A timely new read: “Selling Apartheid – South Africa’s Global Propaganda War”

 

I ordered this through the University of Chicago at the African Studies Association meeting in Washington last month– newly published in the U.K. and released in 2015 in South Africa:

For fifty years the South African governmentt spent an estimated $100 million annually on a campaign of disinformation, much of it in the US and UK.

New York Times journalist Ron Nixon provides a lively and shocking account of how power and influence were used to buy media coverage and create extensivr support networks.  These included an unlikely coalition of anti-communist black conservatives, religious organizations and global corporations.

With all the current buzz about Russian involvement in U.S. and European elections and political controversies, and since I knew some of the people who played a role in this story through my work in the Republican Party during the later years of Apartheid, I was naturally glad to see this and anxious to read through and see what new I learn about this fairly recent era in US and African politics and relations.

See my post  Abramoff’s Africa and Obama’s America from 2012.

Update:  I’ve finished it and highly recommend.  Here is a review from The Daily Maverick.  Of personal interest, some events took place in familiar locales in Mississippi, and Jack Abramoff gave an interview with the author in 2014 in which he claims, amazingly, that he didn’t know that the  International Freedom Foundation which he helped found with South Africans in 1986 was a front for South African intelligence.  (Jack was in relevant news this week sharply criticizing Senator Marco Rubio for his questioning of Trump Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings.)

Kenya :  News from “The War for History” as Citizen TV owner admits to Parliament that suppressed reporting of voting results in 2007 showed Odinga win over Kibaki

Here is the story from The Daily Nation:  Raila won 2007 election says Macharia.

The truth trickles out gradually.  Of course, those of us involved in the Election Observation for the International Republican Institute were following those results being reported live on Kenyan television from our headquarters in Nairobi during that Friday-Sunday after the election on Thursday, December 27, 2007.  Dr. Joel Barkan, our expert, explained by Saturday night that based on the numbers that were reported, it appeared that Kibaki could not win.  (Part of the reason why I was surprised to be told early Sunday morning by our “lead delegate” that “it’s going to be Kibaki” during the time when the Electoral Commission of Kenya had suspended the announcement of results.)

I understood that Joel’s public statements back in Washington that we couldn’t say for sure that Raila won, but could say that Kibaki lost reflected that known results as reported by the media houses showed Kibaki could not have gotten the most votes.  Realistically, under the first past the post system under Kenyan law at that time, this leaves Raila winning (since he didn’t lose his Kibera constituency to Stanley Livondo).

I assumed that one of the primary motivations for John Michuki’s then-notorious order suspending live broadcasting by the media houses from December 30  was to facilitate making sure those results that the media houses “took down” did not “resurface” after ECK Chairnan Samuel Kivuitu announced to an audience limited to the State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Commission that Kibaki had won after all.

As we know from my Freedom of Information Act Series research, Ambassador Ranneberger reported to Washington that he had personally witnessed the changed tally sheets at the ECK along with EU Observation Chief Lambsdorff.  [In particular, see Part Ten, Ranneberger on ECK, “Much can happen . . . and it did”]

Unfortunately, Rannebergelr nonetheless initially asked Kenyans to accept the results of the election without disclosing what he had witnessed and congratulations were quickly issued from a spokesman for the State Department back in the U.S. that Sunday.  Subsequently we retracted the congratulations, said there were problems with the election and took the position that there was supposedly “no way to know” who won–still without disclosing what Ranneberger witnessed until his January 2, 2008 cable to Washington was declassified (with redactions) in response to my FOIA request.

As for the media house evidence, this stayed buried until now.  The ECK never did publish any polling station, or even polling centre, results at all in the presidential race.  The Kreigler Commission stayed off the presidential tally at the ECK–even though it was part of their legal charge as fairly construed.

After the election debacle, Ranneberger did spend a significant amount of energy promoting “the reform agenda” going forward during his remaining years in Nairobi.  Unfortunately, it appears that “reform” largely failed to take (because reform built on a foundation of impunity for corruption was “a house built on sand”).

For more see my “War for History Series“.

