Kenya has had that one widely accepted successful presidential election out of six in the multiparty era following the end of the Cold War. The 2002 “Kibaki Tosha” “National Alliance Rainbow Coalition” election has remained the taproot of mythology about Kenyan democracy in the United States to this day, nearly seventeen years later.
The 2002 succession of Moi, with the young Uhuru Kenyatta left to wait his turn, serving as Leader of the Opposition, then Deputy Prime Minister during Kibaki’s two administrations, was supposed to have ushered in an actual spirit of multiparty competition and higher-minded, cleaner governance that was missing as long as Moi was still in State House himself even though he had grudgingly agreed to change the law for the 1992 election to allow non-KANU parties.
The pick up and continuation of the Anglo Leasing national security looting scheme in spite of the turnover from Moi to Kibaki contradicted the myth and was egregious enough to risk the support of State Department diplomats for Kibaki’s re-election. When I arrived in Kenya in mid-2007 I inherited democracy assistance programs that reflected U.S. disappointment in the Kibaki Administration’s corruption as reflected in the Anglo Leasing scandal, which had been sharply and publicly criticized by the previous U.S. Ambassador and British High Commissioner. But the programs had been established back under the previous Ambassador more than a year-and-a-half earlier.
By the eve of the 2007 election the worm had turned:
Getting back to the narrative, I also remember Tuesday, December 18, 2007, the date that Ranneberger wrote the second of the cables that I received recently through a 2009 FOIA request.
That morning’s featured a big, full page exclusive interview with Ambassador Ranneberger, nine days before the election. For me this article was something of a benchmark in terms of my instructions to take “no more b.s.” from the Ambassador. There are several reasons I found the article troubling, part related directly to the independence of our IRI election observation mission, and part related to the Kenyan campaign itself, in particular the corruption issue. On corruption:
What are your views on corruption?
Lots of people look at Kenya and say lots of big cases have not been resolved because of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg. I always point out that we have lots of corruption even in the US. These cases take a lot of time to bring to justice. We had the famous Enron case. It took over four years to resolve in a system that works efficiently, yet only a couple of people were convicted. These things take a long time.
There has been substantial effort to fight corruption in Kenya and the award the country won for Civil Service reform [from the World Bank] is a pointer to that effect. The fact that the Civil Service is more professional than ever before is progress as are the new procurement laws recently put in place and the freedom of the Press to investigate and expose corruption. More, of course, needs to be done.
The economy has grown by 7 per cent. How much of that has actually trickled down to the people will again be determined by time.
A career diplomat, Ranneberger has been in Kenya for close to one-and-a-half years, and has served in Europe, Latin America and Africa.
During previous days The Standard had been running new revelations about corruption in the Kibaki administration from documents from exiled former Permanent Secretary for Ethics and Governance John Githongo. Rumor had it that Githongo wanted to be able to return to Kenya and might want to be able to return to government after the election, although I had no knowledge one way or the other about whether that was true. Githongo’s personal adventure trying to address corruption in the Kibaki administration is the subject of Michela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat. Wrong rightly noted in her book that stealing the election was the ultimate corruption.
Githongo had previously alleged that the Anglo Leasing scandal that Ranneberger referred to was intended to fund the campaign to re-elect Kibaki. See this from BBC News, January 26, 2006, “Kenya ‘safe’ for anti-graft czar”:
On Wednesday, the World Bank urged Kenya’s president to take tough action against any cabinet ministers found to be corrupt.
The warning came as the World Bank approved a new $25m loan to help fight corruption – a decision slammed by former UK Kenya envoy Sir Edward Clay.
Sir Edward, who has condemned Kenya for not tackling graft, said the new loan would feed the “pig of corruption”.
”The Anglo-Leasing cases represent an excellent opportunity for the authorities to invoke the disciplinary provisions of the code of conduct signed by the new cabinet weeks ago,” said World Bank Kenya director Colin Bruce.
“I believe that this is an historic moment for the government to signal where it stands on the issue of political accountability,” he said.
President Kibaki is under increasing pressure over corruptionPresident Kibaki was elected in 2002 on a pledge to fight corruption.
Some donors, including the UK, have suspended some aid to Kenya over concerns about corruption and Sir Edward, who retired last year, thought the World Bank should have sent out a tough message.“How can the World Bank be so insensitive and hapless to announce new loans to Kenya?” reports the Guardian newspaper.
“They have added insult to injury by feeding the pig of corruption in Kenya when many Kenyans were beginning to hope they might smell the bacon beginning to fry.”
Over the weekend, Mr Githongo’s leaked report said his attempts to investigate the Anglo-Leasing scandal were blocked by four top ministers – Vice-President Moody Awori, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, Finance Minister David Mwiraria and sacked Transport Minister Chris Murungaru.
