Good news and bad news on the effectiveness of American “democracy assistance”: we spent most of the money where war precluded meaningful opportunity

The conjunction of war and democracy assistance has been brought back to the fore for me the publication by The Washington Post of its “Afghanistan Papers” series.

The bottom line on the Afghanistan war for me is that those who warned that we were risking losing Afghanistan to invade Iraq (who seemed persuasive to me at the time) turned out to be right:

Drawing partly on the interviews but largely on other government documents, SIGAR [the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction] published two Lessons Learned reports in 2017 and 2019 that highlighted an array of problems with the Afghan security forces. The reports followed several SIGAR audits and investigations that had pinpointed similar troubles with the Afghan army and police. 

But the Lessons Learned reports omitted the names of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project, as well as their most biting critiques. The Post obtained notes and transcripts of the interviews under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after a three-year legal battle. 

“We got the [Afghan forces] we deserve,” Douglas Lute, an Army lieutenant general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. 

If the U.S. government had ramped up training between 2002 and 2006, “when the Taliban was weak and disorganized, things may have been different,” Lute added. “Instead, we went to Iraq. If we committed money deliberately and sooner, we could have a different outcome.”

It may be that we never really had a chance to achieve a desirable outcome but we made an alternative choice that appears to have precluded what chance there was.

Of course I cannot truly be surprised by pervasive “spin” about Afghanistan because of my experience in Kenya in 2007-2008 and the lack of response from the government and the official democracy assistance fraternity to the my disclosure of dishonesty in how we (the U.S. Government) addressed election fraud in Kenya and how we handled the inconvenient exit poll showing an opposition win and some of the inconvenient things we witnessed as election observers at the polls. [Not to mention what we all knew about Iraq by 2007.]

Even though most “name brand” experts and U.S. Government funded institutions seem to agree that globally democracy is in some form of recession, it is hard to know whether serious and purposeful United States-funded democracy assistance programming might have potential benefits because most of the money and effort has gone to war adjunct “nation building” as in Afghanistan where it turns out that nearly everyone has “privately” been admitting that we do not know what we are doing or should be doing and thus have no real chance of genuine success.

During my time with the International Republican Institute in the late Bush Administration the dominant “democracy promotion” or “democracy assistance” programs were Iraq followed by Sudan. Shortly after I finished my time in the barrel in Kenya in mid-2008 the venerable Center for Strategic and International Studies convened a blue ribbon panel to look at the reputation problem of the term “democracy promotion” due to the association with experimental “expeditionary warfare” in Iraq. Thus the pivot from “democracy promotion” to “democracy assistance”.

By the later Obama years Afghanistan, followed by Iraq and newly severed but but failing South Sudan were getting most of the democracy assistance dollars.

A Government Accountability Office report on Democracy Assistance, GAO-18-136, notes “Total USAID democracy assistance funding for projects in Afghanistan was greater than for any other country, amounting to almost 39 percent of USAID’s total democracy assistance obligations during fiscal years 2012 through 2015.” Here are the totals for the top fourteen USAID democracy assistance FY 2012-16 “places of performance”:

Afghanistan 1,650M

Iraq 238M

Regional/Global 201M

South Sudan 159M

Mexico 102M

Columbia 86M

Honduras 81M

Pakistan 79M

Bangladesh 76M

Haiti 73M

Liberia 68M

Egypt 65M

Kenya 60M

Indonesia 60M

*Note this is just USAID and does not encompass the separate Department of Defense and State programs, and much smaller amounts from the National Endowment for Democracy.

Back in 2007 in Kenya, a country on the brink of crisis, but supposedly of vital interest to the United States, most of the democracy assistance money being spent in the country was the “back office” operations for the vast (as measured in dollars anyway) pre-independence Southern Sudan operation.

People in Washington paid so little attention to democratization in Kenya in 2007 as to fail to realize or at least act on the risks of having the Ambassador “looking and pointing the other way” as Kibaki rather openly stole re-election (even though the opposition was also pro-Western and friendly to the United States so there was no bona fide nation interest served by those Americans who subverted our own meagre democracy assistance program).

In 2013, even after the disaster of 2007, we deliberately chose the path of non-transparency when our funded purchasing of the Results Transmission System for the election was botched and the system failed to work. Kenya’s Supreme Court shut down a partial recount that showed serious problems and affirmed the questionable tally of the Electoral Commission (litigating with undisclosed American-funded assistance) to avoiding by a whisker the runoff that the pre-election polls predicted. The Supreme Court ordered an investigation into the procurement fraud cases, but the Kenyan executive authorities simply ignored the order. My FOIA research so far documents discussion among the donors involved in the UNDP “basket fund” including the United States, whether to cooperate with a subsequent investigation by Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, but I do not know the outcome as I continue awaiting processing of remaining documents from my 2015 request to USAID.