And from the news before the holidays:

The Standard headlines John Githongo’s day in court on Anglo Leasing after all these years.  Of course, Kibaki knew.

Sadly, embarassingly, the testimony comes not in a criminal prosecution of the looters, nor an action by the Government of Kenya to recover any of the millions of dollars lost–nor even a defense against claims for fraudulent debt–but rather in Githongo’s defense of himself in a libel action by one of those implicated in Githongo’s corruption disclosures when he left office in 2005.

It has been such a disappointment to me to see comfortable Westerners celebrate and bask in the reflected glow of Githongo’s courage as a whistleblower over the years while ultimately selling him out by looking the other way while at the next election the tallies were rigged to keep Kibaki and his cohort in power, followed by the Uhuruto succession after which the Government paid huge additional sums on Anglo Leasing debt and went on its merry way to ramp up corruption to new heights.

Kenya will not be secure so long as its Government remains so pervasively corrupt.  Foolish fickleness by the U.S. and others in the West buys us nothing of value.

Why has Uhuru Kenyatta’s government acted against USAID and IFES?

[Update: here is a Joint Statement by the heads of various donor country missions on international assistance for the Kenyan election.  And here is the text of the statement from U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec:

Nairobi, Kenya – The United States firmly rejects the recent unfounded allegations against the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program (KEAP) and its implementing partners.  The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is a well-respected organization with deep expertise and experience in supporting democratic elections around the world.  IFES is registered in Kenya under the Companies Act and has legal standing to conduct programs here.  USAID provides elections assistance under our Development Assistance Grant Agreement with the Government of Kenya, which allows for the issuance of work permits for implementing partner staff, including IFES.

We are disappointed by the attempt to discredit the United States’ efforts to assist Kenyans in the conduct of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections in 2017.  Our assistance was requested by the Government of Kenya and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), adheres strictly to Kenyan law and regulations, and is provided under careful oversight by the Government of Kenya, IEBC, and USAID.   We do this important work transparently without favoring any party or candidate.

We call on everyone to focus on the issue at hand — ensuring that the voice of the Kenyan people is heard and respected in the upcoming elections.]

The Government of Kenya has announced action to terminate cooperation with the USAID Kenya Electoral Assistance Program being administered by the American INGO IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, claiming that the U.S. government is secretly seeking “regime change” and asserting as a weapon the notion that IFES, which has been working in Kenya since 2002, is “unregistered”.

Any reader of this blog will understand that my concerns about the role of IFES in Kenya’s 2007 and 2013 elections in supporting the ECK, IIEC and then IEBC are the opposite of those in Kenyatta’s attack.

While Kenyatta claims that assistance money is being used to support “regime change”, the reality has been entirely different:  the problem from 2007 and 2013 was that US tax dollars were spent in a way that ended up subsidizing corrupt electoral bodies who did not deliver sound elections–to the benefit of Kibaki (and Kenyatta) in 2007 and Kenyatta in 2013.   The problems were not disclosed publicly, putting us in the undesirable position of being “accessories” to the incumbent regime’s use of its existing power to shield itself from the risk of a fair vote.

Most recently I have been waiting for processing of documents for release under the Freedom of Information Act from USAID regarding our support of the IEBC’s technology systems in 2013.

I was in Washington this month at the African Studies Association and got a chance to catch up with people in and out of government who keep track of things in East Africa for a living.  I picked up on no indication that next year’s election in Kenya was yet high on anyone’s priority list for the U.S. government with all the immediate as opposed to future potential crises.  I also failed to detect a major policy shift for the U.S. to go from prioritizing first “stability” in Kenya as we have since 2007 (if not always since independence) as opposed to prioritizing “freedom” and/or “fairness” in the next election–much less a subversive agenda to oust Kenyatta through “regime change”.

The money we Americans spend on civic education in Kenya to bolster democracy is not inconsequential–you could do good things in civic education in one of our own states for $20M–but is only a small fraction of what we spend to assist Kenyans in the areas of health and food.  Security is our primary foreign policy priority in Kenya, and poverty-driven needs in health especially, and in food and agriculture, more traditional education and such are our main priority in assistance.

