[Update: The Daily Nation, “State Officials on the campaign trail“: “The Jubilee administration has deployed civil servants and key government officials on vote hunting missions across the country in contravention of the law.”]
Let it not be said that there is any serious pretense that the Government of Kenya is neutral in the contest for political allegiance of potential “swing” ethnic groupings, rich in votes or money, in the current election, a contest for power between the Uhuruto ticket representing the current generation of the original KANU establishment led by the Kenyatta family and an opposition coalition led by Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.
Here is the “latest news” from the Government of Kenya, Office of the President (www.president.go.ke): “Kenyan Asian community backs President Kenyatta’s re-election”.
This years’ “Jubilee Party” was literally formed at State House as the Uhuruto re-election vehicle, formally merging Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and Ruto’s URP, just as this meeting of State Officials and “Asian” Kenyan businesspeople and politicians for the re-election campaign was convened at State House.
Conduct of this sort, aside from being a clear form of corruption per se as a misappropriation of public resources for private gain, is explicitly against the mandatory Code of Conduct for the Kenyan political parties. (On paper the campaign, in full swing for months, is not even to start until May 28.)
Will the Registrar of Political Parties and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission take action? The IFES led consortium of US based organizations both facilitating and underwriting the cost of the election, while also coordinating its “observation” at the expense of American (and in parts Canadian) taxpayers? What about ELOG, the donor supported Kenyan observation group?
IFES has already beeen attacked by the Kenyan Government and ELOG is charged with continuing to do business in Nairobi on a permanent basis, so it would be a huge act of institutional courage for it to seriously challenge the conduct of the Office of the Presidency. We have been in the mode of continuous institutionalized democracy promotion in Kenya for 15 years (!) now. No matter how many capacity building seminars we hold for the little people in the cities or the politicians in the resorts in the Rift Valley or at the beaches, if we let ourselves simply be mocked and pretend that this is working we will surely risk moral injury to our own democracy.
Read the whole campaign piece here:
The Asian community in Kenya has endorsed the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Leaders of the community said they have taken the decision to rally behind the President because of his commitment to creating an enabling environment of business and development.
The leaders, who visited President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, said policies implemented by the Jubilee Government have enabled more business to thrive and made Kenya a preferred destination for investors.
At the meeting which was also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, representatives of the community assured the President that they would rally behind him to ensure the country’s development tempo is sustained.
“What we have seen in the last four years needs no magnification and my words can be supported by facts that can be seen and quantified, “said businessman Iqbal Rashid.
The businessman cited the upgrading of the old railway system with the Standard Gauge Railway, the upgrading of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and continuous improvement of the infrastructure connecting cities and towns.
He said the continued flow of investments into Kenya from all corners of the globe was as a result of the confidence in the leadership of President Kenyatta.
Women leaders Parveen Adam, Shamsha Fadhil and Farah Mannzoor thanked the President for championing an agenda that fosters inclusiveness as well as the prosperity and unity of all Kenyans.
They said women appreciate his efforts to spearhead the campaign to have the two third gender rule passed by the National Assembly.
Businessman Bismiahirahman Nirrahim said the Asian community has witnessed the transformative leadership of President Kenyatta which has helped in creating conducive environment for investments.
He cited the increased ease of doing business resulting from President Kenyatta’s policies including the policy to reduce the time it takes to register a new business.
Nirrahim said the youth and women empowerment program implemented by President Kenyatta’s Administration has also been a transformational policy that deserves praise.
President Kenyatta thanked the leaders for their support and assured them that he would continue working tirelessly to make Kenya a more prosperous country with shared prosperity.
He said the Asian community has been keen in developing Kenya saying the community has always been in the forefront championing the interests of the nation since the days of independence struggle.
“Like all of us you were part and parcel of the Kenyan struggle for Independence, the role you played cannot be ignored,” said President Kenyatta.
The President said he is a believer in an inclusive society adding that he would want to see the Asian community participate more in both social and economic development of the country.
“This is the government that believes in encouraging partnership and working together. Your success is our success,” said President Kenyatta.
Also present were the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua among other senior government officials.
