Since the 2007 election debacle, pervasive hunger has continued to grow in Kenya, while China and the United States promote and backstop the power of leaders who do not care enough

The population of Kenya has grown roughly 25% since my year “promoting democracy” in 2007-08, from around 40 million to around 50 million. These are loose numbers because they do not reflect anything that is of the highest priority for Kenya’s leaders (and thus those outsiders who promote and underwrite Kenya’s leaders).

Kenya is to conduct a census this year, but the process is politically contentious and corruption makes it hard to carry off undertakings of this nature (another area where the United States seems to be moving toward convergence with Kenya recently). And there is always a new gambit, like “Huduma Namba” that comes along, with the help of Kenya’s politically-connected corporates and foreign corporate foundations, to get in the way of the core functions of the Government of Kenya, like conducting the census.

Unfortunately, although the size of the economy has continued to grow hunger has increased and Kenya remains a “middle income” country where the majority of citizens are inadequately fed. Agricultural performance has actually declined rather than merely grown at an insufficient pace as experienced in many other sectors.

Please take time to read this report from the Daily Nation’ Newsplex: Poor planning and inaction to blame for food insecurity” There are a lot of important facts and figures, but here is a key summary of where things stand:

But despite the decline in the undernourishment rate, which is, however, higher than Africa’s 20 percent, the prevalence of severely food-insecure Kenyans jumped four percentage-points from 32 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2017, resulting in Kenya’s ranking as the eighth-worst on the indicator globally.

Yes, Kenya continues to have a problem with employment as a whole and the failure of the various power generation schemes over the years has been one factor for Kenya’s reliance on imports rather than it’s own manufacturing. But the decline of agriculture is the more immediate and inexcusable problem–and would be much easier to address if it were prioritized–as opposed to yet another questionable power generation scheme.

Should the United States support “political confederation” of the East African Community? Can we do so while also supporting democracy?

What are the basics of our current foreign policy in East Africa? According to the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs there are now “four pillars” to our policy towards Africa:

1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions;

2) Supporting African economic growth and development;

3) Advancing Peace and Security;

4) Promoting Opportunity and Development.

Pillar number one seems quite clear, even if I have to admit that I cannot articulate what difference is intended between numbers two and four. See “The Competitive Advantages of Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Africa,” by Mark Dieker on the State Department DipNote Blog this month. Dieker is the Director of the Office of African Affairs at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The East African Community as currently constituted with the addition of newly independent but unstable South Sudan has six member states. Arguably Kenya under its corrupt but seemingly stable one party dominant “handshake” government over the past year following annulled then boycotted 2017 elections is about as far along the democracy continuum as any of the six–on balance, the region seems to be experiencing authoritarian consolidation.

EAC Chairman Paul Kagame, who initially took power in the first instance through leading the 1990-1994 invasion from Uganda, engineered a referendum to lift term limits last year and was then re-elected with nearly 99% of the vote over his two closest opponents with less than 1% each, after jailing a more conspicuous challenger and expropriating her family’s resources. Suffice it say that Paul Kagame is one of the world’s more controversial leaders–both loved and hated, praised and feared among Rwandans and among politicians and journalists from other countries. The slogan of the EAC is “one people, one destiny”; the website invites users to memorialize the anniversary of “the genocide against the Tutsi”.

I think we could all agree that Kagame operates Rwanda as a heavily aid-dependent developmental authoritarian one party state “model”. Western diplomats and politicians, aid organizations, educational institutions and companies and foundations are free to participate so long as offer support rather than any form of dissent. Likewise journalists and scholars are welcome to spread the good news. Some see deep real progress from a genocidal baseline and a “cleaner”, “safer” more “orderly” less “corrupt” and more business-friendly “Africa”; some see a cruel dictatorship killing its opponents and silencing critics to hide its own dark past while supporting catastrophic regional wars and looting outside its borders while offering international busybodies and ambitious global operators gratification or absolution from past sins for cash and protection. Whatever one thinks of the relative merits of democracy and developmental authoritarianism, in Rwanda specifically or in East Africa or the world-at-large, I think we can agree that Rwanda is not a model of democracy.

Tanzania has regular elections which are always won by the party that always wins. In the world of East African democracy, it ranks above Kenya in some respects in recent years for avoiding the tribal mobilization and conspicuous corruption-fed election failures that have plagued its neighbor to the north. But again, no actual turnover of power from the ruling party and lately, civil liberties have been taking a conspicuous public beating. In the last election, the opposition took the seemingly desperate or cynical step of backing a candidate who was compromised by his recent expulsion from Government and the ruling CCM–and who having lost has now abandoned his new friends to return to CCM.

