Always “steady progress” – COMESA “elders” to observe COMESA member elections in Kenya and Rwanda

From a COMESA Press Release yesterday:

COMESA believes that elections play a pivotal role in societal transformation in the region and provide a footstall for entrenching democratic principles.

Premised on this critical role, Member States have continued holding periodic elections which have heralded a new dawn by signifying steady progress towards deepening and institutionalizing democracy in the 19-member bloc.

Nonetheless, COMESA is still dispatching teams of Election Observers to issue Preliminary Statements just after the upcoming elections in Rwanda on August 4 and Kenya on August 8, with further reports after 90 days.

Zimbabwean Ambassador Dr. Simbi Mubako will lead the team for Kenya to arrive 30 July.

Think I am too jaded?  Enjoy this:

The presidential elections in Rwanda follows the 2015 referendum that unanimously approved a constitutional amendment that allowed President Kagame to run for office in 2017.  The forthcoming elections are considered important in Rwanda’s socio-economic and political progress.

In the past years, Rwanda has made significant progress in consolidating its political stability, economic growth and development.  Furthermore, Rwanda has recorded major milestones in consolidating democracy through holding periodic parliamentary and presidential elections as stipulated in its legal framework.

Since 2008, COMESA has continued to support the elections process in Rwanda.  COMESA observed the parliamentary that were held in 2008, 2013 and the presidential elections held in 2010.

I am all for extra diplomats and elders from the region being in Kenya for the election to meet diplomatic needs that may arise.  But let’s not confuse this type of “intramembership” diplomatic obsevation with an independent election observation. 

[See U.S. and IGAD Statements on Djibouti election from last year, featuring Kenya’s Issack Hassan for IGAD]

Kenya vote: target turns from “will of the people” to “free and fair, peaceful and credible” to “fair, orderly, credible and nonviolent”

Old KANU Office

Solo 7–Kibera

In the 2013 Kenyan election John Kerry was the American Secretary of State, speaking to Kenya’s elections that year in his role as lead American diplomat.  The U.S. provided key funding as well as embedded technical support for the IEBC in that election, including funding for the failed procurement of an electronic results transmission system.

It was suggested that the election, in spite of a certain disarray and incomplete results, reflected “the will” of Kenyan voters–and was subsequently upheld by Kenya’s Supreme Court (with preliminary observer statements from the Carter Center and EU as evidence offered by the IEBC in litigating against the challenges).

Likewise as Secretary of State Kerry addressed Kenya’s 2017 elections during his official visits in 2015 and 2016.  The second quote above, “free and fair, peaceful and credible”, comes from Secretary Kerry in Kenya last year.  The new terminology for the 2017 vote, “fair, orderly, credible and nonviolent”, comes now from former Secretary Kerry, wearing a new hat as co-leader of the independent International Election Observation Mission being conducted by the U.S. based NGO, The Carter Center. (See Daily Nation 14 July “Ex-Secretary of State insists on fair election“)

Over the years I have written and noted the potential distinctions involved in the decision of international observers to suggest that a particular election “reflected” or corresponded to a standard labeled “the will of the people” on one hand, and on the other to label an election “free and fair.”

An overview and “gateway” is my post “An insider’s explanation of the difference between a ‘free and fair’ election and a ‘will of the people’ election — Kriegler deputy’s memoir“.   The issue is discussed in relation to the internationally supported South African election of 1994 discussed in the recent memoir referred, and on into 2007 and 2013 in Kenya, with Kreigler and IFES re-engaged in a different context.

See especially my post “Are free and fair elections passe in Kenya?“.

The most important point for Kenyans is that the 2010 Constitution adopts explicitly as law a “free and fair” standard.  Peace, order and nonviolence are good and important societal goals.  Many of us are skeptical that tolerating corruption or other substandard conduct in administration of elections is somehow a useful tool to serve peace, order or nonviolence (just as war, disorder and violence do not clean up the election process).

Must read on election tensions in Kenya: “A Silent Panic”

ELECTION 2017: A Silent Panic in Kenya by Dauti Kahura in The Elephant.

A series of backstories of building tensions with the latest election approaching on the layers of accumulated grief and injustice.  This is the stuff you don’t hear if you don’t have a practiced ear to the ground in Kenya and may be glossed over in the usual discussion in foreign capitals and international press.  And material that is too topical for the traditional Kenyan media with political power at stake. 

Congratulations to The Elephant for “speaking truth to power”.

