“Freedom Under Threat”: New report on the spread of laws restricting NGOs in Africa from Freedom House

The new report “Freedom Under Threat: the Spread of Anti-NGO Measures in Africa was released today. It provides a valuable review of recent developments in counter-democracy push back from governments in power in numerous countries.

In Kenya, here is a good, straightforward recitation of the approach taken after the “UhuRuto” election of 2013 with a Jubilee Party platform calling for a crackdown on independent NGOs said to be modeled after post 2005 repressive measures established by the Meles Zenawi government in Ethiopia (see “Attacks on Kenyan civil society prefigured in Jubilee ‘manifesto’“) and the legal “pitched battle” since:

In Kenya, meanwhile, the new government elected in 2013 made six successive attempts to modify the PBO Act—a progressive law passed by Parliament and signed by the outgoing president just months prior to the elections.49 All of the attempts were loudly opposed by NGOs and the political opposition, and the High Court ordered the government on October 31, 2016, to publish the original PBO Act in the official gazette to bring it into operation.50 The government refused to comply, prompting NGOs to request that two cabinet secretaries—overseeing the Ministry of Devolution and Planning and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government—be held in contempt of court.51 The court ruled in the NGOs’ favor on May 12, 2017. Rather than implement the court order, however, the government continues to apply the outdated NGO Act of 1990, and it is unclear how the situation will be resolved. The broad-based Civil Society Reference Group, an alliance of over 1,500 leaders of national and international NGOs that ran a multiyear campaign for the adoption of the PBO Act,52 continues to insist on its implementation. Indeed, Kenya represents an interesting case study of the pitched battles that have characterized the struggle between governments on the continent that seek to narrow democratic space on the one hand and civil society sectors that seek to preserve democratic gains on the other.

The moves by African rulers appear related to or inspired by authoritarian trends elsewhere:

Although no attempt is made in this report to analyze laws outside Africa, there are parallels between anti-NGO measures adopted across the continent since 2006 and those adopted in Russia and China—two influential global actors that have forged close ties with African governments. Sudan’s anti-NGO law coincided with the first of several Russian laws,6 closely followed by Rwanda’s measure in 2008. Russia’s second wave of legal restrictions coincided with those of several African countries—notably Ethiopia, Zambia, and Mozambique—while China’s 2016 and 2018 regulations came alongside measures by several other African governments surveyed in this report. It is difficult to establish specific links between the African laws and those adopted by the two global powers, but the close relationships built in Africa since 2000—particularly by China—support a modeling hypothesis.

Election Assistance FOIA update: disappointed to see from USAID records that IFES was supporting Kenya IEBC/Kenyatta-Ruto defense of 2013 election petition by civil society and opposition

Kenya EACC at Integrity Centre NairobiBack in 2015 I submitted a Freedom of Information request for USAID records relating to the election assistance through IFES for Kenya’s IEBC (the election commission).

Several hundred pages were sent from the Mission in Kenya to the USAID FOIA office more than 30 months ago. A year ago I finally got the first release, simply a heavily redacted copy of the Cooperative Agreement itself funding the program.

I have just recently gotten the second release, the first substantive tranche of redacted copies of the underlying documents. From this I am starting to learn some information about the procurement of the failed Results Transmission System, but that matter remains somewhat sketchy so far.

Sadly I did see that IFES staff reported to USAID in the aftermath of the vote that they were busy working on the defense of the Supreme Court petition which impacted their availability to address questions about the systems issues.

I also learned that the election assistance donors were discussing amongst themselves the extent to which the UNDP, which administered “basket funding” for the election should cooperate with an investigative inquiry regarding procurements from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

Kenya High Court Nairobi AFRICOG lawyer Harun Ndubi press conference 2013 election

I did learn that one prospective bidder for one Results Transmission System procurement reported to the USAID Mission December 2012 that the allowed time for proposals was insufficient, to no avail as USAID said the impending election date did not allow delay.

