Warnings to Take Seriously for Kenya’s March Election . . . and something to enjoy

The Council on Foreign Relations has just published a “Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 17” regarding “Electoral Violence in Kenya” by Joel Barkan, of CSIS and professor emeritus from the University of Iowa.

Well worth a careful review. Joel Barkan is a dean among the community of American scholars of Kenyan and East African politics who has also worked on the democracy and governance assistance side with USAID in Kenya during the birth pangs of 1992 and made the transition to the policy world in Washington through his post at the CSIS Africa Program and activities such as helping to spearhead the “Kenya Working Group” to put together a broad range of people in Washington working on Kenya issues to generate necessary focus within the U.S. government. Joel was our “resident expert” among the Election Observation delegates for the International Republican Institute observation for the 2007 Kenyan election and had the singular position of being independently identified as someone we wanted as a delegate by both IRI staff and as a “suggestion” to me from Ambassador Ranneberger.

Someday, when a careful history is written of the last Kenyan election and its aftermath, Joel will be noted as one of those who helped the United States get its diplomatic response turned around in part so that we were then able to assist in addressing the crisis presented by the failed election. He spoke out from Kenya and immediately afterwards back in Washington about the obvious failure of the ECK central tally in Nairobi–and raised in Washington the failure to release and use the IRI/USAID exit poll data as a clear indicator that the ECK’s announced numbers did not justify the intransigence being shown by Kibaki and his networks of “hardliners”. Thus, Joel is an obvious person to pay attention to in preparing for the 2013 election.

Let me also flag the comment to my last post entitled “Countdown to Chaos” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American former Marine who has lived in Kenya since the 1970s. I don’t know Mr. Franklin personally yet outside the blog, but this is a warning “straight from the ground” in Kenya, from someone with involvement in the security business. It is a lot easier for expats in Kenya to keep their heads down and say nothing, so I take his cautions with extra gravity.

In closing, let me refer you to a video from bloggingheadstv.com with Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch and Wycliffe Muga of Nairobi’s The Star. Regular readers will have noticed that I cite Wycliffe Muga’s Star columns frequently as having noteworthy insight. I didn’t get to meet nearly as many Kenyan journalists as I would have liked while working the last election, in part because I wasn’t wanting to be in the media myself and in part because I was just too busy with the immediate demands of the job with the programs I was responsible for. Nonetheless, I did get to meet Wycliffe in person early on and got tutored in some important intricacies of Kenyan politics, both historically and in terms of the current situation in Mombasa at that time where he was living then. I will call Wycliffe a friend, like Joel, in the interest of disclosure and because I like them both–but please don’t assume that either of them necessarily ever agree with me on anything I write here!

I think it might be fair to call Wycliffe something of an “Ameriphile”, which of course I appreciate as an American myself. In this bloggingheadstv discussion, Wycliffe perhaps provides a “shot in the arm” for those of us who might get discouraged by some of our more feckless foreign policy moments and expresses appreciation for what the United States did ultimately do in applying muscle to leverage a mediated settlement of the Kenyan 2007-08 election crisis, as well as, in particular, health assistance in the form of PEPFAR.

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6 thoughts on “Warnings to Take Seriously for Kenya’s March Election . . . and something to enjoy

  1. The largest US Embassy in Subsaharan Africa has gone quiet as Kenya continues to stumble towards the first round of the General Elections scheduled for March 4th. The “international community” has tossed $70 million at this electoral process and decisions have been taken-or not-to work behind the scenes to influence events? The possibility that no decisions have been made regarding non-interference in this most internal of affairs in this sovereign country seems almost ludicrous and beggars belief. However the US and its western allies have been paying the piper in Kenya for nearly 50 years without being able to pick the tune; lip service and promises equals smoke and mirrors especially when the international cast of characters is constantly changing. The US has a heretofore unstated vital interest in this General Election: That is the safety and security of American lives and property. Thousands of US Cirizens have settled in Kenya and seem to have no say in how this country is being handled by the bureaucrats in Gigiri or Washington DC?

    Andrew J Franklin 254 722754242

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