Just waiting on a FOIA–could legal action be pursued in the U.S. for Kenya IEBC procurement corruption?

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More than ten months after requesting documents from USAID on one part of our Kenya IEBC support program for the 2013 election I have been unable to get anything more than an assurance that my request “is being handled” for interim releases as soon as “possible” although USAID’s FOIA office got a CD of materials from the Nairobi mission at least six months ago.

Meanwhile, Secretary Kerry in Nairobi reiterated that my government intends to spend a new $25M on efforts for the election scheduled for a year from now, but supports the agreement between CORD and Jubilee to “buy out” the existing IEBC Commissioners (with at least informal immunity). I noted earlier this month that the Request For Proposals for a $20M election support effort released last December had been pulled off the internet without explanation.

Here is my FOIA request to USAID from last fall:

This FOIA request relates to Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening Cooperative Agreement Number 623­LA­11­00007, under Leader Cooperative Agreement No. DFD­A­00­08­00350­00, with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

I am requesting the following:

1) All reports filed by IFES with USAID regarding the above referenced Cooperative Agreement during the years 2011 through 2013.

2) All correspondence between the IFES and USAID relating to the above referenced Cooperative Agreement during the years 2011 through 2013.

3) The complete contract or cooperative agreement administration files of USAID relating to the above referenced cooperative agreement.

4) All other documents or records, including e­mails or other electronic communications, created by, or received by, USAID relating to procurements under the above referenced cooperative agreement, from the date of the agreement to the present.

5) All other documents or records, including e­mails or other electronic communications, created by, or received by, USAID reflecting, referring to or constituting communications between USAID and Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, including its members, officers, employees or agents, from January 1, 2011 to the present.

6) All documents related to Smith & Ouzman, Ltd. relating to business of that firm in Africa from 2010 to present.

U.S. fights in Somalia; Old lions–Kissinger, Moi, Scowcroft, Brezenski–outlast the post-Cold War democratization era in East Africa 

Things had gone so far awry on the democratization front by last year  to trigger a Washington Post editorial noting the authoritarian trend in East Africa.

Recently we have news of a major U.S. airstrike (manned and drone) on an al-Shabaab training camp, followed by a raid involving U.S. and Somali special forces.

We are now also faced with a major ISIS presence in continental Africa in the wake of the proverbial “ungoverned space” in Libya and are in discussions considering a new military coalition to organize resistance.  Prior to the 2011 uprising AFRICOM was joining our European allies in coordinating military relationships with Gaddafi but the revolution, in which we intervened, has not resulted in a stable or unified replacement government.

Let’s face it; 14 years after 9-11, 15 years after the USS Cole bombing, 17 years after the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the window of opportunity for a U.S.-led focus on the building of shared democratic values in the region may have largely slipped shut.

Years ago I got some attention for a post noting that “the aid bubble has burst” and Western attention had moved past the Gleneagles era toward a more normalized mode of profit-seeking investment.  While private actors will remain more alert for opportunities in Africa and “public-private” endeavors including the current Power Africa program can still have legs, it seems to me that “conflict management” and irregular warfare have come to the fore to the point that we seem to be back in an era more akin to the Cold War in which perceived immediate “security” interests are predominant.

Museveni in particular “surfed the wave” of democratization after the fall of the Soviet Union and came out onshore as a primary U.S. military ally in the region anyway.  We are willing to chastise him to a point, but there is no indication from Washington that the fundamental facts of our relationship are at issue over another awful election.

While much has been accomplished with AMISOM in Somalia, we are still a long way from seeing a stable, sustainable government there that would create an opportunity to de-militarize our relationships with Uganda, or Kenya or Ethiopia.  The increasingly direct U.S. role in fighting al-Shabaab reflects the limitations of Ugandan and Burundian proxies, as well as the reality of limited capacity and contradictory objectives from the Kenyan and Ethiopian contingents in AMISOM.

This also leaves Somaliand in suspended animation.  Sudan remains an awful paradox for our policy goals and our values, and South Sudan is simply a fiasco.

It seemed to me in Nairobi during the post-election violence in 2008 that the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December 2006 to displace the ICU and save in some fashion the remains of the TFG was a turning point for U.S. policy.  After that, we seemed to have effectively dropped our criticism of the corruption failures of the Kibaki administration and its failure to reform the constitution and then helped get Moi and Kibaki back together.  We upped our security cooperation and looked the other way as Kibaki stole re-election.

