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.
Back in March 2010–well before the last widespread famine in 2011–I wrote a piece here called “The Nairobi Curse” suggesting an analogy between the role of Nairobi in Kenya’s overall political and economic development and “the resource curse” faced by those countries prized by outsiders for oil, for example.
With famine being reprised I was reminded of the “Nairobi Curse” when I noticed on the “KenyaBuzz” Nairobi entertainment and happenings newsletter a charming little story, “Nairobi’s Newest Wine Shop Delivers In A Different Kind Of Way”, promoting “Wine and Bubbles”, a French couples’ couple of Nairobi stores selling French wine. The expat Nairobian explained that he had hoped to grow vineyards in Kenya but learned on moving from France that the climate was not conducive so he was selling French wine instead.
The growth market of course is introducing wine tastes to what is invariably called the “Kenyan Middle Class”–basically the third tier wealthy Kenyan of the Nairobi professional/managerial class. The sort of people who would be upper middle class in a much more broadly and deeply prosperous country where most people had enough to eat with a per capita income several times that of Kenya’s.
Here is my original post:
This is Kenya’s version of “the oil curse” or “the resource curse”.
Nairobi is the place to be in Sub-Saharan Africa (and outside of South Africa) for international meetings and conferences. It is a relatively comfortable place to live for middle class or wealthy Westerners, or young aid workers. An international city with a certain level of cosmopolitanism, yet of manageable size and scope relative to so many burgeoning cities of the less developed “South”. A headquarters for two UN agencies. A diplomatic critical mass, with lots of representation from all sorts of countries around the world that have little obvious presence in Africa, but also a crossroads for representation of everyone playing for a major piece of the pie (Iran, Libya, China, India, the Gulf States–as well as obviously the US and Europe). And you can go on business, and then take a safari on the side.
From the US, soldiers go to Djibouti (the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, at Camp Lemonier) while diplomats go to Nairobi. The US runs its Somali diplomacy from the Embassy to Kenya rather than Djibouti which would be the more obvious place on paper. Likewise, Somali politicians tend to live much of the time in Nairobi. Nairobi is the place to invest cash generated in Somalia.
Nairobi is the “back office”, and in some cases the only office, for much of relatively huge amount of US aid-related effort for Southern Sudan, as well as that from other countries.
Nairobi has something like 8% of the Kenyan population, and perhaps 60% of the GDP (don’t let anyone tell you they know any of these figures too precisely). Perhaps 50-60 percent of the population lives in informal settlements (“slums”) whereas the other half lives as “the other half”. Most national level Kenyan politicians holding office live primarily in Nairobi (although they may have homes in a constituency they represent in Parliament as well).
When I was the East Africa Director, based in Nairobi, for IRI (where our much bigger Sudan program was also headquartered) as an American I felt that my government at that time (2007-2008) was falling into the trap of recreating a Cold War paradigm for our international relations by looking around through our “War on Terrorism” telescope. And that in Kenya there were a lot of international interests that valued stability over reforms for reasons that related more to the current role of Nairobi than the long term interests of Kenyan development.
Certainly Nairobi is a resource that has great value–as does oil, for instance–it’s just a question of whether Kenyans can find a way to use it to the broad advantage of the nation or whether it will continue to be exploited to disproportionately benefit the most powerful. Including being used to help keep them in power when more Kenyans want democratic change.
Just this past week Kenya hosted an IGAD meeting on Sudan–and flouted its obligations as a party to the Rome Treaty on the ICC by inviting President Bashir of Sudan while under indictment. Meanwhile the ICC is considering whether to allow formal investigation of key Kenyan leaders for the post-election violence from 2007-08. But Nairobi is such a great place to have these conferences . . . and Sudan is so important (Khartoum is no Nairobi, but it has oil).
[Update: Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State today, with the votes of those Republicans who had raised questions about his commitmant to human rights and other issues related to his career long tenure at oil major Exxon. He takes over a State Department where perhaps 1,000 officers and employees have signed a leaked “dissent” from President Trump’s immigration and refugee order impacting those of Somali, Sudanese and Libyan nationality, among seven countries. Tillerson has said he was not consulted on the Executive Order.]
Former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson finds “Trump’s Africa policy unclear and uncertain” but expects a broad pulling back from existing bipartisan programs in a piece at African Arguments:
. . . .
Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa. Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.
The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.
If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely. But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.
President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.
But Trump’s view is more myopic . . .
Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights. These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.
. . . . Photo from church of African-American freedmen from Cumberland Island, Georgia for Black History Month
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.
Here is the story from The Daily Nation: Raila won 2007 election says Macharia.