Mr Murungi and Mr Awori have publicly denied the claims.
Mr Murungi said the report was “untrue” and an attempt to bring down the government.
Mr Githongo resigned last year amid reports that his life had been threatened.
The money raised by the alleged scam was to be used to fund the ruling Narc coalition’s campaign in elections due next year, Mr Githongo said.
Following the leaking of the 31-page report, the opposition has urged President Kibaki to dissolve cabinet.
Opposition Orange Democratic Movement leader Uhuru Kenyatta said: “This is clear evidence that the government can no longer be trusted to conduct detailed and honest investigations into this saga.”
Other diplomats were maintaining effective “radio silence” in the sensitive closing days of the 2007 campaign, while Ranneberger was speaking out to defend the Kibaki administration’s corruption record. In the meantime, after my December 15 experience at the Embassy residence I was quietly preparing the new last-minute pre-election Langata survey, along with all the other work for the exit poll and Election Observation Mission.
After reading the article, I e-mailed my local USAID officer on the Election Observation and Exit Poll to complain, noting my opinion about the article and where things seemed to be going in regard to my obligation to supervise an objective and independent Observation Mission and the Ambassador’s alternative approach.
So by December 2007, we had the U.S. Ambassador having pivoted to the role of offering apologetics for Anglo Leasing in the context of Kibaki’s re-election.
At some point after the election debacle I was asked to submit to my Washington office names for IRI to send to an international women’s leadership event and we passed along a current MP and Njoki N’dungu who had an NGO and who had been a member of the Ninth Parliament from 2002-2007. Shortly afterward I was informed by a diplomatic source that N’dungu was “closely connected” to Chris Murungaru of the Anglo Leasing matter. Reporting to Washington it was agreed that the invitation would not have been made had we realized this problem in time.
Today, Uhuru Kenyatta is in his sixth year as president and has in effect adopted Anglo Leasing by paying out more millions on the bogus procurements over the years while notional prosecutions languish. Githongo continues to be subject to nasty tribalist attacks from jingoists for revealing admitted truths that were embarrassing to purported tribal leaders, including from one pundit who may have received some Western support in 2013 while pushing his tribal election theories to demonstrate that the opposition could not compete with UhuRuto.
Today, corruption is worse–no surprise there– but the World Bank is stepping in again, with $75M. The local World Bank Director Colin Bruce was right back when the Anglo Leasing scandal broke that it was “an historic moment for the government to signal where it stands on the issue of political accountability”. The Government of Kenya was quite clear and remains so–it is Kenya’s donors that have twisted and contorted to avoid hearing.
Today, Githongo has a new personal judgment against him for defamation for the leaked publication of his work as Permanent Secretary in trying to “stop these thieves” and protect the Kenyan government and public from looting and insecurity. He is appealing and Kenyans are raising funds to support the appeal.
Today, N’dungu is Justice on the Supreme Court. (She will need to recuse herself from any involvement in the Murungaru versus Githongo matter.)
I have to shake my head in remembering the window back about a decade ago when the U.S. and other Western donors were vocally backing what we called “the reform agenda” and USAID even got involved in supporting the National Council of Churches of Kenya in using the Michela Wrong book, It’s Our Turn to Eat, to teach against corruption.
Now we have a new Ambassador, the fourth since Anglo Leasing broke to the public. As I have written I have a sense that he wants to help change the dynamic on corruption in Kenya. He can make progress if he makes the sacrifices necessary but he does have to realize it will be much harder than it would have been back in 2007 or at so many other turning points in the past and that pushback will come from places other than Kenya.
Update: be sure to read Rasna Warah’s “In Whose Interest? Reflecting on the High Court Ruling Against John Githongo” in The Elephant’s East African Review.
I touched a few bases while briefly in Washington recently. I was left with the impression of general “benign neglect” on Kenya, which would be expected given the overwhelming number of more immediate crisis situations around East Africa, such as the South Sudan “civil war/state failure” situation, escalating tensions between the Kagame and Museveni regimes, the uncontained Ebola crisis, etc. And always the war in Somalia.
Nonetheless, there are those who work or engage with Kenya more specifically on a less seasonal basis who will unavoidably have noticed how badly the Government of Kenya has been underperforming just as a factual matter regardless of the diplomatic angles of the day.
All this is to lay the groundwork for my great interest in a couple of news items today:
1). First was the report that Ambassador McCarter had said in Kisimu that the U.S. was putting on hold financing for the Bechtel Mombasa-Nairobi expressway due to concerns about corruption risk and debt levels escalating costs such that the intended value to the Kenyan people was not delivered. Here is the version from “Kenyans.co.ke” which has been running a bunch of pieces bringing up events from political inflection points from years past with no specific explanation of the timing, such as the piece I posted about last week taken off from my June 2017 piece in The Elephant on “The Debacle of 2007: How Kenyan Politics was Frozen and a Election Stolen with U.S. Connivance“.
