Always “steady progress” – COMESA “elders” to observe COMESA member elections in Kenya and Rwanda

From a COMESA Press Release yesterday:

COMESA believes that elections play a pivotal role in societal transformation in the region and provide a footstall for entrenching democratic principles.

Premised on this critical role, Member States have continued holding periodic elections which have heralded a new dawn by signifying steady progress towards deepening and institutionalizing democracy in the 19-member bloc.

Nonetheless, COMESA is still dispatching teams of Election Observers to issue Preliminary Statements just after the upcoming elections in Rwanda on August 4 and Kenya on August 8, with further reports after 90 days.

Zimbabwean Ambassador Dr. Simbi Mubako will lead the team for Kenya to arrive 30 July.

Think I am too jaded?  Enjoy this:

The presidential elections in Rwanda follows the 2015 referendum that unanimously approved a constitutional amendment that allowed President Kagame to run for office in 2017.  The forthcoming elections are considered important in Rwanda’s socio-economic and political progress.

In the past years, Rwanda has made significant progress in consolidating its political stability, economic growth and development.  Furthermore, Rwanda has recorded major milestones in consolidating democracy through holding periodic parliamentary and presidential elections as stipulated in its legal framework.

Since 2008, COMESA has continued to support the elections process in Rwanda.  COMESA observed the parliamentary that were held in 2008, 2013 and the presidential elections held in 2010.

I am all for extra diplomats and elders from the region being in Kenya for the election to meet diplomatic needs that may arise.  But let’s not confuse this type of “intramembership” diplomatic obsevation with an independent election observation. 

[See U.S. and IGAD Statements on Djibouti election from last year, featuring Kenya’s Issack Hassan for IGAD]

We all know that Kenya suffers from pervasive corruption; we all have been warned about lack of transparency in the election

For three years running, Kenya has ranked below Nigeria in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, coming in most recently tied at 145 in the list of 176 countries.

Even the most crucial security sectors, including most especially the police services (which, by the way, have received aid in training and other support from the United States since 1977) are pervasively corrupt and widely feared.

Under the circumstances it would be an extraordinary feat–rooted in a resolute act of will–for the Kenya’s IEBC (and its donors) to pull off a relatively clean and transparent election process.  You will have to excuse me for being concerned after my experiences in 2007 and 2013.

So far, we have had special legislation passed by the ruling party early in the year in parliament over opposition objections to mandate a “manual” backup system for reporting the votes from the polling stations in the event the electronic system “fails” as it did in 2013.  It is now barely more than 30 days before the vote and the IEBC has not explained what this manual system is.  I was told in 2014 by a donor insider that in 2013 the IEBC had no “plan B” in place to obtain results from the polling stations even though they had gone ahead and scrambled, kicked observers out of the tally process, and announced final presidential results after the electronic reporting system was shut down.  Clearly the IEBC needs a “plan B”–whatever it is–both as a practical matter and now as required by law.  And it needs to be transparent, now.

The Kenyan court ruling that the votes as counted at the polling station are legally final and not subject to being unilaterally changed without legal proceedings by the central IEBC process certainly helps–but there must still be a process to gather the numbers as posted on the door of each polling station (and to note any polling stations where the results are not publicly posted as required).  According to the EU and Carter Center election observation missions from the 2007 and 2013 elections, perhaps one-quarter to one-third of election officials at individual polling stations did not post the Form 34 showing the presidential vote count as required, so there has been ample room in each of these elections for numbers to change between the count of ballots and sealing of the ballot box at the polling station and the reported “tally” by which the president was named in Nairobi.

Unfortunately, a fair understanding of what happened in 2013 gets worse, in that it turns out that it would surely seem that the IEBC and the donors should have know ahead of time that the electronic reporting system was not going to work–but elected to project what must have been false confidence, followed by “surprise” at its failure.  The president of IFES testified to the U.S. Congress in 2013 after the election that the failure was caused by a botched procurement.  What was unsaid was that this was not just a procurement failure by the IEBC which IFES would have been expected to know about from its role as “embedded” within the IEBC to provide technical assistance, but that this was apparently also a botched United States government procurement from USAID through IFES, from what I eventually learned recently from my 2015 FOIA request as discussed in my post here from April:

“Kenya Election FOIA news: [heavily redacted] Election Assistance agreement shows US paid for failed 2013 “Results Transmission System”

From the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening (KEPPS) Program from USAID for the last Kenyan election:

“Considering the role that results transmission played in the 2007 election violence, IFES will build on its recent work with Kenya’s results transmission system to further enhance it and ensure its sustainability.  IFES will ensure this system is fully installed, tested and operational for the 2012 election.  Furthermore, IFES will fund essential upgrades and adjustments to this results transmission system.” 