Update May 26: See “Asian Kenyans seek to be declared a ‘tribe’ of their own” in today’s New York Times.
“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.
[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:
I wrote about my most important conversation from the 2007 campaign in Kenya here in installment 13 of my “War for History” series:
Fresh from my first meeting with the American Ambassador with his enthusiasm for the current political environment and his expressed desire to initiate an IRI observation of the upcoming election to showcase a positive example of African democracy, I commented to the Minister over breakfast in our poshly updated but colonially inflected surroundings on the seeming energy and enthusiasm among younger people in Nairobi for the political process. I suggested that the elections could be an occasion of long-awaited generational change.
He candidly explained that it was not yet the time for such change because “there has been too much corruption.” The current establishment was too vulnerable from their thievery to risk handing over power.
Unfortunately I was much too new to Kenyan politics to appreciate the gravity and clarity of what I was being told, and it was only after the election, in hindsight, that I realized that this was the most important conversation I would have in Kenya and told me what I really needed to know behind and beyond all the superficialities of popular politics, process, law and diplomacy. Mea culpa.
After we ate, the minister naturally left me with the bill for his breakfast and that of his aide. . . .
With the latest news of scandal from the Ministry of Health, following the National Youth Service and Devolution Ministry scandals, it would seem that we are on familiar ground. The Minister from my 2007 breakfast remains an interlocutor and leader of the formation of the “Jubilee Party” now as he was of the “Party of National Unity” as Kibaki’s 2007 re-election vehicle. (Same person who explained later which bills he would use to bribe which voters based on poverty and gender.)
In the 2007 campaign, the local World Bank representative and US Ambassador Ranneberger provided significant public support for the Kibaki Administration on the corruption problem faced by the re-election campaign in the wake of the Anglo Leasing scandal and the revelations by John Githongo and others. See Part Five of my Freedom of Information Act Series.
(I understand that Ranneberger was outspoken against corruption later, after the disaster of the stolen 2007 election and the PEV; also that he was publicly against corruption in the very early part of his tenure in 2006, before the Kibaki re-election geared up and, perhaps coincidentally, before the the Ethiopians entered Somalia to restore the TFG and displace the ICU. I stand by my characterization of his public voice to Kenyans during the campaign.)
My government has been awfully quiet
about the burgeoning scandals in the Uhuruto administration. It’s interesting to remember that then-Senator Obama was noted for his “tough love” and blunt words on corruption during his 2006 visit to Kenya (again in the very early days of Ranneberger’s tenure). Part of this season’s “public diplomacy” has been a “partnership” agreement to fight corruption between the Obama and Kenyatta administrations from the President’s Nairobi visit last year, but we don’t seem to talk about it much publicly in terms of implementation.
It is none of my business who Kenyans vote for next year. It may be that most Kenyans, like the majority of Americans, are likely to end up voting in ways that are fairly predictable “culturally” for the time being and will filter their perceptions of government performance accordingly.
But it does not have to be the case that my government tacitly enables corruption in Kenya’s government.
I don’t like to pay to replace Kenyan public services in vital areas like health that Kenya’s government could well afford but for greed and corruption. I don’t like to see sophisticated Kenyan elites take Westerners for useful idiots to enrich themselves and their personal networks while stealing from the poor and sick. And even if we are not willing to seriously undertake the hard and potentially risky challenges to meaningfully and consistently support democratic reforms–because it seems dangerous while Kenya is again a “Front Line State” in a neighborhood where other places where we have looked away from corruption, like South Sudan and DRC, are worse off, or because its a nice place to live and have meetings and do small things to help poor people and animals at (American) taxpayer expense or for whatever reason–I want my government to find and uphold its own democratic integrity to rise above playing footsie with fakers in Kenya.
In the meantime, it has been more than a year now with no documents from my 2015 Freedom of Information Act request about our assistance through USAID for the corrupted IEBC procurement process for the 2013 election, but IFES is soliciting proposals from Kenyans for innovation grants for 2017 under the big new USAID program “KEAP” for 2017. If we are not transparent, at a minimum, we cannot assist democracy or good governance.