As a private American “friend of Kenya” and taxpayer I am quite gratified by this willingness to change policy to address current “facts on the ground” and to actually “walk the talk” on “anti-corruption” even if it involves possibly giving up a big subsidized project for a very big well-connected private business owned by a group of Americans.
I have been concerned about this project for the reasons identified by the Ambassador but have not wanted to say much without being close enough to have details and not wanting to be seen as an inveterate naysayer or unduly skeptical about things where I am not that well informed.
Maybe Ambassador McCarter can end up being a “breath of fresh air” and is actually serious in his talk of zero tolerance for corruption in a way that would be different from the ordinary diplomacy where we run hot-and-cold at best. If no one explained to him as a political appointee from outside Washington that “zero” among diplomats ends up as shorthand for a wide range of dollar values in varying circumstances explained in the addendums and codicils, as opposed to just “zero” as it might mean to a businessman in downstate Illinois, then maybe Kenyan cartel leaders need to be worried a bit after all?
And if people in Washington have their hands full or are not focused on the immediate situation in Kenya, and with what we read about how national security policy management is working in Washington these days, it may well be that McCarter has that much greater practical latitude “on the ground”? Likewise, usually an Ambassador in Kenya will have the potential distraction of career considerations not dissimilar to people working in the government in Washington; this would not seem to be a challenge for McCarter. (And maybe he isn’t looking to be a lobbyist for a neighboring warlord in a black hat, and an oil and gas consultant and an investor-broker in USAID-funded health business, for instance.)
There are obvious sociocultural and political barriers to how McCarter will be perceived in Washington and among Americans who typically engage with foreign policy on Kenya or are “Kenyanists” or “Africanists” with focus on Kenya, but open minds are warranted. And maybe that works both directions.
Part of what is so striking here is how much Uhuru Kenyatta has in the past seemed to be arguably “Donald Trump’s signature African leader”–not so much that they are seen to really know each other or have some personal rapport, but rather that in the face of general lack of signs of personal interest in Africa from Trump we still have Uhuru at least included in meetings and doing photo ops with Trump in Europe, Canada and Washington, if not yet Mar-a-Lago, during the first two years of the Administration. Even though he was such a favorite of some in the Bush-Obama years.
So surely putting the Bechtel deal on hold suggests that there is finally heightened willingness to openly acknowledge that governance is simply not now what it was cracked up to be from our previous public diplomacy in recent years.
2) Next is Macharia Gaitho in the Daily Nation publishing today’s column: “Either rebels in Jubilee ranks join opposition, or Uhuru steps down” calling out Jubilee’s divide:
The politicians who contrive to insert his name [Deputy President Ruto’s] into every issue do the DP no favours at all. It does not help his image or his 2022 presidential election prospects when his name is used to fly cover for disreputable leaders caught on the wrong side of the law.
. . . .
As an elected member in his own right, a Majority Leader [Sen. Kipchumba Murkomen] does owe a duty to his constituents. Where conflicted, however, he could consult internally within the government and party organs.If his concerns are not adequately addressed, then the honourable thing would be to relinquish the Majority Leader role so that he can, in good conscience, speak out for his people both inside and outside Parliament.
As it is, what we are seeing from Mr Murkomen’s now frequent outbursts are the hallmark of rebellion. This is rebellion not from one disaffected individual, but a powerful Ruto faction in Jubilee that is unhappy with the path pursued by President Kenyatta.
Jubilee cannot govern effectively when it has such a powerful opposition within; hence the rudderless, dysfunctional government seemingly sabotaging its own efforts.
This is not a healthy situation. Maybe, it would be best for Mr Ruto and his cohorts to resign and go officially into opposition or for President Kenyatta to throw up his hands in surrender and leave the burden of leadership to those more able.
Now I don’t know and haven’t asked, but there have been recent times when Gaitho has seemed to be carrying a message, such as the time when he explained that Raila’s fellowship at Yale was intended to be a perk to ease into a honorable retirement, not a springboard to run yet again in 2017. Different Kenyan columnists are in this role at different times it has seemed over the years. See “Six years an Ambassador: Godec’s Kenya valedictory with Macharia Gaitho”.
This background made me figuratively “perk up my ears” when I read the Gaitho blast after the news on the Bechtel expressway deal.
