Asking for a friend.
Asking for a friend.
Read the important report here: “Texas media company hired by Trump created Kenyan president’s viral ‘anonymous’ attack campaign against rival, new investigation reveals“.
I am a native Texan myself, so I do not think that Texans are less likely to understand the moral, spiritual or foreign relations repercussions of aggressive tribalist propaganda on behalf of William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta than Americans in Idaho or Arkansas, say. The problem is that the operation seems to have been conducted by a United States-based firm, staffed by Americans, orchestrating a digitized propaganda campaign directed against both Kenyan voters and those Americans such as myself and other amateur or professional “Kenya watchers” or U.S. government personnel who would conduct internet activity touching on Kenya politics and government.
The firm in question, Harris Media, based on this report but also their associated social media, seems to have affinity for what I think of as the “White Right”–the National Front, AfD, UKIP, Roy Moore, etc., aside from Trump. I have noted the Uhuruto government courting these folks in the United States over the years — I won’t elaborate here but it has always troubled me as an American Southerner. Some of these people also use Christian symbolism as part of their personal branding which is that much more troubling for me.
Unfortunately the Americans involved as of this writing have not filed a Foreign Agent Registration Act registration and made the associated disclosures to the Justice Department and the American public.
The Privacy International report appears to to reveal that the American firm was an “agent for a foreign principle” in conducting a propaganda campaign for Kenyatta and Ruto’s re-election, in substantial part through generating fear and loathing of the opposition. I do know that some of my friends in Washington wrongly predicted violent behavior on the part of the opposition in the context of the botched August 8 election. Could they have been influenced by this propaganda campaign, and/or by others that have not yet been uncovered by outside investigation?
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 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.
Update: Ambassador Godec’s tweet of Dec 11:
NASA’s decision yesterday is a positive step. We again call for a sustained, open, and transparent national conversation involving all Kenyans to build national unity and address long-standing issues.
This is the underlying reality that I have routinely pointed out privately as well as mentioned here. No president in Kenya has ever lost a re-election. Uhuru Kenyatta had a decision to make as to whether he was willing take a risk of losing at the polls or not. (In 2007 it was clear, as seen with hindsight, that Mwai Kibaki was not willing to take that risk. He controlled the ECK accordingly.)
Under the new Constitution adopted by virtue of the 2008 Post Election Violence settlement and with effectuation of some reform, the new Supreme Court to almost everyone’s surprise held its independence and applied the law to find that the IEBC did not meet the minimum requirements of the law in declaring the President re-elected without full and reliable results under required procedures. Even in this context the Court was careful not to blame the President or the Executive branch for the use of state resources and the underlying irregularities and illegalities that were seemingly born as orphans within the IEBC.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling the Court and the Judiciary have been under attack from the Executive just as the IEBC has been under attack by the opposition. On balance, the international diplomatic community re-iterated its ongoing multi-year endorsement of the IEBC, consistent with the “Preliminary Statements” of the major international election observation missions in 2013 and on August 10, 2017. On balance, the international diplomatic community has said little about protecting and preserving the hard won independence of the Judiciary.
Today, the Supreme Court fell. The Interior Minister signaled an intent to order that today be a public holiday (“election day eve”?) and the driver of the Deputy Chief Justice was shot while running an errand in the Justice’s car. When the Court convened to hear and decide the urgent matter of whether the presidential election nullified from August 8 could be conducted by the IEBC tomorrow in light of the Court’s previous ruling, only the Chief Justice and one associate showed up.
With a majority of the Supreme Court “missing in action” the Chief Justice determined that no quorum existed, the hearing could not be held so that so that there is no authority to determine the law separate from the President who has declared throughout that his one “irreducible minimum” requirement is that the presidential vote be held on October 26.
Then the High Court ruled on a separate challenge—reminiscent of Judge Leonola’s ruling in 2013 on AfriCOG’s petition to enjoin the vote tally by the IEBC after the “failure” of the results transmission system—that jurisdiction to challenge actions involving the presidential election rests only at the quorumless Supreme Court.
