Daily Nation says Gov’t fed misinformation on bombing: “We are surrounded by liars.”

Mutumu Mathiu, Managing Editor of the Daily Nation, explains the confusion about the facts of the grenade killings in Uhuru Park:

For every inaccurate report in the newspaper, there is a chain of people who have lied and misled the press.

An official I called told me only 24 people had been hurt. Complete disinformation. Our reporter had physically counted 75 patients.
. . . .
Finally, officials speculated that it was a home-made device, made from party crackers. This is what we told Kenyans who read our early editions.

We are surrounded by liars. The government does not hire people to give information to the media. It hires liars to mislead the media.

Update: Good writing on the context of the bombing from Jeffrey Gettleman in the NY Times.

Biden arriving in Kenya–Obama does KBC interview from Washington

Biden arrives Monday in Nairobi. The Nation reports that the Kenyan gov’t wants to use the visit to make a case for greater U.S. engagement on Somalia, in particular boosting the U.N. role.

President Obama meanwhile did an interview from Washington with the KBC:

During the interview in Washington with KBC, President Obama spoke of his wish to see a more prosperous Kenya. He urged Kenyans to “seize the moment” offered by the referendum to put the post-election violence behind them.

The US President sent the strongest indication yet that he wanted to see Kenya’s constitution review process come to a successful conclusion and announced plans to visit the country before his term ends.

But he clarified that the US was not pushing for the Yes vote at the referendum, slated for August 4.

President Obama said the decision to vote Yes or No at the referendum was up to Kenyans themselves.

Memorial Day

I don’t want to let today go by without saying something in recognition of Memorial Day.  Our holiday honoring America’s war dead seemed for a time to be fading into more of a celebration of “the first day of summer” with less remembrance of sacrifices, but this year we seem to be a bit somber for a variety of reasons.

More than 1,000 Americans have died in the war in Afghanistan now, and for the first time since 2003 we have more soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen there in total than in Iraq, where we continue.  The campaign in Afghanistan is now America’s longest war–ever.   It started in the first year of the first George W. Bush administration and is now “Obama’s war” in his second year.  My son is in middle school–this war started when he was four years old.  I wonder if he will have to decide whether or not to go himself in just a few more years.

I am left with the feeling that while we are doing a better job recognizing and appreciating our men and women in the service, and honoring those who have given their lives, than at some times in the past, we are simply asking, and expecting, too much from them.  The effort in Afghanistan since late 2001 has really been more about nation building–the mission of taking out the Taliban was accomplished.  Likewise, in Iraq, the mission of taking Saddam Hussein out of power–what had not been done in 1991 that some were waiting out the Clinton years to pick back up on–was accomplished.  Since then, the real task has been building a substitute system.  These nation building tasks fall to the military because no one else knows what to do or is willing or has the resources.  In Iraq, the general in charge of the immediate post-Saddam effort was replaced by a civilian viceroy who eventually did a quick handoff to a not yet formed Iraqi government and left the military to pick up the pieces and carry on.

I pray for the success of the great projects of creating a new Afghanistan and a new Iraq, both for the men and women of these countries and for the men and women of the armed services (American and those from other countries) who have given so much to the effort–and especially for my old friend, a reservist, who is just now leaving his wife and young son to deploy to Iraq for a year.

It is in Africa that America has had very little military experience and has lost very few soldiers.  When I was in Kenya a survey came out noting that the United States was more popular in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world–including within the United States itself.  I think we have a good bit to lose by dumping our diplomacy and development efforts onto the shoulders of AFRICOM now–the military has already been tasked with too much by our civilian leadership in the past several years and is still stretched too thin.  If we need to do more in the areas of development and diplomacy, then we need to step up to the plate and do it–not make it one more assignment for the military.  It is an extraordinary thing to see the Secretary of Defense, and especially the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually lobbying Congress for funding for the State Department, including USAID.  This is where the responsibility should rest.

Links from this week

Needed: “A stronger resolve on Kenya’s Internally Displaced Persons” from KenyaImagine.

From New York, Kevin Kelley reports in the Saturday Nation that accused Times Square bomber Faisal Shazhad, cooperating with authorities, has said that he was inspired by Sheik Abdullah al Faisal, the Jamaican deported from Kenya in January.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o interviewed by Reuters on release of the first volume of his memoir “Dreams in a Time of War”.

VOA Special Report: “Ethiopia Votes”. You may remember that Ethiopia started jamming the VOA Amharic service back in March in the lead up to the elections.

At the Economist: “Ethiopia’s elections: Five more years–the results are not in doubt, only the prospects of millions of impoverished and hungry Ethiopians”

“More Repression, Less Democracy, No Real Outcry” from Africa Works. “Rule of law is not enough in lands where repression is a cost of doing business.” Also, if you missed it a good piece titled “The Next Empire” by Howard W. French in the May Atlantic, traveling to observe the Chinese in Africa.

High level U.S. Delegation carries requests to Museveni on fair elections and Iran sanctions

Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was joined by the acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Security Affairs and Non-proliferation, and by General “Kip” Ward, AFRICOM Commander, in meeting Wednesday with Ugandan President Museveni. According to the Daily Monitor the U.S. was requesting that Museveni agree to reconstitute the Ugandan Electoral Commission ahead of next year’s election and support a U.S. draft resolution on Iran sanctions with Uganda’s current vote on the UN Security Council.

Museveni rejected the request regarding the Electoral Commission. Inter-Party Cooperation (“IPC”), the grouping of four opposition parties, has said that it will boycott next year’s elections if the composition of the Electoral Commission is not reconfigured. No word on the answer on the U.N. sanctions vote but it doesn’t sound positive.

