This week’s Africa Summit in Washington suggests hope for a deeper, broader engagement between the United States and many African countries. This is a policy area where there seems to be substantial room for negotiated agreement and cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. While there are things that I wish we would do differently, I am glad to see the effort and attention and I will watch with interest.
I may be overdue to write about the problems with current Standard Gauge Railroad project and the latest on the Rift Valley Railroad saga, and of course the new payments by the Kenyan government on the alleged debts from the Anglo Leasing scandal are crying out for more attention. And there is the critical issue in Kenya of the Turkana drought. But I’m more overdue to write about some good people doing good things that can actually make a positive difference and I need to gush a bit about a great experience I’ve had this week.
Since I have been involved in political controversy and deal with sensitive topics here, I avoid writing about my old friends who are working in Kenya in missionary or development work because I don’t want to unintentionally create any association with my personal political views. But this week, I have gotten a chance to meet and start to get acquainted with a Kenyan couple here in Florida who are doing exciting things in trade and business and humanitarian mission, and we connected through coffee here in the U.S., not through anything political, so I think I can give them a little plug without giving them any “guilt by association”.
I’ll just let Martin Kabaki and Purity Gikunju tell the story of starting the Growers Alliance coffee company in their own words from the website:
Growers Alliance was started by Martin and Purity who grew up on separate coffee farms in Kenya. After moving to live in the United States, they were shocked to see $4 latte cups while coffee growers back in their Kenyan village earn a meager 15 cents for a whole pound of their harvest green coffee beans. In a twist of luck and coincidence, Martin and Purity met each other for the first ever at a coffee conference in Seattle. After discovering each other’s passion (and romance ….we have a beautiful son whose name is Steve) in highlighting the plight of the poor coffee growers in Kenya, they decided to start their own coffee company that would be different from any other. They formed Growers Alliance which is perhaps the only coffee company in America that is owned by actual coffee growers and whose goal is to cut out the several unnecessary middle men and coffee cartels. This helps to empower the poor coffee growers with better prices for their coffee crop and better living standards.
They have been at this for several years now and have really made progress. The Growers Alliance Kenya coffee is sold at Whole Foods and at the major Southeastern U.S. regional supermarket chains Publix and Winn Dixie (the picture above is from the shelf at my local Winn Dixie store).
Beyond the coffee business, which seems exactly the kind of thing that Kenyans need for sustainable steady improvement in economic circumstances, Martin and Purity are engaged in charitable enterprises that have “synergies” with Growers Alliance. First, Growers Alliance drills and maintains artesian wells in areas near coffee farms in Embu to provide safe water. The second is unique and deserves some explanation.
Martin was looking at the opportunity to return ship something from the U.S. to Kenya after the import of the coffee. This ultimately turned into a dialysis clinic in Naivasha, stocked with refurbished machines donated by a foundation in the United States. Unfortunately as Martin and Purity came to learn from their close interaction with the farming communities back home, diabetes and hypertension are increasing with changes in diet and lifestyle in Kenya, not just in the cities, but in the villages as well. With lack of early diagnosis and treatment, this leads to kidney damage and a growing critical need for dialysis–outstripping the facilities available from the public health infrastructure. Martin’s parents who were living in the U.S. returned to Kenya to run the clinic.
Martin and Purity are delightful people who are making things happen. The Kenya coffee, as I can attest, is superior, very competitively priced and easily ordered online at www.growersalliance.com. And check out the gala Kenyan dinner to raise funds for the Kijiji Dialysis Center and Embu wells upcoming on May 4.
I’ve spent some time looking at “Official Development Assistance” (“ODA”) numbers for Africa to test my perception that the U.S. seems, for some reason that is hard to pin down, to give an inordinate amount of “development” money to Kenya.