It is clear to all that the IEBC is not ready, and belated calls have been coming to postpone the vote but the bet on the IEBC was already placed and when the diplomatic community chose to leave it down in the face of the dramatic defection of Roselyne Akombe, whose name is now usually “one commissioner”, the game may be over on that front.
I do not assume that writ large this outcome in Kenya constitutes the fruition of or is consistently underwritten by some coherent foreign policy agenda of the United States and/or the UK or other Western countries that have supported the ECK/IIEC/IEBC over the past 15 years. This is the third U.S. administration to be involved in this scenario and going back even through the entirety of Kenya’s history the persistent thread is that we support the President (whether we like or respect him).
Uhuru Kenyatta has specific relationships of various sorts among certain American elites, but that is a very different—and perhaps contradictory—thing from the idea that Kenyatta’s behavior supports specific foreign policy objectives of the United States. The great strength of the United States as a relatively open, chaotic society with turnover and diffusion of power is that much of what is often seen as “policy” from more repressive vantage points is more like “stuff that happens” seen from within our system.
[Nonetheless, I will have more detailed and informed opinions about the August elections when I finally get from USAID documents I requested in 2015 about our support for the IEBC in 2013.]
From this blog late last year:
Meanwhile, Kenya is paying an average of about $343,000.00 “severance” to each of the outgoing Independent Electoral and Boundary Commissioners for leaving earlier this fall rather than completing their terms through November 2017. No signs of accountability for the #Chickengate bribes to the IEBC by Smith & Ouzman that were prosecuted by the UK and no sign of accountability for corruption in the subsequent 2013 election technology procurements.
While the “buyout” has been negotiated, the incumbent IEBC staff without the “servered” Commission has been proceeding to undertake election preparations that will be fait accompli for the new Commission when it is appointed next year.
Accordingly, the chief executive has proceeded to report plans to spend an astounding 30Billion KSh to conduct the 2017 general election, while setting a target of 22 million registered voters. In other words and figures, roughly $13.40US per registered voter if the target is met or $19.60US per currently registered voter. (For comparative data from places like Haiti and Bosnia,see The Ace Project data on cost of registration and elections.)
Update: see Roselyne Akombe’s interview in the Saturday Nation, “Credible Oct. 26 election not possible: Akombe”
[Update: Here is an Oct. 3 Daily Nation story on the status of negotiations and demands among Kenyan politicians and Western diplomats: “Envoys threaten travel bans to politicians derailing poll plans“. The International Crisis Group meanwhile offers a good brief: “How to have a credible, peaceful presidential election in Kenya“.
The independent European Union Election Observation Mission issued a new 3 October statement saying “decisive improvements are still achievable if Kenyans come together in a constructive manner” while decrying excessive demands and proposed law changes and with confrontation from both sides.
And to refresh the memories of the envoys and candidates here are the September 14 recommendations of the European Union Election Observation Mission for reforms ahead of the election re-run.]
It is in fact very unfortunate that time has been running hard against the 60 day deadline for the “fresh election” necessitated by the failure of Kenya’s IEBC (significantly supported by the United States and, at least indirectly through the UNDP so-called “basket funding”, other donors) to conduct a lawful presidential election on August 8 as determined by the Supreme Court of Kenya.
With the passage of time things like the then-shocking torture/murder of acting IEBC ICT head on the eve of the election are no longer mentioned in such statements as today’s from the envoy group. Too long ago that murder (passing 60 days) and with no sign of progress or serious effort to solve the case we should of course “accept and move on” that it was simply an unfortunate coincidence (or at most one of those political murders that happen periodically in Kenya that are agreed to be ignored so that we don’t have to face the darker realitity of how “democracy” really works in such a pretty country). Of no relevance to the August 8 election or its rerun in the hands of the his suspened predecessor who got his job back when Msando was killed even though he had been earlier suspended as ICT director for refusing to cooperate in an audit.
Rather it is noted today that it is “too late” to replace staff hired under the removed Issack Hassan Chickengate regime or otherwise substantially reform the IEBC.