In hindsight, I should have read more into the decision of my late friend Joel Barkan to stay home and “watch” that election from Washington. By 2017, the incumbent Kenyan government was clearly not committed to providing a level playing field and I stayed home myself. No incumbent Kenyan president has been found by a Kenyan election commission to have failed to “win” his re-election. The misfeasance on the technology for 2017 was blatant enough in that instance for the Supreme Court to annul the presidential vote, in spite of diplomatic and observer support for the announced outcome. The environment was too fraught with mistrust at that point to provide a mutually acceptable platform for a re-vote and Kenyatta was re-inaugurated after an opposition boycott.

Kenya’s political class is now focussed primarily on the 2022 campaign. The joint “Building Bridges Initiative” report released this month proposes that the remants of the Electoral Commission of Kenya from the 2017 vote be “bought out” and a new commission constituted, as was done following the problems in 2007 and 2013, but no action to implement this is yet pending.

In the meantime, much our policy in Somalia has been a variable secretive melange of counterterrorism, war and nation building with a sprinkling of democracy assistance. There is no Special Inspector General for the war in Somalia so we will not have created the kind of record that the Washington Post has been able to obtain on Afghanistan, but perhaps someday we will all know more. By May 2006 the Post did report: “U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia” and by that December we secretly supported the Ethiopian military invasion to re-instate the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.

US response to South Sudan corruption: a shoe drops

New action today on South Sudan corruption today, offering hope on the question from my last post “How quickly will the United States Government act in “analysis, evaluation and investigation” of The Sentry report on South Sudan?

Statement from The Sentry: “US Sanctions Al-Cardinal, Tycoon Named in Reports of The Sentry“:

October 11, 2019 (Washington D.C.) — Today, the United States placed sanctions on Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, widely known as Al-Cardinal, a tycoon with ties to the U.S., UK, and UAE.

Today’s action by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) target Al-Cardinal and his network of businesses, and come in the wake of two recent investigative reports by The Sentry “The Taking of South Sudan” and “Al-Cardinal: South Sudan’s Original Oligarch,” that detailed the business activities of Al-Cardinal, among others, and urged governments to sanction him and his networks.

. . . .

Joshua White, Director of Policy and Analysis at The Sentry, said: “The Sentry applauds today’s action by the Department of the Treasury, which should serve as a warning to the financial facilitators and commercial enablers of corrupt South Sudanese elites that they will lose access to the dollar unless they cease doing business that funds violence in the country. The United Kingdom and other European countries, as well as those in the region, should follow suit . . .

. . . .

The Sentry’s investigation found that Al-Cardinal has exploited opaque procurement processes, weak oversight institutions, and cozy relationships with South Sudan’s most powerful politicians to line his own pockets.

“A major enabler of corruption and violence for President Salva Kiir’s government,” according to the The Sentry’s reporting, Al-Cardinal has been embroiled in major procurement scandals, set up private businesses with ruthless military generals, imported military equipment during a bloody civil war and landed lucrative contracts linked to the implementation of the peace deal in South Sudan.

Read the full report “Al Cardinal: South Sudan’s Original Oligarch”: https://eno.ug/al-
Read the full report “The Taking of South Sudan”: https://eno.ug/

Reuters: “US imposes sanctions on two South Sudanese businessmen for fraud, bribery“:

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two South Sudanese businessmen, Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal and Kur Ajing Ater, for their involvement in bribery, kickbacks and procurement fraud with senior government officials, the Treasury Department said on Friday.

After the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Benjamin Bol Mel, a key adviser to the South Sudanese president, in 2017, Mel used an account in the name of the companies of Al-Cardinal to evade sanctions and store personal funds, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

In early 2019, the South Sudanese government paid millions of dollars to a company owned by Al-Cardinal ostensibly for food, but that in fact was routed to senior South Sudanese government officials, the Treasury Department said. . . .

How quickly will the United States Government act in “analysis, evaluation and investigation” of The Sentry report on South Sudan?

On October 2, Assistant Secretary Tibor Nagy, the top U.S. diplomat assigned to Africa, conducted a post-UN General Assembly telephonic press briefing and availability for journalists in various Embassies on the continent. Read the full transcript here.

