The more things change, the more they stay the same–what I wrote on “the Parliamentary pay fiasco” in 2010

English: Kenyan parliamentarian building, Nairobi

English: Kenyan parliamentarian building, Nairobi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is what I wrote on July 14, 2010:

The Parliamentary pay fiasco is a stark reminder of how out of touch Kenya’s political classes can be with the needs of the general public, the wananchi. Corporate CEOs may get “plus ups” in their compensation packages to pay for their taxes, but the notion that MPs in Kenya should be taxed fully on their compensation only if they get more pay, so as to make more than Members of Congress in the U.S. or almost any other legislators in the world, is guaranteed to be offensive to most Kenyans.

While Parliament as an institution does seem to have been making progress in its functioning,  it still has a long way to go. As I have written before, one of the problems is that there are a fair number of MPs who likely did not legitimately win their elections based on the problems shown by the Kreigler Report looking at the last election. And many of the people in the previous Parliament that had a record of serious public service and support for reform were defeated for re-election, in many cases at the party primary level.

We have heard rumors and discussion of bribery issues in parliament irrespective of the high pay–what are Kenyan taxpayers getting for their money?

A positive aspect to this is that it may help unite those who are frustrated by poor governance and selfishness by the political classes. The momentum from protesting this foolishness may help pass the constitutional referendum by prioritizing voters attention on the many positive aspects of the draft constitution instead of on the “contentious provisions” that have seemed to be attracting disproportionate energy.

 

Who would have the outrageous moral audacity to go to court to question 4100 votes out of 12M rather than defer to “crimes against humanity” suspects?

A simple question of what Kenyans chose to expect of and hope for themselves really, for them to answer.

Everyone is tired, no question. Most Kenyans are poor, and the breakdown of the IEBC process caused loss in the economy which hurts poor Kenyans the most. At the same time, the short term value of sweeping another electoral commission fiasco under the rug would be balanced by a huge cost in terms of the dreams of democracy that seemed to have been achieved in the 2002 vote.

The situation regarding the vote is less clear than in 2007, but the meaningful ability to go to court exists this time, unlike in 2007. Should the legal process be shelved now that it is finally available–and if so, will it be available again?

Djibouti–what’s next in French Somaliland?

“Developing Djibouti: An American Imperative” by Saleem Ali of the University of Queensland at NationalGeographic.com:

A nominal democracy, the country has been relatively peaceful yet still desperately poor. I had an opportunity to visit Djibouti recently after a visit to Ethiopia for the United Nations African Development Forum. My curiosity to visit this country was sparked by an article I had read in The Washington Post regarding the expansion of US military presence in the region. Landing at Djibouti International airport, one is alarmed to find one side of the air strip almost completely populated by US Airforce presence. The country is also among the few places in the world where drone aircraft can be seen on a civilian air strip, often overwhelming civilian traffic. The presence of these prized new airforce stealth weapons in Djibouti comes from its proximity to the Arabian state of Yemen which has become an increasingly significant hotbed for Al-Qaeda.

Talking to locals, there was little resentment towards American presence but also not much to show for their positive impact on the country. Occasionally one would hear stories of US soldiers volunteering for community service or building some unusual desert residence for local villagers, but the overall development impact of US presence here of over 3000 personnel has been minimal. Unemployment is still over 40% and much of the money that comes in from foreign investment is funnelled back to the foreign-owned businesses in the city. The US government pays only $38 million per year to lease the airfield for the drone operations and the African command base here which is under further expansion.

The lack of US investment in Djibouti is a tremendous missed opportunity to develop a country which could be a low-hanging fruit for citizen diplomacy with the Muslim world. With only 900,000 people and a relatively small land-base and a highly urbanized population, developing Djibouti with aid investment would be very easy to do. . . .

While “easy” may be an exaggeration, I agree with Ali’s point that Djibouti is a place where the United States ought to be committed to “showing our stuff” in terms of development capability.  And of course, as I have written before, a key place where delivering on democracy assistance in advance of, rather than behind, a crisis, ought to be feasible.

h/t John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review

 

Kenyan Election Violence: why would anyone expect the Kenyan Police to play a positive role in March 2013?

