Of the laundry list of independent U.S. Government agencies Trump’s initial “skinny budget” submission to Congress proposes to eliminate, the USIP and the Wilson Center are specifically active on issues relating to democracy, war and peace in East Africa and the African Development Foundation is the one Africa-specific agency.
By electing President Obama we got through with race and became post-racial. Now that we have elected Trump we are surely done with “political correctness”, so lets us speak plainly. What is “Africa” as seen from Washington?
Well, surely Africa is a playground for so many characters, but that is nothing new at all, and we don’t really like to focus on that. From Trump children big game hunting to politically engaged ministers and ex-diplomats involved in unusual investment schemes, Africa abides. With election campaigns to run and autocrats to lobby for in Washington. And missions and aid and economic investment programs continuing apace with varying degrees of pep and power in accordance with the visions and priorities of policy makers.
The thing that is new from U.S. vantage in this century is the overriding common legacy of the Bush and Obama administrations: AFRICOM (recognizing that the new command was primarily planned by the Bush Administration but did not “stand up” until Obama was almost in office).
I never had strong opinions about whether having a separate combatant command for Africa would be better or worse than than the status quo under CENTCOM, et al, that existed in my time working in Kenya and Somaliand in 2007-08. It has escaped my attention if there are many Americans who see our policies in Africa during the Cold War as a highlight of our better angels, and I think on balance our aspirations for our relations in Africa in this century are higher than back in the past; nonetheless, largely staying out of Africa directly with our own military during the the Cold War and its initial aftermath may have reduced risks that are now potentially at play.
I think it is fair to say that ten years in the December 2006 Ethiopian operation to remove the ICU in Somalia with our support has not over time convinced all skeptics. In fairness, perhaps, as with the French Revolution, it is still too early to tell.
So did having AFRICOM as a separate combatant command from late 2008 (with a new “whole-of-government” flavor and hardwired entre for USAID and State Department involvement) result in wiser judgment and better execution in terms of US national security and/or related and ancillary command objectives in recent years?
It is hard to judge because it is a big command (aside from the answer being, in substance, classified) but the experience with regard to the Libya intervention in particular is not altogether encouraging.
Would having CENTCOM engaged from Tampa rather than AFRICOM from Stuttgart have made a difference in some way to our consideration of intervention and our planning-perhaps more hard questions initially to Washington from a more “war wary” perspective as opposed to input from an entity with the bureaucratic equivalent of the “new car smell”? [If inexperience was not a factor, what do we need to change to avoid future repetition if we agree that something went wrong on Libya?]
One way or the other, Trump takes office with AFRICOM at his command, a vast range of relatively small training interactions of a primarily “military diplomatic” nature all over, large exercises and larger programs with many militaries, active limited and largely low profile (from outside) “kinetic” operations across a wide “arc of instability” and the war in Somalia with a new legal opinion, for what its worth, tying the fight against al Shabaab more explicitly to 9-11 and al Queda. Along with a real live emergency in South Sudan and several other critical situations from a humanitarian and stability perspective.
I have declined to be persuaded by a dark view of the intentions behind standing up AFRICOM (versus the status quo ante and any realistic alternatives). Perhaps this is merely self protective since I am, after all, American, but also worked for much longer in the defense industry than my brief foray in paid assistance work. But it is my attempt at honest judgment from my own experience. Regardless, we are where we are, and Donald Trump will be giving the orders at the top to AFRICOM and whatever anyone had in mind, the fact that it is a military command rather than a civilian agency makes a great deal of difference in terms of the latitude that he inherited along with possession of the American White House.
Needless to say I hope it turns out that he has a yuge heart and bigly wisdom however fanciful that hope might look from what he has said and done so far.
I ordered this book through the University of Chicago at the African Studies Association meeting in Washington last month– newly published in the U.K. and released in 2015 in South Africa:
For fifty years the South African government spent an estimated $100 million annually on a campaign of disinformation, much of it in the US and UK.
New York Times journalist Ron Nixon provides a lively and shocking account of how power and influence were used to buy media coverage and create extensive support networks. These included an unlikely coalition of anti-communist black conservatives, religious organizations and global corporations.
With all the current buzz about Russian involvement in U.S. and European elections and political controversies, and since I knew some of the people who played a role in this story through my work in the Republican Party during the later years of Apartheid, I was naturally glad to see this and anxious to read through and see what new I learn about this fairly recent era in US and African politics and relations.
