Freedom of Information Series (Part Eleven): Better to Learn More Lessons from Kenya’s Last Election After the Next One?

Back last May I had checked in with the State Department’s Freedom of Information Office about the status of outstanding documents from my 2009 FOIA requests regarding the 2007 Kenya elections.

At that time the FOIA Office wrote me that State Department documents about the IRI and USAID Exit Poll had finally been received from the Africa Bureau, presumably including the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, in addition to just the Central Records in Washington. (From what I had been told by the FOIA Office previously, the Africa Bureau did not respond for well more than two years following my original FOIA submission.) The estimated additional time to review and release documents was six months, to November 30, 2012.

November 30 came and went with no documents. i wrote to request release on an expedited basis due to the new elections upcoming but got no response. Checking back I was eventually given a new date of May 2013, after the new Kenyan elections.

A lot of people in a variety of capacities in the U.S. government, or otherwise funded by U.S. taxpayers, are working on matters involving the March Kenya elections. Likewise, from other donor governments and international organizations. And of course Kenyans who bore the actual effects of the disaster in the last elections have the most at stake in the new elections. Why further delay disclosing and addressing the documentary record from 2007?

Impunity for election fraud in 2007 makes the 2013 Kenya elections riskier. Even though there will be no accountability now, Americans and Kenyans should at least know as much as possible about what happened.

(Updated) Kenyan diaspora disenfranchised?; Kwamchetsi Makokha raises concern about Kenyan voter education; IFES seeks consultant

Update (Nov. 28):  IEBC Chair Isaac Hassan says that as an independent commission the IEBC will make its own decision about whether to cancel diaspora voting and is not bound by the Cabinet decision announced below.  He acknowledged that registration is not underway and that this part of the vote is in jeopardy.

“Kenyans in diaspora locked out of March election” Business Daily:

Kenyans in the diaspora will not vote in the March 4 General Election, the Cabinet decided last Thursday.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Eugene Wamalwa said the government decided that it will be impossible for Kenyans living abroad to vote owing to challenges facing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Mr Wamalwa said time and logistical constraints will not allow IEBC to register Kenyans in the diaspora. . . .

It’s been almost 2 1/2 years since the new constitution finally passed, providing for a right to vote for Kenyans living in the diaspora.  I am no big fan of the concept myself, but this is the law and I don’t see any unexpected challenges or difficulties in implementing it.

“Step up voter education, IEBC told” Daily Nation:

National Democracy Institute (NDI) consultant Kwamchetsi Makokha said on Tuesday the three months set for civic education was not enough to reach eligible voters.

“The period is not enough to reach the whole population. So many people know nothing about the devolved government and roles of the leaders,” he said. . . . during the launch of a sub-committee of the Political Parties Liaison Committee in Lamu.

I’ve heard elsewhere that there is significant lack of awareness by voters as to the nature of new positions up for election under devolved government under the new constitution.

In the meantime, IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, is advertising for an Election Administration Advisor for Kenya:

In preparation for the 2013 elections, IFES is implementing a capacity-building program in support of Kenya’s electoral process in the areas of election technical support, voter registration, voter education, and election dispute resolution among others.

Under this short-term assignment, IFES seeks to support the integration of activities of other government and non-government organizations, who play critical roles in the electoral process, including but not limited to the Registrar of Political Parties, Political Parties and Candidates, Security Agencies, the Judiciary, Civil Society Organization, Religious Organization, and the Media.

IFES to webcast Friday workshop on Kenya Diaspora voting

The live event will take place at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems headquarters in Washington from 10:00am to 2:00pm Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, November 2 (5:00pm to 9:00pm Nairobi):
A mandate of the newly appointed Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of Kenya is to enable diaspora voting. With this, there is immense pressure from political parties and diaspora groups to fully enable out-of-country voting during the March 2013 elections. The IEBC has enacted a policy that will allow Kenyan voters to register and vote at 47 embassies worldwide.
 
However, this policy may not completely satisfy the demands for out-of-country voting accessibility.
 
To promote better understanding of this issue among officials and leaders of the Kenyan diaspora, IFES will broadcast a workshop via live webcast to describe the complexities surrounding the out-of-country voting process.
 
