We have seen this before, in 2007 and 2013, but here is the best description I have read. A few details are unique but in general terms this is the same scene from a different year.
Courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act request, here is a November 20, 2007 State Department email which is a headquarters “readout” of a video conference held “with Post to discuss the experiences of Post’s first-ever observation of the political primary process in Kenya.”:
The Observation Effort:
*21 teams (total about 60 people) deployed to the field. This is our first time observing the primaries. We expect to deploy about 50 (100+ people) teams to the general elections as part of the larger international observer effort. The EU plans to deploy 150 people.
*These will be Kenya’s 4th multiparty elections but only the second “free and fair”.
*The process was very poorly organized. We would say the the parties embarrassed themselves, except most of the party leaders have no shame and are thus immune from embarrassment. General feeling is that apparent total lack of organization is not an accident, but reflects efforts to rig/manipulate the outcomes.
*There were obvious deals between the incumbents and local party operatives.
*The process was well-run and by the book only in areas where parties had no hope of winning in that area anyway. Where there were real stakes, manipulation was rampant and obvious.
*Ballots were delayed for many hours in many locations; some politicians felt this was intentional and especially disenfranchised women voters, who either couldn’t wait all day or had to go home before dark for safety reasons.
*Hate literature observed to date is overwhelmingly generated by PNU supporters.
*Turnout was surprisingly good. People were very determined to vote. Many waited from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. or later for ballots to arrive. In some cases where ballots were delayed, people agreed amongst themselves to vote on whatever pieces of paper and honored the results.
*Dozens of outgoing MPs (including some we are very happy to see go, i.e. [REDACTED] were eliminated at this stage, which suggests that you can’t always manipulate the results.
*Our sample was biased as we purposely went to areas where trouble was expected and/or stakes were high, so we likely observed a disproportionate amount of rigging, etc.
*With the recent passage of the Political Parties Bill, this is the last time that the party nomination process will be run by the parties themselves. In the future, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) will run it (at least, for all parties who want public money). PNU contracted with the ECK to run their primary this time, but it didn’t happen in practice–party leaders took over and wouldn’t let ECK do its job.
After the Primaries:
*We expect a lot of horse trading. Some winners were DQed on appeal and even without an appeal. There were also many “directed nominations,” which led to the resuscitation and handpicking of many old dinosaurs/unpopular incumbents notwithstanding voter opposition.
*There may be blowback with an impact on turnout for Dec. 27. There were widespread feelings of bitterness and disappointment, especially among ODM supporters, who expected to participate in a “new beginning.” Many people complained that, populist image notwithstanding, ODM is run like a dictatorship and that the way of doing things is no different than KANU used to do in the past. The positive difference is that the electorate is much more vocal and active in demanding transparency and participation in the electoral process. The howls of protest regarding some of the directed nominations show the electorate’s increasing maturity and lack of interest in this kind of politics.
*Many unsuccessful candidates have jumped to smaller/marginal parties. There is a cottage industry of sorts selling nominations.
Possible Impact on Main Parties:
*The disappointment and frustration with the nominating process was greatest among ODM supporters. Will this experience sap the energy of ODM supporters, or can ODM redeem itself? Will people continue to be willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity?
*Fear/stability is a powerful motivating factor in Kibaki’s reelection prospects. The contest between ODM and PNU can be characterized as “hope vs. fear.”
*PNU has much less internal discipline and message consistency. Virtually all PNU parties are fielding their own candidates for Parliamentary seats, so not much of a real coalition.
*Two possible types. One, aspirant (often incumbent) MPs use paid gangsters (and sometimes local police officials) to intimidate or disrupt the polling process (trash polling stations, threaten voters waiting in line and/or election officials). Two, spontaneous voter uprisings, where voters feel they are being disenfranchised and attach the presiding officers. If the ECK runs an efficient process as expected, this should lessen the possibility of voter violence. —–END—–
As I wrote in including this content in my 2012 post titled “Part Eight, new documents from FOIA: Diplomacy versus Assistance Revisited–why observe elections if we don’t tell people what we see?“:
For context, this November 20, 2007 summary of what was observed during the primary elections was roughly a month after the Ambassador’s intervention in the public opinion polling as described in previous documents and a month before the Ambassador’s public statement predicting a “free and fair” election the week before the general election. Nairobi is the State Department’s biggest Sub-Saharan post; it was staffed with smart and observant people and obviously well funded–the problem was not what the State Department did not know, rather it was what it would not say.
From the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening (KEPPS) Program from USAID for the last Kenyan election:
“Considering the role that results transmission played in the 2007 election violence, IFES will build on its recent work with Kenya’s results transmission system to further enhance it and ensure its sustainability. IFES will ensure this system is fully installed, tested and operational for the 2012 election. Furthermore, IFES will fund essential upgrades and adjustments to this results transmission system.”