See my post Abramoff’s Africa and Obama’s America from 2012.
Update: I’ve finished it and highly recommend. Here is a review from The Daily Maverick. Of personal interest, some events took place in familiar locales in Mississippi, and Jack Abramoff gave an interview with the author in 2014 in which he claims, amazingly, that he didn’t know that the International Freedom Foundation which he helped found with South Africans in 1986 was a front for South African intelligence. (Jack was in relevant news this week sharply criticizing Senator Marco Rubio for his questioning of Trump Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings.)
At the African Studies Association annual meeting in Washington;
the African Politics Conference Group
I’ve promised myself to go ahead and hammer home more of the details about the election fraud and cover up in Kenya in 2007 in more installments of my “War for History” series before saying much more about the next election or the latest trend in development assistance fashion or other things that would be more fun to write about now.
Part of what has happened is that I made a conscious choice to “turn the other cheek” when I was attacked by and on behalf of the International Republican Institute back in 2009 for being a former employee “whistleblower” of sorts or violating the “omerta” of that branch of the government organized NGO world. I did not want to attack IRI for reasons both substantial and sentimental. Sentimentally, I had friends there and still do and aside from meaningful relationships I liked pretty much everyone I worked with and it makes me sad to address painful subjects in this context. More substantively, I believed in and invested in American democracy assistance through IRI and I do think that such assistance can be effective and of value in the right circumstances (if we conduct ourselves in a principled and committed way and hold ourselves accountable as necessary in any serious endeavor). Thus, I have been circumspect in fighting back to try to defend or recover my own reputation recognizing that at some level that is part of the collateral damage associated with coming into contact with the sort of political “perfect storm” that hit Kenya and Washington during my time in Nairobi. With the far far greater harm that came to those millions of Kenyans who had their vote misappropriated and those killed, maimed and displaced by the violence, whether state-sponsored, privately instigated and funded or spontaneous, getting a black-eye from some operatives in Washington is not something of consequence one way or the other.
After returning home from Kenya at the end of May 2008 I did over the months and years ahead a variety of interviews with people undertaking writing projects relating to that Kenyan election of 2007 (none at my instigation, but I would invariably say yes when asked). I always assumed that someone would eventually publish their book tackling the hard story of what really happened with the election and de-cyphering in some real fashion what U.S. policy at the time was intended to be. Unfortunately, that has still never yet happened, and here we are, in 2016 with yet another election notionally (and by law) only a year away.
So I have concluded that at this point I really need to go ahead and hit the rest of the key high points of what I know first hand as well as what I have teased out from FOIA. In particular, anyone working for IRI/NDI/IFES and any of the other organizations running election support operations or any type of observation-related endeavor for the 2017 Kenyan election really needs to know the ins-and-outs of what happened in 2007-08, especially since almost all the key players in Kenyan politics are the same (although perhaps half or so have switched sides between Government and Opposition).
I do need to call attention to two rules that I have continued to abide by in my role as a “witness” here: 1) I uphold the Code of Conduct I agreed to in working for IRI by not disclosing my political conversations with Kenyan politicians during my IRI service in any way that is recognizable to the individuals involved 2) I have not published or quoted stolen classified documents or otherwise violated any U.S. national security rules (as I have mentioned, I had a security clearance from my job in the U.S. based defense industry contemporaneously with my time in Kenya, but my clearance was unrelated to my unpaid “public service” leave for the NGO job in East Africa and I did not work on any classified programs or endeavors of any sort as an IRI employee. My security clearance was renewed back home several months after Ambassador Ranneberger and I contradicted each other in the New York Times about his interactions with me in regard to the Kenyan election–I have assumed that this was because I told the truth). I have noticed that it seems more and more people who do a lot of sensitive work for the U.S. government at taxpayer expense do cite some material from the “cablegate” leaks, but I have not crossed that threshold myself.
