Part Three of “The War for History”: Continuing my email reports to Joel Barkan

Continuing with my Jan. 2-3, 2008 e-mails reporting back to Joel Barkan in Washington from Nairobi:

When I reported the call [to me from Ranneberger] to Washington, Lorne eventually and reluctantly made the decision to scratch Bellamy (he was not told the truth to my chagrin).  Lorne then called Asst. Sec. Frazer on his way to the airport to tell her to get her Ambassador in line, then when he landed in Thailand he called the Ambassador to tell him to stop interfering in our EO.

After the Ambassador first raised his objection to Bellamy a few days earlier we had research Bellamy’s record and found no problems and checked out the political perception in Kenya and also found no problems.  Likewise, we had confirmed with the State Dept in Washington and confirmed that they had no issues with Bellamy being a delegate.  Likewise, we had confirmed that USAID was not objecting (and that they acknowledged they had no right to).

In the meantime, I had gotten a call from the Embassy that next Friday afternoon to come to Ambassador’s residence to see him on Saturday afternoon.  When I visit him, he in a fashion apologized for getting spun up with me, but reiterated that it was vital to the credibility of our whole delegation that Bellamy be struck because he was absolutely “perceived as anti-govenment”.  Whether he intended to or not, he left me with the distinct impression that the “perception” had been conveyed straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak (one of the provisions in our international agreement covering EOM standards prohibits allowing a government or other party any ability to veto members of our delegations).

Further, the Ambassador told me that “people” were saying that Raila might lose Langata.  He said that he would be personally observing the voting in Langata and wanted to take Connie with him for part of the day.  He also said that he wanted to take Connie privately to meet with Stanley Murage before the election.

When I reported this to DC, needless to say alarm bells went off.  We nixed letting Connie go off observing separately with the Ambassador and insisted that Connie would not be available for any off-schedule private meetings.  Serious consideration was given to cancelling the EO and I think it would have been cancelled if I didn’t say that I thought that I could manage the situation here.

When I told Sheryl about the Murage gambit she audibly gasped on the other end of the phone but didn’t comment.  She

later told me that others agreed that it was a bad idea but never conveyed any agreement from the Ambassador that he would not make the effort.

I promptly commissioned an independent pre-election poll from Steadman to complement our already planned exit poll there.  Data was collected the Saturday before the election.  I don’t remember the exact numbers, but they showed Raila at something like 67% and PNU’s Livondo at 29% even after he was endorsed by the other pro-Kibaki candidates.  My impression had been that the notion that Livondo could be competitive in Langata had fallen by the wayside weeks ago and that it was obvious he had not gained traction.  Rumors of a variety of Gov’t/PNU actions to upset the vote in Langata were rife.  Needless to say I was quite surprised by what the Ambassador had suggested.  (At our delegation briefing from Larry Andre on Christmas Eve, I told him that we had done this Langata survey and I was awaiting the data.  He said the Ambassador would be quite interested to know.  That night at the Ambassador’s party Larry said that [redacted] had looked at Langata numbers from Steadman’s final poll and said that they reflected a spread which was quite similar to what we ended up.)

The Tuesday morning after my Saturday meeting, the Standard, which had been alone in recent reporting on the corruption issue–including an exclusive with Githongo–carried a full page with the US Ambassador predicting a “free and fair” election and minimizing the corruption issue specifically, citing the passage of a procurement law and the civil service award, noting that “we have corruption in the US, too” citing Enron.

It is in the context of all of this that I argued that we were making a mistake to continue to decline to release the exit poll.

And continuing after Joel’s reply:

Outrageous is a good word.  I thought you should know what had been going on.

