As the International Republican Institute Country Director in 2007-2008, I was an “insider” of sorts in the disastrous Kenyan election in December and its aftermath because I was a privileged outsider by virtue of my job. A middle class lawyer such as myself who was a Kenyan could have only hoped at best to have some real access to one side or the other. I was both bound by a written IRI code of conduct and my own ethics to protect the private conversations I had with politicians in the context of their seeking the benefits of our democracy assistance programing or otherwise communicating to me because of that role that I was in.
Since I have practiced law as my career except for my year of leave to work for IRI in Kenya, you could say that I keep people’s secrets for a living, so I do not find it hard or unusual, whatever the temptations.
Over the years in this blog I have written the stories of a few very important conversations I had in the pre- and post- election environment with leading Kenyan political figures, but I have always been careful to anonymize them so that the point can be shared for learning purposes without calling out the individual.
See, for example: “Vote Buying and Women Candidates in Kenya” and “As it was in 2007, is it now in 2016? “Too much corruption” in Kenya to risk a change is power at elections?” [The individual with whom we had the conversations reported in these posts is naturally still very much involved this year; I will hope the institutional knowledge within IRI is sufficient that everyone involved there is well informed on this.]
For separate but related reasons, I have also avoided using the names of my fellow IRI employees and employees at USAID and the State Department as best I can. The reason for that is so that I was not at risk of doing to anyone else what IRI did to me in response to my being interviewed by The New York Times about the failed election and our exit poll program: what you might call a “poisoning by Google”. This is why I try never to use the names, as opposed to occasionally the titles, of others involved except the Ambassador himself. Sort of a “turn the other cheek” thing, and also an attempt to do no more harm than necessary to honor the truth. This has helped me keep as many personal friendships as possible over the years even if the details of the kinds of things I have written about here about what happened with that election in Kenya have always remained completely off limits with my former colleagues and most everyone who was in my government.
I am an enemy of the state…welcome to my world! No guts no glory!?! Long beyond time to name and shame…ask a Marine!
Thanks, Andrew. I have done my best to navigate this. Since I don’t live in Kenya, there is no “guts” issue regarding “naming” Kenyan pols; taking issue with the Ambassador’s interference with my work was much more consequential. I think we should all be well and truly over any notion that “naming” in Kenyan politics ever leads “shame”. As someone at the State Department wrote up a conversation with Embassy staff on “observing” the November 2007 primaries:
“We would say the the parties embarrassed themselves, except most of the party leaders have no shame and are thus immune from embarrassment. General feeling is that apparent total lack of organization is not an accident, but reflects efforts to rig/manipulate the outcomes.”
Obviously if politicians had confessed their intentions to kill each other’s supporters I would have reacted differently long ago.