Ironies in Open Government: Was the Kenya PVT a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” or “Private Vote Tabulation”?

Kenya Pre-election Poll

So now we have results of both a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” and an Exit Poll for the March 4, 2013 Kenyan election.

The irony here is that the Exit Poll was privately funded, yet we have, courtesy of the video of the initial university presentation by the researchers Dr. Clark Gibson, Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. James Long, visiting scholar at Harvard and appointed as Asst. Professor at the University of Washington, quite a bit more detail about the Exit Poll data than we do about the PVT.  The PVT, however, was funded at least in substantial part, apparently, by yours truly and the rest of the American taxpayers through USAID through NDI. (This is the best information available to me–please correct me if I am wrong.)

I mean no disrespect to any of the people involved at NDI or ELOG–or at USAID for that matter.  I am sure everyone did their best on the PVT.  But when do we see the details instead of just a conclusion?  

After all the controversy about the delay in the release of the USAID-funded IRI Exit Poll in 2007-08, I am just very much surprised that everyone involved this time did not chose to try to get in front of any problems and controversies by being more transparent.

I do not want to weigh in to any of the back and forth as to “which is better” between an Exit Poll and a PVT–in fairness they have their relative strengths and weaknesses–it is best to have both.  So let’s get the data out on the table for study and see what we can learn.

Lessons from football–the mote in our eye and remembering that development does not make us better people

This week we learned more ugly truth about child rape in the Penn State University football program and “grand corruption” in FIFA world football.

Sobering stuff.  Obviously we in the “developed West” suffer from the types of grave flaws of character that we campaign against in the rest of the world–the same individual venality and the temptations of “groupthink” and misplaced or pretend loyalties to excuse action.

In the United States there is some broad consensus that the we aspire to some type of moral, as well as economic, leadership in the world.  We don’t always agree on what all the details of that morality should be, but we do step up to the “bully pulpit” from left, right and center, from one U.S.administration and Congress to the next.  Not to suggest that we shouldn’t do this, but if we want to lead we ought to conform our behavior to our professed values.

We talk a bit about the issue of how to connect our military–obviously one primary point of contact with other cultures and countries–with the rest of our society.  I haven’t noticed much discussion about how to do this in the diplomatic area.  Sometimes I have wondered if we ought to require our foreign service to do rotations in the United States (outside Washington) to keep them in current touch with how “the American way” is functioning in our own society.

From my “AfriCommons” perspective, it seems that we Americans are blessed to have inherited an exceptional system of governance that has served us well, but we chose whether to live up to it as we go and are not inherently more deserving than others.  Lets step back to look at ourselves on the Penn State situation — we are talking about a program for “sports” at a “public” institution of higher education.  You know, team sports where we teach our “young people” character and competitive virtue.  As part of our world’s finest system of universities.  Surely we would be appalled by something so twisted at the University of Nairobi or Makerere.  As well we should be.

We just need to remember that we don’t really want everyone else in the world to be TOO much like us; and we certainly do not want to be party to any suggestion that prosperity is a substitute for well functioning institutions in any society.

Concerns on effectiveness of education aid in East Africa

The Guardian‘s Claire Provost reports on a new
Independent Commission on Aid Impact evaluation of UK education aid
for Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which finds too much attention paid to increased enrollments and not enough to actual educational performance:

“The quality of education being provided to most children in these countries is so low that it seriously detracts from the development impact of DfiD’s educational assistance,” said the report, which failed to find evidence that DfiD was considering “basic preconditions for learning” such as whether students and teachers actually attend class after the first day.

“To achieve near-universal primary enrolment but with a large majority of pupils failing to attain basic levels of literacy or numeracy is not, in our view, a successful development result. It represents poor value for money both for the UK’s assistance and for national budgets,” said the report giving the programmes an “amber-red” rating signifying that they need significant improvements.

DfiD funding for education in the three countries is expected to top £1bn over the 2005-2015 period. The majority of this has been delivered through “budget support” – money given directly to recipient country governments. While this has helped DfiD to concentrate on promoting policy reforms, said ICAI, the department should now consider a more “hands-on approach”.

