Dear Mr. Secretary: I am writing to express my deep concern over the numerous attempted attacks and killings of Rwandan dissidents living outside that country. Any functioning and responsible democracy allows the voices of opposition to be heard. Yet in Rwanda there is a systematic effort to silence – by any means necessary – the voices of those who question the regime in Kigali. . . . .
This really strikes me as a potentially major setback for Kagame. In addition to the support Kagame has had from those who were at the helm in the U.S. executive branch 20 years ago during the 1994 genocide and Kagame’s ascension, he has also had an extra level of support in recent years from some House Republicans and others in the Republican Party. Part of it is the same type of thing that kept Museveni and the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi in favor with some on the “right” in American politics well after most people who pay attention to Africa got over the notion that this class of rulers represented a “renaissance generation” of semi-democratic leadership. Kagame has lost a lot of his American support over the last few years over the exposure of his actions in relation to the DRC and his growing authoritarianism, even though continuing to solidify his stature as a “go to” source for troops for the U.S. and Europe in the region and a secure landingpad for global investment endeavors. (h/t Cameron Hudson @cch7c on the Royce letter)
Kagame may have finally gone too far to stomach for both the Republican and Democrat mainstream in Washington.
A next question will be what reaction we see from the global elite, what some might refer to as “the Davos crowd”, including the wealthy investor/philanthropist/celebrity networks which have patronized Kagame. In fact, the World Economic Forum last year was the venue for Kagame to announce with “homeless billionaire” Nicolas Berggruen, Nigerian investor Tony Elumelu and former U.S. official Jendayi Frazer the launch of the “East African Exchange” in Kigali.
As reported at the time in Africa Mining Intelligence, “Kigali, Future minerals trading platform” : “[A] commodities exchange in East Africa that will deal initially with farm goods and minerals covering the entire Great Lakes region, will be set up in Kigali, capital of Rwanda . . . The inauguration of the East African Exchange (EAX) will be seen to by a consortium whose most prominent figure is Jendayi Frazer who was a U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs under George W. Bush.”
I may be overdue to write about the problems with current Standard Gauge Railroad project and the latest on the Rift Valley Railroad saga, and of course the new payments by the Kenyan government on the alleged debts from the Anglo Leasing scandal are crying out for more attention. And there is the critical issue in Kenya of the Turkana drought. But I’m more overdue to write about some good people doing good things that can actually make a positive difference and I need to gush a bit about a great experience I’ve had this week.
Since I have been involved in political controversy and deal with sensitive topics here, I avoid writing about my old friends who are working in Kenya in missionary or development work because I don’t want to unintentionally create any association with my personal political views. But this week, I have gotten a chance to meet and start to get acquainted with a Kenyan couple here in Florida who are doing exciting things in trade and business and humanitarian mission, and we connected through coffee here in the U.S., not through anything political, so I think I can give them a little plug without giving them any “guilt by association”.
Growers Alliance was started by Martin and Purity who grew up on separate coffee farms in Kenya. After moving to live in the United States, they were shocked to see $4 latte cups while coffee growers back in their Kenyan village earn a meager 15 cents for a whole pound of their harvest green coffee beans. In a twist of luck and coincidence, Martin and Purity met each other for the first ever at a coffee conference in Seattle. After discovering each other’s passion (and romance ….we have a beautiful son whose name is Steve) in highlighting the plight of the poor coffee growers in Kenya, they decided to start their own coffee company that would be different from any other. They formed Growers Alliance which is perhaps the only coffee company in America that is owned by actual coffee growers and whose goal is to cut out the several unnecessary middle men and coffee cartels. This helps to empower the poor coffee growers with better prices for their coffee crop and better living standards.
They have been at this for several years now and have really made progress. The Growers Alliance Kenya coffee is sold at Whole Foods and at the major Southeastern U.S. regional supermarket chains Publix and Winn Dixie (the picture above is from the shelf at my local Winn Dixie store).
Beyond the coffee business, which seems exactly the kind of thing that Kenyans need for sustainable steady improvement in economic circumstances, Martin and Purity are engaged in charitable enterprises that have “synergies” with Growers Alliance. First, Growers Alliance drills and maintains artesian wells in areas near coffee farms in Embu to provide safe water. The second is unique and deserves some explanation.
