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.

Somaliland Update

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Britain warns of “specific threat” to Westerners in Somaliland and urges its citizens to leave. This is sad; I found Somalilanders to be most welcoming and especially appreciative of the interest and attention of Western visitors. Likewise, during 2007-08, Hargeisa just felt safer than Nairobi, or Addis or Khartoum for that matter.

Former Ambassador David Shinn recently gave an interview with the Somaliland Sun that will be reassuring to Somalilanders wondering about the impact on them of the U.S. decision this month to give formal recognition to the new Somali government:

While I don’t speak for the U.S. government, I doubt that the formal recognition of the new Somali government will have any significant impact on Washington’s interaction with Somaliland. I believe the U.S. government will continue to work with Somaliland as it has in recent years. While there may not be public references to the two track policy, the separate administration in Somaliland remains a reality and I believe Washington will treat it as such. It is up to the leaders of Somalia and Somaliland to determine the nature of their relationship. I see no indication that the United States has abandoned any commitments reached in last year’s London conference. Nor do I expect this development will change in any perceptible way U.S. policy on combatting piracy in the region.

See David Shinn’s blog here.

Red Sea

Election Day in Somaliland

Ministry's Murals
MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND CULTURE

[Update: Polls have now closed. Here is a VOA story with interview with Dr. Steve Kibble of Progressio.]

Voters in Somaliland will chose local officials around the country, and the results will determine the three officially recognized political parties for the next ten years under the Somaliland Constitution. Kulmiye, UDUB and UCID have been the three parties, and will face competition from recognized “political associations”. The three parties will then compete in the future parliamentary and presidential elections.

Here is the link to the “From the Ground” blog from Progressio, which is leading the international monitoring.  Also follow the hashtag #SomalilandElection.

From the Somaliland Press:

Here in the capital voting started around 7 a.m. in most of the 404 polling stations including Ga’an Libah, where President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo cast his vote. He was joined by first lady Amina Sheikh Mohamed Jirde and members of his cabinet including minister of presidency, interior, minister of finance and members of the ruling Kulmiye Party.

The president expressed a sense of opportunism and congratulated the people of Somaliland for their commitment to democracy and stability.

He urged everyone to vote peacefully and respect the electoral officials, volunteers, observers and the outcome of the result.

An international observation team of 56 from 15 countries is on the ground monitoring the elections. They see this as a crucial step in the democratization of the whole Horn of Africa region. Two teams from Puntland and Mogadishu are also there to observe and discover their neighbour’s voting system.

The polls close 6 p.m. and results might not be known until the weekend. . . .

Fighting was reported with militias in the town of Hudan in Sool, in the uncertain eastern border region with Puntland.

Good reads

“Kenya’s once safest town, now famous for the wrong reasons” Xinhua,

Kenya’s northern town of Garissa that was once voted as the safest town in East and Central Africa by Interpol has all of a sudden lost its glory as it continues experiencing a spate of grenade and gun attacks allegedly being executed by Al-Shabaab militants. . . .

“Somaliland Elections: Everything’s fine, except when it isn’t” Progressio Blog.

“Why fighting corruption in Africa fails” by William Gumede in Pambazuka News.

The Citizen reports on the release of the 2012 Afrobarometer “Round 5” poll for Tanzania, highlighting growing public perception of corruption by the CCM government.

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

 

Weekend reading on Somalia and the Somaliland elections

The Daily Nation’s Rashid Abdi reports on a new review of security in Mogadishu:

The 27-page report by Saferworld, a conflict-prevention research and advocacy organization based in London, entitled Mogadishu rising? – Conflict and governance dynamics in Mogadishu”, notes tentative gains in security.

It acknowledges that there is an improved public perception, but says progress “remains inadequate and uneven with significant areas of Mogadishu – particularly the city’s northern districts – almost entirely unpoliced.

“In the absence of state-provided security, residents and officials have formed an array of neighbourhood vigilante groups and private militia to protect themselves and their property.”

The report, based on a comprehensive field research that involved opinion surveys and focus groups, from April to July 2012, accuses the TFG of failing to capitalise on the military gains achieved to improve security and instead fuelling a “privatization of security” likely to undermine the efforts to stabilize the capital in the longer term.

Here is the link to Saferworld’s summary and to download the full report.

Lisa Otto at the South African Institute for International Affairs writes in yesterday’s Africa Portal “At the End of the Transition Period Somalia is Going Nowhere–Slowly.  Her piece is dated August 10 and doesn’t reflect the latest developments in the final week of transition, but provides a pessimistic summary of the TFG’s eight years.

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In Somaliland, delayed local elections are now set for November, with a new court ruling upholding the selection of six “political associations” to participate in addition to the three established parties (Kulmiye, UCID and UDUB) in the last two presidential elections.  Progressio has released a report on August 31 entitled “Preparing for local elections in Somaliland: plans, challenges and progress.” From the announcement:

The lack of a robust voter registration system could also lead to issues such as multiple voting.

There are also concerns about the process of assessing new ‘political associations’, which are vying to join the three existing authorised political parties and so be able to participate in the elections. According to the report, there is “the potential for six political associations to join the three existing political parties to contest the elections, and for each of those nine parties/associations to stand a candidate in every seat”.

