“The War for History” part seven: what, specifically, happened with Kenyans’ votes?

I am only aware of one specifically articulated explanation of the “much [that] can happen between the casting of votes and the final tabulation of ballots” as Ambassador Ranneberger described it to Washington on January 2, 2008.  Here it is, from my March 2009 submission to the Inspectors General of the State Department and USAID:

Subsequent to the election, I met privately with a highly placed diplomatic official who told me that the theft of the election by the incumbent administration had been carried out through bribery of Kenyan election officials in the field, in particular the Returning Officers at the constituency level. The source said that these officials received large payments which left them financially secure in return for turning off their cell phones and otherwise making themselves unavailable to allow the vote numbers in the presidential race to be inflated. The source stated that the government he worked for was unable to identify this method of rigging in time to do anything about it because it was carried out “at the last minute”, very shortly before the voting. [Months later a story was published in the Standard regarding the vote fraud which stated that the original plan had been for Kibaki’s re-election to be assured by declaring Langata Constituency for Livondo over Odinga, but that as it became clear that the ODM ticket was carrying large margins from Western and Rift Valley Provinces it was decided that this was not tenable and the approach was switched to inflating the votes from elsewhere.]

This discussion took place in January 2008, during the post election violence, with the exit poll issue “pending”. I found it credible and believed it then, as I do now. Nothing in any of the less fact specific analysis produced by diplomatic or social science sources that I have seen over the years is inconsistent or suggests a contradiction with this information. The Kriegler Commission elected explicitly to stay well away from the type of investigation that would have confronted the Commission with the existence of such facts. I promptly reported the conversation to IRI Washington as I consistently reported such conversations during the election campaign and immediate crisis.

FOIA Update: I timed this series based on information from the USAID FOIA office that I would be getting the complete response to my April 2013 request to them for the documents relating to the exit poll by October 17. They were kind enough to call and let me know that it would be delayed to last week and after checking back they sent me a lengthy heavily lawyered letter and some documents. We have broad areas of disagreement at this point and I have asked them to reconsider their approach in some respects. Pending that, I did finally establish by virtue of the letter from USAID that IRI never filed the final report on the 2005-2007 USAID Kenya polling program, covering the 2005 and 2007 exit polls. Likewise, I have an officially public copy of the IRI January 14, 2008 quarterly report where IRI reported to USAID that the poll had been successfully conducted in spite of the challenges presented.

See Why is IRI’s report on the Kenya 2007 exit poll missing from USAID’s Development Experience Clearinghouse? (FOIA Series Part 13).

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Democracy Reading–Waltzing with a Dictator; history and lessons for today

Raymond Bonner’s Waltzing with a Dictator: the Marcoses and the Making of American Policy (©1987, 1988) is long out of print, but used copies are readily available.

This is well worth a read by those interested in American foreign policy and its relationship with authoritarian governments and democratic transitions anywhere, and in international election observation.  One lesson here for Americans, and for those seeking American support for reform, is to appreciate the power of illicit wealth in the hands of foreign authoritarians to help charm key people in power in both Democratic and Republican administrations in the United States.  Nonetheless, in a pinch in the Philippines, we eventually helped with the restoration of democracy irrespective of Cold War interests that had been previously asserted to justify support for the Marcos dictatorship.

The 1986 election in which Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by Corazon  Aquino was a pioneering effort in international election observation and internationally supported domestic observation to combat state-supported election fraud.  Aquino’s accession to the presidency as summarized in her Wikipedia entry:

A self-proclaimed “plain housewife“,[1] she was married to Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., the staunchest critic of President Marcos. She emerged as leader of the opposition after her husband was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon returning to the Philippines from exile in the United States. In late 1985, Marcos called for snap elections, and Aquino ran for president with former senator Salvador Laurel as her Vice-President. After the elections were held on February 7, 1986, the Batasang Pambansa proclaimed Marcos and his running mate, Arturo Tolentino, as the winners amidst allegations of electoral fraud, with Aquino calling for massive civil disobedience actions. Defections from the Armed Forces and the support of the local Catholic Church led to the People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos and secured Aquino’s accession on February 25, 1986.

Of particular current interest from the Bonner book is the role of Republican Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Richard Lugar of Indiana as election observers who held the line against election fraud and provided key support for “moderates” back in Washington in the Reagan White House against the pro-Marcos “hardliners”.  After seeing blatant election misconduct by the regime, Cochran sent a message by donning his yellow golf pants during the observation–yellow being Aquino’s campaign color.  Lugar was defeated in the 2012 Republican primary by a hardline “tea party” challenger, and Cochran has just been certified as the narrow winner of a primary runoff against a “tea party” challenger in Mississippi.  Within the Carter White House in 1977-81 there was similarly a divide between hawkish pro-Marcos Democrats, people we might think of now as more or less “neocons”, and early human rights advocates.