(As an aside, here is a headline to pause over from the Daily Nation“Sudan’s Islamists need new blood: vice president”.)

On Kenya’s police, Jeffrey Gettleman has an outstanding story in the New York Times: “Police Killing in Kenya Deepens Aura of Menace”.  Gettleman ties a compelling story of what amounts to the “typical” extrajudicial execution of two bothers in Nairobi’s slums to the massacre of new police recruits in Samburu:

The two episodes were hundreds of miles apart and technically had nothing to do with each other. But beneath them was the same rotten root: a spectacularly dysfunctional national police force.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give our police a 2,” said Macharia Njeru, the chairman of Kenya’s new police oversight board, citing corruption allegations, human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, failed inquiries and lost public trust.

“The list is endless,” Mr. Njeru said.

.  .  .  .

“On the face of it, it’s quite clear that the police leadership totally failed,” Mr. Njeru said. “The senior commanders were sleeping on the job.”

Kenya’s news media have characterized the massacre as the single most disastrous episode for the Kenyan police since independence in 1963. Unlike Kenya’s thriving business community, its booming safari industry or its reforming judiciary, Mr. Njeru said, the national police service has intentionally been kept weak for decades so it could be manipulated by politicians.

The concept of the various reforms under the new Constitution is great, but surely it is time to face the fact that it is simply too late for deep substantive change.   Of course every effort should be made by Kenya’s international supporters to intervene and step up as well as possible, but let us not kid ourselves.  It has been almost 59 months since the 2007 election disaster–the Kenyan police are still in the state they are in, with less than four months to go to March 4, 2013 because the Kenyan powers that be chose the status quo instead of reform (and for obvious reasons).

Again, please remember that current Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere was the commander of the Kenya Police’s GSU (“General Service Unit”) branch during the 2007 election and its aftermath.

Let’s see what the Kenya Police official website has to say about the status of reforms today:

.  .  .  the Government has made some important steps. A task force appointed in March 2003 is drawing a road map for the Police Reforms. The Commissioner of Police is committed to a Police Force whose members are motivated, people friendly, open, relaxed and honest with one another and the public; know their role and mandate and be proud of their job; appreciated by the public…

The just concluded Constitutional review holds a promise for the establishment of an emancipated Police Service, that will operate in conformity with democratic transformation from the current practice of Regime Policing to Democratic Policing (Community Policing)

These measures augur well with the Police Reforms as well as the goodwill of citizens. An international survey conducted in January 2003 placed Kenyan’s as the most optimistic citizens in the world. The Government will do well to tap into this optimism. It is the energy that will drive the nation’s transformation to Its desired destination.

For citizen’s security:this is the moment.

Yes, 2003 was in fact “the moment”.  Let’s not let 2013 be remembered as a different kind of “moment”.

AFRICOM continued: “The Pivot to Africa” in Foreign Policy

 

An important new piece from Foreign Policy by Rosa Brooks, a former Obama Administration defense official.  She aggressively defends the concept of the military taking on the civil development and assistance roles as a practical approach to U.S. international security given domestic political constraints and the actual challenges faced.  Nonetheless, she concludes that AFRICOM to date is experiencing “the worst of both worlds”:

These problems are not unique to Africom. As other combatant commands have similarly expanded their activities into traditionally civilian domains, they have struggled with similar problems and criticism.

In a sense, we currently inhabit the worst of all possible worlds: The military is increasingly taking on traditionally civilian jobs but doing them clumsily and often halfheartedly, without investing fully in developing the skills necessary for success. Meanwhile, civilian agencies mostly just grumble from the sidelines, waiting for that happy day when Congress gets serious about rebuilding civilian capacity. (I think Samuel Beckett wrote a play about that.) And few people, inside or outside the Pentagon, are taking seriously the need to think in new ways about what “whole-of-government” or a holistic approach to security might truly mean.

