New Release: Inspector General’s Report on Department of State activities on Kenya’s Draft Constitution

Here is the link to the report from the Department of State Office of Inspector General.

Update–but see “Daily Nation reports that USAID’s Inspector General has found that US funding did go  specifically to encourage “Yes” vote on referendum”

New Glenn Beck agitprop uses Kenyans as cutout prop to insinuate that President seeks to turn U.S. “Marxist” or “full-fledged Soviet” (or even “anti-colonial”!) because, Beck claims, that was the dream of Obama’s father . . . and is reflected in Kenya’s new constitution

You can’t make this stuff up–at least I hope you can’t. It takes an accomplished demagogue to do this. I really don’t care one way or the other what Beck thinks or dreams about American politics as such, but America has some responsibility of self-assumed leadership in world affairs. As a democracy, it matters when we delude ourselves about the citizens of other nations, and certainly citizens who treat us as friends and who share our democratic aspirations.

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes should be ashamed of themselves for this.

Reasonable people can be strongly in disagreement with President Obama’s policies on whatever subject, and patriotic people can be sharply critical of an elected president; reasonable people can have different views about Kenyatta and Kenya’s political history and about Obama, Sr.’s role or lack thereof, and about Kenya’s new constitution, but taken in sum total this is truly, deeply and offensively ignorant and disrespectful to millions of people who never did anything to Glenn Beck.

I have never been a Marxist or in any way pro-Soviet–I am an old “Cold War Republican” or at least have been. I have never even been a Democrat. I am not a natural ally of Obama. Nonetheless, this type of smear by long strings of rambling insinuations based on distortions of facts likely unknown to Beck’s audience, seems to me outside the bounds of how small “d” democrats talk to each other about their country and its elected leaders and Beck and his enablers deserve to be called on it.

What 21st Century Elections in Africa (or elsewhere) Can Be . . .

From Kui Kinyanjui in the Nairobi Business Daily:

The technological revolution in Kenya’s electoral process became abundantly clear as the final numbers came in from Wednesday’s referendum.

Analysts said the digital shift contributed to making the referendum a more transparent affair, with citizens emerging as a vital tool in ensuring the process remained free and fair.

The biggest beneficiary from the transformation is likely to be the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), that effectively received the mandate to fully digitise the elections process.

“We have learned that the use of technology has greatly enhanced the process and sped up the gathering of results,” said Isaak Hassan, IIEC Chairman.

More than 27,000 GPRS-enabled mobile phones were used to send results from polling stations to the main tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

“Using mobile phones, SMS and some software we got results securely checked into a central server, tallied and instantly relayed to the public … this is eGovernance without the usual big budgets and failure that often accompanies ICT projects,” said industry analyst John Walubengo, on an online forum.

In 2007, the ECK elected not to use the technology at the last minute, the votes for president were not reported honestly and chaos ensued. Congratulations to everyone involved in the Independent Interim Electoral Commission for showing how it can be done and delivering an election to be proud of.

Kenyan voters have again spoken peacefully in large turnout, and are being heard this time

Again, to me the most important thing about the constitutional referendum has been to let Kenyans make up their minds, decide, vote and most importantly see the process honored in a transparent manner that builds trust and confidence. This appears to be in the process of happening with official results due tomorrow. Ruto, a most visible champion of dissent from the circus at the Electoral Commission of Kenya in the December 2007 general election, a suspect in the investigations of post-election violence, and a mobilizing leader of the “No” campaign, has accepted the outcome based on a transparent process.

While the promise and challenge of democratic reform through a better legal framework remains very much a work in process, the right to vote and have those votes counted in a transparent manner appears to have been restored. This is a very important good thing and worth a moment to cherish.

Kenyans Vote (Updated)

UPDATE: Polls have closed at 5pm in Kenya, 10am Eastern in the US. See new Gettleman story “Kenyans vote on new constitution”.

Follow the voting and results through live updates with this Global Voices page as well as at Uchaguzi.

My sense going into the vote is that the constitution would pass by a good margin and the level of violence would be relatively lower than feared. Things do seem to be going smoothly so far. Violence in the past has either been state-supported or tied to the misconduct in counting the votes. With what seems to be a serious effort by the security services to work against violence this time, reflecting President Kibaki’s apparent commitment, the environment seems quite different for this vote.

See Gettleman in this morning’s NYTimes on the atmosphere in the Rift Valley prior to the voting, and this story from the BBC.

Kenya–All over but the voting?

This is a little girl in one of the areas affected by violence in the last election. Please pray for a peaceful and fair election. Thanks.

IMG_0514_1

Watch reporting on Uchagazi.

The Daily Nation reports “It’s all systems go for Kenya’s referendum” (Subliminal “Green”/”Yes” message there?)

The Economist also has a late take on tomorrow’s vote: Kenya’s constitutional referendum: a chance to improve how Kenya is run

At the end of the day, they wisely conclude, much work remains:

Even if the constitution is endorsed by a fat majority, the dangers that have afflicted Kenya will not evaporate. There has been a lot of talk about peace. But the power-sharing government formed after the violence of early 2008 by President Kibaki and his rival, Mr Odinga, has dismally failed to address the main causes of instability: a lack of land and jobs. Far too many young men have no chance of getting their hands on either, especially in the volatile and tribally mixed Rift Valley and in the teeming, fetid slums of Nairobi. Many Kenyans fear that the anger of such people could boil over again in 2012.