Invited experts will examine key topics, including:
  • Implementation of out-of-country voting
  • Biometric voter registration and its significance in Kenya’s elections
  • Costs and benefits of Internet voting
  • Registration and voting procedures for members of the Kenyan diaspora
Featured speakers will include:
  • Ahmed Issack Hassan, Chairman, IEBC
  • Peter Erben, Senior Global Electoral Adviser and Chief of Party in Indonesia, IFES
  • J. Alex Halderman, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, University of Michigan
Moderated by Mike Yard, Chief of Party in Kenya, IFES
 
This event will be webcast.
Here is the link for the IFES Multimedia page for the webcast.

 

U.S./Somaliland relationship continues to mature as U.S. leads donor delegation on preparation for municipal elections

The key focus in current Somaliland politics is the municipal elections set to be held soon.  The National Election Commission reports being close to readiness, having (with some significant dispute) determined six additional parties to compete with the established three national parties, Kulmiye, UDUB and UCID.  Somaliland’s first local elections since modern independence was declared in 1991 were held in December 2002.  The next election was originally scheduled for December 2007, when I was there, to be followed by the April 2008 presidential election coinciding with the scheduled end of President Riyale’s term.  The Presidential election was delayed until ultimately held successfully on June 28, 2010–and now the local elections are to follow.

The top deputy for Somalia/Somaliland at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has led a six-member donor group to Somaliland to assess preparations for the elections and opportunities for donor support.

President Silanyo told the visiting delegation his government has already allocated funds for the upcoming electoral process and all preparations have been finalized, he reminded them the need for the international community to support this country in pertinent issues as security and bilateral ones.

Mr. Douglas Meurs said, the United States continues to engage with the administration in Somaliland on a range of issues, most directly Somaliland’s continued progress towards democratization and economic development.

In Feb 2007, the United States provided a total of $1 million through the International Republican Institute to support training for parliamentarians and other key programs in preparations for the upcoming municipal and presidential elections in Somaliland.

The United States will continue to engage with Somaliland, in order to support the return of lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.

by Goth Mohamed Goth
somalilandpress.com

This is encouraging progress in several respects. For my first months as IRI East Africa director, we had to keep our contact with Somaliland on life support as best we could at “no cost”, hoping for renewed funding to come through from the U.S.  When funds were available, we were able to re-start programming supported by travel from Nairobi, then open an office in Hargeisa.  At that time, U.S. Government employees and direct contractors were generally not allowed to travel to Somaliland–even prominent U.S. professors who were contracted to assess our programming in the spring of 2008 were left to work from Nairobi without being allowed to go to Hargeisa. We participated in donor meetings which happened only in Nairobi.  Having senior U.S. officials lead donor groups and interact with the Somaliland stakeholders directly in the county is one more sign of de facto “normalcy” in the interactions.

IMG_1312
With now-President Silanyo (at right) and Kulmiye Party group at party headquarters (I’m second from the right.)

Part Ten–FOIA Documents from Kenya’s 2007 Elections–Ranneberger at the ECK: “[M]uch can happen between the casting of votes and final tabulation of ballots and it did”

Westlands Primary-Line to Vote X

Another document released to me from my FOIA request to the State Department for documentation of the State Department observation of the Kenya elections is a cable from Ambassador Ranneberger from January 2, 2008 reflecting what he witnessed at the ECK. This was primarily declassified, with a few redactions.

Here are key excerpts, which deserve to be read carefully by those preparing to try for better elections this time.  It pretty well clarifies what Ranneberger saw as a credentialed observer at the ECK, and what he wanted to do, or not do, about it.

2. As previewed in ref B, much can happen between the
casting of votes and the final tabulation of ballots and it did.
This message recaps developments reported in refs, provides current
state of play, and discusses next steps. Much of our reporting
during the past three days has been done by phone given our
intensive focus on operational issues, particularly efforts to
promote a positive outcome to the election imbroglio.

3. Elaborate procedures were in place (much of it with U.S.
support) to ensure transparency and accountability of the ballot
tabulation process. . . .