Martin was looking at the opportunity to return ship something from the U.S. to Kenya after the import of the coffee. This ultimately turned into a dialysis clinic in Naivasha, stocked with refurbished machines donated by a foundation in the United States. Unfortunately as Martin and Purity came to learn from their close interaction with the farming communities back home, diabetes and hypertension are increasing with changes in diet and lifestyle in Kenya, not just in the cities, but in the villages as well. With lack of early diagnosis and treatment, this leads to kidney damage and a growing critical need for dialysis–outstripping the facilities available from the public health infrastructure. Martin’s parents who were living in the U.S. returned to Kenya to run the clinic.
In the wake of the incomprehensible looting at Westgate, Ben Rawlence, Open Society fellow and former Human Rights Watch researcher has published a candid look at the context in “Kenya’s Somali Contradiction” at Project Syndicate:
. . . if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure . . . In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative, a plan to protect Kenya’s security and economic interests by carving out a semi-autonomous client state . . .
. . . the United Nations monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that Kenya’s Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab. . . . [T]he Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals. Indeed in Kismayu, Kenya’s officials have reverted to their default occupation — the pursuit of private profit. . . .
Going back to my time in Kenya during the 2007 presidential campaign, it is well to remember that the multimillion dollar Anglo Leasing scandal that was subject to John Githongo’s whistleblowing involved corrupt contracts that were to have provided for the purchase of passport security technology, a forensic lab, security vehicles and a Navy vessel, among more than a dozen national security procurements.
Ultimately the exposure of the scandal proved to be a huge missed opportunity for the U.S. and the international community as a whole to address a pervasively corrupt security apparatus that we have continued to help underwrite. While everyone was grateful for Githongo’s courage, we didn’t match it with courage of our own to take risks for reform and we ended up letting the Kenyan people rather than the Kibaki administration bear the burden. See my post “Part Five–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 election and new FOIA cables”.
Unfortunately corruption does not fix itself.
Furthermore, contrary to claims that securing Kismayo put al-Shabaab at a disadvantage, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that the Kenyan Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab. The group’s profits from illicit charcoal (and possibly ivory) exported from Kismayo have grown since Kenya took control.
CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThis highlights a fundamental problem: the Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals. Indeed, in Kismayo, Kenyan officials have reverted to their default occupation – the pursuit of private profit. Instead of working to achieve the diplomatic objective of defeating al-Shabaab, Kenya’s military, politicians, and well-connected businessmen have been lining their own pockets.
The Somaliland Sun reports that the Government of Somaliland has informed the visiting head of the new United Nations Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) that Somaliland will not host a UNSOM office. Somaliland wishes to continue hosting and receiving aid through various individual UN agencies and organizations but considers the overall UNSOM mission in support of the Federal Government of Somalia incompatible with Somaliland’s independent status.
In the meantime, the questions of governance for Kismayo and the “Jubaland” region remain an immediate challenge as does the unsettled Somaliland-Puntland border. Somaliland has indicated a desire to strengthen relations with Kenya, which shares a common interest in some degree of regional autonomy for Jubaland on the Kenyan border.
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”.
. . . 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.
It has been clear for many months that the IEBC’s procurement of BVR kits was irregular. It is now quite clear that evenafterKenyan civil society called the IEBC on the carpet on that problem, the IEBC engaged in clear misconduct in buying the “poll book” system. When they were caught, the procurement was allowed to go through because of the limited amount of time before the election. The “poll book” book system largely failed and on election day polling stations used a wholly manual system–a printout on paper.
A review of the tendering procedure by the public procurement regulator found out the tender to supply poll books was awarded to the South African firm, which participated in the Anglo Leasing scandal, on September 29 last year, three weeks before the technical evaluation among the shortlisted bidders.
In other words, the bidding was a sham, because the “winner”, which never could produce a working system, was selected in advance, before the evaluation of which systems worked–and thus the working systems never had a real rather than a pretend opportunity to be selected over the non-working system.
