Biding time on democracy in Kenya and Uganda

 

Kenya election 2007 banner for Kibaki Nakuru
Ugandan MP and presidential candidate Bobi Wine will speak at the McCain Institute’s virtual 2021 Sedona Forum. The State Department has issued a statement criticizing the January Ugandan election and announcing that it is issuing visa restrictions on unnamed Ugandan officials responsible for undermining the democratic process

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Three years after the resignations of a majority of Kenya’s election commissioners, President Uhuru Kenyatta has formally taken notice of the four vacancies and gazetted the process through which he will appoint replacements.

Why now? While the President has not explained specifically to my knowledge, his ruling Jubilee Party is seeking to have the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission conduct a constitutional referendum within weeks to approve amendments derived from the “Building Bridges Initiative”. (A version of a proposal to amend the constitution was passed by most of Kenya’s county assemblies positioned as a citizen initiative. It is now before Parliament where there is internal debate among proponents as to whether to approve it for referendum as is, or to allow amendments to what has already been passed by the counties, which would raise additional legal questions. Challenges to the legality of the process to date are pending in the courts already.)

Although Kenya’s courts have allowed the IEBC to continue to conduct by-elections and all its other business with only three of seven commission seats filled since the most recent resignations in April 2018 there seems to be an expectation that appointing new commissioners is desirable ahead of the referendum and the general election approaching in August 2022. Legislation signed into law last year changes the appointment powers for choosing the committee that will interview applicants for the IEBC slots and winnow choices for the President. Four of the seven screening committee members will now named by the Parliamentary Service Commission, tipping the balance in favor of the current office holders.

Remember that U.S. president Joe Biden has “been around”, with far more diplomatic experience than any of his four most recent predecessors in the White House. In 2010 as Vice President he met with Kenyan Speaker Kenneth Marende, along with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, ahead of that year’s constitutional referendum during the period in which Kenya was deciding between justice-oriented remedies and impunity for the 2007-08 Post-Election Violence.

This is what I wrote at the time, “Marende praised by U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights, meeting with Biden; South Mugirango by-election this week”:

Kenyan Speaker of Parliament Kenneth Marende seems to be getting an increased international profile. Navanethem Pillay, UN Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Marende on Monday, expressing concern regarding progress on prosecution of suspects for post election violence. According to the Standard she singled out Marende for praise, “saying he had made immense contribution in stabilising the country through some historic rulings and the manner he handled issues in Parliament”.

U.S. Vice President Biden will call on Marende Tuesday as well, along with his meeting with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga.

Interestingly, Marende says that Parliament “would easily pass” legislation to provide for a “local tribunal” to try election violence cases under Kenyan criminal law “if the ICC acted swiftly by taking away key perpetrators of the violence”.

Biden will leave Thursday morning, the day of the South Mugirango by-election to fill the seat vacated by a successful election petition against Omingo Magara, originally of ODM. As it stands the race is hot, with Raila Odinga campaigning for the substitute ODM nominee, Ibrahim Ochoi, William Ruto campaigning for Magara running as a PDP nominee and heavyweights in PNU affiliates split among Magara and other candidates.

 

Updated: Once more, with feeling: Museveni’s election commission has scheduled his latest re-election for Thursday

Contrary to what one would expect for a fair competition for elective office, Museveni appoints his own seven member election commission (with confirmation by the Parliament controlled by his NRM).

But international observers can surely be counted on to blow the whistle on any “funny business” as Kenyan Senator Amos Wako, Attorney General from 1991 to 2011, is co-chair of the Commonwealth observation delegation, with Nigeria’s former president Obasanjo.  Wako is especially known for observing Kenya’s Goldenburg and Anglo Leasing scandals as Attorney General.

Last time, in 2011, the United States made some public effort at least to press Museveni to allow an independent election commission.  Museveni called our bluff and said no, so we did not say much this time.

Here is the latest release today from CEON-U, or the Citizen Election Observers Network working with NDI funding.