A comment worth quoting:

Whatever the outcome in the plebiscite, we must put in place better mechanisms to hold leaders to account and stop this abuse and impunity. Leadership connotes serving as a faithfully fiduciary and finding the best solution to intractable challenges the nation faces. Good leaders are not necessarily those who brandish the sharpest intellect, or possess the most alluring visage, but those who, through determination, ingenuity and wise counsel, achieve the aims of the nation. These qualities are severely wanting in Kenyan leaders if the misery that bedevils the nation five decades after independence is considered.

We all know that even with a very good constitution, if we have poor leaders and people are not vigilant in holding them to account, Kenya will not make progress. What we need is a good constitution coupled with good leaders keen on fighting corruption, curbing negative ethnicity, appointing officials on merit and improving efficiency in the bureaucracy. We need a leadership that will abandon slogans and platitudes and work hard to lift the millions of people in want out of poverty.

Kenya’s Referendum–Uchaguzi platform for citizen monitoring is up

Uchaguzi

Uchaguzi is a technology platform that allows citizens and civil society to monitor and report incidences around the electoral process.

Uchaguzi provides web and mobile-based channels for citizens and civil society to report on electoral offences such as intimidation, hate speech, vote buying, polling clerk bias, voting mis-information etc. The reports are then sent to the electoral authorities or security personnel for action.

Uchaguzi recognizes the need for empowering citizens in the protection of democracy by inspiring individual and collective action in enforcing transparency, accountability and efficient electoral service delivery.

Here is the BBC World Service on security preparations.

New Polls Continue to Indicate Landslide Approval for New Kenyan Constitution

A new poll release from Synovate joins Strategic and Infotrack in showing margins of more than 30% for the "Yes" vote for approval of the proposed new constitution.

"Yes" leads by large margins in all provinces except Rift Valley which may be too close to call. On balance, it appears that there may be more controversy in the U.S. than in Kenya in some respects.

Kenyan Constitution controversy among Americans reaches a whole new audience–Fox News (Update with more from Kenya)

FoxNews::“White House Spent $23Million of Taxpayer Money to Back Kenyan Constitution that Legalizes Abortion, GOP Reps Say”

I personally don’t use much Murdoch-controlled media, in particular the Fox entities (another topic for another day), nor get much news from television anyway, but this story is of some interest in asserting some further background on the alleged influence of outside groups in the preparation of the draft constitution. Something I don’t know anything about. I have said before that the process was not ideal and it should have been more transparent and participatory if it wasn’t going to use the prior “Bomas Draft” that Kenyans never voted on previously. Nonetheless, it went to Parliament which could have amended it. I continue to be unconvinced that in Kenya the totality of the language that relates to abortion will have the impact that some in U.S. “pro-life” politics are claiming, but Kenyans will have to decide. And there are certainly some details and perspectives on the involvement of U.S. interest groups and activists that Fox has ignored here.

I will say this: if we tried today, in the United States to pass a new Constitution from scratch what is the likelihood that we could do this well? Would we be able to have any type of deliberative and reasoned discussion? This is one of the reasons the U.S. government should exhibit a little more humility in addressing democratization elsewhere in the world. We have inherited a system with solid fundamentals, but its not like the way we behave much of the time is what everyone should aspire to.

Update: A Nairobi Star story features a statement from Ambassador Ranneberger reiterating that his approach is sanctioned by the President and that he is not worried about a few critics attacking him.

Ranneberger spoke at a ceremony for American Peace Corp volunteers:

‘You should know that the stakes are extremely high whichever way the outcome of the referendum will be,” Ranneberger told the Peace Corps He asked them to participate in the current debate in Kenya.

President JF Kennedy launched the Peace Corps in 1961 and to date it has trained 6,000 Kenyans in small business management, maths, science, health and ICT.

Peace Corps Volunteers country director, Steven Wisecarver, said he wants the volunteers for Kenya increased to 150 per intake.

Researcher Tom Wolfe, a doyen Peace Corps Volunteer, asked the 36 to be humble as they learned about Kenyan society is.

“While the role of Ranneberger has been questioned in politics, nobody has criticised the American Peace Corps role in Kenya,” Wolfe said.

In an editorial, the Daily Nation fires back at Congressman Chris Smith: “U.S. Congressman Peddling Blatant Lies”:

However, the congressman does not bother to make the distinction between the ‘Yes’ campaign and other activities related to the referendum, and different aspects of the reform agenda.

Supporting the Committee of Experts that produced the document does not amount to funding one side in the campaign.

Nor can helping the Interim Independent Electoral Commission that will manage the poll in any way be deemed partisan.

Some of the groups mentioned by Mr Smith deny receiving referendum campaign funds from the US Government or any of its agencies,

In a nutshell, Congressmen Smith’s claims do not add up. More seriously, they are based on one monstrous political lie — that President Obama is breaking American law by funding a constitution that promotes abortion.

The Proposed Constitution of Kenya will not allow abortion on demand. It is apparent that his concern is not protection of the Kenyan woman from unrestricted abortion; it is the pursuit of a rabidly fundamentalist right-wing agenda that has never reconciled itself to the Obama presidency, and will employ all means, fair or foul, to bring down the first black president of the United States.

The biggest lie does not stand up to scrutiny. For the first time in Kenya, the constitution will specifically outlaw abortion, save for the common sense exception where the life of the mother is in danger.

Mr Smith might also appreciate that the new constitutional prohibition will make it much more difficult to procure an abortion in Kenya than in his New Jersey.