I am not sure how my government will react to being falsely accused in this situation.  Uhuru Kenyatta is personally ungrateful for our help in regard to civic education and otherwise for election assistance.  I suspect that he prefers to run his own re-election with as little attention paid to the process as possible.

Certainly the Government of Kenya, officially a middle income country, could do for its poor much of what we do if its politicians were willing.  We seem to have sentimental attachments to these programs in Kenya but I’m not sure that we ought not to focus more on places that are poorer and where governments are at least reasonably cooperative.

I will regret the loss of opportunity for Kenyans if the Government of Kenya does not change course.  Here is a statement from six Kenya civil society groups:

Is the conviction of IMF head Christine Legard, after the Strauss-Kahn affair, warning to look deeper at Kenya’s Eurobond questions?

There are substantial unanswered questions about the proceeds of Kenya’s Eurobond sales, and the murkiness accompanying all this is unnecessary.  Likewise, anyone who pays any attention at all knew long before the 2014 Eurobond transactions that it is a well established practice for major transactions by the Government of Kenya to be subject to what might be called a “corruption tax” or a “re-election tax” where some portion of the funds goes separately to the politicians in power directly through cash payments, through payments to companies in which they are equity participants in some fashion (“Mobiltelea”, “Goldenburg”, “Anglo Leasing”), payments to companies owned by their immediate family members or other relatives, etc.

The primary assurance internationally that there was nothing untoward about the handling of the bond sale proceeds and that there has been nothing to see has come from the statements to that effect from the IMF, accompanied by Nairobi visits by Ms. Legard.

For a lot of people in the West, who can accept that power in Kenya does not necessarily equate to complete veracity on issues of grand corruption, there seems to be a strange willingness to take the word of political figures from Western countries when they achieve power or status in some international institution.  There can be some legitimate reasons for this, perhaps, but there are also illegitimate ones.  In this case, the United States has the responsibility to get to the bottom of the Eurobond matter rather than simply taking the word of whomever at the IMF.  We all saw some strange dealings at the World Bank in relation to the Kibaki re-election campaign in 2007 and we all know that “the Nairobi curse” makes it very seductive for international organizations who work in and out of Nairobi and enjoy its comforts and convenience to look the other way on matters of corruption that would offend their “hosts” in the Government of Kenya.

Here is the link from BBC announcing the conviction. 

“Eurobond billions: the international side of the story” is one of David Ndii’s recent columns on the subject in the Daily Nation.  Ndii asks explicitly why the IMF has “cooked the books” one way to address missing Eurobond proceeds while Kenya’s Treasury “cooked the books” in a contradictory way. Given what we know was going on in Mozambique and in Malaysia–as well as all of what we know about the establish rule of corruption in Kenya–it is grossly negligent to allow these questions to go unanswered.  If there is a source of the smoke on Kenya’s bond sale proceeds other than the fires of corruption, it ought to be easy enough to see.  I’m from Missouri, and just being from Paris and telling me with a French rather than Kenyan accent is not a substitute for showing me.

[This post has  been slightly edited.]

Jamhuri Day–Obama’s last year goes by as corruption thrives in Kenya

Last year for Jamhuri Day I assessed the status of the relatonship between my American government and Kenya’s.  I listed specific items that would show progress for the U.S. in getting back to supporting anti-corruption reforms in Kenya:

What about on the United States side? Does our government really want to change things now? 

 Here is what I would need to see to be persuaded that we have decided to change the game: 1) public follow up on the Goodyear bribes paid to public officials in Kenya [months have gone by now with no prosecutions in Kenya reported in the press after the parent company in the US turned itself in to the SEC and the Justice Department]; 2) public follow up on the bribery of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the 2013 election procurements [I finally submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request a few months ago to USAID on the procurements we paid for through IFES and for our dealings with the vendor Smith & Ouzman which was convicted in the UK of bribing the Kenyan IEBC–no documents or substantive response yet]; 3) public follow up on the issue of unnamed Kenyan officials being among those bribed by Chinese interests at the UN in New York resulting in U.S. indictments.