Longstanding CEO Ezra Chiloba doubled-down last week and signed (reportedly) a new (amendment??) with the controversially sole-sourced ICT vendor OT Morpho now owned by a US-based fund and a fund of the Government of France. Pretty much an “in your face” gesture toward reformers if true. [Update 4/17: The IEBC twitter feed has reported that the OT Morpho contract will be released – I gather this is confirmation of the reported new agreement but we shall see.]
Either the donors have lost all significant influence, if they had any, toward transparency and trust building at the IEBC or they are really gambling hard on selling whatever the IEBC in existing form–without meaningful reform–will offer up on October 26 and the seven days thereafter.
As for me, I think this is a bad gamble, both in terms of odds and because the known character of the other players at the table.
As an American who was involved in the 2007 fiasco from part-way inside and witnessed 2013, I would like to see my Government cease to help underwrite this IEBC as a matter of our own integrity and of our long term ability to provide some future positive influence to the future development of independent democratic institutions in Kenya.
The American dollars supporting through USAID this IEBC would be much better spent on urgent humanitarian needs (see the UNDP’s call for additional funds of more than $100M for Kenya famine relief).
It may be that NASA will throw in the towel and agree to go along to run in a “not so fresh” election without IEBC reforms. That is for NASA to decide. I just do not want my Government to interfere in that decisionmaking process unless we are willing to provide some independent assurance of transparency and support for fairness to all Kenyans (not just NASA) that the Government of Kenya cannot be expected to agree to unless we are willing to stand up to them in a way that I have not seen from us in 2007 or 2013.
A Kenyan blogger wrote in early 2008 that I “should be” subpoenaed after I was reported in Slate magazine as “sitting on” the embargoed USAID-funded IRI exit poll. I would have welcomed it. Sadly no subpoena came. No one approached me except from the media as I hoped that the decision would be made in Washington to end the embargo as Joel Barkan and I urged.
The exit poll was publicly released by the the University of California San Diego research team at an event at CSIS in Washington only in July 2008 after the six month publicity restriction in their consulting contract with IRI. [ed. note: Remember it was then released in August by IRI.]
By that time, it mattered for “the war for history” as to whether the election had actually been stolen or not, but had no real time impact in that Kibaki’s second full term was well underway. The “Kreigler Commission” reporting to President Kibaki was staying off the question of what really happened to the presidential tally at the ECK.
Lessons for today, in time to matter?
What if vital information about what happened with the presidential tally is in the hands of people working for the donor-funded election assistance operations who wish they could provide that information and answer the vital questions?
Lots of good journalism out today, but this story from Peter Fabricus in my evening Daily Maverick Weekend Thing strikes me as hitting many of the right notes: “Kenya’s courts step up to electoral plate.”
One of the most important lessons from today is how cowed Kenya’s media really is by the Government. This decision did not have to come as quite such a suprise if Kenya’s media had felt free–or been brave enough–to just cover the polling stations and constituency tally centres. But we went through this in 2007 (when results were broadcast then taken down), and 2013 when self-censorship was the order of the day.
Today, Kenya took a big step forward on the rule of law — a sign that perhaps the press can become in the future in fact as free as the Constitution provides and the West pretends.
For Kenyan must reads, start with Nanjala Nyabola, “Why I’m proud to be an African today,” at IRINnews.com.
“IEBC’s high-tech system to guard against ballot stuffing” The Standard July 22, 2017
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has assured that the integrity of the August 8 election has been guaranteed through tamper-proof technology.
The Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) has unique features that will make double voting, ballot stuffing, and irreconcilable voting patterns impossible. IEBC is already preparing to deploy 45,000 KIEMS kits to be used in all the 40,883 polling stations across the country.
Every polling station has been allocated a Kit with a maximum number of 700 voters depending on the size of the polling centre. By implication, voters in a polling station cannot exceed the allocated number.
The KIEMS technology has two main functions in this election. The first is biometric identification of voters on the election day and results transmission after counting the votes.
The Commission has made it mandatory for all voters to be identified biometrically to close the doors for possibility of resurrection of dead voters.
IEBC Chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba said the Commission has invested heavily in technology and can guarantee successful transmission of election results.