We have all sorts of great, worthwhile assistance programs in Kenya, but in the big picture we work against ourselves and limit meaningful progress by supporting or coddling crooks and their offspring.
[I updated to correct an error — the USAID Inspector General, rather than the U.S. Government Accountability Office, conducted the referenced investigation that found USAID funds went into supporting the “yes” campaign in the 2010 Kenya referendum, rather than providing only neutral process support for Kenyan voters.]
Longtime readers of this blog will well recognize Kenya as a glaring example of the refusal of our government and the surrounding networks of foreign policy elites in the larger Washington Beltway community to seriously self-assess and try to level with the American people in such a way as to build trust and confidence (even in the face of our serious and determined foes).
The stolen election in Kenya and its aftermath in 2007-08 was clearly a catastrophe for both the Kenyan people–whom we are continually trying to assist to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year–and for security interests of the United States (whatever real or rationalized internal claims might or might not exist to justify our policy of “looking, and pointing, the other way” as we saw the election being stolen). So far as I can assume, the Kibaki team would surely have done whatever was necessary to obtain the ECK certificate as “winner” of the election irrespective of the actual voting even if “we hadn’t even been here” (see here) but the very least we have to conclude is that our elaborate and expensive electoral assistance effort was in crucial respects a failure. And we certainly do have to consider the possibility that the other donors could have done better to accomplish what were identified as the common objectives without us and our leading role.
A key reason I have dedicated my “War for History” series to my late friend Joel Barkan–along with my late friend Peter Oriare–was that Joel was one of the rare people in Washington willing to speak out when he saw our country making what he saw as a foreign policy mistake. He wisely warned IRI that we were risking embarrassment along with the State Department. Was he thanked when it became obvious that he had been right?–no, he was attacked instead, in the finest Washington tradition of “CYA by pointing your finger at the person who suggested you ought not to show it in the first place”.
Having found myself playing a bit part due to working for a “charity” that got tagged, along with USAID, by our Ambassador to play a role neither my organization nor USAID sought as of the time I moved my family to Kenya to help out, I find myself being the only one seemingly willing to offer any type of public mea culpa for those decisions that I would make differently in hindsight. And I know that I absolutely did my best even though I was not successful overall. I cannot help but wonder if that is really the case for everyone, given all the various potential interests to be served.
In spite of how badly things went we have just given ourselves credit–and let the individuals who were in key roles publicly pat themselves on the back–for helping to keep the aftermath of the stolen election from being worse than it was. I did not have any personal animus against Ambassador Ranneberger and did not want him to be precipitously “recalled” as a result of my complaint about his interference with the election observation, but I would never have imagined that with a big political turnover in the U.S.–based to a great extent on a public loss of confidence in foreign policy decision making–Ranneberger would still end up being one of the most prominent public actors in Kenyan politics–on behalf of my country–for several more years afterward and be our second-longest serving Ambassador to Kenya ever.
Through the persistence of the subsequent Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Rep. Christopher Smith, we eventually learned through a Kevin Kelly story in Kenya’s Daily Nation that the USAID Inspector General had determined that an “eight figure” sum of money had bled over from lawfully neutral process support for constitutional reform into the 2010 “Yes” referendum campaign. Personally believing that on balance Kenyans would be better off to pass rather than defeat the referendum, I was embarrassingly gullible myself in being hesitant to credit Congressman Smith’s concerns in this regard until I saw the reporting on the USAID Inspector General’s findings. Shocking that the Ambassador who was not neutral in the 2007 vote was not neutral again in 2010!
In the 2013 general election, the administration of the process was in substantial ways even worse than in 2007 as capably pointed out by John Githongo and many others of earned expertise. Our assistance was much more expensive, and while not so controversial, was again not very transparent at all. (Still nothing on my public records request to USAID regarding our spending through IFES on Kenya’s IEBC and its corrupt technology procurements.)
And now, here we go again. The Uhuruto re-election gears up against the ODM-led opposition with the Government of Kenya facing its inevitable referral to the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court since it–inevitably and predictably–refused to meet its legal obligations to cooperate with the Court.
