This detail is provided: “The Kenyans have asked the U.S. Embassy to give as little publicity as possible to the current visits of U.S. military units to Kenya. They also asked that the visits be officially described as routine. The Kenyans, who last week said the U.S. presence has helped deter Amin, are apparently concerned the visits could damage Kenya’s non-aligned credentials.”
The PDB of July 26 of July 26 had reported that the Kenyan military had returned to full alert after a partial standdown the week before over reports of aggressive intentions from Uganda in the wake of Kenyan sanctions. “The Kenyans say they have information that Ugandan MiGs, flown by Palestinians, practiced bombing exercises last week [redacted] Amin continues to seek military equipment. [redacted] Uganda has requested artillery, rockets, antiaircraft batteries and hand grenades from Tripoli.”
The basic concept of the United States at some level backstopping the military security of the Kenya during the governments of the Kenyatta family, and during the Moi and Kibaki years between, has endured, along with the preference for Kenya’s rulers to keep fairly quiet about its value to them.
This long history of military support at the expense of American taxpayers, along with billions of dollars in civil aid, has not won any support for democratization from the current ruling party in Kenya which is now explicitly aligning itself with the Communist Party of China for party training instead of the western models offered by American, German and Dutch organizations, such as IRI and NDI, over the past 25 years.
I was pleasantly surprised by the previous statements from the State Department both from Washington and in Nairobi, calling for “national dialogue” in the wake of Kenya’s fraught and objectionably violent environment in the wake of the boycotted October 26 presidential re-run.
In the latest release from Washington on December 4 the State Department said, “the Acting Assistant Secretary will travel to Nairobi, Kenya from December 4-6, where he will meet with representatives of the Kenyan government, as well as with Kenyan civil society. The visit will encourage all sides in Kenya to participate in a national dialogue following the presidential election.” (emphasis added)
Today, however, following the talks, a new statement was issued–by the Ambassador–backing off from the language “national dialogue”. Instead, along with a call for Odinga to drop a “people’s swearing in”, and a generic call for protesters to avoid violence and the Government’s security forces to avoid unnecessary killing and to investigate themselves on the outstanding accusations that they had been doing so, the State Department now recommends a “national conversation”.
Why is this different? Well, you would have to ask the Embassy or Main State Department and/or the White House why they changed the language, but “national dialogue” is a clear reference to the formal process resulting from the February 2008 settlement agreement between Kibaki and Raila leading to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report (censored and held in abeyance by the Uhuruto Administration–an issue in the August election), the Kriegler Commission on the 2007 Election (leading to the buyout of the Kivuitu led ECK), the Waki Commission on the Post Election Violence (leading to the aborted ICC prosecutions) and constitutional reform process that led to the 2010 Referendum adopting the new Constitution which mandates the 2/3 gender rule (declined so far), diaspora voting (mostly declined so far), devolution (in process), and such. A “national conversation” is a nice notion and probably a good thing to do here in the United States as well as anywhere else culturally divisive politics.
. . . .
This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader, undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab, and a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The proposed sale of the MD 530F helicopters, weapons, ammunition, support items and technical support will advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission. The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defense and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.
Kenya will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractor will be MD Helicopters, Mesa, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
. . . .
The $418M L3 Air Tractor sale approved by the State Department in January remains pending for U.S. Congressional approval after objections raised by Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina.
It may be worth noting that the United States spends quite a lot of money through many institutions scattered across our country and in many others on the study of and writing reports about the factors driving security threats from the types of things we are concerned about in East Africa. I am not an expert on this and do not have time to read most of this as an interested amateur, but generally speaking I think the research tends to highlight concerns related to the Human Development Index factors and in particular the jobs crisis over any problems with lack of military hardware. Perhaps I misunderstand.
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).
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
The President himself has never been to Africa and has shown no particular interest or inclination toward engagement on any of the various issues on his plate regarding the United States’ activities in and relationships with African countries.
In some respects this suggests a level of continuity through inertia that is unavailable in those areas to which Trump has some personal connection or exposure through his business organization or personal relationships (Russia on one hand and Mexico on the other, for instance).
Trump seems to be networked into the Safari Club and is politically very much indebted to Franklin Graham (the American evangelist/missionary who has been especially engaged in Sudan and otherwise in Africa) but I don’t think that this will put much claim on Trump’s attention, as he already ordered a cutoff in U.S. funding to organizations that separately have connections to programs touching on abortion (a significantly broadened approach to the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations’ rules) as an early low cost “deliverable” to “pro-life” supporters on an issue he doesn’t personally have any particular feelings or opinions on. [Graham does not make specific candidate campaign endorsements–my perception of his influence for Trump is subjective from my vantage point as a white Southern American Protestant, who has been involved in congregational mission efforts that include support for one of Graham’s programs.]
Trump did not get where he is by building a reputation for paying his debts (any more than for forgiving his debtors), so I will be surprised, pleasantly, if Graham were to influence Trump on non-abortion related health issues that involved spending rather than cutting, like famine relief or other things that had some political purchase under “compassionate conservatism” in Africa during the G.W. Bush administration.
Trump is pretty clearly anti-conservation domestically and probably disinclined to have anything much to do with things involving wildlife or the environment in Africa other than to reduce funding for any direct or international programming in these areas, Safari Club notwithstanding. Generally speaking my big game hunter friends are more concerned about wealth accumulation and tax cutting–Trump’s policies will leave them net ahead even with a likely loss of habit and species diversity (and better situated to buy private reserves). Along with the expected big overall aid cuts, I would speculate that conservation programs may be especially attractive targets to “zero out” to give Congress political bragging rights for some program “kills”.
So outside the military and Department of Defense we will probably see Trump to be as slow to fill key policy positions on Africa as Obama was, but with more turnover in the next tiers of the bureaucracy.
Because the Defense Department has already been the big repository of funding to maintain policy expertise in the U.S. on Africa (as elsewhere) during the Bush/Obama years, as funds and political bandwidth are reduced in other areas, we will be more dependent on those functions under the portfolio of Secretary Gen. Mattis at the Pentagon. It is very fortunate that he stands out as unusually well-qualified and genuinely respected.
In the event any of the major players in the hospitality/tourism/”conferencing” business–say the Kenyatta family of Kenya–were to entice the Trump Organization into their market, certainly that would be expected to profoundly change everything I have observed here.
In that regard, perhaps we will see “The Scramble for Trump” as a new frame for engagement in the post-development era.
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, not only 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.
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.
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”).
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.