 

This seems to be consistent with what both the UK and the US have seen in Kenya, with the “education scandal” over a course of years under the “free primary education” initiative following the 2002 elections and on into the current Government of National Unity.  Direct budget support has serious risks and limitations.  For one thing, foreign funding does not necessarily change the priorities that may be reflected in the lack of local funding in the first place.  A separate ICAI report found that budget support can be effective in the right conditions, but in practice varied widely by country–India, for instance, showed better results.

Encouragingly, the current UK international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, expressed willingness to apply the learning from the independent evaluation, and acknowledged a previous over-emphasis on increased enrollment in and of itself.

Here is the link to the ICAI reports.

 

And a key scholarly book to study on the 2007 Kenyan elections . . .

Karuti Kanyinga and Duncan Okello, eds. Tensions and Reversals in Democratic Transitions:  The Kenya 2007 General Elections.

Nairobi:  Society for International Development, in conjunction with the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi, 2010.  709 pp. Notes.  Paper.

Reviewed by Frank Holmquist of Hampshire College in the African Studies Review, Volume 54, No. 2:

This is a big book of more than seven hundred pages with eighteen lengthy, theoretically engaged, and well-referenced essays.  There are editorial mistakes, but they are not significant diversions.  The authors, who represent a variety of disciplines, are almost all Kenyan scholars.  The essays speak more to the nature of Kenyan politics that led up to the election with the near collapse of the state, and less to the violence itself.  As a result, they are an important contribution to understanding the election crises and its aftermath, and to the broad study of Kenyan politics and democratization.

I would also note that Holmquist identifies the piece by Karuti Kanyinga, James Long and David Ndii as “the best assessment to date” of how the voting actually went in the presidential election.

I will be at the African Studies Association annual meeting in Washington next week and didn’t want to neglect to include my friends from the academy in reminding readers of what is available now to better understand what might play out over the next year in Kenyan politics.

The book was “launched” in Nairobi just before the constitutional referendum, but the message was considered inconvenient by some of my esteemed friends in the media and it did not get as much coverage as it might have otherwise.  This is from The Standard on July 26, 2010:

Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) Chairman Isaack Hassan has assured Kenyans of a free and fair vote at the referendum.

This comes at a time when some ‘No’ leaders have accused ‘Yes’ of plotting to rig the August 4 plebiscite.

The IIEC boss said he was keen to prove to Kenyans and the world the country has moved on after the bungled 2007 General Election.

“Before the violence, Kenya was seen as a beacon of democracy in Africa. That is why we want to repair that shameful part of our history by having a clean and fair referendum,” he said.

Added Hassan: “Many of our leaders don’t seem to have learnt from the post-election violence. For them, campaigns are just a matter of hurling insults and making loose claims. This must change to save this country.

Dark chapter

He spoke during the launch of a book, Tensions and Reversals in Democratic Transitions: The Kenya 2007 General Elections at Serena Hotel, yesterday.

Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Ann Dismorr urged the IIEC to conduct an unimpeachable referendum.

University of Nairobi lecturer Karuti Kanyinga, a co-editor of the book, said election malpractices should be punishable by death since they are the main cause of election violence.

Exciting Opportunity for American Somali and Swahili speakers

A reader called my attention to a  government program that might be a real benefit to some of you:

Do any readers speak Balochi, Dari, Pashto, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, Mandarin, Swahili, Somali, Igbo, Hausa, or Turkish?  If so, the US government offers a great opportunity.

English for Heritage Language Speakers is government scholarship, like the Fulbright or the Boren, but specifically for Americans whose native language is not English.

The goal is to help advanced English learners become fluent enough to work for the U.S. Government.  The scholarship pays for a year of English courses at Georgetown University (complete with a stipend, laptop and health insurance) and helps you find a government job afterward.  Working for the government provides not only a secure job in a tough economy, but also a fulfilling, exciting way to contribute to society.  You can find more information at http://ehls.georgetown.edu/ or http://www.cal.org/ehls/, or just Google “English for Heritage Language Speakers.”