As a practical matter, there are certain ironies any time it is suggested that “regular order” of some type is suddenly warranted in Kenyan politics. Uhuru Kenyatta himself as KANU leader and Leader of the Opposition in 2007, crossed the aisle to support “Kibaki Tena” without resigning, when party godfather, retired President Moi who picked Uhuru from relative obscurity to nominate as his successor in 2002, realigned his fortunes, so to speak, to be with Kibaki while being appointed as Kibaki’s diplomatic representative for Southern Sudan. So I think Ruto might scoff at Gaithos’s advice now, and I doubt Uhuru’s mother would be good with him resigning at this point with all the family has going on at stake. Too much water under the bridge for too many years to expect anyone “in government” to go formally into “opposition” voluntarily–reform can happen but not nearly so easily or cheaply.
A necessary and complimentary read is the latest from Rasna Warah in the East African Review with what needed to be said on the most egregious act of contempt toward what we used to call “the reform agenda”: “In whose interest? Reflecting on the High Court judgment against John Githongo?”
Could one make a case that perhaps it was not me after all, but more the Ambassador and/or others at the State Department who “went native” in Kenya over the 2007 election controversy (and in other situations)?
Interesting to think about as things have played out.
My memory was most recently jogged in seeing that James Swan, a distinguished diplomat who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and signed off on some of the materials related to the 2007-08 Kenyan election controversy that I have obtained through FOIA and written about here over the years, has retired to a Nairobi post with the Albright Stonebridge Group business/investment advisory. (Albright Stonebright Group offers “commercial diplomacy” and advisory services and owns a substantial part of the equity of Albright Capital Management which in turn runs private equity funds out of the Cayman Islands which have investments in other funds and businesses with interests in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in the region. The Albright is former Secretary of State Madeleine, the NDI chair.)
Also one of those strange articles in The Daily Nation this past week, drawing on a particular bit of older Kenyan political history: the article notes that Ambassador Kyle McCarter will soon take up his post in Kenya for the United States, and that the first American Ambassador to Kenya, William Attwood, had acquired property in Kenya and wanted to retire there, but was banned from staying or returning to the country by Jomo Kenyatta who was angered by his act of publishing his memoir, The Reds and the Blacks. Without explaining specifically what Kenyatta was offended by, the article cites some of Attwood’s material about his perception of Cold War tied machinations involving the competition between Oginga Odinga and Kenyatta and allegations of Odinga’s separate East-bloc arms imports. It then notes Ambassador Ranneberger’s re-marriage to a Kenyan and his vacation home on the Coast at Malindi. (Interesting is the omission of any reference to Ambassador Smith Hempstone and his memoir, Rogue Ambassador, which details his interaction with “the second liberation” and his impressions of Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki.)
Maybe Ambassador McCarter is being reminded not to step too hard on certain toes so that the Government of Kenya remains cooperative with his family’s longstanding mission work in Tharaka Nithi?
The topic of “going native” came up for me in early 2010 when my security clearance was up for renewal for my job as a lawyer for Navy shipbuilding contracts where I had returned after my leave of absence to work in Kenya for the International Republican Institute in 2007-08. I filled out the detailed paperwork listing my foreign contacts over the previous years, including my work for IRI in Kenya, Somaliland and Sudan (later to be apparently stolen by Chinese hacking from the Office of Personnel Management) and had my interview with a retired military officer who had served in Somalia in the early 1990’s and thus knew the region.
I did not know how to initiate an explanation in my interview that I had gotten into a “he said/he said” with Ambassador Ranneberger about the 2007 Kenyan election on the front page of the New York Times but I expected it to come up in some form. After the interview, I got a follow up: was I sure that I had been loyal to the United States as opposed to acting on conflicting loyalties to Kenya–had I had gone native? I answered clearly and unequivocally. Essentially I asserted the lawyerly equivalent of the courtroom objection: “asked and answered”. “I already told you I was a loyal American before someone fussed — I have nothing to change.” Apparently this was satisfactory as I did not lose my clearance (and thus my job).
Jendayi Frazer, Asst. Sec. of State for African Affairs during the second G. W. Bush Administration and Swan’s superior during the 2007-08 Kenyan election imbroglio, maintains a home in Nairobi as I understand, and was the primary international spokesman, informally, for the “Uhuruto” campaign in 2013, accusing then Asst. Sec. State Johnnie Carson of “interfering” in the campaign by suggesting that the election of crimes against humanity suspects could have “consequences” in trying to tamp down the use by the Uhuruto campaign of a statement by President Obama that was asserted to bolster a claim that the U.S. had no concerns about the issue. Frazer has business interests in Kenya and with the Kenyan government, through the the Kigali domiciled but Kenya based East Africa Exchange commodity platform arising out of a partnership between Swiss trader Nicholas Berggruen’s Berggruen Holdings and the East African Community. See my previous post here. Frazer and a Berggruen representative are also on the board of the Mastercard Foundation based in Toronto which has extensive programs in the region. Frazier is an Advisor for Rice Hadley Gates, the international consulting firm of of her colleagues from the Bush Administration (Robert Gates also stayed on as Obama’s Secretary of Defense; Hadley was Rice’s Deputy National Security Advisor during the inception of the Iraq War and took over after she went to State where she brought over Frazer; Hadley also turned his experience to the chairmanship of the United States Institute of Peace. Carson has since retired from the State Department and is also affiliated with the Albright Stonebridge Group as well as the United States Institute of Peace and NDI.)