[p.28 of the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening 2012 Program – Cooperative Agreement between USAID and CEPPS (coalition of NDI, IFES and IRI)]
The Agreement is heavily redacted and divided into four files for length;
Since I have been fussing periodically about how long it has been taking to get any documents released from my October 2015 FOIA request to USAID for documents about our funding for the IEBC in 2013 and related, I need to thank the USAID FOIA Office for getting this initial release out (and hope for the rest to be in time to be usable for process improvement for the impending next election).
As I wrote more than two years ago, as more information was being uncovered in the UK’s prosecution of Smith & Ouzman, Ltd. and its owners for bribing Kenyan election officials for favor on procurements: USAID’s Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers.
Also see: “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court Opinion” from April 2013:
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.”
According to the Independent Review (“Kreigler”) Commission, in 2007 USAID through IFES paid for the purchase of computers for the planned results transmission system for the ECK. Very late before the vote, according to the Commission, the ECK voted to shelve the system and not use it. None of the actors, ECK, IFES, USAID nor the US Ambassador publicly disclosed the “shelving” decision. The Ambassador gave his subsequent pre-election Nairobi interview published as “Ambassador expects free and fair election” nonetheless.
The Kreigler Commission investigating sought the minutes of the ECK’s action; the ECK refused to release the minutes and the Commission went ahead and submitted its report to President Kibaki and disbanded, noting the missing evidence. [Again, I was told by a diplomat involved in January 2008 that key Returning Officers at the last minute were bribed to turn off their cell phones and “go missing” so that vote tallies could then be “marked upwards” to give Kibaki the necessary margin at the national level; likewise, we learned from the Daily Nation that Wikileaks published cables showing that the U.S. issued “visa bans” against three ECK members based on evidence of alleged bribery. The late decision by the ECK to shelve the U.S. purchased computer system would thus have been critical to allowing the bribery scheme to be effectuated. See “The War for History part seven: What specifically happened to Kenyan’s votes?“.]
In 2007 we obviously knew that the system had been shelved and kept quiet about it. In 2013 we let on that we expected the system to work–even was in the process of working–until it was shut down early after the vote. That is hard to understand given that IFES was to “ensure this system was fully installed, tested and operational” and make the necessary purchases. I will hope that the rest of the requested documents will clarify all this and be released as soon as possible to benefit the planning for the upcoming 2017 election.
A Kenya High Court ruling has determined that the presidential election votes–which are counted only at each polling station–are to be treated as final when announced at the initial parliamentary constituency tally centre. This means that any changes to the tally at the national level in Nairobi by the IEBC, the electoral management body, will have to come in the form of a court challenge.
This approach would have prevented the ECK and IEBC from taking the approach of 2007 and 2013, where national results relied on changed and missing vote counts.
The key thing to remember about Kenyan elections is that the votes are all hand marking of paper ballots, which are counted only at each polling station. The results are recorded on Form 34 and–if law is followed–posted for the public on the door to the polling station.
The ballots and another exected copy of the results are sealed in the ballot box.
After that, it is all a power struggle and smoke and fog–high tech and low tech. Arithmetic is done or not done in accordance with power and interests.
The court appears to have moved some power back toward the voters and away from central government. We shall see.
I will follow up after I’ve read the opinion and caught up on some of the “moving pieces” on the election preparation.
Congratulations to Maina Kiai and his colleagues who brought the constitutional challenge.
“Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis” March 2017 International Crisis Group paper by Murithi Mutiga
Political tensions are rising in Kenya ahead of elections in August for the presidency and other senior posts. Measures taken now can avert the risk of a repeat of electoral violence that killed hundreds of people in 2007-2008.
. . . .
The equipment for transmitting results from polling places to the tallying centre is as important as the voter kits. Past elections were compromised by lack of transparency in tallying and transmitting. The installation of a transparent, efficient electoral management system would go a long way to assuaging public concerns. Unfortunately, rushed procurement, with little lead-time for testing, may set the IEBC up for failure. That would also deepen suspicions in a situation already marked by significant tension between parties. Government steps to limit the role of external partners, such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, that can offer valuable technical assistance, have not helped.
. . . .
International partners should extend technical and financial help to the IEBC to help it better tackle the challenges. This should, however, be done with nuance, flexibility and complete transparency, in light of unfounded claims by the ruling party that external parties are seeking to influence the electoral outcome. International observers should be deployed in time to monitor crucial stages of the electoral process, such as verification of the vote register and procurement of electoral materials.
. . . .
Unfortunately, USAID is still stuck on maintaining minimal, at most, public disclosure, rather than adapt to the recommendations of the Crisis Group and the obvious lessons to be learned from the failure of 2007, especially, and 2013.
