Must reads on Kenya

Kenya’s dangerous path toward authoritarianism by Neha Wadekar in The New Yorker.

Kenyatta’s grand plan to silence Kenya’s free press by George Ogola in African Arguments.

This is how you capture the rise of Kenya’s vibrant contemporary art scene by Abdi Latif Dahir in Quartz Africa.

Central Kenya’s Biting Poverty by Dauti Kahura in The Elephant.

Crackdown on the media in the best fashion of past despots by Macharia Gaitho in The Nation.

Uhuru must resist temptation to take Kenya back to KANU days by Rasna Warah in The Nation.

Vested interests may stifle U.S. arms embargo on South Sudan by Fred Oluoch in The East African. [“Kenya — whose Mombasa port is the main entry for arms destined for South Sudan — has remained cagey on the issue.”]

Updated Feb 7: Autocratic fangs bared in Kenya as unlawful television shutdown finishes first week; police fail to produce unlawfully detained activist

For a good overview:

Kenya’s About-Face: Fear for Democracy as Dissent is Muzzled” by Jina Moore, New York Times, Feb. 4.

Today the police failed to honor an order to produce detained opposition activist/lawyer Miguna Miguna, who has been arrested by police and held in defiance of a previous order granting bail. No charges have been initiated against him by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution.

The Court ordered the Inspector General of the Police to appear tomorrow morning with Miguna. Raila and other NASA leaders came to Court for Miguna this afternoon.

Miguna is a firebrand “character” on the local scene in recent years who was not in NASA, running for Governor as an independent against ODM/NASA incumbent Evans Kidero and the new Jubilee Governor Sonko, gaining little support as a candidate. Post election he has associated himself with an activist wing of political opposition calling itself the “National Resistance Movement” and pressured for, publicized and participated in Raila’s (peaceful) “people’s president” swearing in ceremony. It would seem that the regime saw him as someone they could visibly and conspicuously “shut up” who did not have a political constituency or independent mass following.

Personally, I have not considered Miguna’s role one that I thought seemed constructive over the years, but he does not deserve to die for that and I am worried for him.

What does it take for people to see that Kenyatta and Ruto just are not the men whom their Western friends and publicists would try to make us believe?

Looking at Kenya over the years it is so easy to become inured to State violence used not in the interest of the nation or the citizens but of political power and self interest of those controlling the ruling party.

537th they came for Miguna Miguna, and I said nothing because I was not Miguna Miguna?

UPDATE: Later Monday, KTN broadcasting was restored and while NTV remained off the public airwaves its signal was restored to cable and DSTV for those subscribers. Citizen and Kikuyu language sister station Inooro were still blocked from broadcasting. The partial restoration came just ahead on a contempt petition following the original order that broadcasts be restored secured by a public interest litigant. Citizen, unlike its rivals, went to Court itself to challenge the ban.

UPDATE:  Miguna, a Kenyan born citizen who fled to Canada as a refugee during the political persecution of the Moi days, was finally taken late at night to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and bundled onto a plane for Amsterdam and on back to Toronto.  The police having run out of time finally after serial Court orders to produce him took him to the airport instead of the courtroom.  The authorities will have to file affidavits explaining their actions in preparation for contempt hearings.  Miguna asserts that he was physically mistreated aside from the extralegal aspects of his detention and his alleged deportation or expulsion.

Ken Opalo points out in The Standard that Interior Minister Matiangi shouldn’t have overreacted to Raila’s oath of office in first place, since “the people’s president” is not a real office and the ceremony was a political statement not a treasonable offense.  To this I would add that the State Department’s pronouncement from Washington helped fuel rather than diffuse the confrontation, in particular by decrying the ceremony as a “self-inauguration” without noting that the opposition had stepped back from a claim to an actual office (the stated goal of the opposition is take office through new elections later this year).

Candy and Communists for Kenya: as Kenyatta’s Jubilee “deepens” partnership with Communist Party of China, Mars’ Wrigley East Africa to sell “affordable Skittles”

“Affordable Skittlesfor the “kadogo market” may not quite match Kentucky Fried Chicken, but perhaps the biggest news since Burger King arrived in Nairobi?

