Raila Odinga has a couple of times recently made conspicuous public mention of the Kenya 2007 IRI/USAID/UCSD exit poll results identifying him as the winning vote-getter, including in his speech at the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Orange Democratic Movement party a few days ago, as well as a significant discussion in his autobiography.
Even a year-and-a-half after the Kenyan election, in July 2009, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States Peter Ogego said at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington that it was important to get to the bottom of the situation with the U.S.-sponsored exit poll indicating an Odinga rather than a Kibaki win. The late Congressman Donald Payne, then Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa said at the same event that the poll should have been published sooner and that not releasing it had been a mistake, although IRI, he thought, had a “good reason” for not releasing it initially. This is the basic structure of what actually happened, contra what IRI claimed in a March 29, 2009 “rebuttal” to the New York Times investigation. (My point here is still not to berate IRI for continuing to publish this defamatory material worldwide, but I have sadly come to realize that many people seem to have been, surprisingly to me, actually misled by at least some of it.)
On Monday, January 14, 2008 the International Republican Institute’s Coalition for Electoral and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) manager submitted by email to USAID at 6:25pm our formal Quarterly Report on the Kenya polling program. The program had begun with an exit poll for the 2005 constitutional referendum and was scheduled to end with our final pre-election public opinion survey in September 2007, but an amendment that September added the exit poll for the 2007 general election.
Here is this January 14, 2008 report as released under the Freedom of Information Act:
In the report, we at IRI wrote:
Implementation of the December 2007 General Elections Exit Poll
IRI initiated discussions on the exit poll to be conducted during the December 2007 general elections. IRI reviewed the survey instruments, deployment plans, and schedules. Discussions between IRI, USAID, and the local polling firm, Strategic Public Relations and Implementation of the December 2007 General Elections Exit Poll
Research (“Strategic”), took place. Researchers from the University of California at San Diego also partnered with IRI to advise on the sample design, methodology, and data analysis, which they are using for independent studies on polling.
Training of Researchers
In consultation with IRI, Strategic conducted training sessions for the researchers collecting exit poll data. As with the previous polls, Strategic trained a number of researchers, who later deployed to the field as trainers of trainers (TOTs) to identify and train research assistants that would be used to collect data.
The training reviewed field resource management techniques, sampling, and interviewing techniques, as well as training to ensure that all staff had a good understanding of the questionnaire. The questionnaire was then pre-tested in various constituencies of Nairobi. The interviewers later met for a debrief and assessment of the pre-test before deploying nationally.
The poll was fielded on election day in Kenya, December 27, 2007. A group of 2,887 researchers from Strategic deployed in teams to 175 of 210 constituencies, covering all eight provinces of Kenya.
The interviewers were expected to carry out interviews approximately 100 meters from polling stations. The interviews were limited to people that had just voted, and the administration of the questionnaire varied from less than five to seven minutes. To ensure the validity of the sample, between 15 to 25 interviews were conducted at selected polling stations, and only every fifth voter was asked to participate. Strategic supervisors accompanied researchers to ensure the accuracy of reporting on a number of questionnaires. Researchers relayed immediate results to their direct supervisors, who then called in to Strategic’s data processing center in Nairobi.
During the implementation of the poll, researchers encountered certain challenges, such as the inaccessibility of some areas due to poor roads; poor network coverage; and hostility from polling officials and respondents. In one instance, a researcher’s questionnaires were confiscated by a polling official. However, these issues did not significantly affect the data collection exercise. (emphasis added).
As data was collected, it was immediately relayed to Strategic headquarters for compilation. However, data analysis for the exit poll was still ongoing through the end of this quarter. (through December 31)
Earlier that Monday the McClatchy newspapers ran Shashank Bengali’s story “Kenyan president lost election according to U.S. exit poll”.
The successful prosecution of Smith & Ouzman, Ltd. and two of its officers by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office for paying bribes to Kenyan election officials to obtain contracts with Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should be a wake-up call in Washington. Smith & Ouzman Chairman Christopher John Smith and Sales and Marketing Director Nicholas Charles Smith were sentenced last week and sentencing of the corporation is upcoming.