I’ve looked at the websites and this really does appear to be a great program that could provide the right person a major professional breakthrough.  Good luck!

Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Second Wife and Somalia’s New Prime Minister

A little item from this week’s alumni news in my e-mail:

Ali Alumnus named prime minister of SomaliaThe New York Times—Alumnus Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, MA’88, who holds a master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt, has been appointed the new prime minister of Somalia. Full story »

Vanderbilt is not as well known for producing African leaders, perhaps, as some universities. But it does have an economics department that has educated Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, for instance, so it may not be surprising that Somalia’s new Prime Minister got his masters in economics at Vanderbilt.

Cornelius Vanderbilt himself was arguably a quintessentially American character. Surely if he were alive today he would be making money in and around Africa. Maybe in airlines as well as shipping and rail, and maybe fiberoptics and other means of the “transportation of information” along with moving physical goods and people.

From his biography from The New Netherland Institute:

Between the years 1805 and 1810 Cornelius worked for his father and for the ferry services serving Staten Island. In 1810 when he was sixteen years old he convinced his parents to lend him $100 so he could buy a sailboat to start his own ferry and freight business. They provided him with the money but with the understanding that he would share the profits from the business with his parents. He used the money to start a passenger and freight service between Staten Island and New York City. There was a lot of competition in the ferry service business but Vanderbilt competed on the basis of lower fares, asking as little as 18 cents per trip. He was quite successful and apparently was able to repay the $100 loan to his parents within one year. According to local lore, he was even able to earn a $1000 for his parents during the first year of operations as part of their share in the profits.

The war of 1812 provided new opportunities for growth. The forts around New York City expanded and Vanderbilt obtained a government contract to supply them. Between 1814 and 1818 he expanded with additional schooners for freight and passenger services in Long Island Sound and in the coastal trade from New England to Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1818 he sold all his sailing vessels and became a steamboat captain and partner with Thomas Gibbons who operated a ferry service between New Brunswick, New Jersey and New York City. The Vanderbilt-Gibbons partnership charged only a quarter of the competitive fares. It soon became the dominant ferry service on the busy Philadelphia-New York City route. During the 1818-1829 time period the partnership made a fortune.

In 1829 Vanderbilt decided to go on his own and began passenger and freight service on the New York City-Peekskill Hudson River route. Again he competed on the basis of price and quickly eliminated the competition. He then expanded his service to Albany, New York. He also opened passenger and freight service to the Long Island Sound, Providence and Connecticut areas. By the 1840s Vanderbilt had a fleet of 100 steamships and he had become the biggest employer in the U.S.A. At that point he not only competed on the basis of price but also on the basis of comfort, size, speed, luxury and elegance of the steamship passenger transportation industry.

During the California gold rush in 1849 Vanderbilt began steamship service to San Francisco by way of Nicaraqua. His competitiors used the Panama route which was longer. Vanderbilt was able to cut two days off the length of the trip to San Francisco, and it was 600 miles shorter. This part of his transportation business netted him over one million dollars per year. As a result he became the principal transportation service provider on the East Coast to San Francisco route.

In the 1850s he did two possibly foolish things. In 1853 he decided to take his first vacation ever. He had a steam yacht built and made a triumphant tour of Europe. While on his trip he had left the management of the business to contract managers. They tried to fraudulently take over the business while he was away in Europe. Although they were not successful, his temporary absence from his business proved to be costly, but he quickly recovered. .  .  .

In the 1860s he became aware that the big growth in the future for the transportation industry was not by way of water but by way of rail. So he became interested in railroad transportation . . .
. . . .
A year after the death of his wife Sophia, Vanderbilt now 73 years old, married a distant cousin named Frances Armstrong Crawford, and known as Frank. She was 34 years his junior. The marriage was probably a good one because it gave him a new outlook on life. It is doubtful if his children approved of it. After all, his new wife was younger than seven of his twelve children. It appears that the marriage to a younger woman gave him an imagined extension to his life.

