Turning Point in Kenya? Update on opposition to Kenyan anti-NGO and Media Bills

“Freedom of Expression is Your Right”–Subversive NGO Solganeering in Kenya’s Neighbor Uganda
"Freedom of expression is your right"

Opposition to controversial Kenya Media Bill heats up” Sabahi Online via AllAfrica.com

Cuts in foreign funding for NGOs intended to silence critics–Human Rights Watch” from Trust.org

William Ruto and his Ethiopian host had chilling message on media freedom” from Macharia Gaitho in The Daily Nation.

Kenya attempts to silence civil society“, Freedom House Spotlight on Freedom.

For perspective (not just to say I warned you so) see my post about Kenyatta and media freedom from December 2009:  “More Government of Kenya action to muzzle media”:

The Standard reports that it has been enjoined  from publishing stories regarding Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and the purchasing of government vehicles.  Uhuru sought the temporary injunction to protect his interests and reputation.  Seems like a classic case of a high gov’t official using prior restraint to avoid challenge to his job performance.

This is to me another example of fact that the media environment in Kenya is not quite as free as international commentators frequently suggest.  While there is quite a bit of reporting on corruption, the fact remains that it hasn’t dented impunity, and there is a great deal that is known but not reported, and many stories get started but never followed to conclusion.

After the paramilitary raid on the Standard Group in mid-2006, the US eventually made peace with impunity for this attack on the media.  By the summer of 2007, then-Internal Security Minister Michuki–who famously said of the Standard raid that the Standard, having “rattled a snake” should have expected “to get bitten” for its reporting–was the featured speaker at the Ambassador’s Fourth of July celebration, talking of his recent security cooperation tour in the US.  With this background for its critics in the Government, the press can’t help but wonder how far it can go.

And from March of this year: “Attacks on Kenyan Civil Society prefigured in Jubilee ‘manifesto'”

Kenya’s ELOG delivers major report on election

The Elections Observation Group (ELOG) has published yesterday a lengthy report for the first time on its observation of the March 4 Kenyan election.  Having criticized the lack of transparency of aspects of ELOG’s observation and Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) program in the immediate post-election period, and cited criticism of their public communications in characterizing the PVT I wanted to quickly recognize the level of their follow-up here in their first release since March 9.

I will need more time with the report before discussing it in detail here as it runs to 78 pages plus attachments (and in the meantime I have recently rejoined the corporate world so I am back to avocational status on Kenya projects) but this deserves real attention and goes far beyond what has been published by the other major observation groups.

In the meantime, here is ELOG’s conclusion:

This report has delved deep into the electoral process starting the journey from the troubled times of 2007/2008 when the country burnt.  It has given an insight into the insidious political problems that Kenya has had to grapple with.

The report analyses the ills that the country must heal before it finally gets out of the political woods.  From negative ethnicity fueled by the “tyranny of numbers” to weak or unreliable institutions, the country has major problems to fix to ensure free and fair elections that are beyond reproach.

The report also makes it clear that although the restored faith in the judiciary and the fear of the ICC may have averted the violence that engulfed the nation after the 2007 general elections, faith in the IEBC and the judiciary was eroded following the Supreme Court ruling on the presidential petition filed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

All stakeholders need to put in extra work and resources to help enhance the public understanding of their civil rights while enhancing the efficiency of all institutions charged with conducting elections in Kenya.

Peace Wall

Ironies in Open Government: Was the Kenya PVT a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” or “Private Vote Tabulation”?

Kenya Pre-election Poll

So now we have results of both a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” and an Exit Poll for the March 4, 2013 Kenyan election.

The irony here is that the Exit Poll was privately funded, yet we have, courtesy of the video of the initial university presentation by the researchers Dr. Clark Gibson, Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. James Long, visiting scholar at Harvard and appointed as Asst. Professor at the University of Washington, quite a bit more detail about the Exit Poll data than we do about the PVT.  The PVT, however, was funded at least in substantial part, apparently, by yours truly and the rest of the American taxpayers through USAID through NDI. (This is the best information available to me–please correct me if I am wrong.)

