Freedom of Information Series (Part Eleven): Better to Learn More Lessons from Kenya’s Last Election After the Next One?

Back last May I had checked in with the State Department’s Freedom of Information Office about the status of outstanding documents from my 2009 FOIA requests regarding the 2007 Kenya elections.

At that time the FOIA Office wrote me that State Department documents about the IRI and USAID Exit Poll had finally been received from the Africa Bureau, presumably including the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, in addition to just the Central Records in Washington. (From what I had been told by the FOIA Office previously, the Africa Bureau did not respond for well more than two years following my original FOIA submission.) The estimated additional time to review and release documents was six months, to November 30, 2012.

November 30 came and went with no documents. i wrote to request release on an expedited basis due to the new elections upcoming but got no response. Checking back I was eventually given a new date of May 2013, after the new Kenyan elections.

A lot of people in a variety of capacities in the U.S. government, or otherwise funded by U.S. taxpayers, are working on matters involving the March Kenya elections. Likewise, from other donor governments and international organizations. And of course Kenyans who bore the actual effects of the disaster in the last elections have the most at stake in the new elections. Why further delay disclosing and addressing the documentary record from 2007?

Impunity for election fraud in 2007 makes the 2013 Kenya elections riskier. Even though there will be no accountability now, Americans and Kenyans should at least know as much as possible about what happened.

2 thoughts on “Freedom of Information Series (Part Eleven): Better to Learn More Lessons from Kenya’s Last Election After the Next One?

  1. Countdown to chaos? The Kenya National Police Service is in total disorganization, the three counties of North East Province are slipping into insurgency and the IEBC continues to assert that the General Elections can be held on March 4th. Millions of Dollars have been tossed at various and sundry GOK entities, local civil society groups, NGOs, etc et al ad infinitum ad nauseum by the USGOV, UK , EU and the UN. As with spending on “security” related activities there is absolutely no coordination nor any coherent plans; all objectives and desired outcomes are essentially aspirational! The US Embassy remains rudderless?

    • Thank you, Andrew. It is crucial that people who want to be helpful are realistic. There is almost no chance of a credible election if the IEBC is not ready, and this needs to be addressed in a transparent manner. I am sure that there is a lot of desire to get this over with and hope for the best, but a short delay for necessary administrative functions could make a huge difference.

      I have been disappointed not to see more open discussion of international support for security after seeing how things went with the police service last time, and recognizing that reforms have just started–while the sources of risk are greater.

      Sad to hear your perspective on lack of coordination. New U.S. Ambassador Godec was confirmed today I was told, so will hope that helps. In 2007 there certainly seemed to be a huge volume of small programs working largely in isolation, if not competition. Should be a lot of lessons learned about what didn’t make a difference then, and anything that did, but I am not sure anyone is encouraged to pull that together.

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