The cases of Attwood, Frazer, Swan and Ranneberger, if nothing else, are examples of the “Nairobi Curse”, demonstrating the advantages that accrue to Uhuruto in controlling access to permission to live and work in Nairobi.
Another famous case showing the “flipside” is British High Commissioner Edward Clay who complained of the milder-than-now corruption in 2004 that senior officials of Kibaki’s first Administration were eating as “gluttons” and “vomiting on [the] shoes” of donors who had stepped up to attempt to alleviate poverty and sickness among Kenyans. After his term ended in 2005 he continued to speak of corruption and was informed by then Kibaki Justice Minister Martha Karua during a BBC appearance during the early 2008 Post Election Violence in the wake of the stolen election that he had been declared persona non grata and banned from returning by the Government of Kenya in retaliation.
And of course there is the purge of the IFES Country Director during the 2017 Uhuruto re-election campaign.
[Update: to be clear, my point here is about the relationships and dependencies of individual Americans to the Government of the day in Kenya and Kenyan politicians in power, not to get into the merits or demerits of specific investment activity. I think it is good for Americans to be in Kenya and Kenyans to be in America. In concept, Frazer’s East African Exchange, for example, seems to offer potential benefit to small farmers, although the authorities in Rwanda and Kenya have a track record of contradictory priorities, so it is hard to know what to expect. As far as ASG and the associated private equity funds, I would think Nairobi is heavily served on the consultancy side but there is always a need for private direct investment in the region in the abstract, through the Caribbean or elsewhere, with the devil in the details of particular investments.]
Here is the story from The Daily Nation: Raila won 2007 election says Macharia.
The truth trickles out gradually. Of course, those of us involved in the Election Observation for the International Republican Institute were following those results being reported live on Kenyan television from our headquarters in Nairobi during that Friday-Sunday after the election on Thursday, December 27, 2007. Dr. Joel Barkan, our expert, explained by Saturday night that based on the numbers that were reported, it appeared that Kibaki could not win. (Part of the reason why I was surprised to be told early Sunday morning by our “lead delegate” that “it’s going to be Kibaki” during the time when the Electoral Commission of Kenya had suspended the announcement of results.)
I understood that Joel’s public statements back in Washington that we couldn’t say for sure that Raila won, but could say that Kibaki lost reflected that known results as reported by the media houses showed Kibaki could not have gotten the most votes. Realistically, under the first past the post system under Kenyan law at that time, this leaves Raila winning (since he didn’t lose his Kibera constituency to Stanley Livondo).
I assumed that one of the primary motivations for John Michuki’s then-notorious order suspending live broadcasting by the media houses from December 30 was to facilitate making sure those results that the media houses “took down” did not “resurface” after ECK Chairnan Samuel Kivuitu announced to an audience limited to the State-owned Kenya Broadcasting Commission that Kibaki had won after all.
As we know from my Freedom of Information Act Series research, Ambassador Ranneberger reported to Washington that he had personally witnessed the changed tally sheets at the ECK along with EU Observation Chief Lambsdorff. [In particular, see Part Ten, Ranneberger on ECK, “Much can happen . . . and it did”]
Unfortunately, Ranneberger nonetheless initially asked Kenyans to accept the results of the election without disclosing what he had witnessed and congratulations were quickly issued from a spokesman for the State Department back in the U.S. that Sunday. Subsequently we retracted the congratulations, said there were problems with the election and took the position that there was supposedly “no way to know” who won–still without disclosing what Ranneberger witnessed until his January 2, 2008 cable to Washington was declassified (with redactions) in response to my FOIA request.
As for the media house evidence, this stayed buried until now. The ECK never did publish any polling station, or even polling centre, results at all in the presidential race. The Kreigler Commission stayed off the presidential tally at the ECK–even though it was part of their legal charge as fairly construed.
After the election debacle, Ranneberger did spend a significant amount of energy promoting “the reform agenda” going forward during his remaining years in Nairobi. Unfortunately, it appears that “reform” largely failed to take (because reform built on a foundation of impunity for corruption was “a house built on sand”).
For more see my “War for History Series“.
And from the news before the holidays:
The Standard headlines John Githongo’s day in court on Anglo Leasing after all these years. Of course, Kibaki knew.