The individual who served as Assistant Secretary of State during the 2007-08 catastrophe, as a private citizen but identified primarily in her role as a former high ranking diplomat, was a key figure again in the 2013 campaign–this time speaking out (informally I assume) to accuse the United States Government of interfering in the election in the opposite direction, in favor of the opposition and against her preferred candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta. While she was within her rights, her argument seems counterfactual when you look at how U.S. assistance to the Government of Kenya and NDI/ELOG and IFES for the election was actually used in totality: to sell whatever the IEBC decided, even without a transparent tally and even though we had some real knowledge of the corruption issues that have eventually come out to the point of forcing their buyout after the Opposition was willing to protest on the streets this year.
If you will read the ELOG final report from several months after the election, you will see that it appears that the NDI/ELOG Parallel Vote Count had more problems with falloff of planned data collection than the 2007 IRI exit poll–but since it involved a much smaller universe of locations than an exit poll I’m not sure that this could be adjusted for (if attempted). So the idea that the 49.7% PVT result “VERIFIED” that Uhuruto received more than 50% looks that much more like advocacy for the IEBC rather than facts for the voters.
I would never vote in a scenario that I can readily imagine for Donald Trump or someone much like Donald Trump as best I understand him. I agree that his positions–none of which I assume reflect any sincere value judgments–are dangerous to our country now and for my children’s future. But if you don’t understand why many Americans might have some temptation to go for “the candidate of the middle finger” out of frustration with a sense that “Washington” isn’t actually working on their behalf as they send their taxes, you cannot be getting out enough.
“The War for History” part ten: What was going on in the State Department on Kenya’s failed election, recognizing change at IRI–and how the 2007 exit poll controversy turned into a boon for IRI in Kenya
It’s not so much that I’m jaded, it’s just that I have watched this movie before–and even been an “extra” of sorts in one of the previous remakes.
Yes, corruption is obviously getting even worse within this Kenyan administration than within the last. But that was also true when I lived in Kenya during the end of the first Kibaki administration and into the beginning of the second.
There are several readily apparent reasons. For instance, when I lived in Kenya I made the acquaintance of a Western expat whose spouse was in the tourism business. Prior to the 2007 vote count corruption and violence, the tourism business was booming. But corruption was up as a cost of doing business as it was explained to me because to operate you had to pay off a second generation, too–the kids of the senior politicians. Presumably this generational expansion has continued. Why wouldn’t it?
The year before I moved to Kenya the UK and US envoys had been outspokenly opposed to the corruption, in the context of the Anglo Leasing revelations by John Githongo of massive corruption involving national security procurements, touching our own security interests aside from our sensibilities about criminal behavior, along with the outrageous shenanigans involving the Artur Brothers, and the Standard media raid, among others. The British envoy even offered the memorably colorful “vomit on our (the donors’) shoes” metaphor about the extent of the gluttonous “eating”.
But by the time I arrived in mid-2007 things were different. New personnel led the diplomatic missions. On the US side we apparently helped Moi and Kibaki get back together, and hosted Interior Minister John Michuki, of “rattling the snake” fame, who had taken credit for the Standard raid, on a security tour of the U.S. Michuki represented Kibaki at our Embassy’s Fourth of July party, where Moi unofficially planted himself to catch the receiving line.
And then we looked the other way at the corruption of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. Ambassador Ranneberger made sure to get his predecessor Ambassador Bellamy removed from our IRI Election Observation Mission on the basis that he was “perceived as anti-government”. Bellamy had spoken out on the corruption, in particular the Standard raid. The week before the vote, Ranneberger noted for the Kenyan public that Kenya was “on track” in fighting the vice of corruption, that we had had Enron in the U.S., that prosecutions for Anglo Leasing and Goldenburg could take time, and that the World Bank had given the Kibaki administration an award for procurement reform (of all things) and that he expected a “free and fair” election. And then we tried at first to sell the ECK’s election “count” even though we knew full well that it was bogus. When that didn’t fly, we supported “power sharing” so long as there was no new election before Kibaki’s full second term was up. According to a news report from Nairobi years later from stolen cables from “Wikileaks” we issued a couple of “travel bans” based on alleged evidence of bribery against two of the ECK commissioners, but we never disclosed this action or the evidence, why we singled out these two or anything else about the matter.