The blurring of civilian and military roles is inevitable, but the failure to grapple effectively with this blurring of roles is not. To address threats (and seize opportunities) in this globalized, blurry, chaotic world, we will need to develop new competencies, flexible new structures, and creative new accountability mechanisms. Most critically, we’ll need to let go of our comfortable old assumptions about roles and missions.

Well worthwhile to read the whole piece.  I’ll have some comments in the near future.

Some important reading while watching AFRICOM evolve

QDDR–the second leg of a two-legged stool?

AGOA, AFRICOM and the “Three Ds”

AFRICOM and the “Whale of Government” Approach

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Democracy and Competing Objectives: “We need you to back us up”

GAO report . . . highlights changes of effective coordination of civil affairs/development work

“Pack like it’s Arizona”

 

 

Africa Trade News: Bills to amend the AGOA to extend the “third country fabric” benefit introduced in Congress

Representative Camp (R-MI) and Senator Baucus (D-MT) have introduced bills in the House and Senate respectively to provide for this extension under the African Growth and Opportunity Act of great interest in East Africa.  With strong bipartisan support in Congress and from the Administration this would seem to be a timely step before the preference expires in August to show that we are serious about stepping up American trade with Africa to support private sector economic growth.   The bills would also add South Sudan as an eligible country.

Watch USAID’s “Frontiers in Development” Monday – Wednesday from Washington

USAID’s “Frontiers in Development” Conference in Washington Live Video Feed

On Twitter:  #Frontiers #DevelopmentIs

Speakers relating to East Africa specifically include Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza:

Twaweza is an independent East African initiative that was established in 2009 by Rakesh Rajani, a Tanzanian civil society leader who founded HakiElimu and served as its first executive director until the end of 2007. Twaweza’s approach and theory of change is built on the lessons from the HakiElimu experience, as well as wide ranging conversations across East Africa conducted through 2008 and a review of the literature. Hivos provided the incubation space for Twaweza’s development, and currently houses the initiative before it becomes fully independent by 2013. Hivos is registered in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as a non-profit company (company limited by guarantee with no share capital).

Twaweza’s approach and its policies, systems and procedures reflect a set of values around effective and transparent governance. Five key values and principles guide our work: effectiveness and accountability; transparency and communication; ethical integrity; reflection and learning; and responsibility and initiative.

The Michuki Rule

Much is being said and written about John Michuki with his passing this week.  The best I have read so far is here from Charles Onyango-Obbo: “Michuki was the bad guys’ good guy, and he was not afraid to take action.”

To some, Michuki gets some real credit for the fact that Kenya’s economy isn’t worse (Ken Opalo’s blog: “Michuki was among the group of super-wealthy conservative elites who at independence took over power and managed to quiet the more radical elements of the independence movement. Under their watch Kenya emerged as a capitalist enclave even as its many neighbors flirted with communism and African Socialism, with disastrous consequences.”)  I am not an enthusiast of that view.  My perspective would be to say that perhaps a bit of credit is due, in the sense that Kenya could certainly have done worse, but it could also be said that Michuki and his cronies helped assure the triumph of neo-colonialism over a robust national market economy, helped assure the growth of tribalism over the development of national identity and more generally stymied the opportunity for a competitive democratic system and political liberty.  As far as the economy, lets not forget that State ownership has been a big presence in Kenya’s economy even if less than in some others.  Likewise, privatization remains a highly politicized and extremely opaque process that seems to tie to the funding of election campaigns rather than to “technocratic” considerations (witness “Mobiltelea” and the Safaricom deal rushed through at the end of 2007 and unaddressed since).  In other words, to me not going Communist/Socialist is not nearly enough to justify the costs imposed on Kenyans by KANU and its successor as served, with effectiveness, by Hon. Michuki.  By any account, the Cold War has been over for a long time.