Sure enough. Going through the ODA summaries by country from the OECD, for each of 47 countries in continental Africa, we find plenty of verification of this. The U.S. is the leading bilateral ODA donor for 25 of the 47, including Kenya (Kenya’s number two donor is Japan). Kenya is the number three recipient of bilateral ODA from the U.S. for a 2010-2011 annual average (the most recent listing) of $642M, behind only the Democratic Republic of Congo at $1,053M and Ethipia at $791M.
On a per capita basis this is $15.53 for DRC, $15.43 for Kenya and $9.34 for Ethiopia. What about “need” based on poverty? PIn the DRC the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is $190; in Ethiopia $400. Kenya, on the other hand, has a GNI per capita of $820, more than double that of Ethiopia and well more than four times that of the DRC.
Across the continent as a whole, Kenya ranks ninth in per capita U.S. ODA. Three countries of those getting more per capita are special cases: Liberia and South Sudan, post-conflict states where the U.S. has a special historic relationship and responsibility relating to the founding of the country itself and Libya, an immediate post-conflict situation where the U.S. government was instrumental in supporting the removal of the prior regime. All of the recipients ahead of Kenya except for the DRC have relatively small populations.
Among the five countries of the East African Community, Kenya receives both the largest amount and the most per capita in ODA from the U.S., even though its GNI per capita is by far the largest:
Country GNI Per Capita U.S. Bilateral ODA Per Capita Rank/Reference
Burundi $250 $48M $5.58 2 (1-Belgium 161M)
Kenya $820 $642M $15.43 1 (2-Japan $139M)
Tanzania $540 $546M $10.74 1 (2-UK $219M)
Rwanda $570 $167M $15.32 1 (2-UK $121M)
Uganda $510 $388M $11.24 1 (2-UK $163M)
And a sampling of other countries of interest:
Somalia —- $90M $9.38 2 (2-UK $107M)
C.A.R. $470 $16M $3.56 3 (1-France $29M)
Malawi $340 $140M $9.69 1 (2-UK $126M)
Mali $610 $232M $14.68 1 (2-Canada $106M)
Niger $360 $97M $6.02 1 (2-France $56M)
Chad $690 $124M $10.75 1 (2-France 45M)
- Kenya changes everything (staceyvalley.wordpress.com)
- WADA frustrated with Kenya doping probe (sbs.com.au)
- U.S. quietly ramping up military presence in Africa (thehindu.com)
I thank those of you who have been reading some of my older posts while I have been primarily away from the blog the past few weeks.
Let me take time now to throw out a couple of “macro” observations as an observer of “development” practice in recent years and a life long observer and frequent past participant in American politics. The first is just how strange it is from one perspective that organizations like USAID and especially the Millennium Challenge Corporation are located “inside the beltway” in Washington, DC.
Don’t get me wrong, Washington certainly has its share of poverty, but in general the Washington inhabited by agencies like USAID, the MCC and the World Bank operates in the thrall of the micro-economy generated by the brokering of the American federal government’s expenditures on the order of $4 Trillion annually. It is a sui generis antiseptic boomtown quite disconnected from the economy of the rest of the cities and towns even of the United States, much less the rest of the world. Especially that of those facing the extreme poverty that the Millennium Development Goals were intended to overcome.
It just seems to me that we might, say, move one of our agencies like the MCC to West Virginia, for instance.
West Virginia is one of our poorer states, and one where we have this terrible problem of conflict between the need for jobs and the immediate and long term environmental harm done by strip mining and “mountain top removal” for coal. West Virginia has an economy rooted in natural resources and agriculture, like most of the world, and unlike the District of Columbia–but it is close by, just a short drive. Long serving Senator Robert Byrd was for many years famous especially for bringing federal agencies outside Washington to his state of West Virginia. While this was widely derided as “pork barrel politics” by people from other states, those federal agency jobs go somewhere. Putting a poverty fighting agency there might directly fight poverty as well as help us learn more about how to be most helpful elsewhere.