There were a striking number of questions about Sudan and South Sudan, but I thought this was most pertinent:

QUESTION: Okay, I can talk? All right, my name is Emmanuel from Eye Radio in Juba. I believe Mr. Tibor, you have come across the recent report that was released recently by The Sentry about implicating some South Sudanese top government officials and actually come out with recommendations to the U.S. government, so what is your current recommendations?

ASST. SEC. TIBOR NAGY: Thanks very much for raising that. Because I know the people involved in The Sentry very well. As a matter of fact, one of the key people John Prendergast, I have known and respected for a very long time. Our Department of State, U.S. government, we welcome the Sentry’s efforts to bring light to corrupt practices in South Sudan. We know for a long time that there’s been quite a relationship between corruption and conflict, unfortunately. Innocent people have suffered. The United States will very carefully review the material presented and the recommendations in The Sentry report and as you all know, the United States of America maintains the right to use all of the tools available whether diplomatic or whether financial or anything else to respond.

Right now there are allegations, they’re very serious allegations but they do require some careful analysis, evaluation and investigation. Thank you very much, over and out.

Here is the link to The Sentry report, “The Taking of South Sudan“.

So before the “over and out” Asst. Sec. Nagy does commit the US to “very carefully review the material presented and the recommendations” but it is a bit ambiguous as to whether he is committing the US to the next step of “investigation” that he says is “required” since he characterizes the report’s findings as “allegations”.

My gut reaction is to think of Asst. Sec. Nagy as someone who would like us to conduct ourselves well when it comes to underwriting the type of conduct outlined in The Sentry report (although I don’t know him at all nor was I familiar before he was tapped for this job from retirement). At the same time, you don’t make a life as a diplomat without learning to carefully say very little and make it sound like it is more for those who want something enough to hear it. So, how quickly will we do our review/analysis/evaluation? What will we do next? How quickly will we investigate? Will we send the FBI? Career Justice Department prosectors? Alternatively, the Attorney General?

Barbaricum, another firm in which Sanitas International’s Christopher Harvin is partner/co-founder, is hiring Military Intelligence Advisors for the State Department’s Africa Bureau for Ethiopia, Chad, Tunisia and Nigeria

Gainful Solutions and Sanitas International lobbyists Michael Ranneberger, Constance Newman and Christopher Harvin meet with Salva Kiir in SouthSudan

And in South Sudan if Sanitas and Harvin can help Gainful Solutions get U.S. sanctions lifted on Salva Kiir’s regime and persuade the Trump Administration to spend more on counterterrorism through Kiir, perhaps there could be similar opportunities available in Juba advising the SPLA.

Here is Harvin’s bio from a SXSW presentation on doing business in Cuba from 2016:

With two decades of experience in the industry, Mr. Harvin has provided strategic communications solutions in over 60 countries. He is a founding Partner at Sanitas International, a global strategic communication, public affairs, digital media and political advisory firm based in Washington DC. Mr. Harvin is also a Partner at Barbaricum, a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business and SBA certified HUBZone which provides advisory services to the US Government. 

Mr. Harvin, who was recognized as one of the top public relations practitioners under 40 by PRWeek in 2013, has served the White House and has held senior communications and public affairs positions with the Secretaries of Defense and Veteran Affairs, Members of Congress and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He has represented multiple Heads of State, corporations, and sovereign governments in emerging markets around the globe. 

Mr. Harvin serves as a Board Member and Advisers to the Washington Inter-Governmental Professional Group, a DC-based organization with over 3,000 members from the private sector, diplomatic community and staff members from Congress and the Federal Agencies. He is a Member of the Board of Advisers for the Department of Communications at Georgia Southern University, is a Member of the Board of Advisers for The Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (“ARCH”) International, Inc. and is an active member of the Public Relations Society of America. Mr. Harvin is a native of South Carolina, he resides in Washington DC.

In 2013, Mr. Harvin presented as a panel expert on the influence of social media in the Middle East at SXSW during the presentation “I Overthrew My Government: Now What?”

The 2013 SXSW presentation pairing Harvin and political consultant Joe Trippi could be seen as prefiguring their 2016 partnership in the not-for-profit Vanguard Africa Foundation which has been most notable for its democratization support work in The Gambia. Vanguard has also been representing various candidates in other African countries in Washington as well as providing campaign consulting:

Founded in 2016, Vanguard Africa represents the synthesis of best practices in campaign management with the mission-driven focus of a pro-democracy organization. We have convened previously isolated networks — campaign consultants, government and public relations experts, business leaders and human rights advocates — to provide unrivaled access and strategic solutions for pro-democracy leaders.

Executive Director Jeffrey Smith is an experienced human rights and democracy in Africa hand. (Perhaps someday independent South Sudan will have its first elections and Vanguard can get involved.)