Please do understand that Lorne had chosen to ignore the initial pressure from Ranneberger re Bellamy.  He only folded on the issue after Ranneberger blew up and “put down a marker”.  The other part of what Ranneberger said to me was that he would get our funding pulled and cancel the whole thing if we didn’t strike Bellamy.  Serious consideration was given to telling AID and the Embassy to just keep the money and initiating a cancellation ourselves and I do think that that almost happened.  Needless to say since IRI had already issued 2 releases that we were coming that were printed in the Nation, at least, that would have drawn all sorts of questions, too.  I know that Stephanie and Lorne both felt bad about what was done to Bellamy, as I certainly did (not to mention my chagrin at the bigger issue of removing someone who was obviously extremely qualified on the notion that he had joined the criticism of Anglo Leasing, etc.)  At the same time, I was very disappointed to learn that Bellamy was given a bogus excuse–I certainly would have told him the truth rather than lie to protect Ranneberger (again, not just wrong but stupid, recognizing that he was going to know better anyway)

The Ambassador had long been feeding a list of “recommendations” of people he wanted.  Some use was made of these although DC talked a good game to me about being strictly independent and let me take the calls from the Ambassador and try to keep him placated without giving him anything substantive.  You were on his list, and also on a list from our recently transferred Program Officer [redacted].  Aside from the fact that you fit the bill in every respect, I know Stephanie also wanted to try to repair the damage from your bad experience in the past.

Background is that the EO was Ranneberger’s personal baby from day one.  I was told when I was hired in the spring that there would be no EO, to my disappointment.  Neither IRI nor AID at that time were interested.  AID didn’t see the need and didn’t see Kibaki being seriously challenged.  My predecessor told me that he thought one might be in works when I arrived, and the Ambassador brought it up to me in our first meeting in June, but no in DC would take it as a serious possibility when I tried to convince them.  Ranneberger basically said he would like to have a high
level delegation to highlight Kenya as an African success story (and perhaps show off a bit himself).

In August, Steph and I took Rich Williamson to see the Ambassador.  (Sheryl took us in, then ducked out, explaining that she didn’t want to hear what the Ambassador might have to say since she has some sensitivity to propriety on procurement issues). {Ed. note: this explanation came later.}  Rich was in town on a “Board visit” waiting for a visa to go to Sudan.  The Ambassador used the occasion to crank up discussion on the EO.  At this point all the Embassy and AID people were still “drinking the coolaid” about the election being a cakewalk for Kibaki even though I was very much unpersuaded that he really had broad grassroots support to match up with Odinga since I don’t live in Muthaiga or Gigiri.

After that, Sheryl told me that AID would do “everything in its power” to fulfill the Ambassador’s wish.

On the very last day of the fiscal year they came out with an RFA that came through CEPPS but was clearly written on a basis that made IRI the only appropriate respondent.  The money was $100k from one place and $135k from somewhere else–clearly inadequate to do what was warranted in a country the size and population of Kenya, especially given all of the infrastructure challenges and cost of Fly America and operating out of someplace as expensive as Nairobi.

In Sept. we did our last general public opinion survey in a series dating back to 2006 (and really a continuation of polling that we had done with Strategic with AID funding since 1999 or earlier).  We had always made a limited public release of general data, privately shown the parties and candidates their own standing and released “horserace” numbers to no one.  By this time all the other polls were being published showing Railia having overtaken Kibaki and building a lead.  Our poll had basically the same results for Kibaki that our March poll had had and showed him ahead.

When the Ambassador got this from AID I was called in and he was all excited about how we had to release our figures and stop Steadman from making a contradictory release the same day.  While we were meeting, Larry Andre got an e-mail that Steadman had come out.  Sheryl agreed with me that changing our policy on this last poll before the election would be transparently and blatantly seen as political, and she told me Larry agreed and would work it.  I laid low and never heard back. . .

Telling thing Ambassador said was to the effect that our poll would vindicate what he had been telling Washington, and that if he had misread presidential race “we might as well not even be here”.

2 thoughts on “Part Three of “The War for History”: Continuing my email reports to Joel Barkan

  1. Pingback: “The War for History” part eleven–what did I mean in part ten in referring to Ranneberger “trying to quash” poll results showing Odinga taking the lead in the presidential race in September 2007? | AfriCommons Blog

  2. Pingback: The “War for History” Series to date | AfriCommons Blog

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