Update: On the topic of US aid transparency, here is great piece from Jennifer Lentner (@intldogooder) on Oxfam America’s “The Politics of Poverty” Blog: “More U.S. international aid data released–now what? A user’s perspective”. Jennifer interviews Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah a former minister in the Ghanaian government and former chair of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. He finds the current data important but “pretty scanty” toward meeting the needs of public officials and of civil society watchdogs.
New bi-partisan legislation—the Foreign Aid Transparency Act of 2013—would open the books on US foreign aid. More transparency will enable people like Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah to hold their governments accountable for how they invest US resources. Learn more and contact your representatives here.
And stay tuned to Politics of Poverty to get more user perspectives on aid transparency data!
The Elections Observation Group (ELOG) has published yesterday a lengthy report for the first time on its observation of the March 4 Kenyan election. Having criticized the lack of transparency of aspects of ELOG’s observation and Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) program in the immediate post-election period, and cited criticism of their public communications in characterizing the PVT I wanted to quickly recognize the level of their follow-up here in their first release since March 9.
I will need more time with the report before discussing it in detail here as it runs to 78 pages plus attachments (and in the meantime I have recently rejoined the corporate world so I am back to avocational status on Kenya projects) but this deserves real attention and goes far beyond what has been published by the other major observation groups.
In the meantime, here is ELOG’s conclusion:
This report has delved deep into the electoral process starting the journey from the troubled times of 2007/2008 when the country burnt. It has given an insight into the insidious political problems that Kenya has had to grapple with.
The report analyses the ills that the country must heal before it finally gets out of the political woods. From negative ethnicity fueled by the “tyranny of numbers” to weak or unreliable institutions, the country has major problems to fix to ensure free and fair elections that are beyond reproach.
The report also makes it clear that although the restored faith in the judiciary and the fear of the ICC may have averted the violence that engulfed the nation after the 2007 general elections, faith in the IEBC and the judiciary was eroded following the Supreme Court ruling on the presidential petition filed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
All stakeholders need to put in extra work and resources to help enhance the public understanding of their civil rights while enhancing the efficiency of all institutions charged with conducting elections in Kenya.
From the Daily Monitor, “Museveni faults Africa”
President Museveni has said the “lack of democracy and an Ideological disorientation” are some of the 10 bottlenecks that have kept Uganda and many African countries listed as Least Developed Countries.
The President told the East African Legislative Assembly meeting in Rwanda that the continent suffers an “ideological disorientation whereby the reactionaries fragment the African people into sectarianism of tribe, religion and gender chauvinism”.
The statement does not, however, elaborate what he meant by absence of democracy. He added that Africa continues to lag behind despite being “favoured by God and nature.”
For a different take on Museveni’s “State of the EAC Address” see this report from the EAC website. The discussion here picks up on Museveni’s call to go beyond economic integration to “Political Federation”.
• Uganda: new links for ongoing themes . . . (africommons.com)
• More on Moi, KANU and Ruto meetings with Museveni (africommons.com)
• Another Ugandan weapons procurement scandal? (africommons.com)
- Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling? (africommons.com)
- President Museveni’s sack of shame (rosebellkagumire.com)
- Generosity or Political Corruption? Ugandan President’s Donation Fuels Controversy (blackchristiannews.com)
- President’s sack of cash draws ire (bbc.co.uk)
- Museveni blames African leaders for overstaying in power (matyichngony.wordpress.com)
The United States looked the other way on a stolen 2007 election in Kenya.
Even though our Ambassador himself saw the changed tally forms at the Electoral Commission in Nairobi. We supported a “settlement” that created a temporary prime minister spot, without defined authority, for the apparent winner (not only did the exit poll done at the instance of the Ambassador and funded by USAID show a substantial win for the opposition candidate Odinga, but a separate State Department analysis in January concluded “advantage Raila.”). “We” nonetheless called on Kenyans to accept the “results”. While we withdrew our congratulations to Kibaki and later asserted that we did not know who won, we were not willing to be publicly honest about what “we” had seen at the ECK as well as what else we did know.