Sadly, embarassingly, the testimony comes not in a criminal prosecution of the looters, nor an action by the Government of Kenya to recover any of the millions of dollars lost–nor even a defense against claims for fraudulent debt–but rather in Githongo’s defense of himself in a libel action by one of those implicated in Githongo’s corruption disclosures when he left office in 2005.
It has been such a disappointment to me to see comfortable Westerners celebrate and bask in the reflected glow of Githongo’s courage as a whistleblower over the years while ultimately selling him out by looking the other way while at the next election the tallies were rigged to keep Kibaki and his cohort in power, followed by the Uhuruto succession after which the Government paid huge additional sums on Anglo Leasing debt and went on its merry way to ramp up corruption to new heights.
Kenya will not be secure so long as its Government remains so pervasively corrupt. Foolish fickleness by the U.S. and others in the West buys us nothing of value.
It’s not so much that I’m jaded, it’s just that I have watched this movie before–and even been an “extra” of sorts in one of the previous remakes.
Yes, corruption is obviously getting even worse within this Kenyan administration than within the last. But that was also true when I lived in Kenya during the end of the first Kibaki administration and into the beginning of the second.
There are several readily apparent reasons. For instance, when I lived in Kenya I made the acquaintance of a Western expat whose spouse was in the tourism business. Prior to the 2007 vote count corruption and violence, the tourism business was booming. But corruption was up as a cost of doing business as it was explained to me because to operate you had to pay off a second generation, too–the kids of the senior politicians. Presumably this generational expansion has continued. Why wouldn’t it?
The year before I moved to Kenya the UK and US envoys had been outspokenly opposed to the corruption, in the context of the Anglo Leasing revelations by John Githongo of massive corruption involving national security procurements, touching our own security interests aside from our sensibilities about criminal behavior, along with the outrageous shenanigans involving the Artur Brothers, and the Standard media raid, among others. The British envoy even offered the memorably colorful “vomit on our (the donors’) shoes” metaphor about the extent of the gluttonous “eating”.
But by the time I arrived in mid-2007 things were different. New personnel led the diplomatic missions. On the US side we apparently helped Moi and Kibaki get back together, and hosted Interior Minister John Michuki, of “rattling the snake” fame, who had taken credit for the Standard raid, on a security tour of the U.S. Michuki represented Kibaki at our Embassy’s Fourth of July party, where Moi unofficially planted himself to catch the receiving line.
And then we looked the other way at the corruption of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Ambassador Ranneberger made sure to get his predecessor Ambassador Bellamy removed from our IRI Election Observation Mission on the basis that he was “perceived as anti-government”. Bellamy had spoken out on the corruption, in particular the Standard raid. The week before the vote, Ranneberger noted for the Kenyan public that Kenya was “on track” in fighting the vice of corruption, that we had had Enron in the U.S., that prosecutions for Anglo Leasing and Goldenburg could take time, and that the World Bank had given the Kibaki administration an award for procurement reform (of all things) and that he expected a “free and fair” election. And then we tried at first to sell the ECK’s election “count” even though we knew full well that it was bogus. When that didn’t fly, we supported “power sharing” so long as there was no new election before Kibaki’s full second term was up. According to a news report from Nairobi years later from stolen cables from “Wikileaks” we issued a couple of “travel bans” based on alleged evidence of bribery against two of the ECK commissioners, but we never disclosed this action or the evidence, why we singled out these two or anything else about the matter.
During the post election violence a diplomat explained to me that the reason many of the younger pols in Kibaki’s PNU coalition were against a power sharing settlement was that they didn’t want to share the secondary ministry appointments. Ultimately by adding opposition politicians into the second Kibaki administration through “power sharing” with extra ministries you further expanded the multigenerational set of stomachs to let eat. One way to look at the settlement naturally has been that Kibaki and Raila were willing to stop the fighting (so long as Kibaki retained with further ambiguity the full second term Presidency which the ECK had delivered to him) and the rest were bribed to acquiesce.
So you cannot tell me with a straight face that the diplomatic position of the United States in 2007-08 was to “oppose” corruption as a high rather than a subordinated priority.
After being stung by criticism from the election debacle, Ranneberger was reborn as an outspoken “reform agenda” campaigner for his extended tour on through the passage of a new constitution. He compiled dossiers on money laundering and drug smuggling through politico/business interests and encouraged action, albeit to no avail. His successors quietly moved on, however, and we helped sell a new badly handled election in 2013 by a new, but probably more pervasively corrupted electoral authority. We helped pay for expensive technology that was doomed by procurement fraud but kept quiet. The British Serious Fraud Office successfully prosecuted one of their companies and its owners for bribes on other election procurements, but the Kenyan administration has taken no action to follow up and we have kept our silence.