I mean no disrespect to any of the people involved at NDI or ELOG–or at USAID for that matter.  I am sure everyone did their best on the PVT.  But when do we see the details instead of just a conclusion?  

After all the controversy about the delay in the release of the USAID-funded IRI Exit Poll in 2007-08, I am just very much surprised that everyone involved this time did not chose to try to get in front of any problems and controversies by being more transparent.

I do not want to weigh in to any of the back and forth as to “which is better” between an Exit Poll and a PVT–in fairness they have their relative strengths and weaknesses–it is best to have both.  So let’s get the data out on the table for study and see what we can learn.

“Media Zombie” stirs as Kenyan legal process moves forward [updated]

[Update: here is the Sunday Standard, “How Raila’s poll petition may change the whole game”]

“The many questions IEBC needs to clear with Kenyans over elections.” The Saturday Nation

The “media zombie” awakes with a recitation of damning basic questions about the systems employed by the IEBC.

AfriCOG and other Kenyan civil society groups were left as lonely voices before the election while the public relations of the IEBC and the rest of the Kenyan Government, propped up as best I can see so far by the “western donors” (with money from taxpayers like me) and the “aid industry” peddled false assurance. I will have to admit that the situation is significantly worse than I had realized.

And then beyond the systems that were not even seriously in place, we have the specifics of bogus numbers coming out with election challenge petitions by AfriCOG and by the CORD campaign filed today. So much like 2007 only worse in terms of a mass “overvote” in the presidential race.

“Halt the Party, It’s not yet Uhuru”, Wycliffe Muga in The Star.

In the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman notes the extreme pressure on Kenya’s judges:

The case is sure to be a test of Kenya’s recently overhauled judiciary. It is now much more widely respected, but some analysts have questioned whether all six Supreme Court justices will be able to withstand the pressure of refereeing such a high stakes contest for power. Even before the election, the chief justice received death threats, and analysts have raised questions about the independence of some of the other justices.

Kenya’s party primaries Thursday will be key test for credible elections–international community should speak candidly this time

A key indicator of major Kenyan general election problems ahead that was downplayed in 2007 was the magnitude of problems in the party nominations process.  All of us who were involved in supporting and watching the process were aware from our own experiences and from the Kenyan media that things were messy.  As it turned out, the U.S., at least, conducted a more systematic observation of the primaries and saw a lot of things that would have raised more red flags for the rest of us had anything been said publicly (or even shared privately with others working election observations).

For the latest this year, see “Confusion ahead of Jan 17 party nominations deadline” from The Star today and  “Rivals prepare for tough nomination fight” from the Sunday Nation.  Of course, the challenges now are much greater because of the addition of the Senate and county offices.  See “Fairness a Must In Party Nominations” from Jerry Okungu in The Star.

[Update Jan. 16 0200 Nairobi time, Daily Nation: “Lobby names possible nomination hotspots“:

Nairobi, Siaya, Nakuru and Migori have been identified as possible violence hotspots in party nominations tomorrow.

The Elections Observation Group said on Tuesday it was concerned about the rise in sporadic violence in parts of Kenya, particularly in Nairobi’s slums and Tana River.

The group has deployed 290 observers countrywide, with a concentration on the hotspots, to monitor and report on the primaries.]

Through my 2009 FOIA request for documents from the State Department on the Embassy’s own 2007 election observation endeavor, I was provided in addition to a minimal amount of information on the general election observation a copy of an e-mail about the primaries, as discussed in Part Eight of my FOIA Series, especially noteworthy regarding the role of the ECK, as well as hate literature, and the overall mess:

The one document released that substantively describes observation of voting by State Department personnel is a November 20, 2007 e-mail 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.”:  Here is the text:

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”.

Negatives Observed:
*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 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.

Positives Observed:
*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.

Political Violence
*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—–

For context, this November 20, 2007 summary of what was observed during the primary election 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 didn’t know, rather it was what it wouldn’t say.

Update on the Egypt NGO trials, and an appeciation of “the local staff” working for democracy

The Christian Science Monitor published an update today by Dan Murphy on the lingering situation of the trials of international NGO workers from the staffs of NDI, IRI and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Egypt:

“Mostly forgotten, Egyptian trial of U.S. NGO workers drags on”

. . . .