What happens to social media after a Twitter revolution?” Mashable.com, March 9, 2013:

Two years after the Arab Spring, questions still remain as to how much social media actually helped fuel and drive the uprisings that arose in Tunisia and swept across the region. But regardless of what happened during those Twitter-fueled revolutions, what’s happened afterward? 

That’s what social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon and Sanitas International wanted to find out when it decided to analyze tweets coming out of Egypt, Libya and even Syria, where there still is a war going on. The results of its 3-month study, which will be discussed in a panel at SXSW on Sunday, underscore the changes these countries are undergoing.

. . . .

Sanitas International - I overthrew my government, now what?

Ranneberger’s Gainful Solutions subcontracted Washington Media Relations/Monitoring and Outreach to Sanitas in July after previous pummeling on news of hiring by Kiir Government

Here is the July 19 subcontract agreement between Gainful Solutions and Sanitas as attached to the August 13 Foreign Agent Registration Act filing.

The Gainful Solutions-Sanitas deal was announced appropriately enough through Politico with a professional spin on Gainful Solutions “amending” the original contract with Salva Kiir under which they received the initial $1.2M non refundable cash payment from the Kiir government.

Those that are interested enough to follow the links and read the documents will notice that the “subcontract” goes well beyond the actual contract, raising the question of whether Sanitas could be paid to say things in Washington by Gainful Solutions that Kiir did not commit to in his contract (the April 2 contract initially paid , or the May 7 substitute).

This is the Prime Contract scope of work:

The Consultant services will include, but not necessarily be limited to, thefollowing:

1 Open a channel of communication between President Kiir and President Trump with the objective of persuading President Trump and his administration to expand economic and political relations with South Sudan, and supporting American private sector investment in South Sudan in oil, natural resources, energy, gas, mining, and other areas.

2 Improve bilateral relations between the United States and South Sudan.

3 Address sanction issues.

4 Seek the support of the Trump administration to unite the various ethnic groups of the country in order to build a stable and prosperous country.

5 Mobilize American companies to invest in the oil. natural resources, and other sectors

6 Persuade the Trump administration to open a military relationship with South Sudan in order to enhance the fight against terrorism and promote regional stability.

The Consultant will act as the agents of the GOSS, Office of the President, to facilitate and negotiate with American and Western companies for investment in South Sudan. The Consultant shall be entitled to certain residuals, compensation, commissions, or shareholding resulting from its facilitation and negotiation with American and Western businesses.

The Services will also include any other consulting tasks which the Parties may agree on.

Here is Ranneberger on Eye Radio from an August 15 interview doing a local media roll out: “Ranneberger indeed hired to smooth Juba–Washington DC relations“:

In an exclusive interview with Eye Radio yesterday, Ambassador Ranneberger admitted that the first draft of the contract that was brought to the attention of the public had the provision to stop or block the formation of the hybrid court.

“There was a bit of a mix up with the first draft of the contract and it got published, but you can look at our contract on the website –which the President [Kiir] has approved, and it says nothing about the hybrid court,” Ranneberger said Thursday.

He, however, confirmed that part of the campaign will include convincing US to ease sanctions on South Sudanese leaders.

As I noted on Twitter I do not understand what “a little bit of a mix up” or “first draft” means. The original contract was signed and filed with the Justice Department and according to the filings the nonrefundable initial fee payment of $1.2M of the $3.7M paid. After the barrage of criticism in the international media and organized opposition from South Sudanese civil society the contract was “cancelled” on May 2 and a second contract signed May 5, reflecting that the $1.2M was already paid. See South Sudan: New Salva Kiir-Ranneberger Foreign Agent filing shows $1.2M nonrefundable retainer already paid and $3.7M flat fee (contra Reuters).

Kenya 2007 election- Ambassador Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling station NairobiMichael Ranneberger (Ambassador) and Constance Newman (Election Observer) at poll in Nairobi, December 27, 2007

The Registered Agents for South Sudan at Gainful Solutions are Rannberger, and his fellow ex-diplomats Connie Newman and Tim Towell and the other principal in the firm Sohai Nazari-Kangarlou.

A U.S. war with Iran would be a big set back for longterm American interests and values in Africa as well as elsewhere

1. The basic rationale would be a version of the thinking in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2001-03: sanctions do not work forever, we have been in a low grade conflict mode for years against an intransigent regime that is not going to change its mind about willingness to use terror, a desire to threaten regional interests and aspirations for extended regional influence and a refusal to loosen domestic repression to allow any opportunity for “organic normalization”. Ultimately proliferation happens and the regime will get nuclear weapons in addition to the other WMDs it has had/is developing. At the same time, the repression assures a domestic mass constituency for liberalization.

