFG Child Soldiers–now what?

Jeffrey Gettleman’s Sunday NY Times story about child soldiers fighting on “our side” for the TFG is moving and has some “legs” in terms of popularity on the web site.

At the same time, it would appear that the U.S. administration through the Biden visit to Nairobi was intending to soften up and be more supportive of the Kenyan government because of the perceived threat to U.S. interests from Somalia. Certainly the message from the Kenyan V.P. Musyoka’s visit to Washington a few months ago was just that–the U.S. should let up in Kenya and support the Government in traditional Cold War/GWOT fashion as a bulwark against Somali and Somali-based terrorists. Jendayi Frazer herself said not long ago that Obama’s Somalia policy was substantially the same as Bush’s.

To me, the question we ought to ask is whether since the policy has been conspicuously unsuccessful in recent years we ought to do more of it because the problem is now worse, or whether we are open to adaptation.

UN Monitoring Group reports strong Kenya links to both sides in Somalia

Kevin Kelley in the East African:

Kenya serves as “a major base” for Islamist groups battling Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, the United Nations says in a recent report that also details the Kenyan government’s training of TFG forces — in apparent violation of a UN embargo.

Kenyan nationals account for about half of all foreigners fighting in Somalia under the banner of the Al Shabaab insurgency force, the report says.

Many of these fighters are recruited through a support network in Nairobi consisting of “wealthy clerics-cum-businessmen, linked to a small number of religious centres notorious for their links to radicalism,” the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia states in its March 10 report.

Leaders of Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, the other main insurgent group in Somalia, “travel with relative freedom to and from Nairobi, where they raise funds, engage in recruitment and obtain treatment for wounded fighters,” the Monitoring Group finds.

Some African and European diplomats based in Nairobi meanwhile engage in visa fraud that enables the smuggling of illegal migrants into Europe and other destinations for fees of about $12,000 for a man and $15,000 for a woman, the UN says.

In the meantime today, BBC reports that hundreds marched in Mogadishu in a second public protest against al-Shabab

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. . . .