I did not meet Hon. Michuki and I do recognize that he was an accomplished man with friends beyond his politics and I appreciate that his command of “the Michuki Rules” was missed on the roads and highways during my time in Kenya in 2007 and 2008.  At the same time, the Standard raid cast a shadow over the Kenyan election campaign when I arrived in mid-2007 and he was the identified proponent of the raid (I give him his due for the courage  to “own” the raid, when others, including the President were relatively speaking “shrinking violets,” but the conduct was indefensible).  LIkewise, Michuki was the Minister of Internal Security when the country became insecure with the election crisis and the security forces protected Uhuru Park instead of the public, and he issued the order banning live broadcasting.  I respected his abilities, but I wished that he had stuck to his positive strengths when I was working to assist Kenyans in their democratic processes.

Most recently, Michuki has been Environment Minister and will be remembered in this last role for spurring the cleanup of the Nairobi River–certainly a task of government for the “common good”.  Here is a clip from NTV covering his recognition at a UN environment meeting he would have hosted:

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

A priceless bit of diplomatic history, from October 1, 1975, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with Kenyan Foreign Minister Waiyaki  at the U.S. United Nations Mission in New York.  You just have to read it:

The Secretary: It is good to see you here.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: We are enjoying ourselves very much.

The Secretary: I was in Nairobi before your independence. I went to see the animals. I was there in June. It was very pleasant. How long are you staying here?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope to leave tomorrow. I have been here a long time.

The Secretary: You were here for the Special Session of the UN?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes.

The Secretary: How did you get into your present job? Were you a career officer in the Foreign Ministry?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: No, I am a member of Parliament. I was formerly Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

The Secretary: The only way I could get into the State Department was to be appointed Secretary of State. I was told that I don’t have the qualifications for entry into the Foreign Service.

The Secretary: What are the major problems in our relations?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Our relations are good.

The Secretary: I can’t understand Foreign Ministers saying that our relations are good. Normally everyone says they are lousy.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Relations are good.

The Secretary: I agree with you. Our relations are good. It is pleasant to hear this. Usually I am told that everything we are doing is wrong. You have a very constructive policy and our intention is to support you within the limits the Congress will go along with.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope Congress will understand the requests which we make.

The Secretary: Congress does not go along with the requests I make, but we are going to get them under control soon.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I am in the strange position where I am a congressman myself, but I still get pushed around by other congressmen.

The Secretary: You have a parliamentary system?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes.

The Secretary: You have only one party?

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: Yes, but I am questioned by backbenchers and also by assistant ministers sometimes.

The Secretary: We have had some talks on arms. We are trying to put together a military assistance package for Kenya.

Foreign Minister Waiyaki: I hope you can move quickly.

The Secretary: What is holding things up?

Mr. Coote: We thought we had some F5A aircraft lined up for Kenya. They would have been available immediately at a low cost. This was the big advantage of that package. However, it did not work out.

The Secretary: Why didn’t it work out?

Continue reading

Famine Aid for Somalia/Horn of Africa this morning

This morning at church, on a beautiful, sunny, cool day in coastal Mississippi, we had a “packing event” for international food aid for Somalia through the group “Stop Hunger Now”.  We also donated $5,000 through special offerings collected by our youth.  We have done these events before, but our minister was aware of this crisis now and called to say that we wanted to respond.

Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency that has been fulfilling its commitment to end hunger for more than 12 years. Since 1998, the organization has coordinated the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in countries all over the world.

Stop Hunger Now has provided more than $70 million dollars worth of direct aid and 34 million meals to 72 countries worldwide.

Stop Hunger Now created its meal packaging program, in 2005. The program perfected the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of five years and transports quickly.

Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country. Stop Hunger Now primarily ships its meals to support school feeding programs, but also provides meals to our in-country partners for crisis relief.

The packaging operation is mobile, (i.e. it can go wherever volunteers are located), and can be adapted to accommodate as few as 25 and as many as 500 volunteers at a time. One SHN packaging event can result in the packaging of more than 1,000,000 meals or product servings. The use of volunteers for product packaging has resulted in an extremely cost-effective operation while, at the same time, increasing awareness of global hunger and food insecurity issues across a broad cross-section of the US population.

Here is more information about the work of Stop Hunger Now in Somalia and Kenya.