During the post election violence a diplomat explained to me that the reason many of the younger pols in Kibaki’s PNU coalition were against a power sharing settlement was that they didn’t want to share the secondary ministry appointments. Ultimately by adding opposition politicians into the second Kibaki administration through “power sharing” with extra ministries you further expanded the multigenerational set of stomachs to let eat. One way to look at the settlement naturally has been that Kibaki and Raila were willing to stop the fighting (so long as Kibaki retained with further ambiguity the full second term Presidency which the ECK had delivered to him) and the rest were bribed to acquiesce.
So you cannot tell me with a straight face that the diplomatic position of the United States in 2007-08 was to “oppose” corruption as a high rather than a subordinated priority.
After being stung by criticism from the election debacle, Ranneberger was reborn as an outspoken “reform agenda” campaigner for his extended tour on through the passage of a new constitution. He compiled dossiers on money laundering and drug smuggling through politico/business interests and encouraged action, albeit to no avail. His successors quietly moved on, however, and we helped sell a new badly handled election in 2013 by a new, but probably more pervasively corrupted electoral authority. We helped pay for expensive technology that was doomed by procurement fraud but kept quiet. The British Serious Fraud Office successfully prosecuted one of their companies and its owners for bribes on other election procurements, but the Kenyan administration has taken no action to follow up and we have kept our silence.
With time, we have come again to affectionately embrace our usual suspect “partners”, with new programs headquartered in our favorite African city of Nairobi. A photo op in the Oval Office with POTUS and FLOTUS for the Kenyan President and First Lady last year, followed this summer by a glowing official Presidential visit to Nairobi with a telegenic dance party at State House. Never mind what we said before; please can we give you more? Some eloquent speech about the cost of corruption, safely abstract from the burgeoning accumulation of years of specific cases on the impunity docket. Yes we can dance with this new set of shoes without even looking down at the vomit.
Surely then it can be no surprise that things have gotten that much worse. With a new report by Kenyan journalists on the longstanding implication of Kenyan Defense Forces which we help underwrite in Jubaland in the sugar and charcoal smuggling rackets, and fresh levels of embarrassment from the international press from the National Youth Service, irregular handling of bond proceeds amid rising debt levels, more land grabbing and another looted bank, all with a new election cycle approaching, the season has turned again and it is the time for furrowed brows. Time for the U.S. to lead a donor group to call on the current version of the anti-corruption authority. To talk again of “visa bans” and offers again to assist in “asset recovery”.
Instead of another remake, could this be a sequel offering a surprise ending, with say, even a few villains in jail, or at least less rich, as a cautionary tale for some and a bit of hope and inspiration for others? Or is this just another iteration of “the formula” in which the sheriff rides into town, frowns at the drunken brawl, then passes along to enjoy the cinematic scenery on the way home?
Only time will tell. I do think we genuinely would prefer to be against the corruption rather than aligned with it. We just lose our nerve and get distracted by other priorities that seem more immediate. Making a dent in Kenya’s entrenched culture of impunity would take a long hard slog, in the face of bitter opposition formal and informal. It would be messy and likely involve putting up with a bit of embarrassment–it could involve some risk and actual cost. In any event it would take a good while for us to convince the players that we had become serious.
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.
Election technology can work, in Africa, just as elsewhere, when it is not sabotaged by corruption. Nigeria, a much harder case than Kenya, proved that this weekend.
While technology is “not a panacea”, it would have mattered in Kenya in 2007 when it was purchased for Kenya’s ECK at the expense of American taxpayers as an important part of our USAID assistance program if it had not been simply “shelved” by the ECK at the last minute (in a meeting the records of which the ECK refused to turn over to the “Kreigler Commission” charged with investigating the failed election). It was a central part of the planned assistance program for 2013 shaped on the basis of the Kreigler Commission’s recommendations for what was required based on what was done and not done in 2007. It was also in 2013 a central and necessary part of election process under the new Kenyan law for the new IEBC, replacing the discredited and disbanded ECK. It mattered that it did not work, and that it could not have worked because of the failure to procure what was needed when it was needed.