We all know that Kenya suffers from pervasive corruption; we all have been warned about lack of transparency in the election

For three years running, Kenya has ranked below Nigeria in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, coming in most recently tied at 145 in the list of 176 countries.

Even the most crucial security sectors, including most especially the police services (which, by the way, have received aid in training and other support from the United States since 1977) are pervasively corrupt and widely feared.

Under the circumstances it would be an extraordinary feat–rooted in a resolute act of will–for the Kenya’s IEBC (and its donors) to pull off a relatively clean and transparent election process.  You will have to excuse me for being concerned after my experiences in 2007 and 2013.

So far, we have had special legislation passed by the ruling party early in the year in parliament over opposition objections to mandate a “manual” backup system for reporting the votes from the polling stations in the event the electronic system “fails” as it did in 2013.  It is now barely more than 30 days before the vote and the IEBC has not explained what this manual system is.  I was told in 2014 by a donor insider that in 2013 the IEBC had no “plan B” in place to obtain results from the polling stations even though they had gone ahead and scrambled, kicked observers out of the tally process, and announced final presidential results after the electronic reporting system was shut down.  Clearly the IEBC needs a “plan B”–whatever it is–both as a practical matter and now as required by law.  And it needs to be transparent, now.

The Kenyan court ruling that the votes as counted at the polling station are legally final and not subject to being unilaterally changed without legal proceedings by the central IEBC process certainly helps–but there must still be a process to gather the numbers as posted on the door of each polling station (and to note any polling stations where the results are not publicly posted as required).  According to the EU and Carter Center election observation missions from the 2007 and 2013 elections, perhaps one-quarter to one-third of election officials at individual polling stations did not post the Form 34 showing the presidential vote count as required, so there has been ample room in each of these elections for numbers to change between the count of ballots and sealing of the ballot box at the polling station and the reported “tally” by which the president was named in Nairobi.

Unfortunately, a fair understanding of what happened in 2013 gets worse, in that it turns out that it would surely seem that the IEBC and the donors should have know ahead of time that the electronic reporting system was not going to work–but elected to project what must have been false confidence, followed by “surprise” at its failure.  The president of IFES testified to the U.S. Congress in 2013 after the election that the failure was caused by a botched procurement.  What was unsaid was that this was not just a procurement failure by the IEBC which IFES would have been expected to know about from its role as “embedded” within the IEBC to provide technical assistance, but that this was apparently also a botched United States government procurement from USAID through IFES, from what I eventually learned recently from my 2015 FOIA request as discussed in my post here from April:

“Kenya Election FOIA news: [heavily redacted] Election Assistance agreement shows US paid for failed 2013 “Results Transmission System”

From the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening (KEPPS) Program from USAID for the last Kenyan election:

“Considering the role that results transmission played in the 2007 election violence, IFES will build on its recent work with Kenya’s results transmission system to further enhance it and ensure its sustainability.  IFES will ensure this system is fully installed, tested and operational for the 2012 election.  Furthermore, IFES will fund essential upgrades and adjustments to this results transmission system.” 

[p.28 of the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening 2012 Program – Cooperative Agreement between USAID and CEPPS (coalition of NDI, IFES and IRI)]

This USAID Agreement with the consortium of IFES, NDI and IRI makes up the first 236 pages of what I was told were approximately 1800 pages of documents and attachments provided by the USAID Mission in Kenya to the Washington FOIA office by January 2016 in response to my FOIA request of October 2015.  Unfortunately, I have still not gotten any of the rest of these pages covering contract files and correspondence, as well as  USAID transactions with Smith & Ouzman, Ltd., the British firm that was convicted of bribing Kenyan election and education officials to buy their products in the infamous “Chickengate” scandal.

In spite of persistent follow up over these many months, I don’t have any further information as to whether I am likely to get more of these documents released in time for the new election (under the current Kenya Electoral Assistance Program awarded to IFES last year).

Warnings about transparency have been outstanding for months from the International Crisis Group (See: International Crisis Group on “Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis” calls on donors to show “complete transparency”; USAID is apparently not convinced yet.) and most recently Ambassador Mark Bellamy has published a June 29 assessment for the CSIS Africa Program noting the need for more transparency from the IEBC (Kenya’s Young Democracy Put to the Test.)

This year’s version of the “results transmission system” is wrapped into one big high risk procurement for the “Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System” of “KIEMS” which includes both the electronic voter identification system and the results transmission system.  The ordinary procurement system failed to generate a legally sustainable award for this system.  The new IEBC, running out of time, announced a sole source award this spring to one of the unsuccessful previous bidders, the French company Morpho.