To help pressure for a settlement, we eventually issued “visa ban” letters to three members of the Electoral Commission on the basis of evidence of bribery–but we never revealed this fact or the evidence–it only came to light through stolen cables published in the Daily Nation years later.
We rejected accountability for election theft–thus supporting impunity in this regard. We supported, in concept, justice for the the post-election killings and mayhem. We had a hybrid position; let’s call it “limited, modified impunity”. Of course, the reality is that our supposed solution of “local tribunals” in Kenya for the post-election violence was always a complete pipe dream under the “power sharing” government we helped broker because that government was never going to implement any such thing.
Thus the role of the International Criminal Court as a last resort due to the initiative of the commission led by Justice Waki to provide the names to the ICC as a fallback. We should pat ourselves on the back, I suppose, for helping to pay for the commission at least. Likewise, we have over the subsequent years now declined to go along with the aggressive activities of the Government of Kenya in requesting action from the UN Security Council to squelch the ICC’s prosecution, so we have at least refused to stand in the way of the ICC. At the same time, we haven’t seemed to accomplish anything very noticeable on the protection of witnesses and the other core issues that enshrine impunity in Kenya.
Now, just like in 2007, we have helped pay for another flawed election, this time one which has ended up with a victory for the ticket of “Uhuruto” composed of the two leading politicians charged by the ICC for allegedly having key responsibility for the instrumental political killings of 2008. While it appears plausibly that Uhuruto on March 4 had a higher percentage of support than did Kibaki in 2007, it is also clear that there were substantial irregularities in the handling of the election, over a period of many months, by the “new and improved” IEBC–which was in fact caught even within the Kenya government itself, engaging in unlawful procurement corruption in regard to key technology–technology which was supposed to provide safeguards against the shambolic 2007 tallying process, but failed to be deployed or work.
So after an extraordinary sum of perhaps $240M was spent on an election with only somewhere around 14M registered voters (not sure exactly how many since the register was a series of 33,400 separate paper print outs which were reported by the IEBC to be unavailable for review in the Supreme Court)–we ended up with the same manual count fiasco as in 2007. More system purchases were more opportunities to “eat”, not more reliability.
The IEBC was perceived as being corrupted on both sides instead of stacked completely only on one side like the ECK last time–but there was no one individual trusted like Kivuitu to let everyone down this time. In one respect that helped diffuse the prospect of violence because the voters this time were much more subdued and had lower expectations–and knew what could happen. And there were some other things different this time based on lower expectations from the “international community”–the observer groups spoke out early to bless the IEBC before it was anywhere close to completing its tally and gave it some cover for whatever it would chose to do. Last time, only IRI really did that–and it was rightly criticized for doing so as the count became problematic. This time, private conversation before the election about what to say hearkened back to what observers had said in the first full blown observations of Kenya’s first multi-party elections in 1992 under Moi–the terminology “reflects the will of the Kenyan people” as a way to say the process run by the Government of Kenya could not stand scrutiny but the official candidate had a plurality anyway. The difference being that this time Kenyans had passed a new Constitution that was supposed to end the old first-past-the-post system in favor of a runoff-to-majority that meant that the opposition did not have to unite behind one candidate ahead of time to have any chance against a minority candidate supported by the State.
The U.S. knew, and Kibaki and his supporters, including Uhuru Kenyatta, knew that in 2007 we gave the Government of Kenya a pass on election rigging. This time we didn’t step in and blow the whistle on procurement corruption or otherwise as the process moved towards its unsuccessful conclusion–and we gave the powers that be in Kenya no real reason so far as I know to believe that we had really changed the terms of the deal from 2007.