The USAID democracy programming I inherited in mid-2007 as regional director at the International Republican Institute included the pre-war era 2005 criticisms of Kenyan government backsliding and I failed fully appreciate how much had changed until the midst of that year’s disaster.

Back in the U.S., Kissinger is now personally embraced by key elements of the leadership of both our parties.  In early 2009 after the New York Times published its investigation on the Kenya exit poll,  IRI, to my amazement, gave Kissinger its “Freedom Award” even though it has long worked to promote democracy in Cambodia, in particular, as well as places like Bangladesh and East Timor where I was invited a few years before I worked for IRI in Kenya.  Now, the likely Democratic nominee apparently holidays with Kissinger in the Dominican Republic.  A new, old, era, apparently.

A little Kenyan-American history: Kissinger, Waiyaki, Kibaki–getting the F-5s, safaris and slums

More Kenyan-U.S. diplomatic history: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

“Linkage”-remembering how we got here, from “rules of the game” with the Russians and the “Carter Doctrine” to Al-Queda in East Africa and the Embassy Bombings

Why the U.S. got started training the Kenya Police Service; 1977 Embassy cable

“Look, no hands” — Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Uganda declines to offer support for electoral reforms (updated)

In an interview in today’s edition of Uganda’s state owned New Vision, retiring U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi addressed the current Ugandan campaign for the 2016 elections. In response to a question about civil society concerns about narrowing of the democratic space in Uganda, DeLisi declined to weigh in and went so far as to volunteer a position on behalf of the United States that he would leave the issue of electoral reforms for Ugandans to “discuss among themselves”.  Translated from diplospeak, discussion among Ugandans here means that prospective voters can mutter, murmur or swear and Museveni can decide as he will without consequence.

In his most recent re-election in 2011, Museveni stiffed the United States by keeping control of the appointment of Uganda’s electoral commission. See “High level U.S. delegation carries requests to Museveni on fair elections and Iran sanctions” and “Plenty of reason to be concerned about Uganda election” along with linked related posts. This time, the Obama Administration, fresh off dancing with Kenyatta literally and with Hailemariam figuratively, seems to have given up on any aspiration for pro-reform influence well in advance.

From the interview:

You have always asserted that the US mission will not get entangled in local politics. But as an ambassador, what advice would you give to players in the impending elections?

We never said we will not get involved in politics. Just as citizens of this country, we have invested in this country. Do we want this country to be a success with a strong and vibrant democracy? Yes.
If caring about this means getting involved in politics, then we will do. As for which candidate or party to support, that is for people of Uganda to decide.

We talk to leaders of all political parties – NRM, FDC, DP, UPC. Name them, we talk to them. We tell them that there should be a constructive electoral process in which people’s views are respected, where people engage each other respectively, where there is no room for violence.

So that, at the end of the day, no matter who wins the election, it is a credible result that services Uganda well and gives the new leader legitimacy to lead the country effectively and deal with the challenges that will emerge.

Do you share concerns by civil society that political space in Uganda is narrowing?

I don’t know whether it is narrowing down but I perfectly appreciate the challenges of civil society. But this is a constant dialogue we are always having with the Government to ensure that there is room for meaningful dialogue and engagement.

There is the NGO Bill currently before Parliament and during consultations; we have seen the NGO community, civil society engage with MPs in a robust dialogue that has brought significant changes to this piece of legislation. I don’t know what the final law will look like.

I know civil society would have liked to see the issue of electoral reforms addressed fully, but I leave that to Ugandans to debate among themselves about the need to strengthen the democratic process. We have seen in US that even after 250 years, we are still working to improve our democracy.

Update: To understand the context and significance of the Museveni government’s continued stonewalling, see today’s Daily Monitor: The Unresolved Question of  Electoral Reforms, What it Means for 2016.

The “top ten” most shared posts from the first five years of AfriCommons

Famed Photojournalist Mo Dhillon responds to AU on ICC trials: “African Unity leading Africa toward disaster”

134 days after election, Kenya’s IEBC fails to produce results in Parliament

Was Kenya’s “Election Observation Group” or ELOG intended to be truly independent? Or was it to “build confidence”? [Update 3-30 on Further Overselling ELOG and ELOG’s use by Counsel for the Government in Court]

Ethiopian President Meles has died

Somaliland rejects UNSOM presence; Kenya reading

The U.S. “official” infatuation with Kenya in numbers

Kenya’s IEBC dangles “kitu kidogo” for political parties to avoid publishing results

Kenya’s elections: Observing the observers

The challenge for the West in Kenya’s 2012 election–and how we can learn and do better this time

What does Kenya’s High Court ruling on the civil society challenge to Uhuru and Ruto eligibility for election say about the state of Kenya’s judiciary?