2. In my perch in the defense industry in 2003 (working on Navy shipbuilding on the Gulf Coast) I was unpersuaded personally that the Bush Administration had made its case for the Iraq invasion. It seemed to me that we did not know enough about the situation to know what would happen next after we invaded, especially in the context of the Sunni/Shiite and other divisions within the country. It seemed too risky, too much of a “Hail Mary” so to speak, given what was argued by the Administration’s public diplomacy such as the Colin Powell speech at the UN and domestic speeches in the US, Congressional debates and such about the alleged threat.

3. At that time I was a lifelong Republican, and was by reputation somewhat connected in the Party, although I was not active in partisan politics while I was a lawyer in the shipyard (starting in 2000) because it seemed unrealistic to participate as a citizen “free agent” while being a lawyer with the dominant local industry as opposed to my previous work as a student and lawyer in private practice. I had voted for George W. Bush as the Republican nominee in 2000 although he was not a top choice for the nomination because I thought he was thin on experience and got the top of the field through preemptive fundraising clout rather than comparative merit. Ironically I had been reassured about Bush’s limited experience by Cheney’s performance in the campaign, even though I was unenthused about having essentially an all-Dallas ticket and Cheney’s role in asserting himself as running mate. I did not have an understanding of how contradictory Cheney’s own views were from the messages Bush presented in the campaign. All this is to say that I was not going to automatically support a war because Bush was proposing it–the most salient reason in Washington–but I should have been highly susceptible to being persuaded and they did not succeed in persuading me.

4. I will also note that there were countervailing influences over a period of time. Several years before the start of Fox News I got married and became active again in church having drifted during school years and then we had our first child. Even during the Bill Clinton/Ken Starr years I probably spent more time in church than with cable television, a major fork in the road and ultimately countercultural. The al Qaeda USS Cole bombing hit shortly after I started in shipbuilding and the Cole was brought to our yard for the repair/reconstruction so I was very aware of al Qaeda before being in Washington on business on 9-11. Then I went home and carried on. Yes, things had “changed” but the basic issues, challenges and choices remained.

5. As an orthodox non-fundamentalist Protestant who was not a daily consumer of Fox News, I did not feel a call to cast aside my formative moral orientation of restraint for peace and embrace some new doctrine of “pre-emptive war”.

6. Nonetheless, in the run up to Iraq I continued to read and study and learn but did not actually do anything to act on my lack of persuasion that we should invade.

7. While I was not in a position of influence, ultimately I have concluded that we went to war because hundreds or thousands of people in or around Washington who did know or should have known better went along with it anyway. And in doing so we made collectively as a country a most consequential foreign policy mistake and a moral misjudgment.

8. So now today I want to warn that going to war with Iran as a preemptive policy choice rather than a bona fide necessity would gravely set back our recovery from the 2003 miscalculation in Iraq and jeopardize the hopes of Iraqis for a better future. It would potentially arrogate to ourselves a role and responsibility in Iran that we simply are not prepared for, morally or otherwise. It would potentially kill who knows how many people not given a choice in the matter. And it would sap hope of standing up to outside counter-democratic forces (Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Egypt, Russia and China) in the immediate Sudan crisis which presents an important positive longterm opportunity for us to be who we say we want to be. It would have related impact in Somalia and throughout the Horn of Africa and to an unpredictable extent well beyond on the Continent. We already lack adequate diplomatic bandwidth to do as much as what we could with our “Prosper Africa” policy and are notionally planning military drawdowns even though AFRICOM has seen substantial degradation in overall security versus Islamist terrorist groups during its ten year existence. AFRICOM has yet to become the “different type of combatant command” that it was planned to be in substantial part because of the inevitable institutional inertia associated with a “permanent war” footing in the Middle East and South Asia. Likewise war with Iran could increase Iranian-supported terrorist activity in East and West Africa. And we all know that Donald Trump does not have the experience or moral gravitas to take these decisions.

South Sudan: new Salva Kiir—Rannenberger Foreign Agent filing shows $1.2M non-refundable retainer “already paid” and $3.7M flat fee (contra Reuters)

  1. COMPENSATION

6. The Consultant will charge the Client a flat fee of $3.7 million dollars for the services (the “Compensation”) for this two-year Contract.

7. The parties acknowledge that $1.2 million dollar’s of the Compensation has already been paid to the Consultant as ofthe date hereof, as a non-refundable retainer. The Consultant will invoice Client quarterly for amounts due.