“We have no choice really. The law already demands of us to electronically transmit presidential results from the polling station to the tallying centres,” he said.
After counting of results, the presiding officers in the presence of party agents are expected to type the total number of votes garnered by each candidate into the kit.
The kit aggregates the results automatically and the total number of votes cast for all the candidates is recorded. In cases where the number of voters exceeds the total number of registered voters, the kits shall automatically reject the results. This measure, according to the Commission, effectively makes ballot stuffing impossible.
As an additional measure to guarantee the integrity of elections results, the presiding officer shall scan Form 34A using the KIEMS kit. The Form 34A is signed by both the presiding officer and party agents. Once scanned, the presiding officer shall, together with the text results, send the same to the national tallying centre and constituency tallying centres.
The kit shall equally report turnout trends periodically throughout the day. With this kind of monitoring, the Commission says, ability to identify abnormal voting patterns is guaranteed.
At the end of the voting, said Mr Chiloba, the presiding officers in the presence of party agents are required to reconcile the number of voters recorded by KIEMS as having voted and the number of ballot papers issued.
“We have two procedures that minimise the risk of ballot stuffing. One, the voter turnout as recorded by KIEMS. Two, the ballot papers reconciliation that happens at the end of voting. The number of ballots papers issued and the records of voter turnout as registered by KIEMS should be able to reconcile,” he said.
The Commission contends that once the presiding officer has pressed the “Submit” button, the results cannot be changed by anyone.
Using an encrypted format, the results shall then be transmitted to the tallying centres through a secure network in real-time. The public will be able to view the results online. Similarly, Media will have a dedicated connection to access real-time results as well.
According to ICT sources within the commission, the KIEMS have a unique in-built audit trail. The in-build audit trail enables the commission to collect all the kits and to retrieve records from the SD cards for any analysis at the end of voting. This in-built accountability tools implies that the process of voting can be subjected to objective scrutiny at any point in time after voting.
. . . .
Clearly, much of what Chiloba and the IEBC described here just over two weeks before the election did not actually happen after the votes were cast and counted on election day.
Why? Well, much of the explanation likely rests on the new information disclosed in the Registrar’s reports on the Forms 34A and Forms 34B and the IEBC ICT review in the Supreme Court litigation. Other things were going on within the process than described.
The voting and counting, as I have previously noted, is the same this year as in the past. The voter register remained messy again with likely more than one million dead voters and plenty of ineligibles, and was not fixed and locked down as required. From outside appearances so far, however, the EVID system seems to have substantially worked this time which may have been a big improvement from 2007 and 2013 in limiting in person voting by ineligibles.
The RTS system which was to transmit from a unique registered and logged-in KIEMS device for each of the polling stations a scanned image of the finalized executed Form 34A simultaneously to the various tally centres, either was substantially misused or failed to work as advertised and/or some combination of the two. The Jubilee majority in Parliament early this year, coincident with the turnover from the Hassan-chaired IEBC to the Chebukati-chaired IEBC passed over opposition objection the option of allowing a complementary substitute for the electronic system. As far as I can tell the IEBC did not actually plan and establish such an alternative system, nor certainly did they effectuate it in any comprehensive, demonstrable, traceable way.
Nevertheless, rather than take the seven days alloted by law, Chebukati announced alleged final Presidential results roughly 72 hours after poll closing.
Is this “close enough for horseshoes and Kenyans” or is more required to successfully conduct and conclude a presidential election in Kenya in 2017?
Update: my email to a friend regarding the Court-ordered review of IEBC presidential election data:
I haven’t finished reviewing the Registrars report in detail, but it seems clear to me that the IEBC declined to provide, as directly ordered by the Court, the evidence that would verify or falsify alleged transmittal of scanned Forms 34A by KIEMS sets from Polling Stations to Tally Centres (Constituency, Cty, Nat’l).
Whatever the Court decides to do about the on the ruling petition as a whole, allowing the IEBC to flex its muscle over the Supreme Court openly in this way would probably pretty well tell us where things are headed on rule of law issues over the foreseeable future and whether there will be a serious challenge to Ruto in 2022-32.