Getting down into details, the failure of this key procurement left a situation in which much of the presumed value of the Biometric Voter Registration was lost because there was no ability to use any automated voter list at the polls. The use of the paper print out opens a big window for fraud because one would have to obtain and verify each of the individual print outs from more than 33,000 polling stations to know whether what was used on paper matched up with the central voter registration list in Nairobi (leaving aside the fact that the IEBC never finalized and published a uniform voter registration list as required, which makes the issue doubly important).
I have no way to know whether the IEBC was simply corrupt in its procurement practices resulting unintentionally in the failure of the poll book system, or whether there was some deliberate intent within the IEBC to avoid the application of the electronic system.
Assuming for the sake of argument that no one at the IEBC deliberately wanted to undermine the intended voting systems, it remains quite clear that the IEBC engaged in conduct that clearly violated the public trust in preparing for the election. So how can we simply trust the same body on the vote tally itself?
Institute for Security Studies and Hanns Seidel Foundation Seminar, Nairobi
Oil and Gas Discoveries in Kenya and the Region: Opportunities and Challenges
Tuesday 6 November 2012
10h00 to 13h00
East Africa, and Kenya in particular, is increasingly developing into an important hydrocarbon region. With proven reservoirs and heightened exploration activity, the region is hoping for an oil boom and the attendant profits. In ideal circumstances, the oil and gas resources in Kenya and the region should become engines of stability, economic growth and improved governance. Looking at experiences elsewhere on the continent, however, there is a danger of the ‘resource curse’ syndrome, which counsels about the perils of hydrocarbons turning into sources of instability and ecological catastrophe. Indeed, the dismal track record of Africa’s oil producers has led to concerns about the possibility of Kenya and the greater region falling victim to Africa’s paradox of plenty. There are already emerging concerns about territorial disputes relating to Kenya and the region linking to the discovery of natural resources.
As Kenya in particular draws increasing interest from major oil companies, the question is: what are the short- and medium-term projections for oil and gas discoveries, and what are the geostrategic implications? Significantly, what policy options should Kenya pursue to avoid past development failures associated with petroleum and to militate against potential conflict? This seminar will examine these questions, among others, with the aim of offering policy recommendations on improving outcomes of oil and gas production in Kenya and the region.
At the ISS office at Braeside Gardens on Gitanga Road in Lavington.
Presidential aspirants Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto, Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, James ole Kiyiapi, Kingwa Kamencu, George Wajackoyah, Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, Musalia Mudavadi, Cyrus Jirongo, Eugene Wamalwa, and Moses Weteng’ula are now using websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and You Tube to directly interact with voters. Only David Maillu has no Facebook or Twitter account.
In the 2007 campaign and aftermath, blogs were a significant source of information and advocacy, but not generally officially associated with campaigns, and SMS text messaging was widely used; otherwise, this is a big shift in how candidates and campaigns can reach, persuade and organize potential voters, especially through mobile internet.
A multi-million dollar deal that saw Nairobi Java House sell a majority stake to a US private equity fund has won the Africa Investor of the year award in a ceremony that also honoured two Kenyan bank chief executives.
The transaction amount was not made public, but Mr Bryce Fort, the managing director of the equity fund, ECP, said at the time that it fell within the firm’s average deal size of about Sh5.1 billion ($60 million).
“The ECP is a strong believer in Africa’s growing middle class,” said chief executive Hurley Doddy in a video address to the Africa Investor summit after winning the award.
The Java House deal, which saw the Washington DC-based ECP acquire a majority stake in the Kenyan coffee chain, was made public early this year.
The Star reports that one group of analysts project that Kenya could near this average, reaching 5.3% growth in 2013 “but only if there is a smooth political transition with a clear winner in round one.” The pre-election uncertainty and distraction of the campaign are weighing on the economy at present.
A key example of the progress and the frustrations in the Kenyan, and regional, economy, is found an op/ed column in the Sunday Standard from Polycarp Igathe, Chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, headlined “Inefficient railway system hurting national growth”:
Last month, I visited the port of Mombasa in the company of board members of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Kenya Shippers Council (KSC).