In Uganda, Museveni like Moi before him in Kenya, eventually allowed opposition parties to run, but unlike Moi, as not given up unilateral appointment of the election management body and has gone back to the “constitutional” well to lift first term limits, then the presidential age limit. While extrajudicial killings are not as prominent a feature of Ugandan politics as they are in Kenya, that might only be because Museveni counts on beatings and jail terms to send clear messages.

Burundi is under what would be an active ongoing crisis situation if not for the fact that things have gotten too much worse in too many other places for us to keep up. Whatever you think of Nkurunziza and the state of alternatives for Burundi, I do not think we need to argue about whether it is near to consolidated, stable, democracy.

South Sudan has not gotten far enough off the ground to present a serious question.

So under the circumstances it would seem quite counterintuitive to think that a political confederation beyond commercial of the existing six states would enhance rather than forestall hopes for a more a democratic intermediate future in Kenya or Tanzania. Likewise it does not seem to make sense to expect some serious mechanism for real democratic governance on a confederated six-partner basis anytime in the near or intermediate future unless quick breakthroughs are seem in multiple states.

Someday, after democratic transitions in Rwanda and Uganda and an experience of a change of power in Tanzania, after Kiir and Machar are safely under lock and key or have run off with Bashir to Paraguay, this can be revisited in a new light.

1999 Treaty Language TZ, UG, KE:

DETERMINED to strengthen their economic, social, cultural, political, technological and other ties for their fast balanced and sustainable development by the establishment of an East African Community, with an East African Customs Union and a Common Market as transitional stages to and integral parts thereof, subsequently a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation;

In Chapter 23, Article 123

6. The Summit shall initiate the process towards the establishment of a Political Federation of the Partner States by directing the Council to undertake the process.

7. For purposes of paragraph 6 of this Article, the Summit may order a study to be first undertaken by the Council.

In 2011

In the consultations, it became clear that the East African citizens want to be adequately engaged and to have a say in the decisions and policies pursued by the East African Community.

On 20th May, 2017, the EAC Heads of State adopted the Political Confederation as a transitional model of the East African Political Federation.

Kenya’s Debt-laden Railroad Blues falls off the playlist as brutal suicide attack hits Nairobi and AP photo on NYTimes online hits raw nerves

Nairobi Kenya Microsoft billboard

Twenty-and-a-half years after the al-Queda bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, a small team of gunmen and a bomber hit a hotel and office complex in Westlands, reminiscent of the 2013 Westgate Mall attack. With the “known missing” fully accounted for now, the death toll stands at 21. Many more were injured and the trauma is compounded by the uncertainty of many who were trapped and/or missing.

There is so much news coverage now from Nairobi that I really have nothing to add, other than condolences. Here is a good straight news story from NPR’s Eyder Peralta on the photography/reporting imbroglio.

On Sunday and Monday a governance and economy controversy was escalating in Kenya after the Sunday Nation published an expose on “Hidden traps in SGR deal with China“. Sadly, unlike a terrorist attack, this is new bad news. If true it poses serious challenges to the credibility of those who have known the actual terms of the as yet undisclosed deal between the Kenyatta and Xi governments dating back to 2014, as well as to the viability of “Big Four Agenda”, “Vision 2030” and the overall public version of Kenya’s economic development aspirations.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta meets with Chinese Communist Party leaders to on behalf of his Jubilee Party at Kenya’s State House

Update: I am not much of a consumer of television news, but I thought this online “print” story from CNN’s Sam Kiley was a good quick overview of the Westlands attack for general international audiences (as opposed to readers of this blog): “Nairobi attack shows attempts to neutralize Africa’s terror threat have failed“.

(Updated) Tea Leaves and Poker Hands: Bolton at Heritage on Africa

In a relatively short speech Thursday morning at Washington’s Heritage Foundation, President Trump’s current National Security Advisor John Bolton was said to announce the administration’s “new Africa policy”. Amb. Bolton stuck out during the George W. Bush Administration as both an aggressive hardliner by reputation on policy and as willing to fight hard within the bureaucracy. So no surprise that Bolton says we are not going to let the spigot run on aid projects or peacekeeping missions that are not “winning”, and will target programs more strategically to better match quids and pros, and such.