Why is IRI’s report on the Kenya 2007 Exit Poll missing from the USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse? (FOIA Series Part 13)

This is the latest on my ongoing Freedom of Information Act requests to get the U.S. government records on the USAID programs I supervised for the International Republican Institute as East Africa Director for the 2007 Kenya election.

In mid-2009 I assisted my former colleagues from the University of California, San Diego on the 2007 Kenya exit poll in submitting a FOIA request to USAID for a broad set of basic records under the USAID/IRI polling program, including comparative materials from the prior 2002 and 2005 USAID/IRI exit polls. Unfortunately, it took USAID roughly two years to produce anything, and when they did it was rather aggressively nonresponsive.  They simply sent a copy of the Cooperative Agreement under which the program operated from 2005-2007 (the final agreement started with the exit poll for the 2005 constitutional referendum and went though pre-election polls in the fall of 2007, with an amendment to add the 2007 exit poll at the end) with none of the reports, results, correspondence or anything else at all.  My academic colleagues had expected to get the historical documentation from IRI in consideration of the supplemental funding they povided to IRI for the exit poll, but were left to FOIA when IRI didn’t come through.

Upon returning from the 2013 Kenya election when there was another round of questions on the USAID/NDI/ELOG sample PVT and the communications around it, I submitted a new USAID FOIA of my own to try again for the 2007 exit poll records. This time I have been fortunate enough to have what appears to be active and engaged efforts by the current USAID FOIA office to seek records and keep me up to date on the request.  Unfortunately it has still been another 13 months now of waiting.

A key document that should answer a number of questions is the IRI final report on the 2005-2007 polling program, which was originally due during my tenure at IRI in early 2008. At the time I completed my IRI service to return to my permanent job in the U.S. IRI’s second extension to file the report was winding down. At that point, IRI was faced with a quandary as it had posted on its website on February 7, 2008 a statement that it was not releasing the exit poll results because it had determined that they were “invalid” the evening following a demand by Senator Russ Feingold in a hearing of his Africa subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and the Africa Assistant Administrator for USAID report back to him on why the exit poll had not been released. Previously, however, in January IRI had filed its quarterly performance report with USAID reporting that the poll had been successfully conducted.

According to the requirements of the Cooperative Agreement between USAID and IRI, three copies of the final report were to be submitted by IRI, one to the agreement officer in Washington, one to the Democracy and Governance lead in Kenya, and another to the USAID Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) in Washington. I was able to learn in a conference call with the FOIA office last week that they have been unable to find such a copy on file in Development Experience Clearinghouse. Likewise, the other copy in Washington has not yet turned up, so it is being sought through the mission in Kenya.

Strange.

In the meantime, on the State Department side I have written, again, to the Appeals Officer to request a decision or the status of my April 2013 appeal of the withholding of a document about the USAID exit poll from my 2009 FOIA request on the asserted basis of a “deliberative process” exemption from the FOIA.The documents produced to me under the 2009 request show the Africa Bureau at State mischaracterizing the exit poll in response to media inquiries as a capacity building “exercise” that was never intended to be released. To the contrary, both the USAID contractual documents themselves and the Ambassador’s own released State Department cables from before the election describe the exit poll as a key part of efforts to prevent election fraud and support a democratic process, along with the IRI election observation mission. My appeal argues in a nutshell that there is not a legitimately protected agency deliberative process for the State Department to decide whether or not to be truthful in response to after-the-fact press inquiries about a USAID program.

Kenya’s IEBC dangles “kitu kidogo” for political parties to avoid publishing election results

The Star reported this week that the “IEBC wants political parties act amended“. From the headline one would expect to read perhaps an article on some type of reform arising out of the failed primary elections early this year, or the problem with “party hopping” . . .

But of course, it would be silly to think that the IEBC would concern itself with such things to improve accountability in the Kenyan electoral system.

No, the IEBC is faced with a problem. It doesn’t want to publish the election results. For the reason noted in my last post: the numbers of votes for the other offices don’t add up to the numbers of votes for president–according to the anonymous Commissioner quoted in the story, adding a direct confession to the clear circumstantial evidence that we have all seen for many weeks now.