[p.28 of the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening 2012 Program – Cooperative Agreement between USAID and CEPPS (coalition of NDI, IFES and IRI)]

This USAID Agreement with the consortium of IFES, NDI and IRI makes up the first 236 pages of what I was told were approximately 1800 pages of documents and attachments provided by the USAID Mission in Kenya to the Washington FOIA office by January 2016 in response to my FOIA request of October 2015.  Unfortunately, I have still not gotten any of the rest of these pages covering contract files and correspondence, as well as  USAID transactions with Smith & Ouzman, Ltd., the British firm that was convicted of bribing Kenyan election and education officials to buy their products in the infamous “Chickengate” scandal.

In spite of persistent follow up over these many months, I don’t have any further information as to whether I am likely to get more of these documents released in time for the new election (under the current Kenya Electoral Assistance Program awarded to IFES last year).

Warnings about transparency have been outstanding for months from the International Crisis Group (See: International Crisis Group on “Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis” calls on donors to show “complete transparency”; USAID is apparently not convinced yet.) and most recently Ambassador Mark Bellamy has published a June 29 assessment for the CSIS Africa Program noting the need for more transparency from the IEBC (Kenya’s Young Democracy Put to the Test.)

This year’s version of the “results transmission system” is wrapped into one big high risk procurement for the “Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System” of “KIEMS” which includes both the electronic voter identification system and the results transmission system.  The ordinary procurement system failed to generate a legally sustainable award for this system.  The new IEBC, running out of time, announced a sole source award this spring to one of the unsuccessful previous bidders, the French company Morpho.

A related company, Safran Morpho, was given a 2012 sole source award for the BVR kits for the 2013 election — which ended up with the election day use of a separate hard copy printed register at each of 30,000+ polling stations rather than an integrated and biometrically verified system.  The sole source purchase in 2012 was announced as a “state to state” transaction–which eventually came out to mean some type of loan from the Canadian Government to the Government of Kenya (involving a Canadian subsidiary of the French parent).  When the sole source transaction to buy the KIEMS system this spring was announced by the IEBC, it was reported in the media as again a “state to state” deal–with no details as to what states or what terms.  The IEBC announcement gives no indication as to whether the reporting of a “state to state” deal is accurate or otherwise whether there is any donor funding involved.

Who has paid for and/or financed the KIEMS system?  Will it work as advertised?  If not, will the IEBC or the donors tell voters ahead of time?

 

Initial Trump budget proposes to eliminate United States Institute of Peace, Wilson Center and African Development Foundation 

Of the laundry list of independent U.S. Government agencies Trump’s initial “skinny budget” submission to Congress proposes to eliminate, the USIP and the Wilson Center are specifically active on issues relating to democracy, war and peace in East Africa and the African Development Foundation is the one Africa-specific agency.

See this story in The Atlantic.

Carson finds best hope for U.S. Africa policy to be “benign neglect” outside security sector (update)

[Update: Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State today, with the votes of those Republicans who had raised questions about his commitmant to human rights and other issues related to his career long tenure at oil major Exxon.  He takes over a State Department where perhaps 1,000 officers and employees have signed a leaked “dissent” from President Trump’s immigration and refugee order impacting those of Somali, Sudanese and Libyan nationality, among seven countries.  Tillerson has said he was not consulted on the Executive Order.]

Former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson finds “Trump’s Africa policy unclear and uncertain” but expects a broad pulling back from existing bipartisan programs in a piece at African Arguments:

. . . .

Trump has exhibited no interest in Africa. Nor have any of his closest White House advisors. Except for some campaign comments about Libya and Benghazi, the new president has made very few remarks about the continent. And despite his global network of hotel, golf and tourist holdings, he appears to have no investments or business relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.