Overall, Bolton calls the policy “Prosper Africa”. He emphasizes concerns about the perceived unhealthy influence of China and Russia in Africa and frames U.S. interests as focused on competition among external powers. We want Africa to “prosper” through a growing middle class and business deals creating jobs and other benefits in both the U.S. and partner countries and in so doing to strengthen our influence and reduce that of our competitors. We intend to (continue to) play favorites, but in a more explicit and direct way, emphasizing “anchor” governments like Kenya (still our sentimental favorite African country) rather than focusing directly on poverty alleviation or “Sustainable Development Goals” as a global construct.

It seems to have raised eyebrows that Bolton did not mention PEPFAR and democracy and elections among other categories of assistance that we have emphasized both with rhetoric and dollars under Trump’s most recent predecessors. Contra some initial reactions, I anticipate that any major expenditure of political capital by the Administration with Congress to engineer large cuts to popular existing programs is not in the offing.

In fact, when the White House issued a press release “fact sheet” later in the afternoon reporting that it “was issuing” President Trump’s “new Africa policy” it explicitly mentioned “democracy” twice and otherwise sanded down Bolton’s sharper edges. Democracy, especially, as well as our health programs, are a comparative advantage for the United States vis-a-vis the PRC if we want to re-frame our rationale more explicitly in terms of traditional geopolitical competition.

The origins of U.S. development assistance philosophy come from offering a competing model to communism, especially following World War II and to some extent even earlier. Likewise U.S. overt explicit democracy assistance programs were established during the Reagan Administration. So talking more openly and frankly about our concerns about China’s role in Africa in the context of a recalibrated overall relationship that accounts for the Chinese Communist Party’s changes under Xi does not at all have to lead to a retreat from development or democracy assistance.

What plays out over the next two years from any of this remains to be seen.

Instructive are today’s two votes in the Republican led Senate approving resolutions calling for an end to support for Saudi Arabian war efforts in Yemen and condemning the role of the Crown Prince in the murder of American resident Jamal Khashoggi. The peak of unilateral latitude for the Trump Administration has already passed, even before the new Democratic controlled House is seated in the new Congress in January.

Testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, by Judd Devermont, now Africa Diector at venerable Center for Strategic and International Studies, and recently national intelligence officer for Africa, gives a fuller and more nuanced picture of the range of Chinese involvement in Africa. Not all of it is necessarily contradictory to our immediate interests or longer term hopes, even though there are important concerns.

From my personal standpoint, I am still struck by the fact that according to what I read in the newspapers, combined with a letter from Washington, the Chinese hacked my security clearance file–and that of nearly every other clearance holder–from the Office of Personnel Management in Washington during the last Administration. (I also read they “wired” the African Union headquarters, among many other examples.) As for the Russians, they were screwing around in our own Republican Party and to some extent with our general election campaign.

Thus, we most need to be competent, purposeful and mature in conducting our own business in an environment which can be expected to punish complacency. Get through this temporary period of governance by Tweet and tabloid huckster hush money and get our own democracy back on a more even keel. Then we can more effectively deepen our relationships among African countries and with African citizens for the long run. In the meantime, I hope and expect that we will continue most of the incrementally helpful things we have been doing in Africa and not rock the boat too dramatically.

In the meantime, worth noting, for instance, is the presence of Somaliland’s Foreign Minister at Bolton’s speech.

What to make of the policy being announced by Bolton at Heritage instead of by the Secretary of State in an official or semi-official venue? Probably the same reason there are not details and documents: a point of the event is to stamp Bolton’s ideological role within the Administration, the Republican Party, and “The Movement” (big “C” Conservatism with American characteristics is how I might describe it). This is “framing” and “vision” with various audiences rather than actual “policy” as such.

It takes cognizance especially of the geopolitical struggle most compelling on a day-to-day basis in the White House: “red” versus “blue” in the rest of the United States. Thus the focus on competition with “Obama” as a symbol of “blue” who did not announce his “new Africa policy” until nearly the end of his first term. Bolton is a guy with seven pictures of himself on his Twitter profile who tried to mount his own run for President: he obviously enjoys the spotlight and enjoys being a lightening rod for the arena. More substantively, it announces the drawing of a line of demarcation against the perceived “feckless liberalism” of Obama and the perceived namby-pamby do-gooder “compassionate conservatism” that sometimes fuzzed the focus of G.W. Bush in Africa. “Africa” is to be normalized as a geographic space.

Realism of course tells us that the Americans who will make the day to day decisions that actually determine our role in the various African countries do not report to Bolton and that any deep reorientation of policy will require more time and attention than Trump and his cabinet as a whole likely have left in this term. This could tell us much more about what to expect if Trump were re-elected or if the next Administration involved a similar role for Bolton and like-minded officials.