It’s mid-May, do you know where you’re election results are?

 

Why “the war for history” matters now: “authoritarian momentum in East Africa” (Part Six)

Efforts to retroactively legitimize the 2007 Kenyan election and turn away from the questions of why election fraud was allowed to stand also help divert attention from the current questions of what the United States and Kenya’s other diplomatic “partners” will do or not do now in the face of the current retrenchment of hard won freedoms and democratic openness. Kenya is less free and less secure now than it was in 2007. When a few more years have gone by will 2002 still be a remembered as a turning point for democracy in Kenya or just a false “spring” producing only a temporary thaw in authoritarian governance?

Here is some good context from Freedom House from April of this year.

“Authoritarian Contagion in Africa” by Robert Herman, Vice President for Regional Programs, on the Freedom at Issue blog:

The broader phenomenon illustrated by Kenyatta’s actions [seeking restrictions on civil society and the press] is not just a matter of coincidence or independent imitation. Whether they are selling sophisticated technology to track down dissidents online or sharing legislative approaches that provide a patina of legitimacy for their crackdowns on political opponents, repressive governments are actively working together to push back against nonviolent movements for democratic change. Indeed, such authoritarian solidarity has arguably outpaced collaboration among the world’s democratic states, which are often feckless in mobilizing to defend their own values and assist likeminded activists under duress.

In East Africa, evidence of authoritarian contagion is growing. The governments of Uganda, once seen as a great hope for democracy, and South Sudan, the world’s youngest country and a recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance, are contemplating restrictive legislation targeting NGOs.

However, the true regional pioneer of this approach has been Ethiopia. Under longtime prime minister Meles Zenawi, who died in 2012, the Ethiopian government issued laws on NGOs, the media, and terrorism that have collectively devastated the country’s political opposition and civil society. The most prominent democracy and human rights groups have been forced to abandon or radically scale back their work, and many of the leading activists have fled into exile.

Other leaders in East Africa and beyond no doubt observed with interest as the international community failed to mount any serious challenge to the Ethiopian government’s repressive actions. Donor countries declined to use their extensive development aid as leverage. Instead they meekly promised to monitor how the new laws were implemented. Whether out of consideration for Ethiopia’s role in combating terrorism in Somalia or fear that the country would turn to China as an alternative patron, the world’s wealthy democracies declined to challenge the Meles regime even after its legislation’s ruinous effects became apparent.

The citizens of Kenya, particularly those who opposed Kenyatta’s presidential candidacy or documented his role in fueling past ethnic violence, may now be paying the price for the international community’s hesitation to act on Ethiopia. It is certainly possible that Kenyatta—facing an international indictment—would have taken the same steps in the absence of a successful model for repression in the region. But his political allies might well have deserted him if they had reason to believe that Kenya would pay some meaningful price for antidemocratic initiatives.

One hopes that the United States and other democratic donor governments will draw their own lessons from these experiences, finally recognizing that the prioritization of security and macroeconomic concerns over democratic performance is a self-defeating strategy. In the long run, repressive states are less stable, less prosperous, and less friendly to democratic partners than open societies, and the spread of authoritarian practices can only damage the interests of Washington and its allies.

Last month Freedom House awarded it annual Freedom Award to Maina Kiai “in recognition of his fearless leadership in advocating for constitutional reform, fighting political corruption, and educating Kenyans of their basic civil and human rights.” The same Maina Kiai who pushed for release of the 2007 IRI/USAID exit poll and challenged the U.S. to live up to its principles: “A Deal We Can Live With” by Maina Kiai and L. Muthoni Wanyeki, New York Times, Feb. 12, 2008.

 

Famed photojournalist Mo Dhillon responds to AU on the ICC trials: “African Unity leading Africa towards disaster”

Sir Mohinder Dhillon, renowned Kenyan photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker shared this new essay which he also submitted to the ICC judges:

“GADDAFI AND MUSEVENI”
Gaddafi and Museveni

African Unity leading Africa towards disaster.