The departure of most of the Americans took the air out of musings in Washington that Egypt’s US aid would be cut off in retaliation and in general press coverage of the case. Further easing concerns were the eventual charges, around the question of illegally receiving foreign funding for the NGOs, which carries jail time, but not a death sentence. Press coverage has dwindled to a trickle.

Civil society growth at stake

Yet the stakes of the ongoing trial, which is scheduled to resume on March 6, loom large for the future of the development of civil society in Egypt as much as they do for the 13 Egyptians, American, and German who have remained behind. “The government has successfully stigmatized the NGO world,” says Becker.” [The American NDI worker who stayed behind with the Egyptians.]

“It’s very lazy to to class this as an American-Egypt battle, or about the former regime versus the revolution,” says Halawa, who joined NDI in Cairo in July of 2011 and worked on training Egyptian political parties on grass-roots organization, poll-watching, and outreach. “It’s about civil society in this country and the ramifications are quite huge. You get the feeling that people are quite scared. We joined up with the revolution, to fight for free elections, most of us were election observer, and most of us weren’t planning to stay on much longer.”

Halawa and other defendants complain that Egypt’s NGO community has not rallied around them, frightened off by the early claims in the Egyptian press that they were spies or guilty of treason. That tactic was a staple of the Mubarak-era, and the meme was pushed hard by Mubarak holdover Fayza Aboul Naga, minister of international cooperation until earlier this year, who had long been at the sharp end of Mubarak-era efforts to prevent civil society from flourishing here.

[Update: see this excellent McClatchy story for Jan. 16, “Egyptians democracy workers still on trial for helping U.S. groups”]

I think this is the time for me to say something long overdue about the Kenyans (and one third-country national) who reported to me as “local staff” for the Kenya and Somaliland programs when I directed the East Africa office for IRI in Nairobi in 2007-08. The local staff made the programs run successfully and taught me most of what I learned about Kenya. I loved working with them. As the only American there, I got a disproportionate share of the recognition and appreciation, but we were all especially dependent on the local staff because IRI was short-handed for East Africa in Washington. When the New York Times called me in July 2008 after the embargoed IRI exit polI showing an Odinga win was released at by CSIS in Washington, I sent the Times a written statement following my interview. I included this, although it wasn’t “news” when the story finally ran the next January:

The local IRI staff in Kenya did an outstanding job with the hard work of the election observation and keeping the office and programming together under very trying circumstances. I am very proud of the job they did with all of our programming. The exit poll was primarily handled by Strategic and UCSD and myself—if it failed in its execution that would be my responsibility and not that of anyone else in the office. As far as the decisions regarding whether or not to disclose the results to the Kenyan public, those were made in Washington and were outside the control of the local staff.

I hope that IRI and NDI and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation are able to be of substantial aid to those stuck facing trial in Egypt for simply working for democracy in their own county for these organizations. These people should not be forgotten.

New Development in Reading the Pre-Election Kibaki Tea Leaves: GOK repays DfID for “education scandal”

I don’t want to make everything that happens in Kenyan government and politics in early 2013 “about” the Kibaki succession, because, of course, there are the “down ticket” races that matter, too.  Nonetheless, I was fascinated to see the news in the Standard this afternoon that the Kenyan government had repaid the British official aid agency DFID for losses on the “education scandal” that was current news at the time I started this blog just more than three years ago: “Kenya repays stolen fee education cash”.

The “education scandal” and the “maize scandal” were the two big breaking new corruption eruptions under the Government of National Unity that served to remind everyone that simply adding part of ODM to the second Kibaki Adminstration in April 2008 did not in itself solve anything regarding corruption.  The “maize scandal” was a new and insidious plot for the corpulent corrupt to “eat” off of hunger in the food crisis in 2009; the “education scandal” was the revelation of an older and ongoing insidious plot for the elite to steal from school children, dating to the inception of “free primary education” early in the first Kibaki Adminstration.