Realism also notes the Administration lost votes on two foreign policy resolutions in the Senate between Bolton’s speech and the White House press release.

New Human Development Index ratings: most high and middle performers in SSA are underperforming relative to GNI

Nairobi Kenya Microsoft billboard

Here are the Sub-Saharan African countries with a Human Development Index in the “High” and “Medium” categories as listed by the recent release for 2017 from the UNDP.

Interestingly, Kenya along with Sao Tome and Principe stand out for having a Medium HDI level relative to a lower Gross National Income per capita. Equatorial Guinea was the most extreme under-performer relative to GNI rank.

HDIRank # GNI/capita HDIRank-GNIScore

HIGH

101 Botswana .717 15,534 (-26)

110 Gabon .702 16,431 (-40)

MEDIUM

113 South Africa .699 11,933 (-23)

129 Namibia .647 9,387 (-25)

137 Congo .606 5,694 (-5)

140 Ghana .592 4,096 (3)

141 Equatorial Guinea .591 19,513 (-80)

142 Kenya .590 2,961 (16)

143 Sao Tome and Principe .589 2,941 (16)

144 eSwatini .588 7,620 (-29)

144 Zambia .588 3,315 (2)

147 Angola .581 5,790 (-16)

151 Cameroon .556 3,315 (2)

As we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an ungoverned preacher, Paul Kagame moves to govern Rwanda’s churches

A regulated church modulated by a political military autocrat — or even a majoritarian elective republic — would not have allowed a prophetic, challenging voice like that of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to be heard.

It was hard enough in the relative free-for-all of American Protestantism of the 1950s and ’60s. This is addressed in King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which has had renewed attention in light of the anniversary of his assassination and a new spirit of contention and race-baiting in post-2008 American politics.

I rediscovered the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as an adult in the early years of this century, before Obama or Trump or my connection to Kenya, and was inspired to use it as the basis for a Sunday School lesson in my defacto nearly all white Mississippi church knowing that it would still challenge all of us as it still will today.

Today’s AP story: “Rwanda closes thousands of churches in bid for more control” (h/t @Smith_JeffreyT). Read and make up your own mind as to Kagame’s objectives.

Aside from his own record as an RPF military leader in the early 1990s and what I see as the ruthlessness expansiveness of his continued consolidation of power over Rwandans, I am concerned that Kagame represents a dangerous force more broadly in East Africa and beyond because of the notion of outsiders with extraneous interests aligning with him to use his rule as a model — or excuse — for things that are flatly against our values. Like a surrender of religious liberty to the State, as one example.

[See yesterday’s CBC story about Canadian journalist Judi Rever’s new book In Praise of Blood which is being seen by many as offering revelatory revision on Kagame’s record during the genocide. I am adding it to my reading list recognizing that I have no independent background or insight on events then in Rwanda but perhaps some in how East African history is shaped and used in the West. Helen C. Epstein’s Another Fine Mess; America, Uganda and the War on Terrorwhich I intend to review– offers insight into Kagame’s background and role as a Ugandan soldier/insurgent under Museveni.]

Update April 7: Statement from Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan – “Commemoration of the 24th Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda“:

We stand today with the people of Rwanda in commemorating the 1994 genocide during which more than 800,000 men, women, and children were brutally murdered. On this solemn occasion, we remember those who lost their lives and honor the courage of those who risked their lives to save others.

The United States values its strong partnership with Rwanda, and we are inspired by the remarkable progress that Rwanda has made in rebuilding since 1994. We are proud to support Rwanda as it continues to fight impunity for atrocities, lift millions of its people out of poverty, and build a peaceful and prosperous future for its citizens.

We also honor the contributions of Rwandans such as Godelieve Mukasarasi, recipient of the Department’s 2018 International Woman of Courage Award, who have dedicated their lives to fighting for a culture of peace and non-violence in Rwanda. We are inspired by their bravery and dedication to justice and reconciliation.

Candy and Communists for Kenya: as Kenyatta’s Jubilee “deepens” partnership with Communist Party of China, Mars’ Wrigley East Africa to sell “affordable Skittles”

“Affordable Skittlesfor the “kadogo market” as Wrigley offers may not quite match Kentucky Fried Chicken in Nairobi, but perhaps the biggest news since Burger King arrived?