The truth trickles out gradually. Of course, those of us involved in the Election Observation for the International Republican Institute were following those results being reported live on Kenyan television from our headquarters in Nairobi during that Friday-Sunday after the election on Thursday, December 27, 2007. Dr. Joel Barkan, our expert, explained by Saturday night that based on the numbers that were reported, it appeared that Kibaki could not win. (Part of the reason why I was surprised to be told early Sunday morning by our “lead delegate” that “it’s going to be Kibaki” during the time when the Electoral Commission of Kenya had suspended the announcement of results.)
I understood that Joel’s public statements back in Washington that we couldn’t say for sure that Raila won, but could say that Kibaki lost reflected that known results as reported by the media houses showed Kibaki could not have gotten the most votes. Realistically, under the first past the post system under Kenyan law at that time, this leaves Raila winning (since he didn’t lose his Kibera constituency to Stanley Livondo).
I assumed that one of the primary motivations for John Michuki’s then-notorious order suspending live broadcasting by the media houses from December 30 was to facilitate making sure those results that the media houses “took down” did not “resurface” after ECK Chairnan Samuel Kivuitu announced to an audience limited to the State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Commission that Kibaki had won after all.
As we know from my Freedom of Information Act Series research, Ambassador Ranneberger reported to Washington that he had personally witnessed the changed tally sheets at the ECK along with EU Observation Chief Lambsdorff. [In particular, see Part Ten, Ranneberger on ECK, “Much can happen . . . and it did”]
Unfortunately, Ranneberger nonetheless initially asked Kenyans to accept the results of the election without disclosing what he had witnessed and congratulations were quickly issued from a spokesman for the State Department back in the U.S. that Sunday. Subsequently we retracted the congratulations, said there were problems with the election and took the position that there was supposedly “no way to know” who won–still without disclosing what Ranneberger witnessed until his January 2, 2008 cable to Washington was declassified (with redactions) in response to my FOIA request.
As for the media house evidence, this stayed buried until now. The ECK never did publish any polling station, or even polling centre, results at all in the presidential race. The Kreigler Commission stayed off the presidential tally at the ECK–even though it was part of their legal charge as fairly construed.
After the election debacle, Ranneberger did spend a significant amount of energy promoting “the reform agenda” going forward during his remaining years in Nairobi. Unfortunately, it appears that “reform” largely failed to take (because reform built on a foundation of impunity for corruption was “a house built on sand”).
For more see my “War for History Series“.
And from the news before the holidays:
The Standard headlines John Githongo’s day in court on Anglo Leasing after all these years. Of course, Kibaki knew.
Sadly, embarassingly, the testimony comes not in a criminal prosecution of the looters, nor an action by the Government of Kenya to recover any of the millions of dollars lost–nor even a defense against claims for fraudulent debt–but rather in Githongo’s defense of himself in a libel action by one of those implicated in Githongo’s corruption disclosures when he left office in 2005.
It has been such a disappointment to me to see comfortable Westerners celebrate and bask in the reflected glow of Githongo’s courage as a whistleblower over the years while ultimately selling him out by looking the other way while at the next election the tallies were rigged to keep Kibaki and his cohort in power, followed by the Uhuruto succession after which the Government paid huge additional sums on Anglo Leasing debt and went on its merry way to ramp up corruption to new heights.
Kenya will not be secure so long as its Government remains so pervasively corrupt. Foolish fickleness by the U.S. and others in the West buys us nothing of value.
Small things from the Long War. It’s well and good for the Navy to buy local to feed our sailors to support the Djibouti economy. And not sending an observation mission to Djibouti’s most recent election was also progress. (Of course you will remember IGAD sent its delegation headed by Issac Hassan, who is now in the process of being bought out of his position as chair of Kenya’s IIEC/IEBC which we have supported, but we had the integrity to stay off this one. See my post here.)
The bakery in this picture is actually from Addis Ababa under the “developmental state” regime in 2007. We would overnight in Addis on our way from Nairobi to Hargeisa. With no democracy to be promoted I could just visit and take pictures, although shortly before I visited this bakery I was stopped by a concerned stranger with the warning that “they will kill you” for taking pictures. Fortunately they didn’t.
I was reading Ambassador Scott Gration’s autobiography, Flight Path: Son of Africa to Warrior-General, and had his experience in mind in some respects in my last post which went a bit further than I have previously in its breadth of frustration with how American policy gets made from Washington for Kenya.
General Gration’s memoir is worth reading and I’m glad I was able to take time for it while waiting for the election here in the U.S. to be over.