While USAID Kenya has confirmed for me that their original December 2015 Request for Agreement (“RFA”) for the $20M “Kenya Electoral Assistance Program 2017” remains a public document at http://www.grants.gov, the subsequent Agreement between USAID and IFES is not being treated as public. Americans who want to understand our government’s approach to subsidizing the Government of Kenya’s election would be well advised to study the Request for Agreement (rfa-615-16-000001-keap-2017) closely to understand the basic structure, but will need to “ask around” informally to get any actual detail as the election now rapidly approaches. Likewise, Kenyans who want to have input in the administration of their own election.
Meanwhile, still no documents whatsoever, from my October 2015 request for USAID documents relating to our support for the 2013 Kenya election (!).
See “IEBC must look us in the eye and say, ‘We aren’t ready for August'” by Tee Ngugi in The East African.
With Kenya’s constitutionally set election only just more than six months away, Germany’s Deutsche Welle reports “Kenya’s voter registration rocked by fraud claims“. Even the Daily Nation has published an editorial noting serious questions about the integrity of the current voter registration process.
Gabrielle Lynch notes in her column in The East African, “Unrealistic timelines to blame for Kenya’s election shortcomings,” that the time to implement the gender balance rules of the Constitution under the previous Supreme Court opinion has been blown, and other deadlines are upon us. Dr. Lynch goes through the various pre-election deadlines which were set in legislation and are now in some flux. She raises the prospect of jetisoning some of the technology because what she refers to as compressed timelines.
To me, the issue is a lack of political will, which is independent of the time involved. Legislation to implement the mandatory requirements of the Constitution on gender balance was not passed because the legislators in power, along with the President, didn’t feel like it. They like the old way better than what is required by the “new” (seven year old) Constitution. There has been plenty of time since 2013 to pass gender balance legislation, just as there was plenty of time to replace the fraudulently procured technology systems purchased with the assistance of the United States and other donors for the 2013 election.
Likewise there was plenty of time to legally address the procurement fraud issues as directed by Supreme Court’s decision of April 2013 on the election petitions.
This time the incumbent administration has attacked the donors who are providing an additional $85 million to defray the cost of the election in spite of all the obvious questions. The donor group through its diplomats has pledged transparency this time, but very little specific information has been published on the details of the programming so far.
Unfortunately my October 2015 Freedom of Information Act request to USAID for contract documents from our support for the IEBC in 2013 has still resulted in zeroreleased documents (even though materials were sent from the Mission in Kenya to Washington more than a year ago.)
[Update: here is a Joint Statement by the heads of various donor country missions on international assistance for the Kenyan election. And here is the text of the statement from U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec:
Nairobi, Kenya – The United States firmly rejects the recent unfounded allegations against the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program (KEAP) and its implementing partners. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is a well-respected organization with deep expertise and experience in supporting democratic elections around the world. IFES is registered in Kenya under the Companies Act and has legal standing to conduct programs here. USAID provides elections assistance under our Development Assistance Grant Agreement with the Government of Kenya, which allows for the issuance of work permits for implementing partner staff, including IFES.
We are disappointed by the attempt to discredit the United States’ efforts to assist Kenyans in the conduct of free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections in 2017. Our assistance was requested by the Government of Kenya and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), adheres strictly to Kenyan law and regulations, and is provided under careful oversight by the Government of Kenya, IEBC, and USAID. We do this important work transparently without favoring any party or candidate.
We call on everyone to focus on the issue at hand — ensuring that the voice of the Kenyan people is heard and respected in the upcoming elections.]
The Government of Kenya has announced action to terminate cooperation with the USAID Kenya Electoral Assistance Program being administered by the American INGO IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, claiming that the U.S. government is secretly seeking “regime change” and asserting as a weapon the notion that IFES, which has been working in Kenya since 2002, is “unregistered”.
Any reader of this blog will understand that my concerns about the role of IFES in Kenya’s 2007 and 2013 elections in supporting the ECK, IIEC and then IEBC are the opposite of those in Kenyatta’s attack.
While Kenyatta claims that assistance money is being used to support “regime change”, the reality has been entirely different: the problem from 2007 and 2013 was that US tax dollars were spent in a way that ended up subsidizing corrupt electoral bodies who did not deliver sound elections–to the benefit of Kibaki (and Kenyatta) in 2007 and Kenyatta in 2013. The problems were not disclosed publicly, putting us in the undesirable position of being “accessories” to the incumbent regime’s use of its existing power to shield itself from the risk of a fair vote.
Most recently I have been waiting for processing of documents for release under the Freedom of Information Act from USAID regarding our support of the IEBC’s technology systems in 2013.
