Jubilee at 1; Kenya at 50 1/4

Half a Crossing

Africa Confidential‘s free article this month gives the best overall summary of the state of the Kenya government a year after Uhuru and Ruto took office, “A Year of Living Precariously”

Crime, inflation and grand corruption have risen sharply in the last year. Expectations of an economic take-off have dimmed since the cheers that greeted Kenyatta’s disputed election victory. The government has incurred new debt and inflated the public wage bill against a background of falling tourism revenue – the result of the Westgate terrorist attack and Islamist activity on the coast. Beside concern about loans from China and elsewhere, mostly for infrastructure expansion, there are worries about the growing cost of the new, devolved counties.

As for the environment in which to address these challenges, AC says “the politics of sycophancy reminiscent of President Daniel arap Moi’s era [are] now in full flow”.

Of course the most immediate critical issue on the referenced infrastructure projects involving Chinese loans is the construction of a new, “from scratch”, Standard Gauge Railroad. Renowned Kenyan economist David Ndii here explains why the project is far too expensive to make economic sense in lieu of renovating the existing railroad:

Part of the other side of corruption and maladministration in Kenya’s fiscal crisis is exposed in a gutsy report from The Standard this week, “Revealed: How Karuturi got away with denying Kenya millions in taxes“.

And from the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Digest: “Kenya Declares Human Rights ‘Subversive'”.

“The long, long vote count” –new reporting from Kenya in Africa Confidential

Election Observers

The new “free article” from this month’s Africa Confidential says better what I have been getting at about the extraordinary delay in releasing the results from the Kenyan election, along with new independent reporting on the facts:

. . . In the longer term, such doubts could prompt a re-evaluation of foreign election monitoring missions in Africa. Some on the European Union mission, for example, had serious doubts about the integrity of the process, but it quickly endorsed Kenyatta’s election. By that stage, the EU had contributed more than 50 million euros (US$66 mn.) to the cost of the elections, reckoned to total over $400 mn. One diplomat in Nairobi joked that it was a case of ‘responsibility without power’, meaning that the EU would be blamed for a messy result due to its financial involvement but had no power to change anything.

The IEBC found that a million more votes were cast in the presidential election than in any other, Africa Confidential has learned, although all were held on the same day. Opposition and civil society activists have raised questions about such discrepancies for several months.

An unnamed electoral commissioner quoted in the Nairobi daily The Star appears to confirm their suspicions: ‘We are having sleepless nights reconciling the presidential results and those of the other positions. Over a million votes must be reconciled with the others and if the requirement is not changed, then it will cast the IEBC in a negative light.’

Kenyatta’s supporters reject the concerns, arguing that it is natural that voters were more worried about selecting the national president than candidates for other positions. Few neutrals see this as credible. In the past, dramatically higher turnouts in presidential elections than in others on the same day have been taken as a sign of ballot-box stuffing.

It seems far-fetched that over a million Kenyans would queue for several hours to vote and then ignore all of the ballots apart from the presidential one, especially since there was great excitement about the contests for new, powerful positions such as senator and governor. None of the many election observers we asked said they had seen significant numbers of voters putting a ballot paper in the presidential box but not the others.

. . . .

Please read the whole piece; this is important for the future of Kenya and for future elections everywhere.