Why repay the money now?  One suggestion might be that this is an indication that Kibaki does have concern about his post-presidential reputation, his “legacy”.  Perhaps there is something to this.

Of course, Kibaki is a master of not communicating his intentions, conducting affairs behind closed doors and letting Western (and Kenyan) observers who feel compelled to do so offer speculative analysis and opinion to substitute for actual knowledge about what he is up to.  So who knows?

Amazingly, to me anyway, I have read otherwise trenchant reports and analysis of various aspects of the Kenyan situation that include unembellished lines to the effect that Kibaki will not be a major factor in the upcoming election as he is concluding his second and final term.  To me, it is quite obvious that H.E. Mwai Kibaki will remain the most important individual in the 2013 Kenyan presidential election until he passes the mace to his successor.  With the new constitution, partially implemented, he has less direct and formal power in the 2013 election than he had in the 2007 election.  He remains, nonetheless, far more powerful than any other single individual, even Uhuru Kenyatta or Raila Odinga certainly, and more by far than any one member of his inner circle.  How he will use that power, and how much we will even ever know about how he uses that power, are in question.

Would it be hard for Kibaki to hand off the presidency to Raila Odinga this time?  The polls show Odinga leading but Uhuru in range with just a few weeks to go, so in some ways the race is similar to 2007.  Not to suggest that Kibaki would prefer Uhuru in the way that he preferred himself in 2007, just taking note of the parallels.  Some people have suggested that he might prefer Saitoti or later Mudavadi to either Raila or Uhuru, but did they really know something or were they going on guesses, rumours or even misinformation? Certainly the dynamic of having a possible runoff and the need to win in the counties makes things different and more complicated this time.  It will be interesting to watch.

In the meantime, congratulations to DfID and I will hope that President Kibaki does in fact want to leave office with the best possible reputation on governance and corruption issues in these closing weeks.  UPDATE: (I do think that it must be noted that there is no indication here of an intent to actually recover “stolen” funds, rather that the Kenyan taxpayers are taking up the burden from the British taxpayers.)

Here is news from Saturday, Jan. 12 that President Kibaki has refused to assent to the hugely controversial Retirement Benefits bill passed by the 10th Parliament on their way out of office, awarding themselves a big gratuity of 9.6M KSh on leaving office, along with post-parliamentary benefits such as state burial and security, diplomatic passports and airport VIP lounge access.

Update on Kenya’s Biometric Voter Registration

It seems to be “sorted” that the Canadian government will handle the purchase, funded as a “concessionary loan” of KSh 4.6M to the Government of Kenya, relieving the IEBC of the budgeted amount of KSh 3.9M for the procurement.  Here are stories from the Standard and the Star.

Polling Centre at Dagoretti, Nairobi

Watch USAID’s “Frontiers in Development” Monday – Wednesday from Washington

USAID’s “Frontiers in Development” Conference in Washington Live Video Feed

On Twitter:  #Frontiers #DevelopmentIs

Speakers relating to East Africa specifically include Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza:

Twaweza is an independent East African initiative that was established in 2009 by Rakesh Rajani, a Tanzanian civil society leader who founded HakiElimu and served as its first executive director until the end of 2007. Twaweza’s approach and theory of change is built on the lessons from the HakiElimu experience, as well as wide ranging conversations across East Africa conducted through 2008 and a review of the literature. Hivos provided the incubation space for Twaweza’s development, and currently houses the initiative before it becomes fully independent by 2013. Hivos is registered in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as a non-profit company (company limited by guarantee with no share capital).

Twaweza’s approach and its policies, systems and procedures reflect a set of values around effective and transparent governance. Five key values and principles guide our work: effectiveness and accountability; transparency and communication; ethical integrity; reflection and learning; and responsibility and initiative.

Video from yesterday’s CSIS program on USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program–James Long discusses election monitoring work

Featuring:

Maura O’ Neil, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator, USAID

Thomas A. Khalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation, National Economic Council

James Long, PhD candidate in Political Science, University of California San Diego (UCSD), and from September 2012 Academy Scholar at Harvard University and an Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Washington

Moderated by

Daniel F. Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development and Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis, Center for Strategic and International Studies