Ironically, perhaps, “capacity building” and procurement systems, along with the subsequently abandoned electronic results transmission system, were touted by U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger as features of the U.S. pre-election support in Kenya in 2007:
* “Developing the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) lies at the heart of our strategy. The USG funded International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) has been providing support to the ECK since late 2001. Activities focus on providing appropriate technology for more efficient and transparent elections administration while improving the skills of the ECK technical staff. This support additionally includes capacity building and technical assistance to support election administration. Technical assistance includes computerization of the Procurement and Supplies Department, which is responsible for printing and distributing election materials. Assistance will also support implementation of the ECK’s restructuring plan, strengthening logistics capacity, and accelerating the transmission and display of results.”
From “Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 elections from the truth trickling out about 2007-New Cables From FOIA (Part One)” quoting a December 14, 2007 Ranneberger cable describing U.S. preparations for the Kenyan election.
For the 2013 election, I have a copy of one last minute USAID procurement through IFES for the Kenyan IEBC related to the failed electronic results transmission system; I would assume there were other USAID procurements involved for the IEBC. Notably, the Supreme Court of Kenya found that the main cause of the failure of the electronic results transmission system and the electronic voter identification 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.” “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court opinion” April 13, 2013. See also, “Why would we trust the IEBC vote tally when they engaged on fraudulent procurement processes for key technology?”, March 24, 2013.
For a detailed narrative and links on the U.K. Serious Fraud Office case, see Corruption Watch-UK/Trial Monitoring: “Chickens come home to roost: the Smith and Ouzman African bribery case”:
The most serious allegations relate to 7 contracts with the IIEC in Kenya between 2009-2010, worth £1.37 million, where S&O made unusually high commission payments of between 27% and 37% of the contract price. Part of prosecution’s case was that the commission of £380,859 over 18 months paid to the agent, Trevy James Oyombra, was exorbitant, and clearly designed to include payments for officials.
The contracts in Kenya included ballot papers and voter ID cards for By-Elections, 18 million voter registration cards, Referendum ballot papers, and other products relating to elections, such as card pouches, OMR forms, ultraviolet lights. It was a feature of several of these contracts that the S&O subcontracted out the printing work to other companies, in one case to a Chinese company that delivered the goods for less than half the cost of the contract price.
This raises questions about whether S&O were compliant with procurement rules and whether it compromised the security and integrity of the electoral process by subcontracting.
Additionally, on several contracts, S&O delivered significantly less papers than they were contracted to do raising the question of whether the integrity of the electoral process was compromised. It was also a feature of some of these contracts that prices were inflated significantly after award of contract. In all the contracts, the alleged bribes were paid for by the Kenyan tax payers, as the cost of commission was reflected in the contract price.
The specific contracts were as follows:
- June 2009 – Shinyalu and Bomachoge By-Election. S&O were to provide voter ID cards, and ballot papers – although in the end they provided only 142,000 papers against the 200,000 ordered.
- January 2010 – 18 million voter registration cards. Once S&O had been awarded the contract they subcontracted the production of half the forms to another company.
- March 2010 – contract for electors’ card pouches which S&O subcontracted to a Chinese company who delivered them for less than half of the contract price.
- May-July 2010 – three different By-Election ballot paper contracts (South Mugirango, Matuga and Civil By-Elections) – where the contract price in each case was increased substantially (sometimes by 50%) after award of contract to permit bribes to be paid. The agent advised S&O against providing “chicken” to visitors to their factory in 2010 as there were other officials not from the IIEC who he said they shouldn’t give “the wrong picture” – undermining the defence’s argument that the company was just doing things the “African way”. Significantly the company again delivered less quantities of ballot papers than were required in each of these three contracts – in the case of the Civic By-Elections some 40,000 less than ordered.
- July 2010 – a contract to provide 14.6 million Referendum Ballot Papers in which S&O worked out an uplift per ballot paper to factor in the bribery.
- July 2010 – 1.5 million OMR correction forms and 1000 nomination forms in May.
- July-December 2010 – ultra violet lights and other Parliamentary and Civil Ballot Papers.
Electoral officials at the IIEC were on several occasions described by the agent, Trevy, as trying to make money before they left the IIEC and went back into government. The agent described the officials at on stage as anxious and “broke”, and “they are desperate for the chicken”. The agent also said that officials told him that S&O needed to “be discrete since all peoples eyes and the government intelligence are watching their every move even on the phone to ensure transparency”.
