East Africa is the pits for press freedom, but congratulations to Namibia, Ghana and South Africa for outranking France, the U.K. and the U.S. in the World Press Freedom index

Here is the new 2019 World Press Freedom index from RSF, with the United States down to No. 48 (!) and France and the U.K. at 32 and 33 respectively. Namibia at 23, Ghana at 27 and South Africa at 31 lead SubSaharan Africa. Burkina Faso at 36 and Botswana at 44 also outrank the United States.

Thus, five African nations are ranked above the United States for press freedom this year according to Reporters Without Borders. The United States continues to rank above all of the East African nations.

Here are the East African Community member rankings:

Kenya 100

Tanzania 118

Uganda 125

South Sudan 139

Rwanda 155

Burundi 159

Elsewhere in the East and Horn Region: Ethiopia 110; Somalia 164; Djibouti 173; Sudan 175.

And other “development partners”: Norway 1; Germany 13; Japan 67; UAE 133; Russia 149; Egypt 163; Iran 170; Saudi Arabia 172; North Korea 179

As we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an ungoverned preacher, Paul Kagame moves to govern Rwanda’s churches

A regulated church modulated by a political military autocrat — or even a majoritarian elective republic — would not have allowed a prophetic, challenging voice like that of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to be heard.

It was hard enough in the relative free-for-all of American Protestantism of the 1950s and ’60s. This is addressed in King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which has had renewed attention in light of the anniversary of his assassination and a new spirit of contention and race-baiting in post-2008 American politics.

I rediscovered the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as an adult in the early years of this century, before Obama or Trump or my connection to Kenya, and was inspired to use it as the basis for a Sunday School lesson in my defacto nearly all white Mississippi church knowing that it would still challenge all of us as it still will today.

Today’s AP story: “Rwanda closes thousands of churches in bid for more control” (h/t @Smith_JeffreyT). Read and make up your own mind as to Kagame’s objectives.

Aside from his own record as an RPF military leader in the early 1990s and what I see as the ruthlessness expansiveness of his continued consolidation of power over Rwandans, I am concerned that Kagame represents a dangerous force more broadly in East Africa and beyond because of the notion of outsiders with extraneous interests aligning with him to use his rule as a model — or excuse — for things that are flatly against our values. Like a surrender of religious liberty to the State, as one example.

[See yesterday’s CBC story about Canadian journalist Judi Rever’s new book In Praise of Blood which is being seen by many as offering revelatory revision on Kagame’s record during the genocide. I am adding it to my reading list recognizing that I have no independent background or insight on events then in Rwanda but perhaps some in how East African history is shaped and used in the West. Helen C. Epstein’s Another Fine Mess; America, Uganda and the War on Terrorwhich I intend to review– offers insight into Kagame’s background and role as a Ugandan soldier/insurgent under Museveni.]

Update April 7: Statement from Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan – “Commemoration of the 24th Anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda“:

We stand today with the people of Rwanda in commemorating the 1994 genocide during which more than 800,000 men, women, and children were brutally murdered. On this solemn occasion, we remember those who lost their lives and honor the courage of those who risked their lives to save others.

The United States values its strong partnership with Rwanda, and we are inspired by the remarkable progress that Rwanda has made in rebuilding since 1994. We are proud to support Rwanda as it continues to fight impunity for atrocities, lift millions of its people out of poverty, and build a peaceful and prosperous future for its citizens.

We also honor the contributions of Rwandans such as Godelieve Mukasarasi, recipient of the Department’s 2018 International Woman of Courage Award, who have dedicated their lives to fighting for a culture of peace and non-violence in Rwanda. We are inspired by their bravery and dedication to justice and reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Uganda is reported “sliding into crisis”

With attention focused on Mugabe’s capitulation to the military and his erstwhile ZANU-PF cronies in Zimbabwe, and the accompanying exuberant popular optimism, the Crisis Group released its latest report of 30+ pages on Uganda as Museveni moves to clarify his status as supra-party, supra-legal supremo.

Here is the link to download: “Uganda’s Slow Slide Into Crisis“:

Crisis Group: Principal Findings

What’s the issue? Popular discontent is growing over President Museveni’s apparent desire to remain in power while governance, economic performance and security deteriorate.

Why does it matter? Uganda is not in danger of renewed civil war or rebel violence, but it risks sliding into a political crisis that could eventually threaten the country’s hard-won stability.