I’d like to challenge the AU to tell me which tribunal or judiciary in Africa will ever convict a sitting Head of State. This attempt to renege on a commitment to the ICC is nothing more than a sinister plot by Africa’s dictators to save themselves from any kind of accountability. It was initiated by the late Colonel Gaddafi, who bailed the AU out of a financial crisis, thereby buying the loyalty of other African leaders whose necks were also on the line. To save himself from international justice, he wanted Africa out of the reach of the ICC. Shame on such leaders! Contrary to any suggestion of restoring national sovereignty, the aim of these people is for Africa to be out of the Rome Treaty so that they can continue with their evil intentions where money and power counts for everything and the ordinary African can rot.

Our memories in Africa are very short, particularly in the case of perpetrators of genocide, rape and murder. Those who support the AU line that accused Kenyans should be tried locally should remember that not so long ago Parliament and other local bodies preferred to hand over cases to ICC. Remember the slogan that was on the lips of all Kenyans:  “Don’t be Vague, Ask for Hague”. Kenya was given 12 months to put their act together and they did not move an inch. Kenyan authorities were going to investigate several thousand of other perpetrators but none was investigated due to lack political will despite some of perpetrators were recognizable carrying out crimes against humanity. AU is becoming laughing stock in promoting impunity.

The early history of Kenya’s ICC cases seems already to have been forgotten. After the post-election violence in 2008, the Peace Accord appointed the Waki Commission which produced 529 pages report on 16 July 2009 along with 6 boxes of documents and supporting material. A sealed envelope containing names of those considered most responsible for the violence was given to Kofi Annan as mediator.   Kenyan Government tried for one year to establish a local tribunal but parliament blocked this, leading to the involvement of the International Criminal Court.  The ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo opened the envelope, inspected its contents and re-sealed it, before proceeding at Kenya Government request to carry out investigations and develop the resulting cases for ICC.

Kenya must smell the rat behind the intentions of our neighbours in Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan, who are guilty of gross human rights violations in their own countries. Most recently, these include muzzling the media and arresting journalists and civil rights workers, but there is a long track record of crimes against humanity in each country. The AU has failed miserably to bring the perpetrators to book, as have the local judicial systems.

Until fifteen years ago, I filmed all the OAU meetings since its inception in 1963. For most of that time, the fight against apartheid in South Africa was the only factor that held this organisation together – otherwise I’m sure it would have disintegrated. It is a matter of record that crimes against humanity on the rest of the continent have far outweighed the evils of apartheid both in terms of scale and sheer lack of accountability. Why the double standard?

It is abundantly clear that most of Africa’s leaders are more concerned with protecting themselves than they are with securing justice for ordinary people. Although we in Kenya have made enormous strides in securing personal freedoms over the last twenty years, I am deeply concerned about the negative influence of our dictatorial neighbours in Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia, where media houses are being closed down for flimsy reasons, where opposition is not tolerated and large numbers journalists and activists languish in dungeons without being charged. Kenyan genocide victims need closure just like the victims of Charles Taylor in Liberia, where the ICC was applauded for a job well done. There can never be adequate compensation for loss of life, limbs or dignity but at least some measure of justice was served.

Members of Kenya’s Government are shouting empty slogans about protecting their sovereign rights, in complete contradiction of their earlier position. I trust that the Kenyan people can see for themselves the total insincerity of those who are driven by nothing more than fear for themselves, and total disregard for the victims of violence. . . .

Here is the whole document: African Unity leading Africa towards disaster (5)

 

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Before noting the choice of speakers for the Uhuruto inauguration, the idea that governance in Kenya might be in the process of falling in line with its East African neighbors has been much on my mind since the IEBC’s decision on the election on March 9.

Museveni as the featured speaker–and what he had to say–certainly fits this theme.  Museveni can readily castigate the ICC and “the West” for meddlesome advocacy of international standards, knowing that he has a mutual “security” relationship at a deeper level with the United States.  He gets criticized by the U.S. for changing the constitution to stay in power, and for taking and keeping control of the Ugandan electoral commission–but without discernible “consequences”.

Uhuru himself in his speech said nothing about corruption–a major theme in the KANU to NARC transition and the original Kibaki inauguration, and well understood to be the Achilles Heel for Kenya’s economy.  And as I have noted before, the Jubilee platform’s only “plank” relating to governance is a proposal for active state intervention in the civil society arena.

Museveni and his NRM have been associated with the KANU of Moi and of Uhuru and Ruto over the years and at some level Kenya post-Moi has been an outlier in the East African Community of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.  As well as Museveni, one naturally thinks of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and the recently departed Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia as authoritarian heads of state who could count on strong support in Washington at a variety of levels–both in terms of underlying security relationships and friendships with American politicians who could be counted on for advocacy in the face of international controversy.