The Kenyan officials named in court as recipients of payments were as follows: IIEC: Kenneth Karani (chief procurement officer); David Chirchir (IIEC Commissioner); James Oswago (IIEC Chief Electoral Officer); Dena; Kennedy Nyaundi (Commissioner); Gladys Boss Shollei (Deputy CEO); Issack Hassan; Hamida, Tororey and Sang.
Several of these officials are still in government: David Chirchir is current Energy Minister in government, and Issack Hassan is the current Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which took over from the IIEC.
The scope of the successfully prosecuted bribes to Kenyan officials, in particular the Kenyan Interim Independent Electoral Commission, now Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, was such as to suggest the corruption was not unique by time or geography.
Although USAID, as referenced in the State Department cable quoted above, has provided millions for the operations of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and its successors on a regularized basis since embedding IFES in the Electoral Commission of Kenya, ECK, in 2001, I do not know whether there was any direct U.S. funding, or U.S. funding through a “basket” administered through UNDP or otherwise, implicated in the specific acquisitions involved in the prosecution. At the least, given the level of U.S. funding for the Kenyan elections through this time period, the U.S. indirectly underwrote the ability of the Kenyan election officials to corruptly overpay for those things the U.S. was not helping to pay for.
The time period during which the offenses at issue in this U.K. prosecution occurred was 1 November 2006 through 31 December 2010. Also during this time, for instance, IFES awarded a more than $3.4M competitive procurement for USAID to Smith & Ouzman for polling booths for Sudan’s National Election Commission for 2010 elections. Although there may be nothing at all irregular, it is worth noting that Smith & Ouzman has generally been identified as a “printing company” and its election related products and services marketed on that basis.
From a 2008 IFES election materials “buyer’s guide”:
Smith & Ouzman, Limited
Providing the Ballot — Supporting Democracy Worldwide Smith & Ouzman, Limited, has been established for more than 60 years and is the globally trusted name in security printing, providing tailored secure ballot solutions to electoral commissions and authorities from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and many places in between. Our team of professional staff has considerable experience in election projects and ensures that ballot papers incorporate devices to protect against electoral fraud and are packed for distribution directly to polling stations. Smith & Ouzman, Limited is the company that provides you with security, integrity and reliability. ● Election Experience Afghanistan, ballot papers; Benin, indelible ink; Botswana, ballot papers; European Union, ballot papers, postal ballots; Ghana, equipment; Kenya, ballot papers, registration forms, voters cards; Kosovo, ballot papers, registration forms, postal ballots; Malawi, ballot papers, UV lamps; Mauritania, ballot papers; Namibia, ballot papers; Nigeria, ballot papers; Somaliland, ballot papers, indelible ink; Tanzania, indelible ink, security envelopes; Uganda, ballot papers, indelible ink; United Kingdom, ballot papers, poll cards, registration forms, postal ballots; Zambia, ballot papers, indelible ink; Zimbabwe, ballot papers.
Here is the contract language requiring a Final Report from the Cooperative Agreement for the USAID – IRI Kenya polling program starting with the 2005 Referendum Exit Poll and culminating with the 2007 General Election Exit Poll:
I finally learned last month from my March 2013 Freedom of Information Act request to USAID that the required Final Report was never filed. Eventually getting to the truth of this involved a significant amount of “beating around the bush” and a previous 2009 FOIA request from the University of California, San Diego that should have disclosed all of the reporting–but to which USAID replied only after two years and then by producing only a copy of this Agreement itself without any of the rest of the contractual documents.
So ultimately there is no explanation in the reporting as to how the 2007 exit poll went from successful in a January 14, 2008 quarterly report from IRI to USAID, to “invalid” in IRI’s February 7, 2008 global press release, and then back to successful months later with public release of the results contradicting the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Nor the impact of this discrepancy on the overall effectiveness of this 2+ year $570,000 democracy assistance polling program or the overall multimillion dollar U.S. support effort for the 2007 Kenya election.
Lessons from an accurate accounting of what really happened with U.S. assistance for the disastrously failed 2007 election should have been reckoned with in preparing for 2012-13. Unfortunately, in 2013 we had initial reporting of the USAID funded parallel vote tabulation with very limited transparency and seemingly ad hoc communications, and an initial USAID funded Election Observation report offering positive assurance for the reliability of the IEBC’s announced result, only to be quietly contradicted months later by the final Carter Center report.
