Carter Center release; Initial observations on the “Frazer v. Carson” controversy

The Carter Center 2013 EOM Pre-Election Statement was released today based on the work so far of 14 long term observers, who will later be joined by short term observers from 19 countries. Not surprisingly, the Statement has no particular revelations pro or con for those following the election situation. While it primarily exhorts good future behavior, the statement generally praises the IEBC on its internal preparatory work while stressing concerns about the adequacy of voter education to date. It praises the IEBC’s willingness to work with judiciary, while noting the huge volume of cases that might arise from election challenges. Discussion of security seems to me quite generic under the circumstances, but read it for yourself.

The environment for comment from “outsiders” is difficult given the growing tension in the closing days of the campaign. With yesterday’s incident with an American academic/investor who was a George W. Bush administration Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs accusing the serving American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs of “essentially meddling” in the Kenyan election for noting that while Kenyans should freely elect their choice of candidates such choices did have “consequences” in their external relationships, I would think it becomes that much more challenging for the Carter Center or other observers to push on any particular pre-election issues.

My initial reaction to Jendayi Frazer’s high profile “denouncement” of her successor is to say that while I would strongly defend Ms. Frazer’s right as a private citizen in the United States to dissent from and critique American foreign policy (as I have done myself), I personally think her comments were quite unfortunate under the circumstances. To me, if her concern was to try to improve on American performance by criticizing current officials’ actions, she would have done better to hold her tongue in public for less than two weeks until the vote was over. The timing of her attack on Johnnie Carson, combined with her specific characterization of the ICC’s case against Uhuru Kenyatta, in the context of her own highly controversial role in 2007-08 in the last election, could suggest that perhaps Ms. Frazer herself was seeking to be a public player in the Kenyan campaign rather than advocating for “non-interference”.

Part of the situation here is that Frazer has a bully pulpit by virtue of her time in the government position before Carson was appointed to serve the current administration. When she speaks in this way, as a practical matter she is identified in the media and otherwise primarily as a recent former senior appointee in the State Department, rather than as someone launching business enterprises, as a professor or any other role or roles that she may play as a private citizen in the context of East Africa today, as opposed to her role five years ago.

More to the point for me is how disappointing Frazer’s statement is for people in Kenya who have supported the rights of the victims of the 2007-08 post-election violence and supported “the reform agenda” and the long, hard and dangerous work of seeking some small measure of justice in whatever legal venue. Kenya is in fact a member of the ICC even if the United States is not; the ICC is involved only because Kenya’s parliament, including Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, voted “don’t be vague, go to the Hague”. Kenya’s government committed to cooperate with the ICC before what Frazer calls a weak case was in fact confirmed to go forward to trial by the Court.

Given that the United States is again the leading donor in the $100 million effort to support the Kenyan election process, I personally don’t think that Carson’s statement was outside the boundaries of appropriate diplomacy in the context of the characterization of the President’s immediately proceeding statement being given in the Kenyan campaign, vis-a-vis the statements of the European donors. There is really no precedent that fits the situation with the Kenyan election and the candidates facing ICC trial and I doubt anyone is very clear about what the consequences of electing an ICC indictee as president would be — but it doesn’t seem controvertible to me to note that there would certainly be some.

2 thoughts on “Carter Center release; Initial observations on the “Frazer v. Carson” controversy

  1. Ms. Frazer is a private citizen in the United States and an apparent apologist for Jubilee here in Kenya. She would most likely have been comfortable with a PNU regime after the 2007 elections; any winner other than Raila? Ms.Frazer was an exchange student at Univ. of Nairobi during the early 1980s and seems to complete the troika of Americans (Senator Chris Coons and former Amb. Gration) who seem to be running a separate agenda from that of merely acting for US Citizens’ interests relative to the GOK and the people they know? Ms. Frazer’s comments were inappropriate and could easily be construed as critical of the Bush Administration refusal to sign on to the ICC; she apparently does not trust American courts-neither military nor civilian- to bring to trial US Citizens accused of atrocities, violations of the laws of war and crimes against humanity. Ms Frazer should make herself clear particularly on this issue; as a private US Citizen academic/investor she is welcome to join some 20,000 other private US Citizens in Kenya from March 1st; she can enjoy the best advice of the US Embassy and SHELTER IN PLACE ! Here in Nairobi, not there in her safe haven in the States!

  2. Pingback: Uhuru Kenyatta, Jendayi Frazer and Paul Kagame walk into a commodity exchange in Kigali . . . | AfriCommons Blog

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