The Mississippi angle comes in from the fact that the experience of Hurricane Katrina (which made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast eleven years ago today) had a great deal to do with me finding myself in the wake of the election disaster in Kenya in 2007. The idea of taking leave from my job primarily supporting Navy shipbuilding to work in foreign assistance took shape from the Katrina experience. I won’t try to explain in any depth now, but the point is that I took leave of my job as a middle-aged mid-career lawyer and moved my family to Kenya temporarily (at the expense of my wife’s job, by the way) with the serious expectation of doing work that was at least in some meaningful if incremental way beneficial to people who were less fortunate (as opposed to because it was the best job I could find in the Republican Party at the time, or because I needed to lay low and get out of the country for while, or some such). Thus, I remain unrequited as I see democracy in Kenya continue to slog in the mud and the alleged benefits of the February 28, 2008 “peace deal” pissed away in favor of impunity for corruption as well as for killing.
“Greatness is not attained by glorifying yourself in times of victory. It comes only when you handle victory in great humility,” he said.
The former Vice President said the Afraha rally was in bad faith particularly for the 2007-08 post-election violence victims who are still in tears and despair nine years later.
“Kenya’s healing lies not in holding a roadshow prayer rally. It lies in the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report which Jubilee, with her numbers, has deliberately failed to push for adoption in Parliament. The report offers better options for healing, compensation of PEV victims, cohesion and measures of dealing with ethnicity that has crippled our state,” he said.
Mudavadi was Raila’s running mate in 2007 and presumably would have been in place to become Prime Minister under a new constitution if the Kibaki vote totals had not been marked up at the ECK to keep Kibaki in office and unleashing carnage. In 2012, Mudavadi was the original choice of some more responsible, less jingoistic elements of the Kikuyu establishment over Uhuru, and had a signed deal for Uhuru’s support, for which Uhuru reneged. Ultimately, Mudavadi seems to have proved to be too temperate, too sober for the times.
The political establishment in Kenya will not be easily moved in the 2012 elections, now most likely ending up to be in 2013 through a complicated series of legal wickets for which no one has claimed responsibility and for which there is no obvious popular support. I hope it is finally dawning of any doubters that the Government of Kenya as an institution is quite mobilized on balance to try to stop the ICC, as it has been–and not in favor of any substitute local justice mechanism.
Contrary to what one would expect for a fair competition for elective office, Museveni appoints his own seven member election commission (with confirmation by the Parliament controlled by his NRM).
But international observers can surely be counted on to blow the whistle on any “funny business” as Kenyan Senator Amos Wako, Attorney General from 1991 to 2011, is co-chair of the Commonwealth observation delegation, with Nigeria’s former president Obasanjo. Wako is especially known for observing Kenya’s Goldenburg and Anglo Leasing scandals as Attorney General.
Last time, in 2011, the United States made some public effort at least to press Museveni to allow an independent election commission. Museveni called our bluff and said no, so we did not say much this time.
Here is the latest release today from CEON-U, or the Citizen Election Observers Network working with NDI funding.
Here is a link to the longstanding CCEDU or the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.
Update 2-17 – Rosebell’s Blog gives a good overview of tense atmosphere during the last weeks of the campaign: “Worrying war rhetoric ahead of Feb. 18 Uganda vote”.
And Jeffrey Gettleman’s analysis piece for today’s New York Times: “Uganda, Firmly Under One Man’s Rule, Dusts Off Trappings of an Election.”
And, from Andrew Green in Foreign Policy: “A real debate before Uganda’s fake election.”
In his book Birth: the Conspiracy to Stop the ’94 Election, Peter Harris, a South African lawyer who was in charge of the “election-monitoring division” of that country’s Independent Electoral Commission in 1994 (under Johann Kriegler, later appointed by President Kibaki to head Kenya’s 2008 IREC or “Kriegler Commission”, charged under Kenya’s 2008 post-election settlement with, inter alia, investigating the failed presidential vote) elaborates:
“Why would anyone want to run a free and fair election that will remove them from power? . . . Enter the election-monitoring division, whose primary job is to ensure that the election is free and fair. . . .
What constitutes a free and fair is a major issue for us. The high level of violence can have a major effect. In short, the tense situation in Bophuthatswana can jeopardize everything.
Declaring an election free and fair depends on a number of considerations, but chief among them is the ‘freedom of voters to vote in secret, free from violence and coercion’, and ‘access to secure voting stations’.
Since his appointment, Steven Friedman and his information and analysis department have been monitoring the situation closely. Their final talks will be to produce a report that will help the commissioners make a finding on whether the election was free and fair and a reflection of the will of the people.