Now we have another incoherent vote count, but everyone is relieved that major violence did not erupt. The new Electoral Commission argued to the Supreme Court that the Court could not set aside the IEBC’s pronounced premature results on the basis of the irregularities that had been revealed so far, or the known uncertainties, because to do so would create a constitutional crisis–the only way to have another election would be to use the same flawed register and the same flawed Electoral Commission itself. In other words, the Court did not, according to the IEBC, really have the power to challenge its work and its decision which was now fait accompli. The Court announced its ruling–at the last allowable moment (a few hours later than the two weeks permitted if it were as strict with itself as it was with those before it)–yet could not muster any explanation or reasoning whatsoever. It declared itself to have the power, and to be exercising it, to ratify the IEBC’s result, but either couldn’t agree on why or was not comfortable saying until a future date–after the swearing in.
The bottom line here is that the United States has been helping to underwrite failure in Kenya for too long. We got taken for a ride–again. We ought to have more self respect.
The British government has groveled to “get right” with an incoming Uhuruto administration, but we simply do not need to do so.
We provide a disproportionate amount of aid to Kenya–officially roughly a Billion U.S. Dollars each year–unofficiallly I am sure there is more; not to mention extensive private aid that also helps alleviate the suffering of Kenyans left adrift by the corruption and bad priorities of their governments. As far as I can see, we spend a lot of money in Kenya for sentimental rather than legitimate programmatic reasons. And the restaurants and resorts are more upscale and Kenya is more oriented for tourism accompanying official travel and postings. But a lot of the tourist infrastructure is owned by the Kenyatta and Moi families themselves. We ought to grow up and take our responsibilities more seriously.
What has all this spending been adding up to aside from bad elections? Kenya’s Human Development Index score for 2000 was .513 for a “Medium Human Development” ranking of 134th among the scored countries. The 2012 score was .519, for a rank of 145th. Among the 45 “Low Human Development” countries Kenya stands out, along with Zimbabwe for having by far the highest “Mean Years of Schooling”. Yes, from 2000 to 2012 Kenya’s GDP per capita increased by roughly fifty percent–it just didn’t result in much relative overall human development progress for the country as a whole.
The Cold War has been over for almost 25 years. What we have been doing has not been working very well and we can do better.
- Initial thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court ruling (africommons.com)
- Kenya needs a better election review process next time . . . as respondents argue that IEBC has done “so much” that presidential election announcement should stand as good enough (africommons.com)
- Was Kenya’s “Election Observation Group” or ELOG intended to be truly independent of IEBC? Or was it to “build confidence”? (africommons.com)
- What does Kenya’s High Court ruling on the civil society challenge to Uhuru and Ruto eligibility for election say about the state of Kenya’s judiciary? (africommons.com)
“Developing Djibouti: An American Imperative” by Saleem Ali of the University of Queensland at NationalGeographic.com:
A nominal democracy, the country has been relatively peaceful yet still desperately poor. I had an opportunity to visit Djibouti recently after a visit to Ethiopia for the United Nations African Development Forum. My curiosity to visit this country was sparked by an article I had read in The Washington Post regarding the expansion of US military presence in the region. Landing at Djibouti International airport, one is alarmed to find one side of the air strip almost completely populated by US Airforce presence. The country is also among the few places in the world where drone aircraft can be seen on a civilian air strip, often overwhelming civilian traffic. The presence of these prized new airforce stealth weapons in Djibouti comes from its proximity to the Arabian state of Yemen which has become an increasingly significant hotbed for Al-Qaeda.
Talking to locals, there was little resentment towards American presence but also not much to show for their positive impact on the country. Occasionally one would hear stories of US soldiers volunteering for community service or building some unusual desert residence for local villagers, but the overall development impact of US presence here of over 3000 personnel has been minimal. Unemployment is still over 40% and much of the money that comes in from foreign investment is funnelled back to the foreign-owned businesses in the city. The US government pays only $38 million per year to lease the airfield for the drone operations and the African command base here which is under further expansion.
The lack of US investment in Djibouti is a tremendous missed opportunity to develop a country which could be a low-hanging fruit for citizen diplomacy with the Muslim world. With only 900,000 people and a relatively small land-base and a highly urbanized population, developing Djibouti with aid investment would be very easy to do. . . .
