Statement of “Kenya Working Group” on Appointment of Gration Replacement

From Carl LeVan’s Development4Security Blog, here is the statement released in Washington by a nonpartisan group of Washington Africa policy players that has been assembling in recent months to try to focus official attention on the challenges in Kenya:

“In light of the potential for violence in Kenya during the run-up to the 2013 national elections, and the challenges of sustaining full implementation of constitutional reform, we urge President Obama to immediately nominate a senior individual with deep conflict prevention expertise to replace Ambassador Scott Gration. The President’s nominee should understand Kenya’s complex history and the current political landscape – as well as that of the surrounding region. Given the crucial but delicate transition underway in Kenya, the nominee must also understand the critical role the U.S. government can play supporting Kenyan efforts to realize a successful democratic transition, and have the ability to work productively with all U.S. agencies and key international partners present in Kenya. It is essential that the Senate proceed rapidly with the confirmation process so the new appointee can get out to Nairobi as soon as possible and begin the vital work that must be done.”

Akwe Amosu, Director of Africa Advocacy, Open Society Foundations

Joel D. Barkan, Senior Associate, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies and co-chair of the Kenya Working Group

Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director, Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, The Atlantic Council

Jennifer Cooke, Director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Richard Downie, Deputy Director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Jeremy Konyndyk, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Mercy Corps

Tom Malinowski, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch

Sarah Margon, Associate Director, sustainable Security and Peace Building, Center for American Progress Action Fund and co-chair of the Kenya Working Group

Steve McDonald, Director, Africa Program, Woodrow International Center for Scholars

J. Peter Pham, Director, Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, The Atlantic Council

Sarah Pray, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations

Cassidy Regan, Kenya Program Associate, Friends Committee on National Legislation

David Throup, Senior Associate, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

The individuals listed above are members of the Kenya Working Group (KWG). Their institutional affiliations are listed for identification only, and do not represent any official position of these organizations.

The Kenya Working Group, co-chaired by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), is a nonpartisan forum for policy experts who seek to encourage a robust U.S. policy towards Kenya in the run up to and after the 2013 national elections in order to prevent violence and help support a successful democratic transition. Kenya has made important progress addressing many of the issues that enabled the 2007 electoral violence but much work remains. Similarly, the U.S. government has a vital support role to play, particularly by working closely with Kenyans and other key actors. The Kenya Working Group meets regularly to share information, generate policy recommendations, and support a constructive and active U.S. policy towards Kenya.

One “silver lining” from the Gration resignation situation is that it helps put Kenyan politics in the U.S. news and on the plate of the U.S. Administration and Congress now.

Early handicapping in Kenya’s presidential campaign

David Throup, in a commentary up on the Center for Strategic and International Studies website, handicaps the impact of the ICC charges on the Kenyan presidential campaign.  In a nutshell, Throup posits that Raila gets elected easily if Uhuru and Ruto are allowed to stay in the race as Uhuru is not popular enough, broadly enough to pose a strong challenge.  If Uhuru and Ruto are disqualified, this would allow Saitoti to come to the fore as the establishment (non-reformist) alternative and that Saitoti could give Raila a run for his money, so to speak.

Will the decisions of the ICC and the Kenyan court make any difference to the election battle? Perhaps, but not in the way that many people think. The banning of Kenyatta and Ruto is more likely to work against Raila Odinga, current prime minister and election frontrunner, than to weaken his opposition. It is becoming increasingly evident that Kenyatta is unelectable. .  .  .

Ruto may personally be willing to endorse Kenyatta—after all he was his presidential campaign manager in 2002, and relations between the two men remain good—but Kalenjin community elders are unlikely to agree, especially as the Kikuyu and Kalenjin fight over the political spoils in the new Nakuru County, a major center of violence in 2007–2008. Local Kikuyu leaders are demanding almost complete control, precluding any agreement between the communities. As a result, at least two-thirds of Kalenjin voters will end up supporting Odinga in the second round, whatever Ruto says.

.  .  .  .

On this calculation, the winner of the presidential election seems likely to be Prime Minister Odinga, who since he first contested the presidency in 1997 has built up a broad coalition, centered on his Luo ethnic group. Odinga commands the support of 40 to 45 percent of voters, stretching from Lake Victoria to the Indian Ocean and from the isolated Somali-populated Northeastern Province to bustling Nairobi. He is the frontrunner, and neither Kenyatta nor Ruto is capable of effectively challenging his momentum.

.  .  .  .

If Kenyatta is banned from contesting the presidency, Saitoti seems likely to emerge as the frontrunner to take over the mantle of Kikuyu candidate. His 20 years in Moi’s government, moreover, means that he has good relations with many Kalenjin leaders, stretching far beyond the former president’s inner circle. Thus, Saitoti could bring together the Gikuyu-Embu-Meru and the Kalenjin-Maasai-Turkana-Samburu in a formidable challenge to Odinga. An Odinga-Saitoti contest would be a closely fought two-horse race, and it is difficult to predict who might emerge victorious. Odinga would present himself as the candidate of reform, while Saitoti would clearly represent the old order.

Saitoti’s profile is certainly raised by the war Kenyan troops are fighting in Somalia while he serves as Minister of Internal Security.  Certainly this Ministry played a key role in the 2007 election campaign and the immediate aftermath.

It’s interesting to reflect back on Saitoti’s appointment by Kibaki along with Kalonzo Musyoka and the rest of the “half cabinet” during the post election violence.  Here is Xan Rice in The Guardian, January 8, 2008 “Fury as Kenyan leader names ministers”:

“This is simply another attempt to undermine the mission of John Kufuor,” the opposition leader’s spokesman, Salim Lone, said. “It’s not only a blow to the peace process, it shows that Kibaki is has no intention of even starting the process.”

Analysts agreed. Mutahi Ngunyi, a political scientist, said the move was in “bad faith”. “He has already concluded peace talks before they have begun,” he added.

Mwalimu Mati, a civil society leader, said the appointments – especially that of the internal security minister, George Saitoti, who is deeply unpopular in Kenya and was forced to resign a cabinet post in 2006 over links to the country’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, was “like raising a red flag to a bull – and the bull is going to charge”.

However, Amos Kimunya, a key Kibaki ally who was reappointed as the finance minister, denied the move would further alienate the opposition.

“The critical ministries of the government have to run,” he told the Guardian. “Other players can join the government at a later stage, and the president can change his mind on his ministers any time.”