Uhuru himself, quite the contrary to his short-lived campaign rhetoric this year as an ICC indictee, has been a favorite Kenyan politician of many in the American establishment.  He talks the talk well.  He was educated in the U.S. and has been a frequent visitor.  A “family friend” of former Assistant Secretary of State Frazer by reputation.  Rich even by American standards, and a business owner whose inherited fortune was generationally cleansed from openly kleptocratic political origins.  Before the confirmation of the ICC charges but after the 2008 post-election violence when the issues with the alleged funding of the Mungiki attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru were well known, he was a primary lobbyist for the Kenyan government in the U.S. seeking things like a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact.  Before the 2007 election, he entertained official American visitors including Senator Obama as the “Official Leader of the Opposition”.  He was singled out for positive recognition in a report by CIPE, the Center for International Private Enterprise (the National Endowment for Democracy’s core institute under the United States Chamber of Commerce) and was spoken of in government as a Kenyan who “says the right things”.

A U.S. foreign policy establishment view on how the United States should deal with a Kenyatta administration was offered in a Foreign Affairs piece by Bronwyn Bruton of the Atlantic Council just before the election:

. . . In all likelihood, the first round of voting will lead to a runoff election on April 10 between Raila Odinga, the current prime minister of Kenya’s hastily-constructed unity government, and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s deputy Prime Minster and the son of Kenya’s first president. The tightness of the race bodes ill; it is unlikely that either side will be able to score a quick victory, and it will not take much vote rigging to influence the election’s outcome. The losing party is virtually certain, therefore, to contest the results. Some violence, in other words, seems all but assured. The question is how long it will last, whether it will spread nationwide, and how many people will be displaced, injured, or killed

Most of the piece is behind the firewall so I won’t copy it here, but she goes on to argue that U.S. interests counsel what I would characterize as essentially a business as usual approach to Uhuru (and by implication of course Ruto) unless and until they end up eventually convicted by the ICC.  I shared this with a friend in Washington with the comment that this could be read as a Washington argument not to get too exercised if Uhuru helped himself to some extra votes to win–the risk of instability was very high and the downside to having Uhuru in office wasn’t that great.

The Carter Center has released another round of reporting on the election, “slamming” the IEBC, but concluding with a factually unsupported pronouncement that in spite of the electoral commission’s many failures their announced result happened to “reflect the will of the Kenyan people”.  This was language being tossed around in certain circles before the election with reference to Moi’s races back in the ’90s.  How to say an election is bad but the incumbent or other beneficiary of the state misconduct would have won anyway? The big difference in 2013, of course, should have been that the Kenyan voters had approved–with much U.S. support–a new constitution that was supposed to end the “first past the post” system that so benefited Moi and require a “runoff to majority”.  When you read the Carter Center report it is clear that there is no way they can offer any substantive assurance at all for the IEBC’s award of just enough to Uhuru to avoid that runoff.

But, there are interests at stake besides justice–there is also “stability”, and “peacekeeping” troops in Somalia, etc., etc.

So we shall see.  I hope for the best for Kenya, but the Uhuruto ascendancy looks to me like a big win for tribal chauvinism and a real step back in terms of democratic ideals.  Kenya is very different from either Rwanda or Ethiopia, and from Uganda, too.  Whatever excuses one makes for Kagame and Museveni in their own postwar environments, to me, ought not to apply to Kenyatta or Uhuru in Kenya.

Attacks on Kenyan Civil Society prefigured in Jubilee “manifesto”

The Jubilee (UhuRuto) Coalition manifesto contains a section entitled “Good Governance” which strikingly in a country with so many governance challenges, contains only one section, on “the challenge” of “managing our relationship” with civil society:

THE CHALLENGE

The influence of Civil Society has expanded over the years to the point where the various Civil Society groups play an important role in the country’s political and economic development. In the years following the signing of the National Accord, the sector has grown in stature, influencing government decisions, political culture, and key appointments. We must identify new and innovative ways of working with the sector so that the country can fully benefit from its expertise and experience.

THE OPPORTUNITY

We believe that NGOs have a valuable role to play in monitoring government and helping to strengthen the social infrastructure in our country. We shall manage our relationship with the NGO sector in accordance with internationally recognized best practices.