The IEBC is attracting no visible pressure from Washington or London or the other “donors” who helped underwrite the IEBC. Whether this is because, as in 2007-08, the foreign policy mavens think it’s “better not to know” or whether because, as always, the foreign assistance mavens want a “success story” as much as a better democracy in Kenya in the future–or both–I don’t know.

So the immediate rub is the delay in providing public funding to Kenya’s political parties based on the election results. How to relieve pressure from pols who want the tax dollars doled out without publishing the election results that determine how the money is allocated? Change the law of course! So the money can be paid out without disclosing the results! An elegantly Kenyan solution.

Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court opinion [Updated]

UPDATE–April 21: Read Kenyan lawyer Wachira Maina’s devastating critique of the Court’s opinion from the new East African. Or at the AfriCOG website here: “Verdict on Kenya’s presidential election petition: Five reasons the judgement fails the legal test”.

Here is the full Kenyan Supreme Court opinion released this morning. It’s 113 pages, but most all of it is taken up by accounts of some of the arguments presented by the various attorneys.

The Court elected to apply a standard of proof that would require “in the case of data specific electoral requirements” petitioner to prove irregularities “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Overall, the Supreme Court simply deferred to the IEBC to decide how to run the election. The Court justified its constrained rulings on allowing evidence on the basis of strict and very short deadlines which it asserts are justified by the importance of the Presidential election–thus leaving more detailed trials for the more than 180 other challenges filed so far in the Courts below for the other races.

The Court did not give rulings on the admission of evidence such as the videotapes presented by AfriCOG’s counsel of results being announced at the County level that differed substantially from those announced by the IEBC at its national tally centre in Nairobi, or otherwise grapple with any specifics of reported anomalies, including those among the sample of 22 polling stations that were to be re-tallied. Nor did it address the fact that its order to review all 33,000 Forms 34 and the Forms 36 from all constituencies was only slightly over half completed.

The Court declined to impose legal consequences in terms of the announced election outcome from the failure of the IEBC’s technology, but significantly did find that the main cause of the failures of the electronic voter identification system and the electronic results transmission system appeared to be procurement “squabbles” among IEBC members. “It is, indeed, likely, that the acquisition process was marked by competing interests involving impropriety, or even criminality: and we recommend that this matter be entrusted to the relevant State agency, for further investigation and possible prosecution.”

See my previous post asking why we should trust the IEBC in light of the procurement integrity failings.

In closing, I have to note that the Court gave itself an extra two weeks after the deadline for its ruling to make any kind of explanation for that ruling. Then gave itself an additional two days. Similar flexibility in considering the facts of the case itself could have allowed it to do a more credible and substantive job of actually reviewing the election.

At Easter, chicks come home to roost for U.S. for helping to underwrite impunity in Kenya; but “we” do not need Uhuruto

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.

Why would we trust the Kenyan IEBC vote tally when they engaged in fraudulent procurement practices for key technology?

It has been clear for many months that the IEBC’s procurement of BVR kits was irregular.  It is now quite clear that even after Kenyan civil society called the IEBC on the carpet on that problem, the IEBC engaged in clear misconduct in buying the “poll book” system.  When they were caught, the procurement was allowed to go through because of the limited amount of time before the election.  The “poll book” book system largely failed and on election day polling stations used a wholly manual system–a printout on paper.

See the details on the fraudulent bidding here from the today’s Standard: “Minutes reveal how IEBC bought faulty gadgets”:

A review of the tendering procedure by the public procurement regulator found out the tender to supply poll books was awarded to the South African firm, which participated in the Anglo Leasing scandal, on September 29 last year, three weeks before the technical evaluation among the shortlisted bidders.

In other words, the bidding was a sham, because the “winner”, which never could produce a working system, was selected in advance, before the evaluation of which  systems worked–and thus the working systems never had a real rather than a pretend opportunity to be selected over the non-working system.

Getting down into details, the failure of this key procurement left a situation in which much of the presumed value of the Biometric Voter Registration was lost because there was no ability to use any automated voter list at the polls.  The use of the paper print out opens a big window for fraud because one would have to obtain and verify each of the individual print outs from more than 33,000 polling stations to know whether what was used on paper matched up with the central voter registration list in Nairobi (leaving aside the fact that the IEBC never finalized and published a uniform voter registration list as required, which makes the issue doubly important).

I have no way to know whether the IEBC was simply corrupt in its procurement practices resulting unintentionally in the failure of the poll book system, or whether there was some deliberate intent within the IEBC to avoid the application of the electronic system.