On the electoral issues, The New Vision reports:

Museveni advised the delegation and other foreigners, who are approached by the “opportunistic” opposition members about Uganda’s problems to always, offer them a cup of coffee and send them back because Uganda has structures that can solve its problems.

On international issues:

Museveni challenged Americans to give him concrete evidence that the Iranians are developing nuclear weapons and that they have refused to comply with the regulations.

On Somalia, the President said there was need to take tougher action against the terrorists and ensure a roadmap towards elections so that the Somali people recover their sovereignty from the gunmen.

Discussing the Sudan issue, the Americans assured Museveni of their commitment to full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Carson said they were preparing for the eventual outcome of the referendum expected to take place in April next year.

Carson’s immediate predecessor at the Africa Bureau, Jendayi Frazer, is with the Whitaker Group, the lobbyists for the Museveni government in Washington.

U.S. House Speaker Pelosi Visits AFRICOM Headquarters in Stuttgart

U.S. Africa Command Home

The Speaker is no stranger to Africa.

“I met my husband at a course called the History of Africa South of the Sahara, and I have been studying Africa for decades,” Pelosi said in a brief interview.

“At long last the United States and the world is treating the continent, and individual countries, with the respect that they deserve,” she added.

At the conclusion of her U.S. AFRICOM engagement, Pelosi said that she was leaving confident “that General Ward and all of those working with him have a respectful attitude to the countries of Africa, want to work with them to develop solutions, and I have confidence that they will succeed.”

Continuing Witness Fears as Ocampo due in Kenya Saturday

ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo will spend five days in Kenya, including visits with victims and to areas most affected by post election violence, and a public question-and-answer session, along with civil society, religious and business groups. He has also offered to meet with those who believe they may be unfairly identified as suspects.

In the meantime, the EU envoys have spoken out against a continuing climate of fear for potential witnesses. A variety of reports indicate a pattern of intimidation and threats against prospective witnesses, and concerns have been raised about leaks of witness identities from within the Kenya National Human Rights Commission which has done much of the initial investigative work on the violence. A former senior official of the Kenyan Administration Police is said to be among those who have fled the country for safety in the absence of an effective witness protection program in Kenya.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter reported that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta hosted a meeting with Ministers William Ruto and Najib Balala at his Nairobi residence April 4 “to agree their stories for the ICC.”

US-Kenya Relations–a counterterrorism versus reform tradeoff?

Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog has an interesting post on “Concern over US-Kenya Relations” that is well worth a read, along with his linked opinion piece in the Guardian last fall and a current VOA report.

Certainly the US has been very inconsistent in terms of what its priorities are for the relationship with Kenya over the past four years. The decision on Ambassador Ranneberger’s replacement will be important, as was the mixed message associated with extending his term for a year for mid-2009 to mid-2010.

From my perspective a longer term view and consistency on reform would allow us to accomplish more both in combating potential terrorism and in helping Kenya toward better governance. To me, the vulnerability of Kenya in the security areas is very much linked to corruption and poor governance. Kenya is a money laundering center and a safe transit point for terrorists in some significant part because of the ability to buy protection through bribes, as well as to avoid detection and arrest and legal process due to weak governance.

Further, to the extent that you use tactics like “rendition” in conjunction with a government and security forces like those in Kenya, you are going to make some significant number of people afraid and alienated that are not otherwise in sympathy with terrorists. That’s just the reality and any expectation otherwise is foolish. Whether these kind of tactics are worth this kind of cost is the question–not how you can have it both ways.

Allow me to quote Defense Secretary Gates from his new Foreign Affairs piece, “Helping Others Defend Themselves: The Future of U.S. Security Assistance” [full text subscription-only], published yesterday:

The United States has made great strides in building up the operational capacity of its partners by training and mentoring them in the field. But there has not been enough attention paid to building the institutional capacity (such as defense ministries) or the human capital (including leadership skills and attitudes) needed to sustain security over the long term.

The United States now recognizes that the security sectors of at-risk countries are really systems of systems tying together the military, the police, the justice system, and other governance and oversight mechanisms. . . .

See “Corruption and Terrorism/Security”

Kenya–Security News

Another terrorism suspect escapes from Kenyan custody under suspicious circumstances.

KANU leaders right about one thing at least–the Administration Police should be disbanded and merged into the normal police force. The AP has grown to be equivalent in size to the 40,000 member national police, and is obviously a security threat in its own right. This was evident in the deployment of the AP to support the Kibaki re-election effort in December 2007 amid bold-faced denials, and spiraling rumors–helping to lay the groundwork for the post-election violence–as well as participating in it directly. [For Gideon Moi to pledge to tackle corruption is something else again . . . . ]

Carson says US to increase relative focus on food security in Africa policy.

Business leaders plan to use “Prime Minister’s Round Table” discussion to focus on insecurity–one idea: “re-deployment of police from non-core activities such as managing buildings, stadiums and chauffeuring civil servants, freeing them to carry out their core mandate of maintaining law and order.”

Meanwhile, with Sudan’s national elections coming up next month, The East African identifies a potential split between the US and other Western donors on one hand, and Kenya and Uganda on the other, in regard to South Sudanese independence:

The EastAfrican has separately learned that key Western democracies and institutions, fearing that independence for the South in its present state could see the area slide into anarchy, have quietly urged President Salva Kiir’s government to go slow on secession.

“Independence for the South should be put off for a few more years primarily because of lack of capacity in the South to run a stable and secure state,” said a source privy to Western analysis of the evolving situation in Sudan.

He added: “There is no institutional infrastructure to support a state, so there is a high chance that the country will degenerate into a Somalia-like situation. This would open a ‘corridor of terror’ across the region that could be infiltrated by Al Qaeda and its associates to create instability that would run counter to Western interests.” Continue reading