A related company, Safran Morpho, was given a 2012 sole source award for the BVR kits for the 2013 election — which ended up with the election day use of a separate hard copy printed register at each of 30,000+ polling stations rather than an integrated and biometrically verified system.  The sole source purchase in 2012 was announced as a “state to state” transaction–which eventually came out to mean some type of loan from the Canadian Government to the Government of Kenya (involving a Canadian subsidiary of the French parent).  When the sole source transaction to buy the KIEMS system this spring was announced by the IEBC, it was reported in the media as again a “state to state” deal–with no details as to what states or what terms.  The IEBC announcement gives no indication as to whether the reporting of a “state to state” deal is accurate or otherwise whether there is any donor funding involved.

Who has paid for and/or financed the KIEMS system?  Will it work as advertised?  If not, will the IEBC or the donors tell voters ahead of time?

 

Happy National Day and Thanks for the Troops (Burundi)

2016_06_28-Burundi_Rotation-2

AMISOM flickr photo- Burundian troops rotate home
The State Department issued this statement today, as Burundi’s long crisis drags:

On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, congratulations to the people of Burundi on the 55th anniversary of your independence.

We applaud Burundi’s ongoing commitment to international peacekeeping operations and recognize the positive impact its troops have had in Somalia.

The United States stands with all Burundians committed to peace and prosperity. As you reflect on your history and address the challenges of today, we send best wishes for a bright future.

In the meantime, the Burundian government has accused the West and “international organizations” of conspiring with the Rwandan government to seek regime change and to steal Burundi’s resources.

“THE DEBACLE OF 2007” – my piece in The Elephant on how Kenya’s politics was frozen and an election stolen . . .

THE DEBACLE OF 2007: How Kenyan Politics Was Frozen and an Election Stolen with US Connivance | The Elephant

“Trust and Accountability” – Africa Center for Strategic Studies scholar discusses steps to a peaceful election

image

Back in March, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (the National Defense University center for study and collaboration on Africa, located at Ft. McNair in Metro Washington, DC, with a regional facility in Addis) published an article by Dr. Dorina Bekoe, Associate Professor of Conflict Prevention, Mitigation and Resolution:

“Ghana’s Peaceful Elections Built on Trust and Accountability”

Well worth just few moments to read in full.  Dr. Bekoe is a leading scholar in the election violence field.  I was fortunate enough to provide some input on her work for the Institute of Defense Analysis previously and to talk with her again recently about the upcoming election in Kenya.

Here are the four key takeaways:

First, the electoral management body must take concrete, visible steps to address perceptions or proven allegations of political bias. Second, electoral data must be accessible to the wide variety of relevant stakeholders. Third, the electoral management body should maintain an open line of communication with traditional and social media outlets. Finally, political leaders must choose words and actions that keep tense political environments from escalating.

Comparing Dr. Bekoo’s lessons for success from Ghana (from a violence avoidance perspective at least) to the situation with Kenya’s IEBC today is striking:

Worryingly, just six months before the elections, many Ghanaians said that they greatly distrusted the judiciary and electoral commissions—two critical institutions for administrating a peaceful and lawful political transition. Violence had broken out during various electoral processes, and politicians and their affiliates regularly employed incendiary language during the campaign. Notably, the Electoral Commission (EC) identified 81 constituencies as hot spots. More narrowly, the police identified 5,000 polling stations (of the 29,000) as potentially volatile. In short, analysts could not definitively predict that Ghana’s political transition would proceed peacefully.

Despite the troubling signals, Ghana’s political transition ultimately went smoothly. While political operatives disputed certain election results and accused one another of rigging, all accepted the final result without any violence. What can explain this outcome? An analysis of Ghana’s political dynamics shows that in the months leading up to the election, critical actions undertaken by Ghana’s Electoral Commission, political leaders, and civil society averted a rocky transition.

.  .  .  .

The EC subsequently took some highly visible steps to improve the credibility of the voter register, especially as the elections approached. . . .

.  .  .  .

The EC also made it easier to vote. . . .
.  .  .  .

Because the polling station data had become so accessible, many political parties and the media could call the election in favor of Akufo-Addo long before the EC announced its official results. As in past years, Ghana’s Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) employed parallel vote tabulation (PVT), an exercise where observers, stationed in selected polling stations in each of Ghana’s 275 constituencies, record information on the election, including the results. The PVT estimated Akufo-Addo garnered 53.75 percent of the vote, against the official EC result of 53.85 percent. Similarly, the PVT estimated Mahama obtained 44.32 percent of the vote, against the official EC result of 44.40 percent, which lent credibility to the EC’s results.

