Washington and Nairobi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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