The biggest problem in 2013 was the catastrophic failure of the Electronic Results Transmission system–the system that was established in Kenya’s election law to provide for the conveyance of the results from the polling station–the only place where the paper ballots are actually counted–to the IEBC. Sadly, this was directly prefigured by what happened with the similar, if less ambitious, Electronic Results Transmission system–also funded by USAID through IFES and the UNDP–in 2007. In 2007 the Electoral Commission of Kenya simply voted in December to shelve the computers and not use them, thus creating the opportunity for the Returning Officers to turn off their phones and drop out of the way.
In 2013, we had the spectacle of highly dubious procurement practices by the IEBC with a last minute attempt–or so it was presented–to roll out the technology, even though implementation was clearly not ready. The system was then shut down by the IEBC, except for the visual graphic steadily broadcast for days showing one candidate with an “early” lead [simply meaning some votes were included and most weren’t] and hundreds of thousands of spoiled ballots that did not turn out to exist.
A source confirmed for me what we all saw–that the IEBC did not have a meaningful backup plan to handle custody and conveyance of the paper forms for the polling stations where the votes had been counted when the transmission system was shut down.
Prior to the election in 2007, the U.S. Ambassador was reporting the electronic transmission system under IFES along with the IRI exit poll as American assistance efforts to support a fair election. Although my FOIA requests have not been directed at that issue specifically, the results transmission system appears to have dropped off the Ambassador’s list without explanation around the time it was shelved and so far as I remember this issue did not get scrutiny in the media at the time.
The Kreigler Commission report stressed the crucial nature of results transmission and much was made of this in drafting of the new election laws and the talk of preparations and assistance for 2013, but the ECK refused to produce the minutes of its action shelving the 2007 system (or any of its other minutes) and the Commission reported on to President Kibaki and then the Kenyan public without actual answers about what happened in 2007.
Had I known before late afternoon on election day, 27 December, that “the whole reason” for the USAID-IRI exit poll was “early intelligence for the Ambassador” rather than as a tool to deter and detect potential fraud (as our consultant from UCSD and I were explicitly told some weeks before) I might have made more note of the fact that the exit poll by design generally excluded non-living voters as it was based on live interviews of people who had personally come to the polling place and cast ballots.
Admittedly if the purpose of the exit poll was to predict who the ECK would determine to be the winner, as opposed to simply how living Kenyans voted, this was a serious limitation.
One specific idiosyncrasy that afternoon that was immediately salient was the issue of release to the Ambassador of preliminary numbers reported and collated as of two hours before the polls were to generally close. I have no statistical reference or otherwise scientific and peer reviewed material to cite for this observation, but it would have been my seat-of-the-pants judgment as the “person on the ground” with some practical experience in campaigns and elections and even with “machine politics” that deceased voters have a pronounced tendency to vote last in sequence among the various voting blocs.
For those wishing to observe the voting process rather than influence it, there are two related reasons why you will not want exit poll numbers to “get out” to actors in the process before the polls close. One is that potential voters supporting the candidate who is “behind” are perceived to be subject to being discouraged. Even if this is not a big enough factor to “matter” in the primary race at issue, it has been seen to impact the outcome of other races on the same ballot. Another is that some voters who might not otherwise elect to turn out may be spurred to action by the perception that their candidate is trailing. The dead voters are one identifiable bloc that may be particularly susceptible to an appeal of this type.
At the time, I didn’t have any numbers or details to go on that would support a specific adjustment for dead voters in the exit poll. Some months later the Kreigler Commission estimated a figure of 1.2M decedents who were registered to vote on election day; in January 2010 as discussed in a previous post, Undersecretary of State Maria Otero was headlined in the Kenyan press on a visit saying “we are aware that more than two million dead people voted in 2007”.
Had these types of numbers been available to me on election day I would have understood the stakes that much better. Even though this type of voting in the United States peaked before I was born, we can easily see empirical evidence in history of a pronounced tendency of the dead voter bloc to support the party which controls the electoral mechanism, in this case in Nairobi, the ECK. With the kinds of numbers on the voting role, if ODM/Odinga had roughly six percent more live votes as reflected in the exit poll, the percentage of the deceased who needed to be inspired to cast ballots would be much lower than the overall turnout figures.