What should be done? The government should hold a national dialogue over presidential succession, enact reforms to the partisan police force, stop post- poning local elections and initiate broad consultations on land reform. Donors should encourage these efforts, while avoiding projects that help perpetuate political patronage.

Museveni has continued to have amazing grace from the United States which has taken a position of official neutrality as he has sought to strong arm his way to another constitutional change to eliminate the 75 year presidential age limit for the presidency.

As AMISOM has indicated its first troop drawdown of 1,000, and more U.S. forces deploy to assist the Somali National Army, Museveni volunteered another 5,000 Ugandans for the Somalia-building endeavor during President Trump’s “Nambia lunch” with African leaders in New York in September. No indication that we want to take him up on the offer, but we seem to continue to hold a stream of various defense-funded public events in Uganda and otherwise seem to desire to telegraph “strategic patience”, “immoral indulgence”, “complacent complicity” or whatever it is that best characterizes our multigenerational intertwining with the M7 regime.

Always “steady progress” – COMESA “elders” to observe COMESA member elections in Kenya and Rwanda

From a COMESA Press Release yesterday:

COMESA believes that elections play a pivotal role in societal transformation in the region and provide a footstall for entrenching democratic principles.

Premised on this critical role, Member States have continued holding periodic elections which have heralded a new dawn by signifying steady progress towards deepening and institutionalizing democracy in the 19-member bloc.

Nonetheless, COMESA is still dispatching teams of Election Observers to issue Preliminary Statements just after the upcoming elections in Rwanda on August 4 and Kenya on August 8, with further reports after 90 days.

Zimbabwean Ambassador Dr. Simbi Mubako will lead the team for Kenya to arrive 30 July.

Think I am too jaded?  Enjoy this:

The presidential elections in Rwanda follows the 2015 referendum that unanimously approved a constitutional amendment that allowed President Kagame to run for office in 2017.  The forthcoming elections are considered important in Rwanda’s socio-economic and political progress.

In the past years, Rwanda has made significant progress in consolidating its political stability, economic growth and development.  Furthermore, Rwanda has recorded major milestones in consolidating democracy through holding periodic parliamentary and presidential elections as stipulated in its legal framework.

Since 2008, COMESA has continued to support the elections process in Rwanda.  COMESA observed the parliamentary that were held in 2008, 2013 and the presidential elections held in 2010.

I am all for extra diplomats and elders from the region being in Kenya for the election to meet diplomatic needs that may arise.  But let’s not confuse this type of “intramembership” diplomatic obsevation with an independent election observation. 

[See U.S. and IGAD Statements on Djibouti election from last year, featuring Kenya’s Issack Hassan for IGAD]

“Look, no hands” — Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Uganda declines to offer support for electoral reforms (updated)

In an interview in today’s edition of Uganda’s state owned New Vision, retiring U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi addressed the current Ugandan campaign for the 2016 elections. In response to a question about civil society concerns about narrowing of the democratic space in Uganda, DeLisi declined to weigh in and went so far as to volunteer a position on behalf of the United States that he would leave the issue of electoral reforms for Ugandans to “discuss among themselves”.  Translated from diplospeak, discussion among Ugandans here means that prospective voters can mutter, murmur or swear and Museveni can decide as he will without consequence.

In his most recent re-election in 2011, Museveni stiffed the United States by keeping control of the appointment of Uganda’s electoral commission. See “High level U.S. delegation carries requests to Museveni on fair elections and Iran sanctions” and “Plenty of reason to be concerned about Uganda election” along with linked related posts. This time, the Obama Administration, fresh off dancing with Kenyatta literally and with Hailemariam figuratively, seems to have given up on any aspiration for pro-reform influence well in advance.

From the interview:

You have always asserted that the US mission will not get entangled in local politics. But as an ambassador, what advice would you give to players in the impending elections?

We never said we will not get involved in politics. Just as citizens of this country, we have invested in this country. Do we want this country to be a success with a strong and vibrant democracy? Yes.
If caring about this means getting involved in politics, then we will do. As for which candidate or party to support, that is for people of Uganda to decide.

We talk to leaders of all political parties – NRM, FDC, DP, UPC. Name them, we talk to them. We tell them that there should be a constructive electoral process in which people’s views are respected, where people engage each other respectively, where there is no room for violence.

So that, at the end of the day, no matter who wins the election, it is a credible result that services Uganda well and gives the new leader legitimacy to lead the country effectively and deal with the challenges that will emerge.