Aside from the basic issues regarding the technology procurements that we have all known about since the 2013 election (and before in some cases)–so thus for more than two years at a minimum–we now have in addition–the “Chickengate” matter where bribery of IEBC officials for ballot paper printing contracts by a British company and its officials, through a Kenyan agent formerly employed by the IEBC, was proven in a court of law to the standards required for criminal convictions.
Yet we see no indication of legal action by the Kenyan government to follow through even on those bribes already proven in the British Court, much less a serious fulfillment of the two-year old recommendation of the Supreme Court of Kenya for the Government to investigate and possibly prosecute the technology procurement cases. We certainly see that corruption issues are admitted to be remain pervasive at all levels of the current Kenyan government–and perhaps there is a newfound intention to address some of them (time will tell) but apparently no new mention of the IEBC. See “Read the list of public officers implicated in corruption and what the EACC accuses them of” The Star, March 31. And “Analysis: Kenyatta’s corrupted corruption probe” by Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick, March 30.
What are we waiting for? Shouldn’t we (the United States) have enough self respect to at least suspend our underwriting of this nonsense and to at least make it clear that we will investigate how our own dollars were spent regardless of what the Government of Kenya elects to do or not do? Likewise other donors who may have paid for part of this?
By NJONJO MUE, as printed at Business Daily, “Smith & Ouzman director’s crime goes beyond ‘chicken’ offer to IEBC officials”:
Mr Mue is programme adviser at Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice.
We write this letter to give our perspective on the impact of corruption on elections. We do this in the hope that you will bring these matters to the attention of the court so that they may inform its deliberations on the sentencing of the directors and the company and the subsequent confiscation hearing.
We would also like to strongly suggest that the SFO call expert witness on this point so that the court can be fully informed about it. We would be happy to provide relevant names of experts in this area should the SFO need such assistance.
KPTJ was formed in the wake of the widespread violence that engulfed Kenya following the disputed 2007 presidential elections.
More than 1,100 people were killed, over half a million displaced from their homes, hundreds of women and men sexually assaulted as well as property worth billions of shillings destroyed in the chaos.
Kenya was saved from a full-scale civil war only by international mediation efforts led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
The mediation agreed on a raft of measures to address both the immediate crisis and the long-term underlying issues to bring permanent stability to the country, including constitutional and institutional reforms.
A commission of inquiry appointed to review the elections recommended a complete overhaul of the electoral process, including the disbandment of the then Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and a fresh registration of voters.
The ECK was replaced by the Interim Independent Election Commission, the body whose officials Smith & Ouzman subsequently bribed to obtain business from.
The above background is important in order to demonstrate a number of key points.
First, both Kenyans and the international community invested a lot of time, money and hard work to ensure that the devastating political violence of 2008 would never occur again.
This was done through reforming the election management body and the appointment of new commissioners, among other measures.
For Smith & Ouzman to casually bribe the new poll officials and justify it by claiming that they were just doing business the “African way” is not just an insult to Kenyans and Africans, it is to dance on the graves of those who paid the ultimate price due to the failed elections.
Second, Kenya has frequently paid a high price in terms of lives lost and property destroyed as a result of disputed elections, the post-election violence being only the most extreme example.
Political violence in turn is often the direct consequence of having elections managed by officials of questionable integrity who cannot be trusted to deliver a free and fair election.
When Smith & Ouzman bribes poll officials to obtain contracts for printing election materials, the country not only incurs financial loss due to the inflated price, but also it ultimately pays a much higher price in terms of the loss of integrity of the electoral body and the subsequent instability and political uncertainty that the loss brings.
As far as financial consequences are concerned, it is notable that Kenya’s elections have been said to be among the world’s most expensive per capita, in spite of their generally poor quality.
Third, an election body, like a bank, survives on public trust and derives legitimacy and credibility not from the technical sophistication of their poll materials, tools and procedures, but from public faith in its impartiality, competence and integrity.
The bribery claims against Kenyan poll officials has resulted in loss of public faith in the agency and may lead to disputed elections and violence in future.