Members of the media, other political parties, and civil society organizations also closely tracked the results. By the early morning of December 9, the EC and the NDC remained the only major stakeholders that had not announced results. Even though the NDC disputed the NPP’s win until the last minute, without the consensus and transparency of data, the environment would likely have been tenser.

.  .  .  .

Ghana’s experience showed that communication also matters. The EC established its first communication department, and throughout the counting process, the electoral commissioner’s director of communications was on hand to respond to developing events. The ready accessibility to the EC decreased the potential for rumors to develop and spread. All elections will have crises, moments of confusion, and points of contention. The key for a peaceful resolution lies in different stakeholders managing these events in an open, quick, and inclusive manner.

With only two months to the election, compared to the six month time frame covered in Bekoe’s Ghana example, it is too late to replicate much of the trust building in Kenya. Not that these things could not have been implemented, but that the authorities in position either had other priorities or extraneous limitations. Two months is, however, plenty to time for the Government of Kenya to turn away from banning broadcasting of voting results as they come in, for instance, that contract transparency and accountability.

In my opinion, the ban on live broadcasting implemented by Internal Security Minister John Michuki in 2007, and the Government’s action in pulling down the media house’s reporting of results (although arguably helpful in safeguarding the theft of the presidency) made a big contribution to the level of violence. It created a climate of mistrust and fear, the atmosphere of the “civilian (police-enforced) coup”. Go back and read the blogs at that time, Ory Okolloh’s Kenyan Pundit in Nairobi and Ken Opalo in the diaspora in California, and many, many others to get a flavor.

Mocking democracy: Government of Kenya announces “Kenyan Asian community backs President Kenyatta’s re-election”

Democracy Assistance

“URAIA Because Kenyans Have Rights”  — Democracy Assistance facade?


[Update: The Daily Nation, State Officials on the campaign trail“:  “The Jubilee administration has deployed civil servants and key government officials on vote hunting missions across the country in contravention of the law.”]

Let it not be said that there is any serious pretense that the Government of Kenya is neutral in the contest for political allegiance of potential “swing” ethnic groupings, rich in votes or money, in the current election, a contest for power between the Uhuruto ticket representing the current generation of the original KANU establishment led by the Kenyatta family and an opposition coalition led by Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.

Here is the “latest news” from the Government of Kenya, Office of the President (www.president.go.ke): “Kenyan Asian community backs President Kenyatta’s re-election”.

This years’ “Jubilee Party” was literally formed at State House as the Uhuruto re-election vehicle, formally merging Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and Ruto’s URP, just as this meeting of State Officials and “Asian” Kenyan businesspeople and politicians for the re-election campaign was convened at State House.

Conduct of this sort, aside from being a clear form of corruption per se as a misappropriation of public resources for private gain, is explicitly against the mandatory Code of Conduct for the Kenyan political parties.  (On paper the campaign, in full swing for months, is not even to start until May 28.)

Will the Registrar of Political Parties and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission take action?  The IFES led consortium of US based organizations both facilitating and underwriting the cost of the election, while also coordinating its “observation” at the expense of American (and in parts Canadian) taxpayers?  What about ELOG, the donor supported Kenyan observation group?

IFES has already beeen attacked by the Kenyan Government and ELOG is charged with continuing to do business in Nairobi on a permanent basis, so it would be a huge act of institutional courage for it to seriously challenge the conduct of the Office of the Presidency.  We have been in the mode of continuous institutionalized democracy promotion in Kenya for 15 years (!) now.  No matter how many  capacity building seminars we hold for the little people in the cities or the politicians in the resorts in the Rift Valley or at the beaches, if we let ourselves simply be mocked and pretend that this is working we will surely risk moral injury to our own democracy.

Read the whole campaign piece here:

The Asian community in Kenya has endorsed the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Leaders of the community said they have taken the decision to rally behind the President because of his commitment to creating an enabling environment of business and development.

The leaders, who visited President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, said policies implemented by the Jubilee Government have enabled more business to thrive and made Kenya a preferred destination for investors.

At the meeting which was also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, representatives of the community assured the President that they would rally behind him to ensure the country’s development tempo is sustained.

“What we have seen in the last four years needs no magnification and my words can be supported by facts that can be seen and quantified, “said businessman Iqbal Rashid.

The businessman cited the upgrading of the old railway system with the Standard Gauge Railway, the upgrading of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and continuous improvement of the infrastructure connecting cities and towns.