Here is the May 7 filing with the Justice Department, by Gainful Solutions with a new “Exhibit AB” which includes both a letter purportedly canceling the April agreement, dated May 2, and the substitute agreement dated May 5.

The widely-reprinted Reuters story from my update to my previous post indicated that the new agreement did not mention compensation.

On May 2 Gainful Solutions filed a “Short Form” Foreign Agent registration act for Ambassador Timothy Towell as an additional lobbyist and business agent with the title of “consultant” at compensation “to be determined” to go with the previous filings for Ranneberger, Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou and Constance Berry Newman.

Note: The Justice Department has these filings incorrectly posted on its FARA.gov database under “Sudan” instead of “The Republic of South Sudan”.

Update: Politico reported on the contract change here in their “Influencers” newsletter, noting the compensation and identifying dropping reference to the hybrid court as the main change.

And read: “EDITORIAL: Cry havoc, and let slip the U.S. ex-diplomats” in The East African.

Amb. To Kenya Michael Ranneberger with late Kenyan diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat, defending Kiplagat’s controversial appointment by President Kibaki to head Kenyan TJRC

Former Amb. Ranneberger draws storm of controversy with hybrid contract with Salva Kiir’s South Sudan administration [updated May 8]

UPDATE May 8: Reuters reports that an amended version of the “Beneficial Solutions” lobbying agreement has been filed.

“I’m doubtful the revised contract means a substantive change to the lobbying deal,” Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the UN Security Council Panel of Experts for South Sudan, told Reuters.

“The rewording seems to be a response to the negative publicity that both the South Sudanese government and those associated with Gainful Solutions received, but not a rejection of the lobbying efforts.”

Rights groups accused the government of paying to avoid justice. The new contract was “a slap in the face to victims of the horrific crimes that have been committed in South Sudan,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

The government did not respond to requests for comment on the old contract or the new one.

——-

Former Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger and a partner, Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou, have formed a firm called “Gainful Solutions” and executed a contract with the Salva Kiir administration for seemingly exclusive representation for inbound private investment from the West and for lobbying with the Trump Administration, seeking military aid, sanctions relief, and to suspend and eliminate the African Union-South Sudan “hybrid court” for war crimes agreed in negotiations to end the South Sudanese civil war. The contract involves an unusual combination of “investment agent” services with ambiguous and open ended compensation and an extraordinary “flat fee” two year lobby deal for $3.7M with $1.2M cash up front.

Adding to a firestorm of criticism since the related Foreign Agent Registration Act filings from April 18 hit the press last week, a coalition of South Sudanese civil society groups has demanded that the contract be cancelled. Susan D. Page, the inaugural U.S. Ambassador to independent South Sudan called the contract “very disturbing and disappointing” on Twitter and former Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard called it “disgusting”. Our current Ambassador is quoted below explaining why he is disturbed.

Ranneberger, Nazari-Kangarlou and Constance Berry Newman are the firm’s three employees with the title of “Consultant” per the Registration.

6. List all employees who render services to the registrant directly in furtherance of the interests of any of the foreign principals in other than a clerical, secretarial, or in a related or similar capacity

Here are some links for a flavor of what seems to be as controversial a Foreign Agent Registration Act filing as I have seen:

Former U.S. Diplomats Lobby to Stop South Sudan War Crimes Court, Foreign Policy, U.S. April 29:

. . . .

The U.S. government, which backs the peace agreement, provided $4.8 million in 2016 through the African Union to set up the court, a State Department spokesman confirmed to Foreign Policy in email. The project is ongoing, the spokesman said.

The lobbying contract provides an unusually candid glimpse into the South Sudanese government’s aims to undercut a peace deal it has committed to. Some current and former U.S. officials are outraged at the former diplomats involved in the contract for accepting millions of dollars from Kiir, whose government is accused of widespread human rights violations during the country’s five-year-long civil war.

Ranneberger lands deal to clean image of Salva Kiir, The Star, Kenya, April 30.

S.Sudan hires U.S. lobby group to block war crimes court, AFP, April 30.

. . . .

US Ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, described the contract with the lobby group as disturbing.

“This, to me, is very disturbing because this is a commitment made in the peace agreement. The hybrid court is part and parcel of chapter five of the peace agreement,” Hushek said, according to Eye Radio in Juba.

South Sudan hires U.S. lobby group to block war crimes court, Daily Monitor, Uganda, April 30.

Blocking hybrid court confirms atrocities were committed–FoDAG, Eye Radio, Juba

South Sudan hires U.S. lobby group to avoid war crime charges, TRTWorld, Turkey

Gainful Solutions, Inc. and the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, Thoughts on the Sudans, Aly Verjee:

. . . .