In corresponding with a diplomat from an allied country (one with which the U.S. has a mutual defense treaty) before the ECK decision I was told that his expectation was that Odinga would win by roughly five percent. I replied that this was interesting as I had decided that roughly five percent was probably the minimum threshold for a margin for Odinga that would result in him being accepted as the winner by the ECK. In hindsight I was probably “drinking the KoolAid” of democratization a bit myself.
As the ICC proceedings play out, understanding the 2008 post election violence and evaluating the role of the parties, including the international actors, requires addressing the conduct of the incumbent Kenyan administration in the election itself.
In my estimation, those of us who observed the election in Nairobi watched as the vote tally was hijacked in a shockingly blunt manner. If this election could not be labelled as stolen, the question has to arise as to whether any election in Africa, as opposed to in Europe, Asia or the Americas, could ever be so labelled, in a context in which diplomatic actors valued “stability” as a key interest. Nonetheless, some who came to Kenya after the election, both from Washington and South Africa, have continued to suggest that the theft of the election may have been only a “perception” from ambiguity, or even asserting that the election was not “rigged” at all.
Because the truth matters in understanding the violence, and in preparing for the future in response to the Chairman of the current IEBC who has labelled the 2007 opposition as mere “sore losers”, I am going to devote much of my attention in the blog this year to articulating “the rest of the story” as I know it, as I continue to wait for release of additional public records under the Freedom of Information Act. I will dedicate these posts to my late friends Dr. Joel Barkan and Dr. Peter Oriare, who worked for a better process.
To begin, let me post here an August 4, 2008 e-mail I sent to Mike McIntire, the investigative reporter for the New York Times who contacted me on July 31, 2008 for an interview about the International Republican Institute exit poll which remained, as of that date, unreleased as allegedly “invalid”:
After having some time to reflect on our conversation, I thought it might be useful to emphasize a few points in reference to what we talked about and the documents I have provided:
1. Prof. Joel Barkan at CSIS was our primary (indeed only) Kenya expert on our Election Observation Mission. Professor Barkan was independently identified by IRI to be invited based on his stature as an expert and was also one of those specifically recommended/requested by the Ambassador. Prof. Barkan had headed the Democracy and Governance program for USAID in Kenya during the 1992 elections when IRI conducted a very large USAID-funded observation mission and knew Sheryl Stumbras at USAID and the Ambassador well from his work in Kenya .
2. I got acquainted with Prof. Barkan in the lead up to the observation by e-mail as he offered suggestions, and my discussions with him during and immediately following the election were very influential in forming my own opinions about the nature of the evolving situation with the ECK and the electoral tally and the appropriate handling of the exit poll.
3. Prof. Barkan and I were in agreement that IRI was causing a situation in which it was generating unnecessary controversy and likely embarrassment by refusing to release the poll results on the presidential vote on an ongoing basis.
4. Prof. Barkan was impressed with the methodology of the poll and vouched for the work of Prof. Gibson/UCSD.
5. Again, the decision to involve UCSD pre-dated my arrival to manage the Kenya programs. To my understanding, there was never any question that the point of UCSD’s work was to create data that would be relied on and published–no later than the expiration of IRI’s exclusive right to publicity for the first 180 days. It was also my understanding that IRI was pleased to have Prof. Gibson and UCSD involved because of their strong reputation.
6. With the blessing of IRI Washington, including the press office, I had provided data from the IRI September 2007 public opinion survey to Tom Maliti of the AP in Nairobi for work he was doing on tribal issues as a voting factor. My discussions with Tom and the data were inputs for a story he wrote for the AP that fall linked on the media section on IRI’s website. Tom later asked if IRI would be doing an exit poll as we had done in 2002 and 2005 and I confirmed that we were. It was my understanding that we would have to decide WHEN and in what forum, not IF, the results would be released. [If anyone had asked, I would have been of the opinion that given the way things work in Kenya , we would have to expect the poll results to leak regardless.]
7. The Daily Nation ran a story, I believe the day before the election, in which our pollster, Peter Oriare of Strategic, discussed the fact that Strategic would be conducting an exit poll for IRI. While this was not something that I had authorized or been involved in, I did not consider it to be any type of violation of our relationship or against any wishes that I had conveyed to Strategic.