When I consulted with AfriCOG, the Kenyan civil society organization, on election observation, and court petitions were filed seeking first to enjoin the IEBC from proceeding with an informal/irregular alleged vote tally when the Results Transmission System failed, and then after the IEBC went ahead, to challenge the alleged results, I did not know the Results Transmission System was a U.S. Government procurement under the Agreement, nor of direct involvement of IFES in supporting the other side in the litigation.

At this point, I am fairly well done with this blog as a format after all these years, but will continue to report on these matters of unfinished business as I learn more.

Kenya: Security, Corruption, Terror and Elections (and Railroads)

Nairobi Station - Rift Valley Railways

Nairobi Station – Rift Valley Railways

“On Security, Corruption and Terror Attacks” from the Mzalendo blog:

The link between corruption and the country’s susceptibility to is also recognised in the Parliamentary Report on the Inquiry into the Westgate and other attacks in Mandera in North Eastern and Kilifi in the Coastal Region. The report mentions systemic corruption and the link to terror attack stating:

“Corruption has greatly led to the vulnerability of the country in many cases including where immigration officials are compromised thus permitting ‘aliens’ who could be terrorists to enter the country and acquire identification. This enables terrorists ease of movement and are therefore able to plan and execute attacks without the fear of discovery. Further compromising of security officials enables ‘suspected individuals’ to fail to pursue suspected terrorists and enable them to secure early release when caught or reported in suspicious criminal activities.”

Of the link between Kenyan troops in Somalia and the increase in terror attacks in the country the report states, “It should also be interrogated why other countries such as Ethiopia and Burundi who had earlier sent troops to Somalia have not been attacked by the al-shaabab. Tanzania has also not suffered any terrorist attacks after the 1998 bombings. Is it because our security forces are weak, in-disciplined and easily corruptible?”

The report makes further note of nationwide systemic failure on the part of the Immigration Services Department, Department of Refugee Affairs; and Registration of Persons Department, also “rampant corruption by security officers and other government agents,” and  further that, “police officers are corrupt and lax too. They work in cahoots with alShabaab and are paid to pass information to the latter.”

Last week National Assembly rejected the Joint Committees report and the recommendations made therein. However questions and issues in the report raised with regards to the link between corruption and terrorism still remain.

AfriCOG report: Election Day 2013 and its Aftermath:

In commemoration of this historic election, the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) presents its own findings related to election day and its aftermath in this report. In line with its commitment to promote permanent vigilance by citizens over public life and public institutions, AfriCOG provides an account of voters’experiences at the polling station. In addition, the report details the counting, tallying and results transmission procedures, noting the varied problems associated with these procedures. Overall, in contrast to many observer reports, AfriCOG finds that the failure of electoral technology made it impossible to verify the manual counts of election results. This was compounded by a wide array of problems at the polling station, ranging from names missing from the voters’ register to voter bribery.

To conclude, AfriCOG recommends a series of reforms to ensure that future elections live up to constitutional standards for transparency and verifiability.

And “TransCentury sells Rift Valley Railways stake to Citadel”.  The RVR saga continues, alongside the SGR saga.

Listening . . .

Image

Waterbuck

Please excuse my lack of posting. I am taking extra time to read and listen.

In case you missed it, here is Joel Barkan’s list from Foreign Affairs, “What to Read on Kenyan Politics”.

And from AfriCOG: “Why Westgate Is About Governance But Not Security Or The ICC”.

[Updated] “The People’s Court” launch Friday morning in Nairobi

Update: Here is the story from The Star.  And here is “The People’s Court”!

The Daily Nation coverage is here.

10:00am Friday at the Sarova Stanley in Nairobi InformAction and AfriCOG will launch a new online collaboration:

The website is a joint project between AfriCOG and InformAction and is an attempt to present in public all the evidence around the recent elections. Some of that is from the cases filed at the Supreme Court, but it will also include material and information from citizens, observers and others. Citizens will be provided a location to post /Number to send text messages in order to submit any information and evidence they gathered so that the complete truth on the recent elections can emerge.