If you have read about Ambassador Gration’s alleged email hygene at the time he was forced aside as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya in the summer of 2012, and have read the news dribbling out over the last 22 months over the Secretary of State’s email hygene and the related practices of her key staff in Washington, it becomes unavoidable to recognize that the purge of the Ambassador didn’t really have to do with the email or personal computer use issue asserted prominently in the publication of the report of Acting Inspector General’s review of the Embassy that was the “public”–meaning talked about anonymously to reporters then released afterwards–reason he was forced out.
It may well be that within the State Department bureacracy that General Gration stepped on toes of people who didn’t even know that the Secretary of State herself was operating from her private family server in Chappaqua, New York instead of the State Department’s U.S. Government system.
Reading the media from the time, it seems, perhaps, that there was concern that he could be promoted (which could make people who didn’t like his management style unhappy). Who knows? And who has time for that sort of office politics speculation? Regardless, when Secretary Clinton’s Cheryl Mills called Ambassador Gration to tell him it looked like he needed to fall on his sword, she obviously knew all about the private email server–just not that it would end up revealed on the front page of the New York Times two-and-a-half years later.
The bottom line for me is General Gration is an American who had a great career in the military, serving in a number of important foreign affairs related roles, who grew up in Africa, including significant time in Kenya, and is fluent in Swahili and other local languages. He bonded personally with Senator Obama during their professional interactions, agreed that we needed to do some things differently in our interactions in the world, and did a lot to help President Obama get elected. As an Obama ex-Republican, and recently retired General, in a Clinton State Department he may have been a bit of a “fish out of water”, especially in a job that is most frequently a top plum for the career Foreign Service.
Secretary Clinton will be President-elect shortly. This has been a foregone conclusion for quite a long time as the Republicans essentially defaulted on an election that would have been very winnable by almost any conventionally qualified or even broadly likeable candidate. Secretary Clinton will come into office facing a range of difficult security and international affairs challenges, but with a lot of accumulated experience. It seems to me she would be a smart leader not to leave someone like General Gration with a figurative knife sticking out of his back but rather find a way to use his accumulated talents and experience to serve the country.
Reading Graton’s book, I have an appreciation for his perspective, his courage, his work ethic, his faith–even if I have not personally warmed to some of the diplomatic language regarding “partnership” between our government and Kenya’s that he, like other officials, frequently used. We are at war and have been for a long time, and it is not going as well as we need it to. We have to find solutions beyond war to bring security for our interests and freedoms for others.
“Stronger together” is a great slogan against Trump in this campaign, but it also reflects were we need to go as a country after the election to become the kind of global leaders we want to be. Gration may be the kind of person that could help us avoid mistakes and build relationships (whether he was the best person to run a particular embassy at a particular time). [I update to correct the Hillary Clinton campaign slogan from “Better Together” to “Stronger Together”]
“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.
In the previous Djibouti election in 2011 the incumbent administration kicked out the US-funded Democracy International Election Observation Mission–this time we didn’t go, nor offer substantive criticism of Guellah’s latest re-election:
“The United States commends the Djiboutian people for peacefully exercising their right to vote during their country’s April 8 presidential election.
While elections are an integral component of all democratic societies, democracy is also built on the foundation of rule of law, civil liberties, and open political discourse between all stakeholders. We encourage the Government of Djibouti to support the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression for all of Djibouti’s citizens.
The United States has a strong partnership with Djibouti. We look forward to advancing our shared interests and helping Djiboutians build a more prosperous, secure, and democratic future. We take note of the reports released by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union, and others and the recommendations by the African Union on improving future electoral processes in Djibouti. We hope to work with the Government of Djibouti to advance those recommendations.”
In addition to hosting AFRICOM’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Japanese military, Djibouti has also agreed to what appears to be a significantly larger Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) base. Obviously we can’t buy love, but perhaps Djibouti can buy quiet on democratization pressures?
See “Jostling for Djibouti” from Katrina Manson at the Financial Times. Outstanding journalism, setting the scene in the country before the vote.
Ahead of Friday’s vote, opposition groups had complained of curbs on freedom of assembly while rights groups accused the government of political repression and crackdowns on basic freedoms.
Djibouti has been on the radar of human rights groups for some time, with allegations of a pattern of political repression and lack of freedom of expression. Just days before Friday’s election, three BBC journalists were detained and expelled from the country without explanation.
“Everybody knew that Ismaïl Omar Guelleh would be the winner of those elections. It’s important to understand the real opposition did boycott those elections because there was absolutely no guarantee for a fair, transparent and democratic election,” Dimitri Verdonck, the president of the association Culture and Progress working on human rights issues in Djibouti, told RFI.
“It’s important to know also that the international community is looking at these elections with a very high level of caution. The European Union did not send any observers in Djibouti, same goes for the United States and other partners of Djibouti – the only ones who did accept to be there during the elections are the Arab League and some members of the African Union. But nobody wants to give any credibility to these elections.”