5. ECK officials and observers pursued these
allegations to some extent, but the ability to do so was
constrained by lack of time, original data from polling
stations, and by the behavior of a number of ECK officials
who delayed returning results and submitted incomplete or
clearly altered documentation. Moreover, the ECK has no
authority to open ballot boxes; only the courts do. During
the night of Dec. 29, ECK officials together with
representatives of the PNU and ODM, reviewed the tabulations,
but neither side was satisfied that the review had fully
addressed their concerns. The ECK partial review of the
irregularities was also of questionable credibility, given
that all of the commission members were appointed by the
Kibaki government, and a number of them were suspected of
being clearly biased and/or involved in doctoring at ECK
headquarters. The Chairman of the ECK, Samuel Kivuitu, who
was widely respected, was surrounded by staff of uncertain
reliability and competence. It is worth noting that
parliamentary results were not disputed because they were
tabulated and announced at constituency tabulation centers,
thus allowing no interference at ECK headquarters.

6. Kivuitu has only limited authority as head of the
ECK. The ECK works on a majority vote system. It is also
important to note that the ECK is required by law to announce
the results as received at the ECK from the tabulation
centers. Some obvious irregularities like reporting
unrealistically high turnout or clearly altered results can
be rejected. There was, however, only a rejection of the
results in one constituency in which violence resulted in
destroyed ballots. Other alleged irregularities, such as
announcing results that ECK personnel personally inflated
should have been, could have been, but were not corrected. At
one point Kivuitu told me that his concerns about the
tabulation process were serious enough that “if it were up
to me, I would not announce the results.” In the end, he
participated with other commissioners in an announcement late
on the 30th, which turned rowdy when Odinga walked with armed
bodyguards into a room packed with observers, including me,
party agents, and media Kivuitu and the other commissioners
retreated to their upstairs offices, where the results were
announced. Kibaki was quickly sworn in (this was Continue reading

Reuters: IEBC touts ICT solutions for Kenya vote tally

Ahmed Hassan is making the rounds to explain the new Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission’s plans for a better tallying and reporting process in the upcoming election.  From Reuters today, under the headline “ICC trials main threat to Kenyan polls”, here is the pitch:

Speaking at the Reuters Africa Investment Summit, Hassan said judicial and electoral reforms included in a new constitution adopted in 2010 and new technology should deliver a fair election that would avoid the cycle of bloodletting.

Under a new system, the tally of ballots for a presidential candidate, cast at thousands of polling stations across the country of about 40 million, will be transmitted electronically to a national counting centre and broadcast live on television.

Previous elections have suffered from claims that votes were interfered with while being transported from polling stations to regional tallying centres.

The new system, which cost $1 million to install, uses the 3G data network used by mobile phone companies and was first tried in a 2010 referendum to ratify the constitution.

Kenya will also switch to an electronic register of voters after ballot boxes at the 2007 elections were found to contain the votes of people who had not registered and even some who were dead.

“Technology can enhance confidence in the results. We are the first country in Africa to use the transmission of ballots counted real-time, live,” said Hassan, who won praise for using technology for the referendum, earning the 42-year-old lawyer the president and parliament’s nod for the IEBC job.

 

I am looking forward to attending an event (Kenya Elections:  Building a Peaceful, Credible Process) at the International Foundation of Electoral Systems tomorrow with the IEBC and IFES leadership to hear more.

(h/t Texas in Africa)

[Updated] New Book Recommendation: Monitoring Democracy

UPDATE:  See “Election Monitoring:  Power, Limits and Risks” an “Expert Markets and Democracy Brief” at the Council on Foreign Relations website, including discussion of the 1992 and 2007 IRI observations in Kenya.

Monitoring Democracy: When International Election Observation Works and Why It Often Fails, newly released this month by Dr. Judith Kelley at Duke, from Princeton University Press is a major contribution to the academic study and assessment of election observation. This isn’t East Africa specific, but with all major elections in the region now drawing a variety of international observation mission on a regular basis, it is time to apply the kind of social science analysis that is used to look at the effectiveness of other types of aid/assistance or foreign policy interventions.

I’m still reading so I’ll wait for a full review, but I can definitely encourage anyone devoting significant time and effort to elections on an international basis to add this to the core library.

Orange Democracy, Exit Polls and Egypt

Kansas City Star–Commentary:  Egypt’s Democracy Falters (special to the McClatchy papers):

.  .  .  .

But it is no surprise that hard line authoritarian rulers have suspicion and disdain for U.S.-backed democratic movements.

The Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 might never have taken place if not for U.S. aid. First, the former communists in control of the Kiev government declared their candidate won an election. Then, a U.S.-funded think tank tallied up exit polls that showed the government had lied and it really lost the election.