Here is a link to the longstanding CCEDU or the Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda.

Update 2-17 – Rosebell’s Blog gives a good overview of tense atmosphere during the last weeks of the campaign: “Worrying war rhetoric ahead of Feb. 18 Uganda vote”.

And Jeffrey Gettleman’s analysis piece for today’s New York Times: “Uganda, Firmly Under One Man’s Rule, Dusts Off Trappings of an Election.”

And, from Andrew Green in Foreign Policy: “A real debate before Uganda’s fake election.”

The Dar Side? Yet another President’s Electoral Commission

With elections in Tanzania set for October 31, the East African today reported “Fear, anxiety build up ahead of Tanzania’s election showdown Sunday”.

Most commentators, including Africa Confidential have not gone so far as to suggest that President Kikwete of the Nyerere ruling party CCM faced any real likelihood of defeat, but the East African asserts that an opposition surge has resulted in a serious two man race:

An opinion poll by non-government organisation Tanzania Citizens Information Bureau found that if elections were held between September 27 and October 10, Dr Willbrod Slaa, 62, would obtain 45 per cent of the votes cast against Kikwete’s 41 per cent.

Two earlier polls, one by the Synovate group and the other by a University of Dar es Salaam think tank, showed that Kikwete would win with 61 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

Analysts say that in the eyes of the public, CCM has gradually deviated from its founding values — fighting corruption, ensuring less spending on government administration and provision of social services — and that its leadership is firmly in the pockets of the capitalist class.

At the same time, Chadema, a 1992 breakaway from CCM — then led by Edwin Mutei, former governor and finance minister who disagreed with Nyerere, his boss then, on fiscal policy — has been making the fight against corruption the key plank of its electoral platform.

This play of perceptions seems to be earning Dr Slaa political mileage, and troubling Kikwete’s advisers.
. . . .
It appears that Chadema’s choice of presidential candidate was designed to exploit the frictions within CCM and expose the mismatch between its founding principles and the current reality.

Dr Slaa crossed from CCM to Chadema in 1995 after the party did not let him contest a political post for which he had won the primaries. He stood on the Chadema ticket to represent Karato District in parliament and won.

The catholic priest-turned-politician, who has built a reputation of himself as a man who speaks his mind and fearlessly fights corruption, brought his social-democratic values to a Chadema till then known as a centrist outfit.

Dr Slaa has pledged to cut the salary of the president by 20 per cent and those of Members of Parliament by 15 per cent.
. . . .
The opposition has accused the ruling party of using state resources to facilitate its campaign. There are fears of rigging and ultimately violence during and after the election.

The Electoral Commission has said that there are about 19 million registered voters, “However, scientific demographic surveys indicate that there cannot be more than 16 million voters in Tanzania,” said Ismail Jussa, CUF deputy secretary general.

“Electoral corruption has never reached this level: There are politicians out there buying votes, but nothing is being done to curb this,” Mr Jussa added.
. . . .
There are concerns with the electoral legal framework. The Elections Act 1995 provides for a National Electoral Commission to be appointed by the president, which in turn appoints district election officials who happen to be government officials.

A recent amendment provided for the Commission to appoint officials, in the event that district executive directors cannot supervise elections in the areas, but such new appointees are also civil servants. “The Electoral Commission is not independent,” Chadema’s Mnyika told The EastAfrican.

Electoral Commissions appointed unilaterally by a president who is running for re-election are a disaster waiting to happen, as we saw in Kenya in 2007. This situation allowed fraud in Uganda in the last election and theatens it again in February 2011.

Tanzania is a MCC compact country and a U.S. favorite. Kikwete visited Kibaki in Nairobi in early 2008 said to be carrying a message on behalf of the U.S. and helping to persuade Kibaki to agree to negotiated toward a deal to allow a role for ODM along with PNU in a power-sharing for national unity. The Tanzanian election has been low on my radar screen with all of the many problems in the region and certainly State and USAID have more than their hands full of challenges. Let us hope Tanzanian officials rise to the occasion.