8. I think it is important to look at the exit poll situation in the context of IRI’s Election Observation Mission Final Report which has now been published as a printed booklet (they FedEx’d me a copy with a cover letter from Lorne in mid-July). The report, which I had the opportunity to provide input on, working with my staff in Nairobi on early drafting and through later editorial input on into April when I was doing follow-up work such as the internal exit poll memo of 4-20 that I sent you, is very explicit that IRI found that “after the polls closed and individual polling stations turned over their results to constituency-level returning centers, the electoral process ceased to be credible”. Likewise, the report states that “To date, there has been no explanation from the ECK as to exactly how or when it determined the final election totals, or how and when that determination was conveyed to President Kibaki to prepare for the inauguration.” The report also notes “. . . the obvious fraud that took place during the tallying of the presidential race . . . ” The Executive Summary states: ” . . . IRI has reason to believe that electoral fraud took place and condemns that fraud. The rigging and falsifying of official documentation constitutes a betrayal of the majority of the Kenyan people who peacefully and patiently waited in long lines to vote on December 27.”
9. It should be recognized that between the time that Kibaki was quickly sworn in and the announcement of the initial agreement at the end of February in the Kofi Annan talks that led to the formation of the GNU in April, there were clear indications that Kibaki and his supporters were using the time to attempt to consolidate power. Initial efforts toward mediation from other African leaders, including Bishop Tutu were dismissed, key cabinet posts were filled unilaterally, etc. Even with Annan talks, the Kibaki position on behalf of the “Government of Kenya” was that it was something less than actual mediation.
10. To this day, there has been nothing done to reform the ECK and there has been no accountability for the misconduct discussed in the IRI EOM report. As best I can tell from what I have read about the hearings conducted around the country by the Kreigler commission, the situation remains one in which partisans of the PNU side argue that there was rigging and misconduct on both sides, that it was as bad in Nyanza by ODM as by PNU in Central and that the ECK decision was appropriate, while partisans of ODM argue that the election was stolen. Because “the ECK is not an independent institution and is subordinate to the executive branch of the Kenyan government” [Finding 1 from the IRI EOM report] the IRI exit poll is the best source of actual disinterested data available under the circumstances.
11. To my understanding, I was charged with managing a foreign assistance program that was intended to be for the benefit of the Kenyan people, funded by USAID, but managed by IRI as an independent NGO. To me, this is something entirely different than something the State Department would do on its own for its own internal purposes–although in that case they would still need to be accountable to the American public and Congress.
12. I think we did a pretty good job with limited resources on the actual election observation. I think we did a pretty good job with the exit poll, too. On balance, my experience as Resident Director of the East Africa office was good, with the exception of the specific situation that arose about the exit poll–just as I had had a positive experience as a volunteer with IRI in Central Asia that led me to be interested in making a bigger commitment to go manage IRI programs in Kenya on leave from my primary career. IRI is a fairly small organization in some ways, but they work all over the world, with programs large and small–ours in Kenya was a small one. As best I know, the program in Kenya had a good reputation and had done good, albeit limited, work in Kenya , over a period of years, due in greatest part to the Kenyans on the local staff. This is not anything like what may have happened in Haiti where the program itself may have gotten out of bounds (and in fact I was told that my successor could not be a member of my local staff because of policy in place as a result of that kind of past experience requiring expatriate leadership in the Country Director position). Whatever happened in Washington regarding the exit poll was a departure from my expectations and experience with IRI otherwise.
13. I am told that things have been “different” in IRI recently by people who have been around the organization for awhile, and it is frequently attributed to a hypersensitivity to the situation where John McCain as the long-time Chairman of the Board has been a leading presidential candidate and then the presumptive Republican nominee. This was something that I did not think about in the context of deciding to take the Kenya position at this particular time (and in the spring of 2007 McCain didn’t look very likely to be the nominee anyway). Another twist in regard to Kenya is Obama’s background there and most recently, the things that are circulating against Obama within the “religious right” regarding some notion that Obama was somehow involved in conspiring in Kenya with Odinga on behalf of Muslims against Christians in the context of the Kenyan election and in the context of the post-election violence–laid against a backdrop in which the policy justification for the State Dept. to support Kibaki would presumably tie into the “extrodinary rendition” controversy and more generally the notion that Kibaki has been an ally of the US in sealing the border with Somalia after the engagement of the Ethipian troops to attempt to restore the TFG and otherwise in anti-terrorism efforts, as well as in regard to other regional issues.