Well, not no one exactly: the dependable and indefatigable Issack Hassan, chair of Kenya’s IEBC, headed up an IGAD observation delegation. “The overall objective of the Mission was to observe the Presidential Elections held on April l 8th in Djibouti in the efforts by this country to conduct free, fair, and credible elections by providing positive and constructive feedback.”
Here is the Conclusion from the IGAD EOM Preliminary Statement:
IGAD Election Observer Mission was limited to three days observation only which entailed two days of pre-election assessment and the observation of the voting day on the poll opening, polling, poll closing and vote, counting and tallying processes. Therefore, the Mission will not be in a position to provide complete and comprehensive conclusions on the entire election process. However based on what it has been able to observe, the Mission preliminary conclusion is that the 2016 Presidential election was conducted in a transparent, peaceful, and orderly manner and in accordance with the Constitution and the laws governing the Republic of Djibouti.
IGAD wishes to take this opportunity to express its gratitude to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Cooperation and the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Djibouti, the Constitutional Council, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) as well as the Media for the assistance rendered to IGAD to make the Observer Mission task easy.
Finally, the Observer Mission would like to congratulate the people of the Republic of Djibouti for the peaceful and orderly manner in which they conducted the election and wish them peace, continuous progress and prosperity.
Done on 9th April 2016, Kempinski Palace Hotel,
Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti
Things had gone so far awry on the democratization front by last year to trigger a Washington Post editorial noting the authoritarian trend in East Africa.
Recently we have news of a major U.S. airstrike (manned and drone) on an al-Shabaab training camp, followed by a raid involving U.S. and Somali special forces.
We are now also faced with a major ISIS presence in continental Africa in the wake of the proverbial “ungoverned space” in Libya and are in discussions considering a new military coalition to organize resistance. Prior to the 2011 uprising AFRICOM was joining our European allies in coordinating military relationships with Gaddafi but the revolution, in which we intervened, has not resulted in a stable or unified replacement government.
Let’s face it; 14 years after 9-11, 15 years after the USS Cole bombing, 17 years after the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the window of opportunity for a U.S.-led focus on the building of shared democratic values in the region may have largely slipped shut.
Years ago I got some attention for a post noting that “the aid bubble has burst” and Western attention had moved past the Gleneagles era toward a more normalized mode of profit-seeking investment. While private actors will remain more alert for opportunities in Africa and “public-private” endeavors including the current Power Africa program can still have legs, it seems to me that “conflict management” and irregular warfare have come to the fore to the point that we seem to be back in an era more akin to the Cold War in which perceived immediate “security” interests are predominant.
Museveni in particular “surfed the wave” of democratization after the fall of the Soviet Union and came out onshore as a primary U.S. military ally in the region anyway. We are willing to chastise him to a point, but there is no indication from Washington that the fundamental facts of our relationship are at issue over another awful election.
While much has been accomplished with AMISOM in Somalia, we are still a long way from seeing a stable, sustainable government there that would create an opportunity to de-militarize our relationships with Uganda, or Kenya or Ethiopia. The increasingly direct U.S. role in fighting al-Shabaab reflects the limitations of Ugandan and Burundian proxies, as well as the reality of limited capacity and contradictory objectives from the Kenyan and Ethiopian contingents in AMISOM.
This also leaves Somaliand in suspended animation. Sudan remains an awful paradox for our policy goals and our values, and South Sudan is simply a fiasco.
It seemed to me in Nairobi during the post-election violence in 2008 that the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December 2006 to displace the ICU and save in some fashion the remains of the TFG was a turning point for U.S. policy. After that, we seemed to have effectively dropped our criticism of the corruption failures of the Kibaki administration and its failure to reform the constitution and then helped get Moi and Kibaki back together. We upped our security cooperation and looked the other way as Kibaki stole re-election.
The USAID democracy programming I inherited in mid-2007 as regional director at the International Republican Institute included the pre-war era 2005 criticisms of Kenyan government backsliding and I failed fully appreciate how much had changed until the midst of that year’s disaster.
Back in the U.S., Kissinger is now personally embraced by key elements of the leadership of both our parties. In early 2009 after the New York Times published its investigation on the Kenya exit poll, IRI, to my amazement, gave Kissinger its “Freedom Award” even though it has long worked to promote democracy in Cambodia, in particular, as well as places like Bangladesh and East Timor where I was invited a few years before I worked for IRI in Kenya. Now, the likely Democratic nominee apparently holidays with Kissinger in the Dominican Republic. A new, old, era, apparently.