SOLUTIONS

The Coalition government will:

  • Introduce a Charities Act to regulate political campaigning by NGOs, to ensure that they only campaign on issues that promote their core remit and do not engage in party politics. This will also establish full transparency in funding both for NGOs and individual projects.
  • Establish a Charities Agency to provide an annual budgetary allocation to the NGO sector.
  • Promote accountability and coordination between the NGO sector and national and county governments.
  • Develop strong partnership with the NGO sector that enhances the country’s development agenda and promotes the interests of the people of Kenya.

So what does this mean?  Clearly, what is proposed is substantial “regulation” and government involvement in the workings of civil society.  This was understood by many in civil society before the election to refer to “Ethiopian” style control–you could also look at Rwanda and Uganda for other regimes in the EAC.

Since the election, we have seen some nasty, conspiratorialist, attacks on civil society for not getting in line with the IEBC’s announced result. See “Kenyans fundamental rights under attack” from Mugambi Kiai in the Nation, responding.

 

How is IGAD’s “diplomatic observation” regarding Kenya’s election process helpful?

Africa Review reports on the statement of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from this week’s visit to Nairobi by executive secretary Mahboub Maalim (himself a Kenyan) and others from the Addis headquarters under the headline “IGAD confident of peaceful Kenya election”:

In his statement, Mr Maalim said: “Igad has come to the conclusion that Kenya’s election is not an event. It is a process and that March 4th is not the end; it is the beginning of a process that could last till June 2013. Kenyans must therefore brace themselves for the long haul.”

Mr Maalim said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the judiciary are crucial for the success of the polls.

“The efficiency of the IEBC during the voter registration process must be lauded. We expect that the same efficiency will apply to the March 4 poll. This is critical if Kenya is to avoid petitions arising from IEBC system failure. The efficiency and believability of the Supreme Court in dealing with the presidential election petitions is also critical. This will determine whether or not the transition is successful,” the Igad executive secretary said.

He said IEBC should be encouraged to conduct a systems dry-run with peer reviewers to seal any loopholes that would affect its efficiency.

Dr Kimani said the recent party nominations in Kenya were inclusive, open and transparent and that it was what the rest of the region had expected.

Igad brings together six countries in the Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – for development and drought control in their region

“Party nominations were inclusive, open and transparent”. Wow, that is certainly a unique perspective that contradicts the reporting in the Kenyan and international press, the reporting of Kenyan civil society umbrella KPTJ, and, for example, the reporting of the Center for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya which is a well established and leading presence in Nairobi on these matters. So who is right here? Might it be relevant that IGAD is an organization of governments that are all far more “challenged” in terms of democratic practices in general, and elections specifically, than even Kenya in the wake of power-sharing and the debacle of 2007, along with the Government of Kenya itself?

I am all for whomever exhorting peace, although I am substantially skeptical that official pronouncements of this type have actual impact on ultimate behavior. Likewise, I am all for encouragement, hope and reasoned, well-grounded optimism in the context of pushing for the best election possible from where things really stand today. But this type of statement about the primaries is a “diplomatic” position rather than an observation or representation of fact. It undermines the credibility of whatever else is said in the same statement as being connected to the facts. At best it is unhelpful–it might be dangerous.

Ethiopian President Meles has died [Updated]

[Update] “Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi’s death sparks fear of turmoil”, The Guardian.  Here is Jeffrey Gettleman’s take from the New York Times. And Ken Opalo’s Blog.

Ambassador Theatre--"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” Addis

Here is an assessment from NED’s Democracy Digest, “Ethiopia: Zenawi’s ‘tainted’ authoritarian legacy.”

Kenya’s government has lost a key regional ally.  From the Obituaries in the Washington Post:

Ethio­pian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was once hailed as a major U.S. ally against terrorism but whose 21-year rule was tarnished by the killing and jailing of political protesters and a grisly border war with former ally Eritrea, died late Monday while being treated abroad for an undisclosed illness. He was 57.

The death was announced by Ethio­pian state television, which said only that Mr. Meles died shortly before midnight after contracting an infection. The government did not specify where he died, and the circumstances of his death were laced with intrigue. . . .

With Ethiopian troops in Somalia just as the process of selecting new Somali leadership is underway, and heightened tension in Ethiopia itself, the region will be anxious as the stability and sustainability of new leadership post-Meles.  Meles got along with other rulers and governments in the region, and with the U.S. and China and international institutions, while maintaining a repressive role at home.