We witnessed firsthand, that at long last, chronic port congestion and inefficiencies are being tackled, bravely, by Kenya Ports (KPA), but timidly by Rift Valley Railways (RVR).
Gichiri Ndua, KPA’s Managing Director explained the gains, efforts and challenges at Kilindini port. Ship-to-shore gantry capacity has more than doubled, dredging of the port is complete and the new berth 19 is almost finalised allowing Port of Mombasa to handle a 16 per cent growth in cargo throughput. Some of the largest shipping lines are now able to call and enables Kilindini to become a transshipment port.
We confirmed that delays in cargo offtake and high cost of cargo transportation are the result of dismal failure in improving railway infrastructure in tandem with port infrastructure. Citadel Capital and Transcentury the major shareholders in RVR must simply know that they are failing the country in outstanding fashion.
Igathe goes on to write that the railroad bottleneck is a key impediment to regional growth, with Mombasa “the only port known in the world to rely 95 per cent on road freight”. He hails reports of a new commercial contract between the Kenya Railway Corporation and China Roads and Bridges to start building a standard gauge rail line from Mombasa to Malaba as a “game changer”. Read the whole piece for a Kenyan manufacturers perspective of what is needed for long term growth.
Travel bans are one of the few tools available to American officials to fight corruption, and U.S. law requires that they be imposed if the State Department has credible evidence that foreign officials are profiting corruptly from a country’s natural resources. The law allows for exemptions only for travel to the United Nations in New York, though an individual ban can be lifted if the reason for the banning has been corrected.
In June, the South Sudanese government admitted that it’s missing $4 billion in stolen funds, or roughly double its annual revenue since the mostly autonomous administration was established in 2005 as part of a U.S-brokered peace deal that led to South Sudan’s independence last year from Sudan. . . .
Boswell reports that the U.S. is not considering such visa bans and that Presidential Envoy Princeton Lyman has indicated that the U.S. is looking to the South Sudanese to investigate the situation themselves.
“You have to know exactly who you are going to target. It’s not exactly clear who did it,” Lyman said. “We are looking to the Sudanese to do the investigations. President Kiir has promised a vigorous anti-corruption policy and we encourage him in this direction.”
Under American law, foreign officials and their immediate family members who steal from the public treasury or display other significant corruption are ineligible to enter the United States. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the state and foreign operations subcommittee and the author of the “anti-kleptocracy” law, said he didn’t think the State Department was doing enough to find out who stole the money.
“If the State Department has such information, we expect the U.S. Embassy to determine if it is credible and to apply the law rigorously,” Leahy said.
The U.S. has known about the scale of South Sudanese corruption for some time. “From early on, I had people who knew the SPLM well citing this problem and very worried about it,” Lyman said.
Lyman said corruption wasn’t unusual in young developing countries. He pointed to the example of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who was well-known for welcoming gifts and kickbacks as part of official business.”You don’t like to see it happen, but it happens. That doesn’t excuse it,” Lyman said.
Obviously this puts the U.S. in a difficult position because of our “special relationship” with South Sudan, the tremendous other challenges the new country faces, and the ongoing brutality from Khartoum. At the same time, it can also be argued that we have unique responsibility to address the problem because of our role in facilitating South Sudanese independence and our place on the inside through our support for the new government.
Ambassador Lyman cites Kenyatta, so what are the lessons from Kenya? Kenyatta’s corruption begat Moi’s, which begat that within the Kibaki administrations. In the course of fifty years after independence the U.S. and the international community as a whole never found the will to consistently stick to a strong, clear anti-corruption effort in Kenya–there have always been other priorities to intervene. Yet Kenyatta’s heirs and cronies, and Moi and his partially overlapping set of cronies still literally own an awful lot of Kenya, and have done very well through Kibaki (who was part of the Kenyatta and Moi circles himself for many, many years). While the press is now free enough to report scandal after scandal after scandal, and write more of the history, the deals are not undone and no one is prosecuted in almost all significant cases old and new. While there may be some hope for the future from movement toward a more independent judiciary, the track record so far is just plain bad. The precedent seems risky.