Assuming for the sake of argument that no one at the IEBC deliberately wanted to undermine the intended voting systems, it remains quite clear that the IEBC engaged in conduct that clearly violated the public trust in preparing for the election.  So how can we simply trust the same body on the vote tally itself?

Election Observation as “Diplomacy or Assistance” continued–how I spent my pre-election Christmas in Kenya

In my Freedom of Information Act Series I have described how then-Ambassador Ranneberger got his predecessor, Ambassador Mark Bellamy removed from the International Republican Institute’s Election Observation Mission shortly before the last Kenyan election, implying an objection to Bellamy from the Kibaki government. While IRI capitulated in removing Bellamy, I was told to accept “no more b.s.” from Ranneberger in interfering with the IRI Election Observation.  As problems continued to arise, this is a letter I wrote to my USAID officer on December 22, 2007, five days before the voting:

I think that you and I have had a good working relationship over a period of months until just recently, reflecting efforts and intentions on both our parts.  The problem now is that we are in a position of working in part at cross purposes, regardless of how much effort we continue to put into trying to be cooperative.

Previously I thought that you had some real level of agreement with my basic position regarding IRI’s independence, in spite of the contradictory viewpoint of the Ambassador.  At this point, it seems clear that we just do not have a meeting of the minds about this.

As far as IRI is concerned a major line was crossed last week and we expected that there would be as a result of Lorne Craner’s intervention a recognition that IRI’s independence would be respected going forward.  Unfortunately, the only substantive change seems to be that we have one less delegate–one of the best qualified members of the team that we had selected.  And of course people in the State Dept. did know what our own plan was before the Ambassador intervened.  I find the whole situation embarrassing personally.

I have tried to move us to a situation where we agreed to document at least by e-mail the specific things we were doing in terms of direct involvement of the USG with the IRI EO.  I think this is the least we should do and was intended to move us forward in terms of making sure we all understood each other, both personally and contractually.  I am tired of suggestions, directions, demands, “markers”, etc. to do things that people are not comfortable putting in writing.  If it should not be put in writing, maybe it should not be part of how we conduct ourselves here.

There are a variety of basic things that USAID can do that would in fact help IRI do the best it can.  One easy and obvious one would be to add IRI to the distribution list for ECK events, recognizing that the ECK is not at the point of providing IRI with timely notice, or in many cases, any notice, of its activities.  The other would be to provide us security information to assist us in protecting the safety of our teams.  Certainly having ——– come over and brief the teams is a big help.

 As far as I am concerned, if IRI is not substantively independent, rather than just offering an appearance or representation of independence, then all of our work here is at best a waste of time in terms of actually providing assistance to the Kenyan people as per the MOU between USAID and the GOK.  At worst, we could undermine the ability of IRI to accomplish anything substantive in Kenya in the future and taint our election work elsewhere.  IRI adds value if we are independent; we do not add value if we are not independent. (emphasis added)

Please give consideration to this and let me know what you suggest.

At the end of the day IRI’s final report on the Election Observation found strong evidence of fraud, when it was released more than six months later in July, and IRI released the Exit Poll indicating an opposition win one more month later, in August 2008. By that time the election was long over and the President along with his initial appointees stayed in office. The next chance for Kenyans to vote will not be until  March 2013.

Election Observation–Diplomacy or Assistance?

Voter Registration challenges on Kenyan Coast

Nation: Voting problems on Coast. One is potential intimidation tactics discouraging voter registration, with the IEBC finding flyers calling for voters not to register or vote, and reports that youth, possibly associated with the separatist group the Mombasa Republican Council, have been seen copying down names of those registering. The second problem is that some politicians and local officials are reporting that groups of voters are being ferried from their home areas to register in other locations.

Obviously the IEBC will have large challenges. No surprise in that. A big question will be whether the IEBC will be seen as taking some level of decisive action to get in front of these situations, or not. In 2007 election, I was told afterwards that once it became clear that the ECK was both toothless, and not going to be an honest broker, the process degenerated as most of the players expected rigging and acted accordingly.

Expanded: Didn’t we learn from the disaster in 2007? Kenya does not need to be anyone’s “model” anything; it does need truth in its election

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton...

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (center) walks with Kenyan Minister of Agriculture William Ruto (left) and Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai (right) during a tour of the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) near Nairobi, Kenya August 5, 2009. (State Department Photo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One could get a certain sense of deja vu from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in Nairobi this weekend about next year’s Kenya election.  The theme, that Kenya has the opportunity to be a “model” for other countries in Africa in how it conducts it’s election is the same one that Ambassador Ranneberger was expressing for the State Department in the Bush Administration in 2007.