And yes that event at State House celebrating the deeping partnership of Jubilee and the Communist Party of China yesterday has turned heads. I think a lot of Americans had not been aware of this relationship. Obviously it makes sense in carrying forward the spirit of KANU of Kenyatta and Moi and their understudies. Kenya always labeled itself a “democracy” whether one party rule was formal or informal. China, of course, is also democratic with numerous parties other than the Communist Party.

“Today we agreed to deepen our relationship with the The Communist Party of China in order to enhance Jubilee party management and democracy.” The Presidency

At a micro level I would take umbrage at the blatant use of State resources for Jubilee Party business, but since the Party was launched at State House in the first place and the donors supporting “Western-style” democracy and the “rule of law” and such were not willing to say “boo”–nor the IEBC nor the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, there is never a reason to be surprised at this point. We reap as we sow.

ICYMI: An important read from Tristan McConnell in The Atlantic: A Deadly Election Season in Kenya – The Killings Suggest a State that is More Predator than Protector.

And here is the story from Moroccan World News of how the Chinese connected the African Unions computer servers at the Addis headquarters directly to Chinese servers in Shanghai.

Kenya 2017 – EU Election Observation Mission releases Final Report

The Kenyan Ambassador to the EU accuses the EU EOM of violating a Memorandum of Agreement with the Government of Kenya governing its observation by releasing its Final Report this week. (I have not had a response yet from a request for a copy of the MOU from the EOM or been able to otherwise locate a copy–it is likely routine.)

The report has a fair bit of information on the immediate mechanics of voting this year, while noting that few of the recommendations of the 2013 EUEOM had been met in preparation.

Of the 22 recommendations made by the 2013 EU EOM, it appears that none of the five priority recommendations have been implemented, and only two have been fully implemented (related to a unified voter register and defining the duration of the campaign). The rest have been partially implemented, albeit minimally in some cases, or not implemented at all.

I do not have any particular comment regarding the voting itself having elected not to be there myself.

While observing that the new IEBC was appointed unduly late, in a climate of mistrust, the report does not addresses the context or even mention the “Chickengate” convictions by the Courts of EU Member the UK for bribes paid for previous IIEC/IEBC procurements, or the Government of Kenya’s failure to prosecute the recipients, for example.

I will be interested to hear more on the thoughts of others who were there.

EU Election Observation Mission 2017 Final Report

Timely new reading for the latest chapter in the Kenya struggle

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Brand new from Palgrave, Westen K. Shilaho’s Political Power and Tribalism in Kenya. Reading now.

Best overall international piece so far on Kenya Supreme Court decision

Lots of good journalism out today, but this story from Peter Fabricus in my evening Daily Maverick Weekend Thing strikes me as hitting many of the right notes: “Kenya’s courts step up to electoral plate.”

One of the most important lessons from today is how cowed Kenya’s media really is by the Government.  This decision did not have to come as quite such a suprise if Kenya’s media had felt free–or been brave enough–to just cover the polling stations and constituency tally centres.  But we went through this in 2007 (when results were broadcast then taken down), and 2013 when self-censorship was the order of the day.

Today, Kenya took a big step forward on the rule of law — a sign that perhaps the press can become in the future in fact as free as the Constitution provides and the West pretends.

For Kenyan must reads, start with Nanjala Nyabola, “Why I’m proud to be an African today,” at IRINnews.com.

“Preliminary Findings” released by Kenyan civil society coalition on election

Update 23 Aug – Here is the latest from the  Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu monitoring:    KYSYElectionDataUpdate-WhyDisputed-22Aug2017

Following the unlawful raid on AfriCOG in Nairobi yesterday, today the Kura Yangu Sauti Yangu election monitoring program which has been engaged since long before any of the International Election Observation Missions were constituted, released its Preliminary Findings.

Please read for yourself (especially if you have commented publicly so far on Kenya’s election).