Do you share concerns by civil society that political space in Uganda is narrowing?

I don’t know whether it is narrowing down but I perfectly appreciate the challenges of civil society. But this is a constant dialogue we are always having with the Government to ensure that there is room for meaningful dialogue and engagement.

There is the NGO Bill currently before Parliament and during consultations; we have seen the NGO community, civil society engage with MPs in a robust dialogue that has brought significant changes to this piece of legislation. I don’t know what the final law will look like.

I know civil society would have liked to see the issue of electoral reforms addressed fully, but I leave that to Ugandans to debate among themselves about the need to strengthen the democratic process. We have seen in US that even after 250 years, we are still working to improve our democracy.

Update: To understand the context and significance of the Museveni government’s continued stonewalling, see today’s Daily Monitor: The Unresolved Question of  Electoral Reforms, What it Means for 2016.

How will the Iran nuclear deal play out in East Africa?

I wish I had a clear sense of how this might develop but I don’t.  It seems to me that there may be several areas of impact over the next few years:

+Diplomatic leverage of Museveni, Kenyatta, Kigame et al vis-a-vis the United States will be reduced as one of the main US “asks”–UN votes to maintain nuclear-related sanctions against Iran–drops away.

+While I do not foresee the current US administration raising expectations for other US priorities from these East African leaders, the next US administration might feel some greater freedom to address “the democratic recession,” declining press freedom, and other issues on the formal US policy list.

+Oil prices:  if a lot more Iranian oil gets to market both in the near term from the immediate impact of lifting sanctions and the longer term from the increase in capacity associated with ramped up foreign investment, the prospects for oil production in Uganda and Kenya will be impacted, especially as related to the 2021-22 election cycle.

+Iran will reassume a stronger role in trade and finance in the region and thus compete more strongly with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

+Iran will presumably increase its regional naval presence.

+The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya and subsequent sad state of affairs in that country reduced one major “petrocash” player in East African politics; an Iran less cash-strapped by UN sanctions might have aspirations to finance East African politicians aside from its espionage/security/terrorism enagement.

New Developments on Iran’s Geopolitcal Efforts in Africa–another challenge for democracy?

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

High Level  U.S. Delegation Carries Requests to Museveni on Fair Elections and Iran Sanctions

The U.S. “official” infatuation with Kenya, in numbers

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.

At play Monkeys at play on UN vehicle

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)

Jamhuri Day, Christmas and the Year Ahead

Happy Jamhuri Day to my friends and readers in Kenya (and Kenyans in the diaspora–even if you don’t get to vote this time!).

FRESH TEA
Fresh Tea

It has been a week since my last post, even though so much is happening on a day to day basis with the Kenyan election and lots of other news in the region–this reflects a few different things.  For one, perhaps what we could call a “Christmas armistice”.  I live in a peaceful place, and I am enjoying the “festive season” here with my family and am committed to a less digital Christmas.  We’ve survived another election here in the States (in spite of ourselves) and there are a several weeks left in the campaign in Kenya and this is a good time to step back a bit.  In particular, for my family, this is the last Christmas before my daughter goes off to college.  I took my son, our youngest, to get his driver’s license yesterday.  These are the things that can’t wait (and that are uniquely my responsibility).

For another, I have been at this blog steadily for three years.  It’s been through various evolutions and trends and this is an appropriate time for reflective recalibration about what I want it to be going forward.  And in the meantime, there are 601 posts out there for those interested.  And too many of those are just “news” and not real writing, and I do know that I want to get back to “better” rather than “more”.

A third is that I have both new freedom, and new constraints that I need to adjust to.  When I started this blog, and for the first two-and-a-half years, I was a lawyer in the defense industry.  For this reason, I always needed to keep a strong separation between my blog and my professional life.  When I attended the African Studies Association or participated in a “bloggers’ roundtable” at the Millennium Challenge Corporation I was on vacation from my job and generally didn’t talk about it much (both awkward and expensive).  When I was living in Kenya and working for the International Republican Institute I kept entirely away from the job from which I was on leave back home.  Now that I am an independent lawyer, I can synthesize what I know from my prior legal experience and otherwise what I do for a living with the blog to whatever extent I chose, so this is easier.  At the same time, I am also now available professionally as a consultant in matters involving East Africa and have accepted some work, so I need to avoid any conflicts arising out the transition from being purely an avocational commentator.