Importantly, The People’s Court will be an accountability mechanism on the IEBC and the Supreme Court. Analysis of the Court’s decision will be posted on the website hoping to engender critical and constructive discussions on why they took the decision that they did, in the face of the evidence that will be presented.

The People’s Court gives the public unique access to all the evidence filed at the Supreme Court in the Civil Society petition challenging the election process.

By inviting citizen participation, we aim to make institutions accountable and uphold the high democratic standards of the constitution. We also hope that the website will be used as a forum for debate and opinion, celebrating freedom of expression in Kenya and our vibrant tradition of democracy activism.

Initial thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court ruling

Congratulations to Kenyans on a peaceful resolution and Happy Easter.

First comment: we do all see that election violence in Kenya is not inevitable; what happened in 2007 has identifiable causes even if they have not been acknowledged or addressed, primarily the conduct of various politicians. People in Kenya do not simply run out and start killing their neighbors because their side lost an election. Having a credible Court helps a great deal, thanks to the passage of the new Constitution after all these years; kudos to those that made it happen through years of struggle.

Second: I am very proud of AfriCOG for carrying forward a tremendous amount of work in an unconscionably short amount of time to show that there were many unanswered questions about how the election was conducted and why, and how the votes cast at the polling stations were transformed into the March 9 “final results”. They carried a burden that should have been borne by an objective and independent IEBC, rather than facing a united front of the Government of Kenya aligned against scrutiny.

Third: I assume the Court announced what they agreed on unanimously, which was that the outcome was to deny the petitions. Whether or not all six justices individually agreed is something that we will probably never really know, but we will have to wait for the Court’s opinion in two weeks to learn more. Given the short amount of time and the schedule they have already been on, I suspect we will not get as much detail then as many have hoped for, but we will have to see.

Fourth: The Court ruled that each side was to bear its own costs–not the ordinary practice. I think this disposes of the claims by some on the Government side that the ruling indicates that the challenges were not substantial.

Kenya needs a better election review process next time . . . as respondents argue that IEBC has done “so much” that presidential election announcement should stand as good enough

So we are down to the hearing of the challenge to the presidential election involving some ten to twelve million voters in a country of over forty million. All of the voting was done by paper ballot and counting by hand. At the time of the hearing there is no list available to the petitioners or the court of who did and did not vote, nor one defined list of who was eligible as a voter.

Even with the breakdown of the intended election technology across the board, the IEBC announced a final vote count on the evening of March 8, just over three days after completion of the voting, in spite of having seven days available for the process, then formalized the result the next day, March 9.

It now comes down to one day of oral argument on each side in an adversarial proceeding between the IEBC represented by government counsel and AfriCOG and CORD for the Supreme Court to decide whether to let the IEBC pronouncement stand, or not.

There has been no administrative process or review, there has been no neutral body involved prior to the Supreme Court. The IEBC has been in an adversarial mode in defending its decision since the decision was made. The Court has determined that there is no time for detailed discovery of evidence sought by petitioners.

The Court will ultimately have to decide this case on the basis of generalities–either recognizing the standards required by the Constitution for voting were not met systemically:

Article 86:

At every election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall ensure that—

(a) whatever voting method is used, the system is simple,
accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent;
(b) the votes cast are counted, tabulated and the results
announced promptly by the presiding officer at each polling station;
(c) the results from the polling stations are openly and
accurately collated and promptly announced by the
returning officer; and
(d) appropriate structures and mechanisms to eliminate
electoral malpractice are put in place, including the
safekeeping of election materials.

or, alternatively, the Court will defer to the the IEBC on the basis that its decision is unimpeachable except to the extent that it can be disproven vote by vote in detail through admissible evidence in adversarial litigation in one day.

[Updated Wednesday] Kenyan election: What kind of “audit” did the IEBC do without the actual voter registration lists used? Will the Supreme Court require the registers to be disclosed as sought by AfriCOG?