Next, a Ukranian TV newsman trained by a U.S. aid program broadcast the exit polls and set up its cameras on the main square for an all night vigil. Up to one million people came to join the vigil. Then the Supreme Court — which had been brought to visit U.S. courts in action — ruled the election was invalid and the government had to step down.

Furthermore, U.S. legal, legislative, journalism and other trainers taught judges, prosecutors, legislators and journalists how to do their jobs in a democratic system.

Russia was panicked by the success of these democracy aid teams, operated by the Congressionally funded National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, the U.S. Bar Association and other groups. It began clamping down on them in Russia. Other autocrats expelled the democracy trainers as well, fearing they aimed to help the opposition overthrow their regimes.

In a bitter irony, although U.S. aid did help democratic forces hold elections and win power in Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, and the Palestinian territories, these countries backslid into coups or else the old guard won back power.

Either the new democratic forces were incapable of managing their countries, or the old guard rapidly learned the techniques of advertising and marshalling political forces to win back control. In some cases, people turned from the chaos of democracy to the firm hand of strongmen like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine.

People don’t change. They may like the feeling of liberty but they also fear the lack of guidelines.

In Egypt and in many Middle East countries, there is a huge youth population lacking jobs, housing and opportunities. People fear the young will erupt into crime and violence — similar to the soccer riots in Port Said and Cairo, and the ongoing rock and tear gas fights at Tahrir Square. Because they fear the youth, people have long accepted the ruthless power of the secret police and the authority of the kings and strongmen from Rabat to Baghdad.

While I love my liberty and would like every other country to enjoy it as well, maybe it’s wise for us to accept that what other countries choose for their way of life is best for them to decide.

If someone comes into my house and tells me better ways to plant my yard and build my bookshelves and paint my walls and cook my meals, even if they are right I will resent it and probably ignore all they suggest. So what is happening in Egypt is no big surprise.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Ben Barber has written about the developing world since 1980 for Newsday, the London Observer, the Christian Science Monitor, Salon.com, Foreign Affairs, the Washington Times and USA TODAY. From 2003 to August, 2010, he was senior writer at the U.S. foreign aid agency. His photojournalism book — GROUNDTRUTH: The Third World at Work at play and at war — is to be published in 2012 by de-MO.org. He can be reached at benbarber2@hotmail.com.

A “Must Read” on the “Egyptian Circus” from South Africa’s Daily Maverick: “A dangerous habit, spreading of democracy”

This piece from the Daily Maverick‘s J. Brooks Spector is the most detailed and explanatory coverage on the Egyptian charges against the international and local NGO employees.  Do read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

In theory at least, the social and political explosion of the Arab Spring should have been NED and its associated bodies’ next golden moment in the sun. All those regimes, previously frozen in time, now suddenly with their societies breaking out into a new, more open style of politics and freer elections should be making bountiful times for groups like the NED. Instead, these organisations seem to be running into a growing wave of suspicion about their ulterior motives.

Traditionally, of course, authoritarian rulers have viewed these pro-democracy groups with deep suspicion, routinely denouncing them as meddlers or spies – and sometimes directly harassing their staffers. But Egypt’s move breaks new ground in announcing it wanted to try 19 Americans and several dozen others on charges that have left the Obama administration shocked and surprised – and put the major American military aid program to Egypt at risk as well.

In the wake of the announcement of the charges, the Egyptian government quickly recalled a senior military aid delegation that was just about to begin some intensive discussions with members of Congress. The charges, as they were publicly announced, included operating without licenses, “conducting research to send to the United States” and supporting Egyptian candidates and parties “to serve foreign interests”. The fresh winds of last year’s Arab Spring and the heady embrace of the ideas of Gene Sharpe and Saul Alinsky and the power of the Internet, satellite TV and social media appear to have shifted more than just a bit.

In response, the IRI and NDI have argued their activities consisted of teaching the methodologies of grass-roots organising, political campaigns and democratic elections to anyone willing to listen, just as they have been doing in other places for years – without favouring any particular Egyptian political faction. An allied group, the Freedom House NGO, said that for its part it had been training young activists and carrying out international exchange programs while another NGO, the International Centre for Journalists, was doing its training on media issues. All four bodies insisted that had been trying to comply with Egyptian laws and be transparent about their activities. As Freedom House executive director David Kramer told reporters, “Everything we did was out in the open.” Where’s the beef?