One thing I have reflected on this past week is the issue of how much is similar and how much is dissimilar between the 2007 campaign in Kenya and the 20012/13 campaign.  All of the major players are the same, although Kibaki will be transitioning from President to “retired President” as Moi is called, and is thus not a candidate himself.  I did get somewhat acquainted at that time and in that environment with Raila and Kalonzo and Mudavadi, and did meet Ruto although never sat down with him.  Uhuru and Dr. Willy Mutunga, who was then at the Ford Foundation and is now Chief Justice, were the only people that ever turned down a meeting request on my behalf when I was IRI Director (a nice symmetry in terms of KANU/Establishment versus Civil Society/Activist roles) so I do have some real sense of many of those involved.  On the other hand, a lot has changed in Kenya, for better and worse, since 2007/08.  So although I know much, much more about Kenya from what I have done from here since I moved back, I don’t want to fall into the trap of relying too much on past experience.

One thing this adds up to is that I do want to write more about “democracy promotion” or “assistance” as a subspecies of “foreign aid” in Africa beyond just the current and most recent past campaign in Kenya.  I also want to do more with East Africa as a region in interacting with the United States–I drafted a “year in review” summary regarding IGAD for a bar committee I am participating in which reminded me of interesting things to explore about how domestic politics in Kenya and in the U.S. will influence cooperation and integration among the East African and HOA states. And then there is Somaliland, which is near and dear to my heart, but I am very cautious in writing about.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few links:

“Uhuru Kenyatta did NOT donate 85 million to Mitt Romney’s campaign” says The Kenyan Daily Post.

Alex Thurston in the Sahel Blog: “Amb. Susan Rice as a Window into U.S. Africa Policy, 1993-Present”

Whither Somalia”–Mary Harper, Bronwen Bruton at USIP

Western storytelling, the East African “middle class” and how to account for “politics”

Here we have an interesting paradigmatic story from Der Spiegel, translated from German for their English version, “Up and Coming in Kampala; Africa’s Growing Middle Class Drives Development” by Horand Knaup and Jan Puhl:

Three good anecdotal stories here of successful start-up African businesses generating local jobs and wealth through import substitution with domestic production. They help to grow a domestic consumer market and ultimately look to export as well. One of the two in Uganda got significant assistance from the national government and the Kenyan business got financing from a German international development arm.

She earned her starting capital by importing clothes from the West, but then she began designing her own collections, and soon “Sylvia Owori” was the most popular label among women in East Africa.

Owori has her collection produced by seamstresses in villages. She has trained 200 women and sponsors the purchase of their sewing machines. “When I receive a big order, I can deliver quickly and flexibly,” she says. On the other hand, she says, the women can stand on their own feet when she doesn’t happen to have any work for them.

Her latest creation is a denim laptop bag shaped like the map of Africa. “This bag was once a pair of jeans,” she says. “You threw it into a container for old clothing and sent it to Africa. We made something new out of it and will sell it back to you.” Swedish fashion giant H&M is interested in the bag, and two other Western fashion chains have asked Owori to meet with them in London.

It’s a question of finding new ways to stimulate economic growth. The corrupt oligarchies in many African countries have made money from the export of commodities, but only a fraction of the population has benefited from the proceeds. The growth being generated by Africa’s middle class is more sustainable, say development experts. Much of it is based on the processing of African fabrics, wood and fruits, and it creates jobs.

Good examples of what is going right and working, from two of Africa’s 50+ plus countries. Well done as such.

“She is the epitome of a success story. And success stories are no longer a rarity in Africa, despite its reputation as a continent of poverty and suffering.” Right and important.

But then we get into the broad assertions and big selective extrapolations. “This growth is producing a middle class that’s growing from year to year. According to the African Development Bank, this middle class already includes 313 million people, or 34 percent of the total population.” To say that “this middle class” includes roughly a third of the population of the entire continent is to me quite misleading in the context of this story,

Continue reading

Gration resigns–to leave Embassy late July

U.S. Ambassador Scott Gration released a statement to the media in Kenya this morning stating that he had resigned, effective late July, citing differences with Washington over “my leadership style and certain other priorities.”

See the Standard here.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said: “the resignation of Ambassador Gration is good news for Kenyan-US relations particularly in terms of the reform agenda. He has been too sympathetic to the lords of impunity.”