Recent and continuing challenges to press freedom also pose a barrier to legitimate elections, and there are worries that recent gains in promoting women’s involvement in democratic processes could be undermined by the ‘open list’ system.

Despite highlighting these concerns, the report makes recommendations and suggestions for improvements by a number of key players, including the government of Somaliland, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), political parties and associations, civil society organisations, and the international community including donors.

Michael Walls says: “Our hope is that this report will help encourage all concerned to pull together and ensure that these elections become another significant milestone in Somaliland’s progress towards democratic accountability.”

Here is the Somaliland Press this week on the court ruling on the political association registration:

A High court in Hargeisa has dismissed a civil case filed by a group of political parties to contest the decision by the political associations and parties Registration & Approval Committee (PPR&VC).

The case which had been filed by a cluster of parties namely UDHIS, NDB, HORYAAL and jamuuhiriga were part of the nine out of fifteen political organizations which failed to qualify verification and approval process hence their disqualification from the process.

The chairman of the High Court Prof. Yusuf Ismael Ali while reading the court’s ruling said that with all due respect, we hereby find no evidence of the irregularities in the qualification process contrary to what was alleged by the disqualified political parties.

Progressio notes the complementary British-funded work of the International Republican Insitute (IRI) in the Somaliland election preparation, along with Interpeace and others.

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.

 

Some good news on Somali piracy

“Piracy attacks drop to zero for first full month in five years”  from Mike Plantz, Daily Telegraph.

While July and August are the normal “slow season” for attacks due to monsoons, a complete absence of attacks is still dramatic.  The story cites tactical improvements by ship captains and naval patrols, and the big increase in armed private security for vessels.

Daily Nation: “Somalia has a full month free of piracy”.

Here are the latest total piracy statistics for the year-to-date through July 29 from the ICC’s IMB Piracy Reporting Centre:

Incidents Reported for Somalia:
Total Incidents: 70
Total Hijackings:13
Total Hostages: 212

Current vessels held by Somali pirates:
Vessels: 11 Hostages: 174

 

Kenyan IEBC drops biometric voter registration after controversy over tender–Updated

UPDATE 1 Aug. 20:30GMT  Press coverage indicates a major credibility challenge for the IEBC over the voter registration issue.  Both the Daily Nation and the Standard lead stories report that the failure of the tender for the biometric registration system is being attributed in part to “boardroom wars” between the Commission and its Chairman Hassan on the one hand, and the Secretariat led by Chief Executive James Oswago.

The Standard reports that Speaker Kenneth Marende has ordered a Parliamentary inquiry into the failed tender which is to report back in 14 days.  

See also: Daily Nation, “Fraud fears as IEBC turns to old poll kit”.

Kenya falls back to manual electoral register  — Daily Nation. After civil society groups and others raised concerns about the evaluation of tenders and the qualifications of the vendor selected, the IEBC has acted quickly to move on with critical election preparations. Maintaining public confidence is crucial, as is the schedule, with some members of Parliament suggesting slipping the election date. This–sticking with the manual registration system that worked for the constitutional referendum–seems the safest course.

U.S./Somaliland relationship continues to mature as U.S. leads donor delegation on preparation for municipal elections

The key focus in current Somaliland politics is the municipal elections set to be held soon.  The National Election Commission reports being close to readiness, having (with some significant dispute) determined six additional parties to compete with the established three national parties, Kulmiye, UDUB and UCID.  Somaliland’s first local elections since modern independence was declared in 1991 were held in December 2002.  The next election was originally scheduled for December 2007, when I was there, to be followed by the April 2008 presidential election coinciding with the scheduled end of President Riyale’s term.  The Presidential election was delayed until ultimately held successfully on June 28, 2010–and now the local elections are to follow.

The top deputy for Somalia/Somaliland at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has led a six-member donor group to Somaliland to assess preparations for the elections and opportunities for donor support.

President Silanyo told the visiting delegation his government has already allocated funds for the upcoming electoral process and all preparations have been finalized, he reminded them the need for the international community to support this country in pertinent issues as security and bilateral ones.

Mr. Douglas Meurs said, the United States continues to engage with the administration in Somaliland on a range of issues, most directly Somaliland’s continued progress towards democratization and economic development.

In Feb 2007, the United States provided a total of $1 million through the International Republican Institute to support training for parliamentarians and other key programs in preparations for the upcoming municipal and presidential elections in Somaliland.

The United States will continue to engage with Somaliland, in order to support the return of lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.

by Goth Mohamed Goth
somalilandpress.com

This is encouraging progress in several respects. For my first months as IRI East Africa director, we had to keep our contact with Somaliland on life support as best we could at “no cost”, hoping for renewed funding to come through from the U.S.  When funds were available, we were able to re-start programming supported by travel from Nairobi, then open an office in Hargeisa.  At that time, U.S. Government employees and direct contractors were generally not allowed to travel to Somaliland–even prominent U.S. professors who were contracted to assess our programming in the spring of 2008 were left to work from Nairobi without being allowed to go to Hargeisa. We participated in donor meetings which happened only in Nairobi.  Having senior U.S. officials lead donor groups and interact with the Somaliland stakeholders directly in the county is one more sign of de facto “normalcy” in the interactions.

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With now-President Silanyo (at right) and Kulmiye Party group at party headquarters (I’m second from the right.)