Beyond the outrage that has focused on the moral wrongs of any effort to block the hybrid court, the contract may expose its parties to legal peril in two distinct areas.

First, the contract’s clear intent to obstruct the formation of a key institution required by the peace agreement, the hybrid court, raises the prospect of sanctions pursuant to presidential Executive Order 13664, which permits sanctions against:

any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State…to be responsible for…(B) actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan; (C) actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes.

Executive Order 13664 allows for the freezing of the property of any person so designated under the order.  It may be applied to both U.S. and non-U.S. persons, whether within the United States or abroad.

The second area of legal jeopardy concerns three potential areas of non-compliance with the FARA: [issues of completeness and accuracy of disclosure in the filings and of late filing].

Kenya 2007 election- Ambassador Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling station Nairobi

Amb. Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling place in Nairobi, during Dec. 27, 2007 Kenyan election

Ranneberger’s “great friend and mentor” Connie Newman–his choice as lead delegate for IRI to observe Kenya’s ill-fated 2007 election–is separately registered as a “consultant” on the South Sudan deal [“As an advisor to Gainful Solutions, I will travel to South Sudan with the partners of Gainful Solutions for a meeting with President Kir, The meeting will discuss how to improve the relationship between the U.S. and South Sudan and thus promote peace and stability. Other work or meetings on my behalf with Gainful Solutions will be determined on a case by case basis. There is thus far no set agenda for future activity.” For a $5,000 fee.] as discussed in Aly Verjee’s blog post. Newman is a longtime lobbyist who has been Africa lead for the Carmen Group after serving as Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs from June 2004 to April 2005 (with Ranneberger serving as Principle Deputy Asst.Sec.) and Assistant Administrator for Africa for USAID from 2001. As a domestic lobbyist in 1991 after a long pioneering career in federal service she was given high credit in GOP circles for helping to persuade the NAACP not to oppose the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall.

More: Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya lobbying to stop South Sudan war crimes court.An Africanist Perspective (Ken Opalo) Apr. 30:

. . . .

Everyone is rightfully outraged. More than 400,000 have died since South Sudan descended into civil war and millions more were displaced.

These revelations also highlight the many challenges the court is likely to face if and when it is eventually set up. South Sudanese political elites (on both sides of the post-2014 conflict) are not particularly keen on facing justice for atrocities committed against civilians and armed actors. It is also unclear if Juba’s friends in Kampala, Nairobi, or Addis have any incentive to inject yet another variable into the ongoing efforts to establish a modicum of stability in South Sudan.

Moral outrage alone will not move the needle. The court’s success will depend on how much pivotal actors within IGAD are willing to lean on Machar and Kiir.

As far as lobbying in Washington, DC goes, this is yet another reminder that even weak states like South Sudan are not passive members of the international system. While their options are limited on account of their position in the hierarchical structure of the state system, they still have agency and have a variety of tools at their disposal through which they can influence the behavior of much more powerful states. See also here.

[As an aside I also want to thank Dr. Ken Opalo for hosting a great book discussion event with Dr. Gabrielle Lynch on her most recent “Performances of Injustice: The Politics of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Kenya” which I was able to attend Tuesday.]

East Africa is the pits for press freedom, but congratulations to Namibia, Ghana and South Africa for outranking France, the U.K. and the U.S. in the World Press Freedom index

Here is the new 2019 World Press Freedom index from RSF, with the United States down to No. 48 (!) and France and the U.K. at 32 and 33 respectively. Namibia at 23, Ghana at 27 and South Africa at 31 lead SubSaharan Africa. Burkina Faso at 36 and Botswana at 44 also outrank the United States.

Thus, five African nations are ranked above the United States for press freedom this year according to Reporters Without Borders. The United States continues to rank above all of the East African nations.

Here are the East African Community member rankings:

Kenya 100

Tanzania 118

Uganda 125

South Sudan 139

Rwanda 155

Burundi 159

Elsewhere in the East and Horn Region: Ethiopia 110; Somalia 164; Djibouti 173; Sudan 175.

And other “development partners”: Norway 1; Germany 13; Japan 67; UAE 133; Russia 149; Egypt 163; Iran 170; Saudi Arabia 172; North Korea 179

Should the United States support “political confederation” of the East African Community? Can we do so while also supporting democracy?

What are the basics of our current foreign policy in East Africa? According to the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs there are now “four pillars” to our policy towards Africa:

1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions;

2) Supporting African economic growth and development;

3) Advancing Peace and Security;

4) Promoting Opportunity and Development.