14. Ironically, IRI’s mission in Kenya has to a significant degree focused on working to bring minorities, in particular Muslims [the program is primarily funded through NED as opposed to the specific agreements with USAID for the EOM and the polling], into the mainstream of democratic governance. The most striking difference between the voting reported in the IRI exit poll, and what was reported by the ECK is the opposite outcome in North Eastern Province –by the ECK’s reckoning, Kibaki won in a landslide–in the exit poll, Odinga did. I am no expert on that part of the country, but we did do training for candidates in the province in Garissa, the largest town, and in Mombasa for others in the region, and my expectations would have been much more consistent with the exit poll results than with the ECK tally. Given the requirement that a presidential candidate has to get more than 25% in five of the eight provinces, the NEP vote looms larger than it would based on its limited population in a strict nationwide popular vote.
I have long been convinced that one of the reasons for the “tribal” tensions among Kenyans is the ability of Kenya’s political elite to manipulate access to information to manipulate public opinion.
Now that we have the Carter Center final report ultimately acknowledging that the 2013 election cannot be counted on to have fully reflected “the will of the Kenyan people”, and when we see how much more divided Kenyans are by “tribe” and politics than they were before the failed election of 2007, I want to revisit my past suggestion that the Kenyan wananchi need to be told the truth about what happened in the 2007 election.
Continuing obscurantism about the facts of the 2007 election debacle feeds continuing obscurantism about the post election violence and feeds impunity. Everything is just a “controversy” and no one is accountable for anything. And whoever holds governmental power in Kenya can largely define the narrative to their own ends–and now we see them acting aggressively to seek further control of the media and to shut down independent voices in Kenyan civil society (for latest, see “Win for NGOs as funds Bill rejected”).
Readers of this blog will know that I learned eventually through my FOIA requests that our Ambassador in 2007 himself witnessed the tally sheets being changed at the Electoral Commission of Kenya headquarters to give Kibaki the necessary numbers. (“Part Ten–FOIA Documents from Kenya’s 2007 Election–Ranneberger at the ECK: “[M]uch can happen between the casting of votes and final tabulation of ballots and it did”).
Readers of this blog will also remember, I hope, that we have learned from The Daily Nation that the State Department subsequently, in February 2008, issued “visa warning” letters to the Deputy Chairman and two other Commissioners of the Electoral Commission of Kenya “suspected of accepting bribes to fix election results tally at ECK Headquarters”. Also, as I have noted, a senior third country diplomat told me in January 2008 that his country had learned separately of large bribes to ECK personnel and I cannot imagine that this evidence was not shared with the State Department.
Whatever the motivations of those involved in keeping the facts hidden at the time, they are no longer relevant now–better late than never in telling Kenyans what we know.
From Ben Barber, senior writer at USAID during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, as quoted from a McClatchy piece on Egypt in a previous post:
The Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004 might never have taken place if not for U.S. aid. First, the former communists in control of the Kiev government declared their candidate won an election. Then, a U.S.-funded think tank tallied up exit polls that showed the government had lied and it really lost the election.
Next, a Ukranian TV newsman trained by a U.S. aid program broadcast the exit polls and set up its cameras on the main square for an all night vigil. Up to one million people came to join the vigil. Then the Supreme Court — which had been brought to visit U.S. courts in action — ruled the election was invalid and the government had to step down.
Furthermore, U.S. legal, legislative, journalism and other trainers taught judges, prosecutors, legislators and journalists how to do their jobs in a democratic system.
From U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger’s January 2, 2008 cable to Washington after witnessing fraud at the ECK in the tally of presidential votes along with the head of the EU Election Observation Mission: “We have been reliably told that Odinga is basing his strategy on a mass action approach similar to that carried out in the Ukraine.”