Are the Goodyear bribes in Kenya, as disclosed in US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case, disappearing into Kenya’s “black hole” of impunity?


tyres in Lamu

Tyres in Lamu


From Nairobi’s Business Daily of February 26, 2015, “Big names face scrutiny in Goodyear bribes scandal“:

Top Kenya government officials are on the spot once again for pocketing more than Sh138 million ($1.5 million) in bribes from a subsidiary of American tyre firm Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, US regulators said.

The bribes were paid in exchange for the award of multi-million shilling tenders to supply tyres to some of Kenya’s largest state corporations, government agencies and public listed firms.

The US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) said Goodyear paid the bribes to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Armed Forces Canteen Organization (Afco), Nzoia Sugar, Kenyan Air Force, Ministry of Roads, Ministry of State for Defence, East African Portland Cement Company (EAPCC) and Telkom Kenya executives to win contracts.

US detectives also established that additional Sh1.3 million ($14,457) was dished out to lure Kenya Police and City Hall officials to award the Ohio-based tyre maker multi-million shilling deals.

The corrupt dealings, committed between 2007 and December 2011, were executed through Treadsetters Tyres Ltd, then a subsidiary of Goodyear.

Goodyear made the illicit payments to Kenyan officials in cash and recorded the spending in its financial books as advertising expenses, according to a forensic audit by the SEC.

“Treadsetters’ general manager and finance director were at the centre of the scheme,” the SEC said in its filings. “They approved payments for phony promotional products, and then directed the finance assistant to write-out the checks to cash.”

The well-orchestrated bribery ring involving Kenyan bureaucrats is captured in a ruling in which Goodyear has agreed to pay a Sh1.48 billion ($16.22 million) fine for engaging in corrupt practices abroad.

The allegations were disclosed by Goodyear in 2012 and hit the Kenyan press in a significant way when the SEC fine was announced almost eight months ago.  Many of the disclosed bribes were paid to Kenyan national security officials.  In the meantime, we see more successful terrorist attacks and insecurity, but no further news on anything being done to suggest that the Government of Kenya has any substantive intention of treating these bribes as unacceptable.

Where is Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission? Where are Kenya’s journalists and media houses in following the stories they reported? (would be pleased to hear if I’m missing something . . .)

And where is my government?  I’m proud of my country for policing our own companies through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but it has been sad to see our support for a “reform agenda” in our relations with Kenya seem to run off into a ditch.

“Faded Aid”

New Ipsos Kenya poll: Major loss of confidence in institutions; cost of living remains dominant concern

Today’s release of the latest quarterly “barometer” poll of public opinion from Ipsos Kenya indicates two cross-cutting themes in how Kenyans see public affairs.

First, since November, public confidence has declined in essentially all major institutions, from already generally low levels. Conspicuously, in a measure of progress of reforms under the new constitution, only 12% of Kenyans expressed “a lot” of confidence in the judiciary versus 19% who had “none”.  For the police, 11% had “a lot” of confidence versus 29% who had “none”.

Second, the cost of living remains the most important issue to far and away the largest percentage (50%) of Kenyans. This has been the case for years, and the lack of focus on this issue in the Kenyan and international media, in Kenyan politics and government, and in international policy discussions may well give insight into why Kenyans have little confidence in their institutions. Unemployment (19%) and corruption (9%) are second and third in the “most important issue” question.

See the Ipsos Kenya summary statement and the entire detailed poll presentation.

Worth noting:  Oxford’s Dr. Nicholas Cheeseman offers a critique of ODM’s slide to it’s current low ebb. The latest poll indicates a wide field for a strong opposition party, with continued economic stress facing most Kenyans and little satisfaction with the institutions in power, but ODM will need to find a coherent message and credible voice to rebuild its stature.  The Standard editorializes that “Chaos in ODM is a matter of national concern.”  The Star says “Time for ODM to Re-Invent Itself.”

Also of interest: Andrew Sullivan asks “Why Doesn’t USAID Win Any Friends?”.  Sullivan cites a Reuters piece by Paul A. Brinkley entitled “How to fix foreign aid”:

.  .  .  .