Pillar number one seems quite clear, even if I have to admit that I cannot articulate what difference is intended between numbers two and four. See “The Competitive Advantages of Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Africa,” by Mark Dieker on the State Department DipNote Blog this month. Dieker is the Director of the Office of African Affairs at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The East African Community as currently constituted with the addition of newly independent but unstable South Sudan has six member states. Arguably Kenya under its corrupt but seemingly stable one party dominant “handshake” government over the past year following annulled then boycotted 2017 elections is about as far along the democracy continuum as any of the six–on balance, the region seems to be experiencing authoritarian consolidation.

EAC Chairman Paul Kagame, who initially took power in the first instance through leading the 1990-1994 invasion from Uganda, engineered a referendum to lift term limits last year and was then re-elected with nearly 99% of the vote over his two closest opponents with less than 1% each, after jailing a more conspicuous challenger and expropriating her family’s resources. Suffice it say that Paul Kagame is one of the world’s more controversial leaders–both loved and hated, praised and feared among Rwandans and among politicians and journalists from other countries. The slogan of the EAC is “one people, one destiny”; the website invites users to memorialize the anniversary of “the genocide against the Tutsi”.

I think we could all agree that Kagame operates Rwanda as a heavily aid-dependent developmental authoritarian one party state “model”. Western diplomats and politicians, aid organizations, educational institutions and companies and foundations are free to participate so long as offer support rather than any form of dissent. Likewise journalists and scholars are welcome to spread the good news. Some see deep real progress from a genocidal baseline and a “cleaner”, “safer” more “orderly” less “corrupt” and more business-friendly “Africa”; some see a cruel dictatorship killing its opponents and silencing critics to hide its own dark past while supporting catastrophic regional wars and looting outside its borders while offering international busybodies and ambitious global operators gratification or absolution from past sins for cash and protection. Whatever one thinks of the relative merits of democracy and developmental authoritarianism, in Rwanda specifically or in East Africa or the world-at-large, I think we can agree that Rwanda is not a model of democracy.

Tanzania has regular elections which are always won by the party that always wins. In the world of East African democracy, it ranks above Kenya in some respects in recent years for avoiding the tribal mobilization and conspicuous corruption-fed election failures that have plagued its neighbor to the north. But again, no actual turnover of power from the ruling party and lately, civil liberties have been taking a conspicuous public beating. In the last election, the opposition took the seemingly desperate or cynical step of backing a candidate who was compromised by his recent expulsion from Government and the ruling CCM–and who having lost has now abandoned his new friends to return to CCM.

In Uganda, Museveni like Moi before him in Kenya, eventually allowed opposition parties to run, but unlike Moi, as not given up unilateral appointment of the election management body and has gone back to the “constitutional” well to lift first term limits, then the presidential age limit. While extrajudicial killings are not as prominent a feature of Ugandan politics as they are in Kenya, that might only be because Museveni counts on beatings and jail terms to send clear messages.

Burundi is under what would be an active ongoing crisis situation if not for the fact that things have gotten too much worse in too many other places for us to keep up. Whatever you think of Nkurunziza and the state of alternatives for Burundi, I do not think we need to argue about whether it is near to consolidated, stable, democracy.

South Sudan has not gotten far enough off the ground to present a serious question.

So under the circumstances it would seem quite counterintuitive to think that a political confederation beyond commercial of the existing six states would enhance rather than forestall hopes for a more a democratic intermediate future in Kenya or Tanzania. Likewise it does not seem to make sense to expect some serious mechanism for real democratic governance on a confederated six-partner basis anytime in the near or intermediate future unless quick breakthroughs are seem in multiple states.

Someday, after democratic transitions in Rwanda and Uganda and an experience of a change of power in Tanzania, after Kiir and Machar are safely under lock and key or have run off with Bashir to Paraguay, this can be revisited in a new light.

1999 Treaty Language TZ, UG, KE:

DETERMINED to strengthen their economic, social, cultural, political, technological and other ties for their fast balanced and sustainable development by the establishment of an East African Community, with an East African Customs Union and a Common Market as transitional stages to and integral parts thereof, subsequently a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation;

In Chapter 23, Article 123

6. The Summit shall initiate the process towards the establishment of a Political Federation of the Partner States by directing the Council to undertake the process.

7. For purposes of paragraph 6 of this Article, the Summit may order a study to be first undertaken by the Council.

In 2011

In the consultations, it became clear that the East African citizens want to be adequately engaged and to have a say in the decisions and policies pursued by the East African Community.

On 20th May, 2017, the EAC Heads of State adopted the Political Confederation as a transitional model of the East African Political Federation.