In Kenya, however, unlike in Ukraine, the U.S.-funded exit poll was suppressed rather than broadcast. The New York Times reported that USAID’s agreement with the International Republican Institute to fund the poll stipulated that IRI should consult with USAID and the Embassy before releasing the poll, taking into account technical quality and “other diplomatic considerations”. (The USAID agreement was subquently, eventually, released to Clark Gibson of the UCSD, the primary author of the poll and consultant to IRI, under a FOIA request.)
Here is an account of the opposition approach in Ukraine from Wikipedia on the Orange Revolution:
Yanukovych was officially certified as the victor by the Central Election Commission, which itself was allegedly involved in falsification of electoral results by withholding the information it was receiving from local districts and running a parallel illegal computer server to manipulate the results. The next morning after the certification took place, Yushchenko spoke to supporters in Kiev, urging them to begin a series of mass protests, general strikes and sit-ins with the intent of crippling the government and forcing it to concede defeat.
In view of the threat of illegitimate government acceding to power, Yushchenko’s camp announced the creation of the Committee of National Salvation which declared a nationwide political strike.
Ranneberger noted that the situations in Ukraine and Kenya differed, but did not elaborate. In Ukraine there was ultimately a re-vote and in Kenya the election results stood. How was Kenya in 2007 different from Ukraine in 2004? Comments?
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
This is something I prepared last December at the time the ICC prosecutor initiated his charges against “the Ocampo Six”. Now that another four months has gone by, and we are many more months away from knowing whether any trials for the Kenyan post election violence will proceed, I thought it was worth revisiting:
With respect, it is hard for me to believe that anyone seriously thinks that [former ECK Chairman] Kivuitu himself was the primary manipulator of the election results. It happened on his watch, yes. He failed, but was not the primary instigator, nor beneficiary. I am very sad that the Kreigler Commission charged with investigating the election chose to fence off from review what happened with the presidential results–this is a great loss. Nonetheless, the charges of crimes against humanity sought by Ocampo as prosecutor before the ICC will stand or fall on their own merits. While Mr. Ocampo was not elected, he was appointed through a lawful process established by the countries, including Kenya, who are State Parties to the ICC convention. What prosecutors in Kenya are elected? Yes, there are more people who could be charged with more crimes–but the cold reality is that it is almost three years since the election, and it is the ICC or nothing and no one. This is less than it could have been, but far better than nothing.
Having lived with my family in Nairobi through the campaign, voting and violence, aside from my role in supporting the election process , the observation mission and exit poll, I fully appreciate the angst over the manipulation of the results after a peaceful vote, and over the role of the authorities in both the manipulation itself and in contributing to the violence by suppressing lawful protest and even murdering innocent citizens. To date no one has been prosecuted for any of this–Ocampo’s charges against Ali are a breakthrough in this regard. Ocampo is not seeking charges against anyone from the opposition for the chaos caused by the stolen election, but rather for crimes against humanity in the Rift Valley that are akin to the violence there in 3 of the last 4 elections. The judges will decide whether the indictments are issued, and if so, the trials will proceed with both sides presenting their evidence.
To say something further that I have not said publicly before, I do want to be clear that it is my personal belief that bribery of Kenyan election officials is “what happened” in the presidential election. I have not written or spoken publicly of this before because I claim no evidence or personal knowledge. In the first instance, it is what I was told by a senior diplomat (not U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger or anyone who worked for him) during that the post election period. It was explained to me that clear evidence had been identified. I accepted this as being explained to me not as gossip or a matter of personal interest, but as important information that I needed to know in the context of my job. There was no discussion of confidentiality, but it was what I will call a “private conversation in a public place”. Nothing clandestine, nothing that I was not to report back privately or act on but obviously not something I could “go public” with without being provided more detail and evidence which wasn’t offered.
Everything else I have learned since then is consistent with what I was told, and nothing is contradictory. I still have no personal knowledge or evidence, but it is what I do believe. This is one significant part of why I continued to be of the opinion that the exit poll indicating an opposition victory in the presidential race should be released.
Certainly the last election is very much “water under the bridge”, but now Parliament must grapple with constituting a new Election Commission for the current election season with campaigns already gearing up. Kenya very much needs better election officials this time than last time. The technical capacity to hold a clean election is certainly there–as we know from 2002, and the referendum in 2005 and in 2010. The moral capacity for tragedy and chaos is there, too, as we know from 2007.