The one member of Trump’s inner circle that may have an interest in Africa is Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He has some experience of Africa because of his many years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, most of whose successful dealings on the continent were with largely corrupt and authoritarian leaders.

If Tillerson appoints a moderate and experienced Africa expert to run the Africa Bureau – and there are a dozen Republicans who meet that definition – and if he is able to keep policy in the control of the State Department, African issues may not be pushed aside completely. But irrespective of who manages Trump’s Africa policy, there will be a major change from recent previous administrations.

President Obama pushed a strong democratic agenda and launched half a dozen new development programmes including Power Africa, Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. Before him, Bush’s “compassionate” approach led to the establishment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), two of America’s most widely-praised programmes on the continent.

But Trump’s view is more myopic . . .

Under Trump, any focus on Africa will likely be on military and security issues, not democracy, good governance or human rights.  These policies are likely to find greater favour with Africa’s autocrats than civil society or local business leaders.

. . . .  Photo from church of African-American freedmen from Cumberland Island, Georgia for Black History Month

The value of life; the price of office–genocide and elections in East Africa

Muthoni Wanyeki asks in The East African if anyone cares that genocide is looming in South Sudan.

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.)

Old KANU Office

Solo 7–Kibera

The missing USAID news: “Kenya’s President Lost Disputed Election, Poll Shows”–the War for History, part 16

IRI Poll Release Press ConferenceFor some reason the USAID Frontlines newsletter for August 2008 has gone missing from the USAID online archives, breaking my link from other posts and pages.  Fortunately, I downloaded a file years ago.  Here is the key news item:

Kenya’s President Lost Disputed Election,  Poll Show
NAIROBI, Kenya—An exit poll carried out with a grant from USAID in Kenya after elections six months ago that unleashed a wave of political and ethic killings, disclosed that the wrong candidate was declared the winner.
President Mwai Kibaki, whom official results credited with a two-point margin of victory in the December vote, finished nearly 6 points behind in the exit poll, which was released in July by researchers from the University of California, San Diego.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga scored “a clear win outside the margin of error” according to surveys of voters as they left polling places
on Election Day, the poll’s author said.
The exit poll was first reported on by the McClatchy news agency. It was financed by the International Republican Institute, a nonpartisan democracy-building organization, with a grant from USAID.
Amid post-election violence, IRI decided not to release the poll. But the poll’s authors and the former head of the institute’s program in Kenya stand by the research, which the authors presented July 8 in Washington at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In the exit poll, Odinga had 46.07 percent of the vote and Kibaki had 40.17 percent. (emphasis added)

Note that in this 2008 USAID publication  there was no assertion that the poll was withheld due to being “invalid” or questionable in some fashion, as sometimes asserted by IRI, nor that it was a “training exercise” and  “never intended to be released” as claimed by Ambassador Ranneberger in a webchat in March 2008 and in talking points prepared by the State Department’s Africa Bureau in response to inquiries from the McClatchy newspapers in early 2008 and used again after publication of the New York Times investigation in early 2009.  Rather simply that a decision was made not to release the poll “amid post-election violence”. [Ed. note: For details on the State Department Africa Bureau Talking Points for media communications regarding the exit poll, see Africa Bureau under Frazer coordinated “recharacterization” of 2007 Kenya Exit Poll showing Odinga win (New Documents-FOIA Series No. 12)]

Meanwhile, now in 2016, Kibaki’s successor is rolling out his re-election campaign in the form of a Jubilee Party to be assembled from the dissolution of Kenyatta’s TNA, Ruto’s URP and various other party vehicles. All this is being done through ceremonial meeting/events at State House, serving notice that the legal restrictions on the use of public resources for campaigns found in the Elections Act of 2011 are no impediment where His Excellency the President is concerned.

Even Kibaki used private venues, rather than State House, to form and announce his Party of National Unity for his 2007 re-election.

No public word that USAID or the State Department are reconsidering the underwriting of this latest presidential vote. USAID published an RFP for a $20M election assistance program last December although it was also removed from the government’s websites after it was due to be awarded.

Secretary Kerry will be coming to Nairobi later this month, perhaps reprising Secretary Clinton’s summer 2012 visit ahead of the 2013 election.