With time, we have come again to affectionately embrace our usual suspect “partners”, with new programs headquartered in our favorite African city of Nairobi. A photo op in the Oval Office with POTUS and FLOTUS for the Kenyan President and First Lady last year, followed this summer by a glowing official Presidential visit to Nairobi with a telegenic dance party at State House. Never mind what we said before; please can we give you more? Some eloquent speech about the cost of corruption, safely abstract from the burgeoning accumulation of years of specific cases on the impunity docket. Yes we can dance with this new set of shoes without even looking down at the vomit.
Surely then it can be no surprise that things have gotten that much worse. With a new report by Kenyan journalists on the longstanding implication of Kenyan Defense Forces which we help underwrite in Jubaland in the sugar and charcoal smuggling rackets, and fresh levels of embarrassment from the international press from the National Youth Service, irregular handling of bond proceeds amid rising debt levels, more land grabbing and another looted bank, all with a new election cycle approaching, the season has turned again and it is the time for furrowed brows. Time for the U.S. to lead a donor group to call on the current version of the anti-corruption authority. To talk again of “visa bans” and offers again to assist in “asset recovery”.
Instead of another remake, could this be a sequel offering a surprise ending, with say, even a few villains in jail, or at least less rich, as a cautionary tale for some and a bit of hope and inspiration for others? Or is this just another iteration of “the formula” in which the sheriff rides into town, frowns at the drunken brawl, then passes along to enjoy the cinematic scenery on the way home?
Only time will tell. I do think we genuinely would prefer to be against the corruption rather than aligned with it. We just lose our nerve and get distracted by other priorities that seem more immediate. Making a dent in Kenya’s entrenched culture of impunity would take a long hard slog, in the face of bitter opposition formal and informal. It would be messy and likely involve putting up with a bit of embarrassment–it could involve some risk and actual cost. In any event it would take a good while for us to convince the players that we had become serious.
In Foreign Affairs, Paul Hidalgo explains “Kenya’s Own Worst Enemy; Al Shabab Isn’t the Real Problem“:
Corruption, injustice, abuse, disillusionment, marginalization, and radicalization are the legacies of years of misguided policies in Kenya. After an al Shabab rampage in Garissa earlier this month left over 140 university students dead, these issues are impossible to ignore. If Nairobi continues to refuse to address them or fails to do so, the already troubled East African country will soon become even more unstable.
The radical Islamist group al Shabab is responsible for the series of terrorist attacks that have rocked Kenya in past few years. But the reality is that al Shabab is a shadow of what it once was. The al Qaeda-linked group has been pushed out of all major cities in Somalia and cut off from its financial lifelines. Its leaders have been decimated by drone attacks, internal strife, and defections. And that is why the group’s ability to easily attack within Kenya is so puzzling. For their part, Kenyan leaders have long contended that entities outside the government, namely Somalia-based fighters and the country’s minority Muslim population, are to blame. But the truth is that the main culprits are the culture and policies of the government itself.
Take, for example, Kenya’s security services, which are acknowledged as the most corrupt institution in one of the most corrupt countries in the world. . . .
Corruption might clear the way for attacks, but incompetence turns tragedies into national disasters. . . .
The security forces’ well-documented history of abuse, discrimination, and heavy handedness is directly connected to radicalization. . . .
Instead of trying to tackle all these issues, Kenyan leaders have fallen back on their usual responses: attacking easy targets and pursuing knee-jerk policies. As before, these simply make matters worse. . . .
. . . .
Pressure is mounting for Kenyatta to enact serious reforms, and his recent admission that there were security failures at Garissa may signal that things are shifting. But Kenyans shouldn’t hold their breaths. Nairobi has proven time and again that it is incapable of or unwilling to make difficult reforms. It may end up that civilians will be forced to take to the streets in a major way to push the government to action, or take matters into their own hands, such as the pledge from the country’s top Muslim organization to root out radical clerics from mosques. However it plays out, the longer Kenya waits to address its problems in some fashion, the more innocents will die and the more dysfunctional the state will become.
“John Githongo on Garissa: Kenya’s corrupt chickens have come home to roost,” from Kingsley Kipury and Simon Allison in Daily Maverick:
. . . .
Githongo’s main argument is that corruption has prevented Kenya from establishing an even remotely effective security sector, leaving it vulnerable to Al-Shabaab-style attacks. “Kenya has had a problem with terrorism for some time, and recognised the need for much improved equipment and technology for our security service to be able to deal with it. However national security is the last refuge of the corrupt, and there are those in government who decided that those are the contracts we are going to make money from. And in the pushing and the shoving and the disagreements and squabbling of people fighting for their cut, and things stopping and starting, goods being delivered half-baked or not at all, Kenya lost a tremendous opportunity to establish a very solid framework for defending itself against terrorism,” he said.