And yes that event at State House celebrating the deeping partnership of Jubilee and the Communist Party of China yesterday has turned heads. I think a lot of Americans had not been aware of this relationship. Obviously it makes sense in carrying forward the spirit of KANU of Kenyatta and Moi and their understudies. Kenya always labeled itself a “democracy” whether one party rule was formal or informal. China, of course, is also “democratic” with numerous parties other than the Communist Party.

Caption from Presidential Communications operation: “Today we agreed to deepen our relationship with the The Communist Party of China in order to enhance Jubilee party management and democracy.” The Presidency

At a micro level I would take umbrage at the blatant use of State resources for Jubilee Party business, but since the Party was launched at State House in the first place and the donors supporting “Western-style” democracy and the “rule of law” and such were not willing to say “boo”–nor the IEBC nor the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, there is never a reason to be surprised at this point. We reap as we sow.

ICYMI: An important read from Tristan McConnell in The Atlantic: A Deadly Election Season in Kenya – The Killings Suggest a State that is More Predator than Protector.

And here is the story from Moroccan World News of how the Chinese connected the African Unions computer servers at the Addis headquarters directly to Chinese servers in Shanghai.

Who has done the best writing so far about the fake NGOs and “bots” in the Kenyan election campaign?

Asking for a friend.

Kenya’s “fresh election”: new statement from Carter Center EOM and background on UNDP election support to GOK

Today the Carter Center Election Observation Mission released an additional report discussing briefly the findings and proceedings of the Supreme Court of Kenya in deciding the presidential election petition but primarily focused on the negotiations and preparations for the “fresh election” scheduled by the IEBC for 26 October.

kenya-statement-supreme-court-ruling-100417kenya-statement-supreme-court-ruling-100417

There has been some public controversy and debate, as well as confusion, about the role of the UNDP in the funding and management of this years Kenyan election to a degree that was not apparent in the last two cycles.  The UN is a big presence in the Nairobi and Kenyan economic and political scene, so it hardly surprising that their role in the overall outside democracy assistance program would come into scrutiny where things went badly and the election was annulled.  Most recently there was an offer made by the IEBC to have the UNDP undertake ballot paper procurements, for instance, which was declined by the candidates.  (I am not ready to wade into the thickets of the controversy about the fact that the most public face of the Commission itself other than the Chairman has retained her employment with UNDP in a leave status while accepting appointment from the President and taking office as an IEBC Commissioner in January and related matters,)

From an EU report at the beginning of the year:

  • The UNDP-led “Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya Project” aims to strengthen Kenya’s electoral institutions, systems and processes in Kenya in view of the 2017 elections.

Following the EU’s support to Kenya during the 2013 elections, the EU is capitalising on the lessons learnt from that period to provide a better electoral support mechanism for future elections. The EU’s financial contribution to “Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya” aims to develop stronger legal and institutional structures that will lead to transparent, credible and peaceful elections, as well as leading to more informed participation in the electoral process. In particular, we expect:

  • a strengthened institutional and legal framework for the electoral processes;
  • a strengthened participation of voters, parties and candidates in the electoral process with emphasis on women, youth and disabled
  • the delivery of more efficient, transparent and peaceful elections
  • a strengthened electoral justice and increased compliance with the electoral framework

The programme supports activities that cover the whole country. Beneficiaries of it include the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will be the largest recipient of the programme’s assistance. Other beneficiaries include Kenyan institutions and organisations involved in the drafting of legislation, dispute resolution between political parties, media regulation, women’s empowerment and security, including:

  • the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties
  • the Kenya Law Reform Commission
  • the Judiciary and Political Parties Disputes Tribunal
  • the Director of Public Prosecutions
  • the Police Service
  • the National Cohesion and Integration Commission
  • the Parliament
  • other government agencies including county governments
  • civil society (including women movements) and media

The EU is contributing EUR 5 million to a projected total basket fund amount of EUR 21,5 million (US$24 million). The other donors to the “Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya” project are currently DFID and USAID; some other donors might also join. To date (as of January 2017) US$14.65 million has been raised. The basket fund became operational in the second half of 2015, and activities will last till the end of 2018. The implementing partner is UNDP, with support from UNWOMEN.

Source: “EU support for democracy in Kenya” 17/1/2017

“Preliminary Findings” released by Kenyan civil society coalition on election

Update 23 Aug – Here is the latest from the  Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu monitoring:    KYSYElectionDataUpdate-WhyDisputed-22Aug2017

Following the unlawful raid on AfriCOG in Nairobi yesterday, today the Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu election monitoring program which has been engaged since long before any of the International Election Observation Missions were constituted, released its Preliminary Findings.

Please read for yourself (especially if you have commented publicly so far on Kenya’s election).