Although Vanderbilt had not engaged in philanthropy at all until that point in his life, through his new wife’s influence, he perpetuated his name through a gift of one million dollars to Nashville’s Central University. One million dollars may not sound like a lot of money, but in the 1870’s it was. Based on the gross domestic product per capita in 1870 and at the present time, the conversion ratio would amount to about 260. So the one million dollars was essentially equal to $260 million in today’s terms. The University would become, and to this day still is, the prestigious Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

UK Cuts Education Aid Once Again in Lastest Round on Kenyan Education Scandals (Updated)

Update, June 16: The Irish Times reports that the U.K. will “push hard” for return of its share of stolen education aid funds.

The country’s finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta said the names of officials investigated had been given to the police, but analysts said the chances of prosecutions were low.

“Handing over reports to the criminal investigations department of the Kenyan police force is a good way of shelving investigations,” said Mwalimu Mati, chief executive officer at the corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya. “It is hard to see how such a discredited police force can bring about justice when they are still investing in Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg.”

The Goldenberg scandal, which cost the country over 10 per cent of GDP, dates back to the early 1990s. It saw the government of Kenya pay out hundreds of millions of dollars of public money in a bogus gold export scheme. No government officials have been prosecuted for their part in it.

Despite coming to power in December 2002 on a strong anti-graft platform, President Mwai Kibaki has failed to stamp out corruption in east Africa’s largest economy. Kenya has slipped down the rankings of Transparency International’s 2010 corruption perceptions index, falling to 154 out of 178 countries.

Last year the government said it could be losing $4 billion, nearly one-third of the national budget, to kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

“Kenya is good at talking about corruption cases,” Teresa Omondi, the deputy executive director of Transparency International – Kenya, said, “but not at prosecuting anyone in them. The fact that no stringent action is ever taken means there is a risk of us hearing about all this again next year.”

“UK cuts education aid by Sh300m”, Daily Nation:

The government was on Tuesday put under pressure to rein in corruption within its ranks, with the United Kingdom announcing a Sh300 million education budget cut.

British High Commissioner Rob Macaire said that they will continue funding education, but only through non-governmental channels until the Ministry of Education adopted prudent financial management systems.

This year, the British Government has allocated Sh1.3 billion to fund various educational programmes through these channels.

“It is shocking that civil servants in trusted positions in the government would steal such an amount of money.

“We share in the outrage of Kenyans about this, because there is UK taxpayers money involved too,” Mr Macaire said.

He was responding to fresh investigations by Treasury over a Sh4.2 billion fraud in the Education ministry.

“This should not be allowed, neither tolerated,” he said, adding that the culprits should be prosecuted.

So far, the Department for International Development (DfID) has supplied 320,000 children in slums with textbooks in 1,100 selected schools.

Mr Mike Harrison, deputy director at DfID, said unless financial transactions are electronic, they would not fund the ministry.

“We need some concrete proof that the financial management in the ministry are turned around.

“Electronic money transfer will have to be at the heart of the system unlike today where paper transfer is easily doctored.”

.  .  .  .

See, “Treasury audit reveals Sh5.8bn fraud”, Daily Nation.  “Education and Medical Services staff probed over Sh 6.2bn loss“, The Star.

The Star launches on the web

Just in time for the election in Uganda, the Star in Nairobi has launched its website. The Star began as a competing daily to the Nation and Standard and to the other tabloids during my time in Nairobi. It quickly became a necessary political news read. Its launch on the web is a big step forward for Nairobi and Kenya as a regional media and communications hub, and a step forward toward a future of more accountability and better governance through greater openness. And a better media through competition.

The more outlets, the harder it will be for the Government of Kenya to suppress the news.

Upcoming–the new attempt to revive draconian regulation of the Kenyan media before the 2012 campaign.