While “easy” may be an exaggeration, I agree with Ali’s point that Djibouti is a place where the United States ought to be committed to “showing our stuff” in terms of development capability. And of course, as I have written before, a key place where delivering on democracy assistance in advance of, rather than behind, a crisis, ought to be feasible.
h/t John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review
- Rescue of kidnapped aid workers highlights Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (africommons.com)
- What about democracy in Djibouti? (africommons.com)
- Happy Djibouti Day, but don’t forget about democracy and free speech (africommons.com)
- Djibouti suspends USAID-funded election observation (with updates) (africommons.com)
- Russia to send anti-piracy planes to Djibouti (vanguardngr.com)
An important new piece from Foreign Policy by Rosa Brooks, a former Obama Administration defense official. She aggressively defends the concept of the military taking on the civil development and assistance roles as a practical approach to U.S. international security given domestic political constraints and the actual challenges faced. Nonetheless, she concludes that AFRICOM to date is experiencing “the worst of both worlds”:
These problems are not unique to Africom. As other combatant commands have similarly expanded their activities into traditionally civilian domains, they have struggled with similar problems and criticism.
In a sense, we currently inhabit the worst of all possible worlds: The military is increasingly taking on traditionally civilian jobs but doing them clumsily and often halfheartedly, without investing fully in developing the skills necessary for success. Meanwhile, civilian agencies mostly just grumble from the sidelines, waiting for that happy day when Congress gets serious about rebuilding civilian capacity. (I think Samuel Beckett wrote a play about that.) And few people, inside or outside the Pentagon, are taking seriously the need to think in new ways about what “whole-of-government” or a holistic approach to security might truly mean.
The blurring of civilian and military roles is inevitable, but the failure to grapple effectively with this blurring of roles is not. To address threats (and seize opportunities) in this globalized, blurry, chaotic world, we will need to develop new competencies, flexible new structures, and creative new accountability mechanisms. Most critically, we’ll need to let go of our comfortable old assumptions about roles and missions.
Well worthwhile to read the whole piece. I’ll have some comments in the near future.
- America’s Shadow Wars in Africa (fabiusmaximus.com)
- Africom Forms Military Relationship With Libya (defense.gov)
- Signs of Military Professionalism, Cooperation On Rise in Africa (defense.gov)
- Nick Turse: Obama’s Scramble for Africa (guernicamag.com)
This week we learned more ugly truth about child rape in the Penn State University football program and “grand corruption” in FIFA world football.
Sobering stuff. Obviously we in the “developed West” suffer from the types of grave flaws of character that we campaign against in the rest of the world–the same individual venality and the temptations of “groupthink” and misplaced or pretend loyalties to excuse action.
In the United States there is some broad consensus that the we aspire to some type of moral, as well as economic, leadership in the world. We don’t always agree on what all the details of that morality should be, but we do step up to the “bully pulpit” from left, right and center, from one U.S.administration and Congress to the next. Not to suggest that we shouldn’t do this, but if we want to lead we ought to conform our behavior to our professed values.
We talk a bit about the issue of how to connect our military–obviously one primary point of contact with other cultures and countries–with the rest of our society. I haven’t noticed much discussion about how to do this in the diplomatic area. Sometimes I have wondered if we ought to require our foreign service to do rotations in the United States (outside Washington) to keep them in current touch with how “the American way” is functioning in our own society.
From my “AfriCommons” perspective, it seems that we Americans are blessed to have inherited an exceptional system of governance that has served us well, but we chose whether to live up to it as we go and are not inherently more deserving than others. Lets step back to look at ourselves on the Penn State situation — we are talking about a program for “sports” at a “public” institution of higher education. You know, team sports where we teach our “young people” character and competitive virtue. As part of our world’s finest system of universities. Surely we would be appalled by something so twisted at the University of Nairobi or Makerere. As well we should be.
We just need to remember that we don’t really want everyone else in the world to be TOO much like us; and we certainly do not want to be party to any suggestion that prosperity is a substitute for well functioning institutions in any society.