I was in Washington this month at the African Studies Association and got a chance to catch up with people in and out of government who keep track of things in East Africa for a living. I picked up on no indication that next year’s election in Kenya was yet high on anyone’s priority list for the U.S. government with all the immediate as opposed to future potential crises. I also failed to detect a major policy shift for the U.S. to go from prioritizing first “stability” in Kenya as we have since 2007 (if not always since independence) as opposed to prioritizing “freedom” and/or “fairness” in the next election–much less a subversive agenda to oust Kenyatta through “regime change”.
The money we Americans spend on civic education in Kenya to bolster democracy is not inconsequential–you could do good things in civic education in one of our own states for $20M–but is only a small fraction of what we spend to assist Kenyans in the areas of health and food. Security is our primary foreign policy priority in Kenya, and poverty-driven needs in health especially, and in food and agriculture, more traditional education and such are our main priority in assistance.
I am not sure how my government will react to being falsely accused in this situation. Uhuru Kenyatta is personally ungrateful for our help in regard to civic education and otherwise for election assistance. I suspect that he prefers to run his own re-election with as little attention paid to the process as possible.
Certainly the Government of Kenya, officially a middle income country, could do for its poor much of what we do if its politicians were willing. We seem to have sentimental attachments to these programs in Kenya but I’m not sure that we ought not to focus more on places that are poorer and where governments are at least reasonably cooperative.
I will regret the loss of opportunity for Kenyans if the Government of Kenya does not change course. Here is a statement from six Kenya civil society groups:
Last year for Jamhuri Day I assessed the status of the relatonship between my American government and Kenya’s. I listed specific items that would show progress for the U.S. in getting back to supporting anti-corruption reforms in Kenya:
What about on the United States side? Does our government really want to change things now?
Here is what I would need to see to be persuaded that we have decided to change the game: 1) public follow up on the Goodyear bribes paid to public officials in Kenya [months have gone by now with no prosecutions in Kenya reported in the press after the parent company in the US turned itself in to the SEC and the Justice Department]; 2) public follow up on the bribery of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the 2013 election procurements [I finally submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request a few months ago to USAID on the procurements we paid for through IFES and for our dealings with the vendor Smith & Ouzman which was convicted in the UK of bribing the Kenyan IEBC–no documents or substantive response yet]; 3) public follow up on the issue of unnamed Kenyan officials being among those bribed by Chinese interests at the UN in New York resulting in U.S. indictments.
It has been credibly reported based on leaks that the new “visa bans” on travel to the US by Kenyan officials are quite extensive. Great. But we do this type of thing, if not quite to this extent, periodically. Over the years it obviously has not added up to any strategic progress even if there may (or may not) have been a few tactical successes here or there.
Bottom line is that I don’t think you can really fight corruption with secrecy–you have to chose your priorities. And for my government to ignore the cases that have been publicly exposed in which we have some direct stake leaves me unconvinced that we have actually changed our priorities from 2007 and 2013 when I was in Kenya to see for myself.
One thing that we could do to make sure we are “practicing what we preach” on the governance side is for Congress to have oversight hearings about how we are carrying out the July 25 “Joint Agreement”.
Sadly, and tellingly, the year has gotten away from us with no progress on any of this (including nothing from my FOIA request to USAID on the corrupt 2013 election technology procurements.)
Meanwhile, Kenya is paying an average of about $343,000.00 “severance” to each of the outgoing Independent Electoral and Boundary Commissioners for leaving earlier this fall rather than completing their terms through November 2017. No signs of accountability for the #Chickengate bribes to the IEBC by Smith & Ouzman that were prosecuted by the UK and no sign of accountability for corruption in the subsequent 2013 election technology procurements.
While the “buyout” has been negotiated, the incumbent IEBC staff without the “servered” Commission has been proceeding to undertake election preparations that will be fait accompli for the new Commission when it is appointed next year. Accordingly, the chief executive has proceeded to report plans to spend an astounding 30Billion KSh to conduct the 2017 general election, while setting a target of 22 million registered voters. In other words and figures, roughly $13.40US per registered voter if the target is met or $19.60US per currently registered voter. (For comparative data from places like Haiti and Bosnia,see The Ace Project data on cost of registration and elections.)
Small things from the Long War. It’s well and good for the Navy to buy local to feed our sailors to support the Djibouti economy. And not sending an observation mission to Djibouti’s most recent election was also progress. (Of course you will remember IGAD sent its delegation headed by Issac Hassan, who is now in the process of being bought out of his position as chair of Kenya’s IIEC/IEBC which we have supported, but we had the integrity to stay off this one. See my post here.)
The bakery in this picture is actually from Addis Ababa under the “developmental state” regime in 2007. We would overnight in Addis on our way from Nairobi to Hargeisa. With no democracy to be promoted I could just visit and take pictures, although shortly before I visited this bakery I was stopped by a concerned stranger with the warning that “they will kill you” for taking pictures. Fortunately they didn’t.