Here are three columns that deserve your attention in understanding the current state of play in Kenya:

Jerry Okungu–“Kibaki Has Soiled Nominee’s Names”

Wycliffe Muga–“Kibaki’s Delimna Over His Legacy”

Mugambi Kiai–“Deconstructing ‘servant leadership'”

NPR Stories from Africa–an appreciation

Living in a smaller, lesser-developed state in the U.S., I am thankful this year for National Public Radio which brings news and coverage of the world to areas such as ours ours on a non-commercial basis as a public service. I most frequently listen to the local NPR station during my “drive time” and also when I listen to satellite radio I often find the best, most worthwhile programming on NPR. The satellite radio has audio from CNN, Headlline News, Fox News, etc., most of which is not news, and simply has lower standards and loud, obnoxious and frequently disreputable commercials.

Yes, from a doctrinaire ideological viewpoint, it lacks conceptual purity to have the government provide a partial subsidy for broadcasting. Likewise, you can argue that having public libraries gets the government involved in the flow of ideas and information [full disclosure: I am on my local library board, and check out books for free]. On balance, I think this is a good practical thing that we can do for each other to help build an informed and aware citizenry that is qualified to govern itself and provide a postive example of self-government to others. No one has to listen and most people chose to be entertained instead of informed, but making this available matters, I think. From Mississippi, thanks to those of you in the rest of the country that help provide this service.

Here are some good stories from Africa this week on NPR: “River of Life–Congo Odyssey”; “Helping the World’s Poor Save, a Bit at a Time”; “Tell Me More” interview with a Kenyan village girl who is now a doctoral student at Pitt and wants to be an educator back in Kenya; “Will Kenya’s attempt to root out graft take hold?”

What responsibility do Americans have for tribalism and corruption in Kenya?

Far more than most of us realize I would say.

Aside from the fact that most Americans simply are generally unaware of the whole topic, more specifically I think we have a problem from being in a real degree of denial about the extent to which both Kenyatta and Moi were tribalist and corrupt, and advanced the systems of tribalism and corruption, while we supported them for other reasons. Certainly a big part of my education from living and working in Kenya was the opportunity to have private conversations with Kenyans who would tell me about how bad things had been under Moi. Especially noteworthy were these conversations with citizens from the Kalenjin groupings in the Rift Valley.

Before going to Kenya I got too much information of tertiary importance about the history of political parties without the driving background of tribalism and torture and aggregate economic statistics without the same background. Nor was I well informed about the determinative modes of operation of Kenyatta, Moi and then Kibaki as leaders.

It seems to me that you have to understand and account for these things to understand the relative importance of a new constitution to the Kenyan people, as well as to understand something meaningful about the 2007 presidential election and the misconduct of Kenyan authorities, and the multiple different types of violence in different places in the wake of the stolen election. Then you can read the Waki Commission report on the post-election violence and make sense of the ethnic “body count” and the fact that slightly more of those killed who were identified by ethnicity were Luo than any other “tribe”, followed closely by Kikuyu.

The new constitution has given a sense of empowerment and opportunity in Kenya–but we have seen the chimera of reform before after the 2002 election. The United States and others have given themselves a lot of credit for the February 28, 2008 post-election settlement, but the agreements reached have seen a mixed record of performance so far. While the Waki Commission did a great service, no Kenyan tribunals have been created to prosecute cases from post-election violence. The Kreigler Commission abdicated the duty to assess the presidential election, while finding that the overall system and the parliamentary results were deeply flawed. The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission has been aborted–trying again will require a significant new effort and extended time, while the next election looms.

So yes, this is exactly the right time to fully examine our role in the referendum campaign leading to the new constitution and our role in the 2007 election leading to violence followed by a settlement that has led to that referendum and to some other reforms, while others remain in limbo. With a better understanding of these last two elections we can make honest and informed decisions in a democratic manner about what our role should be now and in 2012.

And by the way, I understand that you still can’t buy “It’s Our Turn to Eat” in a Kenyan bookstore.