The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Kenya’s government is led by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who barely left KANU in form, and not at all in substance. Not surprisingly, as in the past, protests against the government are in general not allowed and protesters are normally teargassed, beaten and arrested. The fact that this is unlawful behavior by the government does not change the facts on the ground, whether under the 2010 “reform” constitution backed by the United States and the Kenyan voters, or under the old Lancaster House constitution as amended. This was the case during the Kibaki interlude when I lived in Kenya in 2007-08, and it has most certainly been the case during the original Kanu regimes and the current Jubilee revival.
The most recent conspicuous episode was on Thursday, February 13.
For people protesting against the Kenyan government to get the attention of the media they need to engage in something especially catchy beyond the usual shedding tears and blood and getting arrested. Last year, for instance, protesters made international news by releasing pigs in front of parliament to protest the extra-legal raises that the MPs, or “MPigs” were giving themselves. Of course the protesters were teargassed, beaten and arrested, but at least they made the news.
Unfortunately, after the fact the use of the pigs became something of a distraction to the issue of the financial avarice in parliament. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan capital in its own way, and for many, naturally, there is a right way to get teargassed, beaten and arrested, and a wrong way to get teargassed beaten and arrested. Everyone is a lot more used to greedy politicians than to real pigs turned loose in front of parliament. So this time organizers of the February 13 protest assured that they would not use any such animal stunts. (This time they had foam dolls to depict an infantile “diaper mentality”.)
With the build up of publicity and momentum for the announced and pre-cleared protest, the police blinked and announced to the media at the last minute that the protest was purportedly “cancelled” because of unspecified alleged terrorism concerns. Overlapping with this some Kenyan media outlets carried what the Standard headlined: “National Security Advisory Committee Statement on plans to destabilize government”:
The National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to urgently summon the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officials with IMMEDIATE EFFECT to give more information over its plans to topple the Government using activists.
. . . .
NSAC wants a strong kenya’s displeasure communicated to the metropoles’ leaders regarding impunity, notoriety, & high handed of distraught diplomats who have no respect on incubent leadership following the recent general elections. Francis T Kimemia, EGH Chairman NSAC/ Secretary to the Cabinet 12th Feb 2014
Of course this is all a bit rich considering that USAID provided extensive funding to the Kenyan IEBC which declared a first round Uhuru/Ruto win by 50.07% in spite of not running a credible or transparent tally process after completely screwing up the technology implementation we helped pay for. And that USAID provided extensive funding for the Kenyan ELOG observation and “parallel vote count” which was a primary tool used to claim that the IEBC’s announced results were “verified” even though ELOG found significant problems and the parallel vote count figure for Uhuru was 49.7% indicating that most likely there should have been a runoff. (The parallel vote count has not been subject to public scrutiny, unlike the independent exit poll which suggests both tickets ran below 50% support.) The top priority was “peace”–the absence of warring militias after the vote. (As with 2007, where we would only advocate for Kibaki to accommodate a political settlement with the opposition, not hold a new election or investigate a recount, even though we had evidence of bribery at the electoral commission and our Ambassador personally witnessed misconduct with the tallies.)
The bottom line is that in the 2013 election and since, as throughout our 50 year relationship, the top priorities for the United States in relation to Kenya have been stability and security.
In general, the United States doesn’t like to see bad elections in Kenya, and it has been a diplomatic annoyance to have the Government of Kenya headed by ICC indictees, even though we are not ICC members. Many in the United States government believe that Uhuru and Ruto are in fact personally culpable in the Post Election Violence and find that morally distasteful, but it did not stop the United States from dealing with both Uhuru and Ruto on a business as usual basis when they were ministers in the second Kibaki administration under that cloud prior to the charges against them being confirmed by the Court. The second Kibaki administration even used Uhuru to lobby in the United States for increased aid from our government.
Slapped with this ridiculous and inflammatory accusation of trying to overthrow the government, which could be dangerous if anyone actually believed it, the U.S. administration–rather than noting the obvious “red herring” diversion from Kenya’s unconstitutional repression of its citizens who wish to express their disappointment at the poor performance of their politicians–simply pointed out that the charges were false and reiterated our 50 year “partnership” with Kenya’s various governments.
We consistently provide roughly a billion dollars in aid to Kenya. Much of this is to provide social services such as AIDS drugs and other health services which are lower tier priorities for Kenya’s politicians than other things they spend Kenyan tax dollars on, formally and informally. We also provide a great deal of support for Kenya’s military and for other Kenyan “security” sectors, such as helping to investigate on a non-public basis the Westgage terrorist attack. We are helping to bail Kenya out on the cost of its adventure into Somalia, which we discouraged and declined to support, now that the Kenyan troops are part of the AMISOM force. We call all this a “partnership” with a triple coating of diplomatic fudge.
From Friday, the day after the NSAC broadside from Kimemia: “USAID gives sh1.7B to Isiolo and Marsabit Counties“:
The United States Agency for International Development ( USAid) will spend Sh1.7 billion to boost the livestock sector in Isiolo and Marsabit counties. The amount to be disbursed through USAid partner, Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands — Accelerated Growth (Regal-AG) will be used over the next five years to spur the livestock sector in the two arid counties. Isiolo Governor, Godana Doyo and Regal-AG Chief of Party Cary Farley signed a memorandum of understanding at the governor’s office yesterday. County Secretary Ibrahim Wako and the Executive in charge of Lands and Agriculture Suleiman Shunu accompanied Doyo. Regal-AG Isiolo regional manager Erastus Kyalo accompanied Dr Farley. A similar MoU was signed with Marsabit County two weeks ago.