Oddly, perhaps, the NDI and IRI seem to have come into the sights of prosecutors because of their role in supporting opposition to President Hosni Mubarak, before he fell from power last year. Sinister stuff that. Former chief of intelligence under Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, explained in his court deposition, “Data was collected about the activities of the American Embassy through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.” Moreover, back in March 2011, when US officials had announced grants of some $65-million to pro-democracy groups, Fayza Abul Naga, Egypt’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation – and a holdover from Mubarak’s regime – had renewed her longstanding campaign against foreign financing. Some analysts speculate she is close to the country’s highest-ranking military figure, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and their relationship is tied up with the crackdown.

Reviewing USAID Democracy and Governance Support in Egypt

 

Here is an audit report from the USAID Inspector General, reviewing USAID Eygpt’s Democracy and Governance expenditures as of October 2009. (h/t Pro Publica)

In fiscal year (FY) 2008, U.S. foreign economic assistance to Egypt was valued at $415 million, which included specific programs to promote democracy (valued at $55 million). On average, for the 10 years since 1999, USAID/Egypt has provided $24 million to implementers to conduct democracy and governance programs. Although the mission’s funding for democracy and governance programs averaged $24 million annually, USAID/Egypt’s funding spiraled upward as much as 97 percent in 2004, with a drastic increase in FYs 2006–2008. Since FY 2004, USAID/Egypt has designed democracy and governance programs valued at $181 million to be conducted until the end of FY 2012.

.  .  .  .

Based on the programs reviewed, the impact of USAID/Egypt’s democracy and governance activities was limited in strengthening democracy and governance in Egypt. Furthermore, in separate recently published reports, independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ranked Egypt unfavorably in indexes of media freedom, corruption, civil liberties, political rights, and democracy. Egypt’s ranking in these indexes remained unchanged or declined for the past 2 years. The overall impact of USAID/Egypt’s programs in democracy and governance was unnoticeable in indexes describing the country’s democratic environment.

A major contributing factor to the limited achievements for some of these programs resulted from a lack of support from the Government of Egypt. According to a mission official, the Government of Egypt has resisted USAID/Egypt’s democracy and governance program and has suspended the activities of many U.S. NGOs because Egyptian officials thought these organizations were too aggressive. Notwithstanding the Egyptian government’s negative actions, U.S. decisionmakers did not terminate the democracy and government program.

USAID/Egypt has used two types of instruments to administer its democracy and governance activities: a bilateral agreement and a direct grants program. Under the bilateral agreement, USAID and the Government of Egypt agreed to implement programs in the three major areas of rule of law and human rights, good governance, and civil society programs (Figure 3). Using the direct grants program, USAID/Egypt has awarded grants and cooperative agreements to NGOs and other civil society organizations without prior approval from the Egyptian government.

USAID/Egypt’s Office of Democracy and Governance developed programs with the objective of strengthening democracy and governance in rule of law and human rights, good governance, and civil society. Activities within the three major areas reviewed include commodities, technical assistance, training, or resource transfers designed to contribute to achieving the following objectives:

Rule of Law and Human Rights – strengthen the administration of justice and access to justice for women and disadvantaged groups.

Good Governance – promote a more accountable and responsive local government.

Civil Society – promote greater independence and professionalism in media and strengthen the organizational capabilities of civil society organizations while directly supporting their programs in areas such as political reform, elections monitoring, and civic education.

In the past, USAID/Egypt used a bilateral program with the Government of Egypt to conduct its democracy and governance programs. However, the mission modified its approach in 2005 to add a direct grants program after Congress allowed USAID/Egypt to have more control over its funding.

.  .  .  .

Although the Civil Society Direct Grants Program achieved its greatest success in conducting democracy and governance activities, the program had a limited impact on strengthening democracy and governance in Egypt. While the grantee programs reviewed achieved more than half of their planned activities, the impact of these activities was limited because of political circumstances, government resistance, and the grantees’ lack of experience. Some examples include the following:

A grantee received $1.2 million, in part to provide training on principles of democratic governance and civic participation to at least 600 teachers and 30,000 middle, high school, and university students in four regions of Egypt. However, the grantee managed to train only 330 teachers and about 2,000 students, less than 8 percent of the target.