He said the continued flow of investments into Kenya from all corners of the globe was as a result of the confidence in the leadership of President Kenyatta.

Women leaders Parveen Adam, Shamsha Fadhil and Farah Mannzoor thanked the President for championing an agenda that fosters inclusiveness as well as the prosperity and unity of all Kenyans.

They said women appreciate his efforts to spearhead the campaign to have the two third gender rule passed by the National Assembly.

Businessman Bismiahirahman Nirrahim said the Asian community has witnessed the transformative leadership of President Kenyatta which has helped in creating conducive environment for investments.

He cited the increased ease of doing business resulting from President Kenyatta’s policies including the policy to reduce the time it takes to register a new business.

Nirrahim said the youth and women empowerment program implemented by President Kenyatta’s Administration has also been a transformational policy that deserves praise.

President Kenyatta thanked the leaders for their support and assured them that he would continue working tirelessly to make Kenya a more prosperous country with shared prosperity.

He said the Asian community has been keen in developing Kenya saying the community has always been in the forefront championing the interests of the nation since the days of independence struggle.

“Like all of us you were part and parcel of the Kenyan struggle for Independence, the role you played cannot be ignored,” said President Kenyatta.

The President said he is a believer in an inclusive society adding that he would want to see the Asian community participate more in both social and economic development of the country.

“This is the government that believes in encouraging partnership and working together. Your success is our success,” said President Kenyatta.

Also present were the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua among other senior government officials.

Author

Gok

Update May 26:  See “Asian Kenyans seek to be declared a ‘tribe’ of their own” in today’s New York Times.

Latest Kenya election remarks from Amb. Godec emphasize need for change; corruption undermining democracy

imageU.S. Ambassador Godec spoke out strongly on corruption in pre-election remarks to students at Maseno University on Wednesday as reported by CapitalFM: “Vote so as to bring change to Kenya says U.S. envoy.”

While emphasizing he personally and the United States favored no candidate or party among Kenyans’ choices, Godec stated:

Corruption is undermining the future of Kenya.  It is creating huge problems and it is underming democracy., security and having a very bad effect and this needs to chsnge.

We seem to be seeing a policy shift from the U.S.  We were strongly opposed to government corruption off and on under Moi after the Cold War and we were also opposed to corruption in 2005-06 with the Anglo Leasing and other scandals.

After getting burned, perhaps, for changing positions in 2007 to become soft on corruption under Kibaki and looking the other way as he stole re-election, we were back to being “against” to some degree on a “go forward” basis after the formation of the “Government of National Unity” in Kibaki’s second Administration.  We preached “the reform agenda” through passage of the referendum to approve the new constitution in 2010 (noting that one pesky problem:  Daily Nation reports that USAID Inspector General has found that US funding did go specifically to encourage “Yes” vote on referendum.)

After years now of being back on our heels for whatever reason, we have rediscovered the dignity required to speak up and now to take a “small dollar” but conspicuous and significant action in suspending a little over $20M in support for the looted Ministry of Health, and now open acknowledgement of that the magnitude of the problem has reached a point that it is a critical threat.

US State Dept clears another possible $250M+ sale of light attack aircraft for Kenya; Human Development Index shows Kenya at 146 of 188 countries with “region’s worst jobs crisis”

Update: see Daily Nation: “Analysts skeptical of impact in Somalia of Kenya arms purchases“.

From the Defense Security Cooperation Agency release:

. . . .
This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader, undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab, and a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The proposed sale of the MD 530F helicopters, weapons, ammunition, support items and technical support will advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission. The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defense and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.

Kenya will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be MD Helicopters, Mesa, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
. . . .

The $418M L3 Air Tractor sale approved by the State Department in January remains pending for U.S. Congressional approval after objections raised by Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina.

Kenya had the largest military spending in the East African region in 2016 at $908M as reported by SIPRI.  Finalization of these two sales of attack aircraft this year would account for dollars equivalent to roughly 60% of last year’s spending.

Here is the headline story from Business Daily: UN report shows Kenya’s jobs crisis worst in region“.  The full UN Human Development Index report and related material can be downloaded here.

It may be worth noting that the United States spends quite a lot of money through many institutions scattered across our country and in many others on the study of and writing reports about the factors driving security threats from the types of things we are concerned about in East Africa.  I am not an expert on this and do not have time to read most of this as an interested amateur, but generally speaking I think the research tends to highlight concerns related to the Human Development Index factors and in particular the jobs crisis over any problems with lack of military hardware.  Perhaps I misunderstand.