.@AsstSecStateAF: “As we reflect on the importance of transparency in other matters such as aid, debt and health information, the benefits of working with a free and open society, versus one that is not, is readily apparent.” #AFHubPress— US Africa Media Hub (@AfricaMediaHub) May 6, 2020
I had hoped to have these public records to inform discussions about how the United States should interact with the next Kenyan election in 2017, but if I am successful in appealing the extensive redactions perhaps it can eventually be said “better late than never”. I did get a heavily redacted copy of the Cooperative Agreement between the “Consortium for Election and Political Process Strengthening” (IFES, IRI and NDI) in April 2017, before the August vote, but the rest has come out in smaller releases in June 2018 and September 2019 with the bulk now.
It is bit of a struggle for me to know what more to say about what I have learned so far about our efforts on the poorly administered and questionable 2013 election following “the debacle of 2007.”
On one hand I want to be as kind and generous to the individuals involved as possible–just as I have tried to be in dealing with the problems in 2007-08. On the other the I am seeing Kenyan voters being let down again in 2013–partly through a repeat of one of the big problems from 2007–the failure of trustworthy results transmission in spite of U.S. tax dollars being appropriated, programmed and spent to acquire the necessary systems.
Instead of finally “lancing the boil” in response to the problems in 2013, we seem to have pretended that the alleged “50.07%” received by the ICC indictees Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto was more credible than we should have known that it really was. We went so far as to spend at least some American tax dollars supporting the Kenyan IEBC’s litigation efforts against Kenyan civil society, and Kenyan opposition candidates, to defend their work and uphold their pronouncements, without disclosing what we knew about problematic behaviors by the IEBC involving their acquisition of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system and the Electronic Voter Identification (EVID), as well as the status of the Results Transmission System that we undertook to design and build at our own expense.
The miscues from 2013 culminated in the next presidential election being annulled by Kenya’s Supreme Court after more machinations in 2017. 2013 was the election that mattered most, when there was no incumbent and the transition to what was hoped to be a better system under the new Constitution wrought from the settlement of the 2007 struggle. 2017 was never going to be a level playing field between the incumbents and opposition. In 2017 the incumbent administration attacked and disrupted the work of IFES for allegedly being too favorable to the opposition in spite of the “leeway” Kenyatta and Ruto achieved from election assistance and observation missions in taking office in 2013, so the beast was not sated.
See August 30, 2017 — Kenya’s Presidential Election in a nutshell: 1) widespread failure or non-use of purchased electonic Results Transmission System (as in 2007 and 2013); 2) lack of transparent or complete “complementary” substitute (as in 2007 and 2013).
Almost all the redaction has been done by USAID on behalf of CEPPS on the claim that much of the material submitted by IFES, NDI and most especially IRI was exempt from FOIA under 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(4) for “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.” This claim of commercial confidentiality exemption is made for essentially all of IRI’s quarterly reporting, most of NDI’s and large sections of IFES’s as well as significant sections of CEPPS summaries. I have not seen this type of aggressive assertion of commercial confidentiality by not-for-profit election assistance “GONGOs” (Government Organized Non-Governmental Organizations) before and I am disappointed to see this approach which I do not see as sustainable. (I made it clear that I was not interested in rates and other financial information.)
No one likes scrutiny but I would think it comes with the territory of taking public foreign assistance money to help citizens of less developed countries achieve “free, fair , transparent and peaceful elections” as the goals were described here.