Realistically we all know that the Kenya election will not be a model.   Kenya’s incumbent government took too long to pay off and disband the old ECK after the 2007 debacle (while covering up what actually happened at the ECK).  And too long to pass a new constitution as promised by both sides in the 2007 campaign and to then create the new IEBC and too long to address enabling legislation needed for campaigns, voting and governance under the new system.  It is only the extraordinary situation created by the  extended term of the “Government of National Unity” beyond five years that has allowed the IEBC hope of being prepared for an adequate, as opposed to “model”, election next March.

Most of Kenya’s political class is concerned about winning, not about the conceptual quality of the process (hardly surprising–this is the nature of politics everywhere, and certainly in the United States; the difference in Kenya is the specific track record of most of the individual Kenyan politicians in the history of Kenya as a one-party authoritarian state that tortured its citizens for political reasons and has had major violence in all but one multi-party election since; and the uncertainty involving untested brand new institutions intended to keep the Kenyan executive branch from deciding its own election controversies).  Kenyans in general thirst for a fair election, as they did when they went to the polls in record numbers in 2007.  The problem was the disconnect between going to vote and having your vote counted.

Surely it is a bit patronizing to suggest that the chance to be extolled as a model to say   Zimbabwe or, depending on how the wind blows, Uganda, is a relevant factor to Kenyans, given what they have at stake for themselves, in Kenya.

But if it is meaningless to Kenyans, isn’t the “model” meme harmless?  Not necessarily.

Having lived through the disaster last time, I saw the desire for a “model” election morph into the denial of the hard but obvious reality of failure.   Read Ambassador Ranneberger’s cable to Washington from the day after the 2007 vote, Part Six of my FOIA Series.   We, the United States, through our Ambassador at least, wanted that “model” election badly enough that we were not willing to acknowledge that we didn’t get it until things got completely out of hand AND the EU had spoken out on fraud at the ECK.

Here are key quotes from Ranneberger’s December 28, 2007 cable to Washington:

The electoral process thus far deserves a strong statement of support, and clearly meets a high standard for credible, transparent, free and fair elections.  I made an informal statement last night that was carried extensively on Kenyan television.  It is, however, too early to make definitive pronouncements.  The ECK will likely not announce final results until December 29.  The EU and Kenyan domestic observation missions will make statements on the 29th.  By COB Washington time on the 29th we will send a proposed draft for a statement by Washington.  IRI will make a largely positive statement the afternoon of the 28th. (emphasis added).

.  .  .  .

“Advancing U.S. Interests”

We will keep the Department closely informed as results become clearer.  At this point, there are sound reasons to believe that this election process will be a very positive example for the continent and for the developing world, that it will represent a watershed in the consolidation of Kenyan democracy, and that it will, therefore, significantly advance U.S. interests.  The Kenyan people will view the U.S. as having played an important and neutral role in encouraging a positive election process” [End]

So on December 30, after the ECK named Kibaki as the winner of the election, the State Department issued official congratulations to Kibaki and called for acceptance of the results, as Ranneberger was doing in Kenya.  Ranneberger acknowledged in his own post-action cable of January 2, 2008 that he himself witnessed the failures at the ECK along with the head of the EU Election Observation Mission:

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 . . . . (emphasis added)

Either we wanted a “good” election badly enough to pretend that it had happened when in fact we knew better, or we wanted to support the outcome chosen by the ECK rather than a true count of the votes.  I don’t know yet which it was, but as an American it would be more comforting for me to believe that we were sincere in our pre-election expression of hope for an honest election, even if I knew from my own personal interactions with the Ambassador that he was taking some steps consistent with his more favorable view of Kibaki over Raila, such as his intervention in the pre-election public opinion polling to lower the expectations of the opposition (see his own depiction to Washington on December 14, 2007 in Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 election from the truth trickling out about 2007–new cables from FOIA (Part One)) and the McIntire/Gettleman New York Times story “A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll” and his praise in the Kenyan media of Kibaki’s record on corruption vis-a-vis the John Githongo critique just before the vote.

Secretary of State Clinton and Assistant Secretary Carson appear to be getting a pass on how to handle the next round of Kenyan voting due to the delay of the election into the tenure of the next American administration.  A new Ambassador, reporting to a new Assistant Secretary, reporting to a new Secretary of State, whether appointed by Obama or by Romney, will have this early up on their collective watch.  I hope they will all know as much as possible about exactly what happened last time so as to approach this with realistic sobriety.