It has been credibly reported based on leaks that the new “visa bans” on travel to the US by Kenyan officials are quite extensive. Great. But we do this type of thing, if not quite to this extent, periodically. Over the years it obviously has not added up to any strategic progress even if there may (or may not) have been a few tactical successes here or there. 

Bottom line is that I don’t think you can really fight corruption with secrecy–you have to chose your priorities. And for my government to ignore the cases that have been publicly exposed in which we have some direct stake leaves me unconvinced that we have actually changed our priorities from 2007 and 2013 when I was in Kenya to see for myself.

One thing that we could do to make sure we are “practicing what we preach” on the governance side is for Congress to have oversight hearings about how we are carrying out the July 25 “Joint Agreement”.

Sadly, and tellingly, the year has gotten away from us with  no progress on any of this (including nothing from my FOIA request to USAID on the corrupt 2013 election technology procurements.)

The value of life; the price of office–genocide and elections in East Africa

Muthoni Wanyeki asks in The East African if anyone cares that genocide is looming in South Sudan.

Meanwhile, Kenya is paying an average of about $343,000.00 “severance” to each of the outgoing Independent Electoral and Boundary Commissioners for leaving earlier this fall rather than completing their terms through November 2017.  No signs of accountability for the #Chickengate bribes to the IEBC by Smith & Ouzman that were prosecuted by the UK and no sign of accountability for corruption in the subsequent 2013 election technology procurements.

While the “buyout” has been negotiated, the incumbent IEBC staff without the “servered” Commission has been proceeding to undertake election preparations that will be fait accompli for the new Commission when it is appointed next year.  Accordingly, the chief executive has proceeded to report plans to spend an astounding 30Billion KSh to conduct the 2017 general election, while setting a target of 22 million registered voters. In other words and figures, roughly $13.40US per registered voter if the target is met or $19.60US per currently registered voter. (For comparative data from places like Haiti and Bosnia,see The Ace Project data on cost of registration and elections.)

Old KANU Office

Solo 7–Kibera

“Friday Night Lights” for African Politics scholars

At the African Studies Association annual meeting in Washington;

the African Politics Conference Group

Kenyan official threatens civil society leader at ICC Assembly; American Thanksgiving

I wish this report from Simon Allison of The Daily Maverick was as surprising as it is disturbing.

It is a continuing source of inspiration to me to see the courage of Gladwell Otieno and many of the other Kenyan civil society leaders who remain steadfast in defending the human rights of those who have been victims of the instrumental violence of Kenya’s politicians.

At this point I have been away too long to claim real insight about a lot of the ins and outs of the daily scramble for power and privilege amongst Kenya’s politicians and other elites, but the basic facts of impunity  for violence and corruption have not changed.

Let me at least say that I am thankful for the courageous example as we are grateful for our freedoms and our rule of law and restraints on power here in the United States.  And that I hope that our policy in East Africa will reflect this gratitude and an appreciation that others deserve the same liberties and protections from their governments that we have enjoyed from ours.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the African Studies Association meeting in Washinton in early December.

Something about the American election from the day before . . .

From my personal Facebook page yesterday, something I wanted to share with my friends:

As I was born between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination, back during the “Mississippi Burning” era, it’s a bit hard for me to go too far down the road about how exceptionally apocalyptic this particular election is. 

I will also note that if the wolf is really at the door this time, it is only to be expected that so many people can’t hear the warnings because so many people were screaming “wolf” about each of the the last two people who got elected.

Likewise, it seems pretty silly to me to think that we should look to anyone that fights to the top of the dogpile in our current politics for grand moral or spiritual leadership–just because we have generally run down or torn down other institutions does not mean that we can find a substitute in politics. Sure we have a pretty decadent culture in many ways–how have our serially reactive choices for president since the late 70s really made a big impact on this? We are also, of course, in some ways better than we we were 50 years ago.

None of us has a crystal ball and it is very much guesswork to know how the next presidential term will play out–we have to do our best but we ought to be humble enough not to claim certainty about future events. If Trump, who I could never vote for, wins, I’m not going to give up on my country, nor if Hillary wins am I going to suddenly decide that she doesn’t need to be “watched like a hawk” so to speak. Personally, I have a good record of being as gullible as the next person in voting.