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

Westlands Primary-Line to Vote X

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reuters: IEBC touts ICT solutions for Kenya vote tally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(h/t Texas in Africa)

“What are your views on corruption?”

[From “Envoy Predicts Free and Fair Election”, The Standard, December 18, 2007–an interview with U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger nine days before the Kenyan election]

Q: What are your views on corruption?

A: Lots of people look at Kenya and say lots of big cases have not been resolved because of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg. I always point out that we have lots of corruption even in the US. These cases take a lot of time to bring to justice. We had the famous Enron case. It took over four years to resolve in a system that works efficiently, yet only a couple of people were convicted. These things take a long time.

There has been substantial effort to fight corruption in Kenya and the award the country won for Civil Service reform [from the World Bank] is a pointer to that effect. The fact that the Civil Service is more professional than ever before is progress as are the new procurement laws recently put in place and the freedom of the Press to investigate and expose corruption. More, of course, needs to be done.

The economy has grown by 7 per cent. How much of that has actually trickled down to the people will again be determined by time.

A career diplomat, Ranneberger has been in Kenya for close to one-and-a-half years, and has served in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

This was a full page “exclusive” feature interview in The Standard nine days before the 2007 Kenyan election. “Envoy predicts free and fair election”, December 18, 2007.

During previous days The Standard had been running new revelations about corruption in the Kibaki administration from documents from exiled former Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission chairman John Githongo. Rumor had it that Githongo wanted to be able to return to Kenya and might want to be able to return to government after the election, although I had no knowledge one way or the other about whether that was true. Githongo’s personal adventure trying to address corruption in the Kibaki administration is the subject of Michela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat. Wrong rightly noted in her book that stealing the election was the ultimate corruption.

Ranneberger has somewhat reinvented his public persona in Kenya the last couple of years, in that he now openly criticizes and challenges Kenyan politicians and is outspoken against corruption. Readers of this blog will know that I agree with him, now, on corruption and that corruption is nothing new. I wish him “happy trails” as he completes his tenure in Nairobi and moves on.

“Electoral Fraud and the Erosion of Democratic Gains in Kenya” — James Long of UCSD Center for Study of African Political Economy presents new draft paper on Kenyan election

James Long with whom I worked on the USAID/IRI/UCSD/Strategic exit poll has more detailed study of fraud in the 2007 Kenya elections along with further discussion of the exit poll and its handling.

Read Long’s working paper as presented May 1 to the Working Group in African Political Economy meeting at Pomona College.