That’s the first problem. The second is the culture of corruption, engendered by the country’s political elite, which means that, for often trifling sums, individuals at all levels of the state are willing to turn a blind eye to threatening activity. “When people lower down the ladder in the security services, whether it’s in the police, immigration, intelligence, the military, when they see them [their superiors] steal from large scale security contracts, they then start perpetrating corruption lower down the ladder. That becomes a problem that becomes pervasive, and it is exemplified most starkly by the ease with which it would apparently seem possible for terrorists to be able to cross through our porous borders by paying small amounts of money to junior officials,” Githongo said.
For Githongo, it’s impossible to separate the current insecurity in Kenya from its history of corruption. “I think it’s definitely a case of chickens coming home to roost, vis-à-vis Anglo Leasing. If we had properly executed those contracts starting from around 2001 into 2004, we definitely wouldn’t be having the kind of problems we have right now, or at least they wouldn’t be at the scale they are at now.”
Crucially, however, corruption is not just history. According to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, corruption in Kenya has worsened since President Uhuru Kenyatta came to power. Kenya is currently ranked 145th in the world for corruption, only just above the Central African Republic and nine spots below Nigeria.
In this context, it’s hardly surprising that Githongo reserves some of his strongest criticism for the current administration of Kenyatta. “This is the most corrupt administration since the [Daniel arap] Moi administration, if not more corrupt. . . .
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is deeply concerned over the most recent steps taken by the Kenyan government to further restrict the legitimate activities of domestic civil society organizations, under the stated auspices of countering terrorism. Earlier this week, alongside terrorist groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram, Kenya’s Inspector General of Police listed several notable human rights groups to be declared “Terrorist Organizations,” froze their bank accounts, and gave them 24 hours to clarify why they should not be designated.
“Governments have a real responsibility to meet the threat of terrorism and protect the welfare of their citizens, and civil society groups are indispensable to achieving these ends,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “The Kenyan government has gone too far by including human rights groups in a list of possible terrorist organizations. President Kenyatta and the relevant authorities should take immediate and transparent steps to remove these human rights groups from this list.”
. . . .
Joint Statement by U.S. Ambassador Robert F. Godec, British High Commissioner Christian Turner, and Swiss Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud
The Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland welcome recent actions by the Kenyan Director of Public Prosecutions to combat corruption by ordering prosecutions in Kenya linked to the decade-old Anglo Leasing scandal. These orders and the subsequent arrests were important steps forward by the Government of Kenya in the critical fight against corruption. We encourage the government to build further on these actions, to include through independent and vigorous investigations of all allegations of corruption, and through fair trials and equal treatment under the law for all those charged.
The Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland will continue to work with the Government of Kenya as it seeks to tackle corruption and to build a democratic, secure, and prosperous future.
Continuing with my Jan. 2-3, 2008 e-mails reporting back to Joel Barkan in Washington from Nairobi:
When I reported the call [to me from Ranneberger] to Washington, Lorne eventually and reluctantly made the decision to scratch Bellamy (he was not told the truth to my chagrin). Lorne then called Asst. Sec. Frazer on his way to the airport to tell her to get her Ambassador in line, then when he landed in Thailand he called the Ambassador to tell him to stop interfering in our EO.
After the Ambassador first raised his objection to Bellamy a few days earlier we had research Bellamy’s record and found no problems and checked out the political perception in Kenya and also found no problems. Likewise, we had confirmed with the State Dept in Washington and confirmed that they had no issues with Bellamy being a delegate. Likewise, we had confirmed that USAID was not objecting (and that they acknowledged they had no right to).
In the meantime, I had gotten a call from the Embassy that next Friday afternoon to come to Ambassador’s residence to see him on Saturday afternoon. When I visit him, he in a fashion apologized for getting spun up with me, but reiterated that it was vital to the credibility of our whole delegation that Bellamy be struck because he was absolutely “perceived as anti-govenment”. Whether he intended to or not, he left me with the distinct impression that the “perception” had been conveyed straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak (one of the provisions in our international agreement covering EOM standards prohibits allowing a government or other party any ability to veto members of our delegations).
Further, the Ambassador told me that “people” were saying that Raila might lose Langata. He said that he would be personally observing the voting in Langata and wanted to take Connie with him for part of the day. He also said that he wanted to take Connie privately to meet with Stanley Murage before the election.
When I reported this to DC, needless to say alarm bells went off. We nixed letting Connie go off observing separately with the Ambassador and insisted that Connie would not be available for any off-schedule private meetings. Serious consideration was given to cancelling the EO and I think it would have been cancelled if I didn’t say that I thought that I could manage the situation here.
When I told Sheryl about the Murage gambit she audibly gasped on the other end of the phone but didn’t comment. She