The first step is to end the State Department’s management of foreign assistance, and return to an earlier organizational system in Washington.

The Foreign Service plays a crucial role in the establishment and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. But diplomats are not program executors. The culture of diplomacy, so crucial to negotiation and resolution of conflict, is completely wrong for managing economic development programs. Much less the tactical business development necessary for economic growth.

The primary instrument for implementing foreign assistance, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was moved into the State Department in 2005 — in a misguided effort to better align its programs with security and counterterrorism policies. The verdict is now in on this transition. USAID is not effective in carrying out its principal mission: delivering cost-effective outcomes that advance U.S. foreign policy goals.

.  .  .  .

The priority of the State Department — from staffing, to allocation of resources, to a forbidding security posture that inhibits local engagement of war-torn populations — is to fulfill a diplomatic mission. Not to run foreign assistance programs. Realigning organizations, like this move of USAID into State’s sphere, is a poor means of carrying out presidential policy.

A Guest Post on the State of Kenya@50: “Where Did The Time Go and What Do We Have to Show For It?”

Following is a “guest post” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American now leaving Kenya after more than thirty years of Kenya’s fifty year independent history. This was originally written back in May, after the election failures but months before the Westgate fiasco, about which we learned more damning information with the report this week from the review by the NYPD:
Kenya Map at Nairobi School

It’s mid-May, do you know where your election results are?

Good question! As Kenya prepares to celebrate 50 years of Independence – and, remarkably for Africa, largely free of tribal massacres, wars, natural and/or manmade disasters, successive failed or successful military coups d’etat, vicious secret police operations or state sponsored “disappearances – this steadily failing state is increasingly unable to conduct normal run of the mill governmental functions.

The GOK was able to carry out a national census until the late 1990s, deliver mail and inland cables, find the owners of automobiles allegedly involved in traffic offenses, pay pensions, etc. The more international assistance and support for the GOK and its myriad associated agencies, parastatals, universities and authorities the faster state operations have deteriorated.

The incredible investment in “IT” prior to the 2013 General Elections was not only supposed to prevent or mitigate electoral fraud but was also a belated recognition of just how bad government administration had become.

The IEBC was unable to organize or conduct “voter education” prior to the March 4th polls and is probably unable to find all 120,000 (?) temporary workers hired for these elections; media reports indicate that election- related pay owed to the police, NYS recruits and prison warders has still not been paid.

In essence it is an amazingly foolish leap of faith to expect the IEBC to release any election results for President, Governors and members of the National Assembly and Senate. The longer these results are kept from the public the greater will be arguments that these elections were stolen; 50% of the country is already on a slow boil and the new administration is clearly not able to handle long simmering insecurity in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir Counties or in Western Kenya where criminal gangs are terrorizing the populace.

Reports of a resurgence of Mungiki in and around Nairobi as well as continuing MRC related activity in the “Coast Province” counties – including Lamu – show that the state of national insecurity is more serious than anyone will publicly admit. The heavy handed response on Tuesday, 14/05/2013, by some 400 “security personnel” drawn from the disparate forces within the “National” Police Service to only 250 noisy demonstrators – and 15 or so pigs and piglets – outside Parliament showed an usual lack of any police command and control.

Meanwhile the Obama Administration seems blissfully unaware or unconcerned of the situation in Kenya; our bureaucrats just seem to be hunkering down and covering their asses.

Reports that the police fired live ammunition to “break up the crowd of peaceful demonstrators” after tear gas and water cannon proved “ineffective” indicates a lack of discipline or concern for innocent bystanders or onlookers in offices, shops or even the carparks in the vicinity of Parliament right smack in the CBD!

The use of live ammunition to quell demonstrations in Kisumu in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on March 30th elicited little comment in the domestic media and certainly no public protests from the US Embassy. Apparently the rubber bullets procured by the NPS prior to the elections are still in their original packing?

The bottom line is that “Something’s happening here. What it is, is very clear…” To Some!

Andrew J. Franklin, J.D.
Former U.S. Marine, resident of Nairobi since March, 1981