I rather like the ‘will of the people’ bit; it reminds me of one of those classic legal catch-all clauses that provide an escape route if all else fails. It is a bit like ‘sufficient consensus,’ that famous methodology for reaching agreement at constitutional negotiations. In real terms this means if the ANC and the National Party agree there was ‘sufficient consensus’, then bugger the rest. The real reason I like ‘the will of the people’ is because, as we hurtle closer to this election, it is clear to me that there is a lot that can, and probably will, go wrong.
Under Kenyan law under the 2010 Constitution, as in effect for the last election in 2013, this issue of potential circumlocution about election shortcomings is solved: the Constitution mandates a “free and fair” minimum standard. I have written previously that I had picked up on discussion in Washington ahead of the 2013 Kenyan election harking back to the “will of the people” hedging language used by Westerners in reference to Moi’s re-elections in the 1990’s.
I ended up in an indirect disagreement through the pages of Africa in Fact magazine with the spokesmen for the Western government-funded election observation missions (the Carter Center from the US and the EU mission) about the significance of the conspicuous absence of reference to the higher (and legally mandated) standard in their Preliminary Statements following the voting.
The titular conspiracy that the Harris memoir discloses, but does not explain in detail, is that hackers penetrated the electoral commission ICT systems and changed vote tallies in progress. And that the fraud was discovered by the embedded IFES (International Foundation for Electoral Systems) team funded by the U.S., addressed internally within the Electoral Commission and not disclosed at the time.
The hackers were adding votes for third parties apparently not to disrupt the ANC’s win, but rather to manipulate the overall percentage seemingly to avoid letting the ANC have the parliamentary margin to change the new constitution.
The South African Electoral Commission suspended the vote tally without explaining about the infiltration of the system. A technology work around was created but the overall control system for handling the count broke down. Through heroic logistical efforts, intricate private political negotiations and with the grace of fortunate “communications” efforts, the election process was “saved” to the extent of being accepted as a rough approximation of the “will of the people” in the context of moving from majority rule in an electorate of 22 million from the existing system of rule determined by competition among no more than a 3 million voter privileged minority. Close enough for “horseshoes or hand grenades” as we say. Close enough to an actual count of each individual’s vote for a “free and fair” election? Not so much.
In South Africa in 1994 there was an understood consensus that the purpose of the first broadly democratic election was to transfer power from the minority National Party the majority ANC while containing conflict from other factions “white” and “black”. The time allocated and resources available made a free and fair election as such wholly beyond the potential of the endeavor.
Thus the situation in South Africa in 1994 was radically different than the electoral management task presented to the Kenya’s ECK and IEBC (and IFES) in 2007 and 2013.
In 2013 Judge Kriegler was back in Kenya some and was a frequent public commentor on contentious matters involving politics and the electoral commission. It would seem easy to argue that his approach and expectations in Kenya leaned too heavily on the very dissimilar task he faced in his electoral commission experience in South Africa.
October 29 Statement
LSE’s Africa blog asks: Is Tanzania’s National Election Commission credible?
“Uganda at ‘crossroads’ opposition leader warns” from Amy Fallon for AFP today:
Besigye said he feared Uganda is “now very clearly at a crossroads”, and demanded an overhaul of the electoral commission running the polls.
“If this matter is not corrected at this time, I dare say the country will be at a very serious risk of sliding back into political instability, into violence and chaos,” Besigye said.
“We are very, very determined to do everything within our means to have changes in the management of the election.”
At Africa Watch from the Institutes of Defense Analyses Dr. Stephanie Burchard had a recent update: “Elections in Uganda: a One-Man Show?“.
Meanwhile, on Rwanda, the State Department has released a statement of concern regarding the decision of the Kagame government to form a Constitutional Review Commission that may seek to extend Kagame’s rule by lifting term limits, with a quote from President Obama citing the risk of “instability and strife–as we’ve seen in Burundi.”
Book bitings: I’ve started reading Dr. Burchard’s new book Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Causes and Consequences which has a substantial focus from her extensive research in Kenya. Highly recommended so far and available at an introductory publisher’s discount at the link above.
And today’s “Monkey Cage” column in the Washington Post had a very useful conversation about local society and approaches to aid with China Schurz, anthropologist and author of Having People, Having Heart: Charity, Sustainable Development and Problems of Dependence in Central Uganda. Will go on the aspirational reading list for me as an interested small donor.