Kenya Pre-Election Violence: with only 22 months until vote, were deadly clashes temporarily delayed by BBI process? What is next?

Sunday saw two deaths associated with clashes allegedly between factions within the ruling Jubilee Party.

The Presidential campaign of Deputy President William Ruto did a Sunday morning church and politics foray in Murang’a in what would be seen as President Kenyatta’s backyard. See the story from The Daily Nation on arrest orders from the IG of Police and a very strong warning from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.

Uraia- Because Kenyans Have Rights

Circumstances are disputed between the supporters of the two politicians (Incumbent President Kenyatta and Incumbent Deputy President Ruto). It appears that government security forces were active and may have helped prevent worse violence—which could be encouraging—but that is just a superficial impression on my part from early reporting.

We are only 22 months away from a constitutionally mandated August 2022 General Election and violence in the campaign has been below what one would expect as the norm in the MultiParty Era. But the air seems pregnant with possibilities for both violence instigated by campaigns and for violent state repression. A constitutional crisis is afoot from the failure of the ruling party to effectuate the constitutional mandated gender balance in Parliament.

We are almost a year past the original release of a Building Bridges Initiative report. There is no clarity on exactly how long is to be allowed on what is now “overtime” on negotiating and agreeing on concrete steps to effectuate the changes to the basic bargain of governance in Kenya. The idea is to avoid the kind of competition we are seeing in the 2022 race as it stands now.

Germany is on social media as a lead on some of the civil society and domestic observation group preparation of the type that has been a staple but the U.S. and U.K. are unusually quiet in public about election specific issues now. There has been no public break at all in the partnership between Jubilee and the increasingly repressive Chinese Communist Party. Kenyatta has just signed a big debt and infrastructure deal with France as it becomes more apparent that the Jubilee Government grossly overpaid and thus over-borrowed on the Chinese Standard Gauge Railroad deal—which remains substantially secret.

France was a conspicuous diplomatic critic of the 2007 election theft among the European democracies but seems to have adapted to the role of election hardware and software supplier to the Election Commission since 2012 and become a major investor over the years since the partially State-owned Danone food conglomerate purchased forty percent of the Kenyatta family’s Brookside Dairies business in 2014.

The U.S. sent diplomats to facilitate post-election negotiations in late 2017 that culminated in the March 2018 “handshake” and we gave diplomatic support and National Democratic Institute facilitation to the BBI process.

As recently as April 2019 Ambassador McCarter tweeted with a picture of a visit from IEBC Chairman Chebukati that he hoped to see a 2022 election that did not involve a dispute or litigation. Without a investment in reform, which we have not seen, that would require either (1) a landslide of the sort that we saw with NARC in 2002 that gave rise to the 2003-05 democratic interregnum or (2) a recognition and consolidation of Jubilee as KANU successor.

In Washington the overwhelming public messaging is complacency. Kenya is very important to us because we are there in some real magnitude compared to the rest of the region and we are there because Kenya is important to us. But it is too early to talk about governance and elections and political violence, if for no other reason than the war against al-Shabaab is still going on as it was in the run up to the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections.

Extended: Let me note that NDI will be releasing public opinion polling about attitudes towards elections with the Uraia Trust by Zoom on Wednesday, October 7. (Register through the link.). Regular readers will remember that what to release from the USAID public opinion survey programs conducted by IRI in 2002-07 and NDI since has been a matter of “discussion” in some situations in the past. Public release is in general what is required by the stated purposes of these USAID democracy assistance programs vis what the State Department might do for itself. So let me recognize this positive step.


One of the most striking symbols of French financial penetration was the acquisition last year by one of France’s richest families of a major stake in Twiga Foods which aspires to be Africa’s biggest grocery supplier after being co-founded in Nairobi by a young American entrepreneur as a “social enterprise” with support from USAID and subsequent “philanthrocapital” and IFC investment. The dollars are inconsequential relative to the infrastructure deals but if this business does ultimately succeed in its ambitions the French will be indebted to American aid and we may have missed an opportunity to help finance and support African small business.

Who has done the best writing so far about the fake NGOs and “bots” in the Kenyan election campaign?

Asking for a friend.

What we could do for the culture war–Stop exporting R. Kelly to Uganda

[Update: BBC reports that the Ugandan parliament has actually passed this absurd life-in-prison anti-homosexuality law that has been lurking in recent years–what a mess. While Museveni is said to have sent troops to South Sudan and has been called on as mediator by AU. Will hope that he will have the sense and decency to keep this on the shelf.]

What did I see of America during my two weeks in Uganda? The thing that really stuck in my mind was the banner advertising the R. Kelly concert. Surely this violates any sense of “first do no harm.” This was five years ago, after everyone should have known better. interesting to see people waking up to this finally.

From twitter: @Nnedi: Is there really a internet mob going after R. Kelly (FINALLY) or does it just seem that way because I surround myself with thinking people??

Salim Lone book talk and today’s public radio stories

Salim Lone last week at Chatham House, London, speaking on Kenya’s Pre- and Post-Election Challenges: The End of the Kibaki-Raila Decade ahead of the publication of his book, War and Peace in Kenya.

From NPR’s All Things Considered today, “Kenya’s Free Schools Bring a Torrent of Students”:

A study published by Britain’s Sussex University in 2007 found that Kenya’s free schools were “a matter of political expediency … not adequately planned and resourced,” and as a result, there have actually been more dropouts and a falling quality of education.

Conversely, the number of private schools has increased tenfold as parents look for alternatives to overcrowded classrooms.

The situation is similar in neighboring Tanzania, which did away with school fees a year earlier in 2002. The student population also skyrocketed, leading to packed classrooms, book shortages, overused toilets, a teacher scarcity and an increase in paddling students to keep order.

And here is a good “Wealth and Poverty” feature from American Public Radio’s Marketplace on an international folk art market in Santa Fe, New Mexico with craftspeople from a number of African countries participating.  Interesting discussion of globalization and the impact of imports of used clothing.

Africa: From “Cool” Aid to “Hot” Investment? (Updated)

I will have more to say on this soon, but let me introduce an idea I am thinking through. I have the sense that there is a real shift in momentum on interest in Africa from the subject of aid to a possible place to make profit.

One factor has been the “global financial crisis”, from the initial “meltdowns” and “bailouts” to the current focus on public debt levels in the West. The moment for pledges of large future aid increases seems to have passed–“pledges” were made during times that felt flush, but mostly not delivered on even then. Greater scrutiny of the downsides of aid as reflected in critiques such as Dead Aid followed. Now the rich countries feel much less rich, and much less sure of themselves anyway.

At the same time, investors (partly thanks to the bailouts of the financial system) still have lots of cash and conventional opportunities in developed markets look that much less appealing. Interest rates are very low and gold is already at record levels. Africa may be in the process of going from being seen as the outlier that needs massive aid as a laggard in development to the outlier that represents the last great frontier of globalization with growth potential that isn’t available elsewhere.

Africa has been in many respects a “playground” for corrupt Western politicians and schemers. The month before its now-famous report leading to a change of command for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Rolling Stone had a fascinating piece on a massive land deal between an investor group and a militia figure in Southern Sudan featuring stereotypical behavior of the worst sort all around.
Nonetheless, it would seem that there is a growing level of interest in more transparent and straightforward investment activity of the sort that could have the potential to contribute to sustainable growth in a number of African countries.

Here is the link to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute on Africa’s “Emerging Lions”.