Watch the hearings live: Citizen TV; or the other Kenyan networks.

At 9am tomorrow [Wednesday] in Nairobi, the Kenyan Supreme Court is scheduled to announce a key ruling. The issue is whether or not the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will be required to produce for scrutiny the actual voter registration lists used in the voting.

[Update: On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court denied the production request from AfriCOG as time-barred, saying it needed to have been filed with the original petition. Once again, the Court seems to be treating this as ordinary civil litigation subject to procedures but without the months or years that would ordinarily be involved in developing the facts of the case. The hearing has begun and the case will be decided without much evidence, which at some level was always inevitable given the time frame and the position of the IEBC as party litigant rather than a neutral body that would willingly cooperate with scrutiny.]

The issue is before the Court due to the vigorous opposition, played out over two days in preliminary hearings, by the IEBC and the proponents of its March 9 “final results” to a request for these public records from AfriCOG.  On Monday afternoon, the Court heard the complaints of the IEBC side that AfriCOG had not formally served copies on enough of the various lawyers for the government and the other respondents for parties who are not directly implicated in the custody of the records.  Thus, more copies served, arguments were held this morning, with decision tomorrow.

Here is CapitalFM on the procedural arguments against production: “AFRICOG plea for voter register opposed.”

AfriCOG’s vital role as Petioner 4 challenging the Kenya’s IEBC

Like everyone else who is engaged but not able to be in the courtroom, I am watching live broadcast of the preliminary hearings in Kenya’s Supreme Court of the petitions challenging the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s March 9 announcement of “final” election results.

The live broadcast of these proceedings is an amazing development–to me of much greater significance than the presidential campaign debates.

I wanted to take just a moment to stress the role of Gladwell Otieno as petitioner as executive director of AfriCOG. The AfriCOG filing is petition no. 4–followed by CORD’s petition no. 5. Although the court has tended to give an unbalanced share of time to the array of government-paid lawyers representing the two defendants who are in lock-step, Hassan as the national returning officer in the presidential vote, and the IEBC which he chairs, AfriCOG, as an open governance organization, has taken on the challenge of defending the interests of the voters and integrity of the process itself.

This is not about Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta–this is about the Kenyan democracy.

It has been interesting to see the respondents file replies to AFriCOG’s petition trying to ignore the issues by simply referring to the “already filed” responses to the subsequent CORD petition–it is in their interest to try to frame the issue as one about a challenge by a losing candidate rather than about why the IEBC did not do its job, and meet its obligation to each citizen under the Constitution, of holding a simple, fair and transparent election.

Here is a Question and Answer release from AfriCOG on the Petition.

 

“Media Zombie” stirs as Kenyan legal process moves forward [updated]

[Update: here is the Sunday Standard, “How Raila’s poll petition may change the whole game”]

“The many questions IEBC needs to clear with Kenyans over elections.” The Saturday Nation

The “media zombie” awakes with a recitation of damning basic questions about the systems employed by the IEBC.

AfriCOG and other Kenyan civil society groups were left as lonely voices before the election while the public relations of the IEBC and the rest of the Kenyan Government, propped up as best I can see so far by the “western donors” (with money from taxpayers like me) and the “aid industry” peddled false assurance. I will have to admit that the situation is significantly worse than I had realized.

And then beyond the systems that were not even seriously in place, we have the specifics of bogus numbers coming out with election challenge petitions by AfriCOG and by the CORD campaign filed today. So much like 2007 only worse in terms of a mass “overvote” in the presidential race.

“Halt the Party, It’s not yet Uhuru”, Wycliffe Muga in The Star.

In the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman notes the extreme pressure on Kenya’s judges:

The case is sure to be a test of Kenya’s recently overhauled judiciary. It is now much more widely respected, but some analysts have questioned whether all six Supreme Court justices will be able to withstand the pressure of refereeing such a high stakes contest for power. Even before the election, the chief justice received death threats, and analysts have raised questions about the independence of some of the other justices.