If Kenya’s remaining IEBC Commissioners have committed to stick with the 2017 OT-Morpho (n/k/a IDEMIA) “Election Management System” they should explain why they sole sourced that firm in March 2017 and disclose the contracts

At a briefing hosted this week by Kenya’s permanent internal election observation organization, ELOG, a Commissioner representing the IEBC indicated that the intention for the 2022 election was to reuse the KIEMS (“Kenya Integrated Election Management System”) system that was at the heart of the problems leading to the Supreme Court’s annulment of Kenya’s last presidential election.

Without scratching the surface into the deeper intrigues involving the re-election Of President Kenyatta and the technology involved, such as the pre-election abduction, torture and murder of acting ICT Director Chris Msando, or deported campaign consultants and police raids on data centres– not stuff for civil society seminars in Kenya–it would surely be the least Chairman Chebukati could do to explain why he and the Commission chose OT-Morpho/IDEMIA for the job in March 2013 in the first place.

Especially given that Kenya’s Parliament voted to debar IDEMIA and that Oberthur Technologies (OT) is subject to a world Bank debarment for bribery. Not to mention the firm’s strange role as a sole sourced substitute provider of problematic technology in 2013, when the Government of Canada stepped in to loan funds to the Government of Kenya to buy Biometric Voter Registration Kits after the supposedly independent IEBC had decided to go with a manual system instead. (According to what I’ve learned so far from a 2015 Freedom of Information Act request, IFES which was funded by USAID to assist the IEBC, reported back to USAID that the inability or unwillingness of the IEBC to resist this pressure from the Government to reverse its decision on the BVR system was a major setback in preparations for that election that reverberated through the failures with poll books and the Results Transmission in months ahead).

If the reasons for selecting OT-Morpho are to remain shrouded, the contracts themselves are public records and should be published. For some reason they do not appear to have been tabled in the 2017 Supreme Court cases about the presidential election–I am sure that was just an oversight and it is easily rectified now for the upcoming vote.

A year ago, Chris Msando, ICT Director for Kenya’s Election Commission, was abducted, tortured and murdered on election eve. We do not seem to care.

See “Chris Msando: Year 53 in the History of State Assassinations” in The Elephant.

[Update, see “Grieving Msando widow sends tearful message to husband’s killers” from Nation Media.]

Just another tick on the list of potentially inconvenient lives snuffed out, brutally, in Kenya’s politics. We offered to assist through the FBI, as the British did through Scotland Yard. The Kenyatta Administration said “no thanks” and we said, in effect as far as I can see, “never mind.”

Early on there were diversionary arrests of fake suspects to suggest some type of pedestrian criminal explanation unrelated to the election, but complicating evidence regarding the abductions leaked out and those arrests fell by the wayside. Nothing further is being done.

In the days after the vote, during the counting and disputes involving the technology and broadcasts, leading to the annulment of the presidential vote by the Supreme Court, I bet an academic friend that when the year anniversary of the murders came around they would be officially unsolved with investigation “on ice”. That these things are so coldly predictable is a testament to underlying brutality of Kenyan politics.

“We see Africa’s potential”

"We see Africa's potential"

“We see Africa’s potential”

This week’s Africa Summit in Washington suggests hope for a deeper, broader engagement between the United States and many African countries. This is a policy area where there seems to be substantial room for negotiated agreement and cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. While there are things that I wish we would do differently, I am glad to see the effort and attention and I will watch with interest.

Until we get M-PESA in the United States . . .

Western Union formally announced today its link-up with M-PESA to allow those of us in less developed countries, from an ICT standpoint, to make money transfers to M-PESA accounts.    From the Denver Business Journal:

People in Kenya have a new high-tech way to receive money, thanks to Englewood-based Western Union (NYSE: WU).

The money transfer giant on Thursday announced that consumers now can send money directly to mobile “wallets” in Kenya from 45 countries and territories — the first service of its kind in the world, the company said.

The service will use Western Union’s worldwide network for processing cross-border remittances, as well as M-PESA, a domestic mobile money-transfer service in Kenya that has attracted more than 13.5 million customers since its launch in 2007.

“This service between Western Union and M-PESA shows a huge advancement for money transfer,” said Rebecca Loevenguth, director of strategic alliances for Western Union. “We recognized high mobile penetration in these markets, and a low number of people who used banks. We are adapting to meet customers’ needs through a new channel.”

.  .  .  .

“We’ve been able to reach consumers who lived near our agent locations, but we may have been missing a huge segment that had an M-PESA account but weren’t using Western Union,” she said.

Kenyans use so-called mobile wallets, or money-transfer services, for cellphones, to shop, pay bills, save money and make person-to-person payments, Loevenguth said.

The consumer sends a payment request via an SMS text message and a charge is applied to their online wallet.

The Central Bank of Kenya reports that Kenyans living outside their home country sent $642 million home in 2010 — up from the $609 million in 2009.

I wonder how the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is coming toward recovery of the share of Safaricom that was diverted to Mobiltelea Ventures Limited?

What does this “Brave New World” of information and communication, openness and secrecy, theft and exposure mean for the future of East Africa?

*Certainly there is much that is tremendously exciting and encouraging in what is going on with “ICT” in Kenya, especially. The exponential worldwide spread of the Ushahidi platform for voluntary citizen action in all sorts of areas–as Foreign Policy’s recognized in naming Ory Okolloh to its Top 100 Global Thinkers list–is an example. Likewise, the M-Pesa money transfer system and its various competitors has created a double “generation skipping technology” for Kenyans, the majority of whom never had a either a landline phone or reasonable access to a bank.

*From Memeburn.com, “20 Kenyan web and tech innovations worth watching”.

*Kenyans all over the world can read the Kenyan papers, watch Kenyan television and listen to Kenyan radio, participate in the Kenyan dialogue and communicate affordably and in “real time’ and with some presumable degree of privacy beyond what would have been feasible in times past–as can citizens of other countries in the region.

*Tools like Mazalendo and the websites of activists like the Mars Group have hugely expanded public access to information about government in Kenya. Recently, the Kenyan Parliament has allowed broadcasting and published documents on-line itself, as have other organizations.

*At the same time, we see with that Wikileaks tools that can be used to promote openness and democracy within states, can be used on a globalized basis by individuals and groups operating outside the rule of law within states and outside democratic accountability. No one elected Assange or the people around him. The underlying documents appear to have been essentially stolen en masse, as opposed to “leaked”. The documents were property of the U.S. government and were created by U.S. public employees doing their jobs. One one hand they were official public records and not private communications, and should have been written with that understanding. At the same time, American law provided in some cases for these to be specifically classified for periods of 10 to 25 years. While many of us get frustrated at the way it can work in practice, the U.S. does have an extremely broad and open “Freedom of Information Act” for review and release of requested information.

*We see in the arts that theft undermines the ability of artists to get paid for their work when they make it available digitally, or even when they don’t willingly do so. A generation has come of age in which vast numbers who wouldn’t steal a CD in a record store will download huge numbers of copyrighted music files without paying.

*I noted long ago the Wikileaks release of the Kroll Report on corruption in the Kenyan government. I have felt that was a public service–it was a specific document that should have been finished and released in the first place, and it would have been dangerous for anyone to publish it in Kenya because of the legitimate fear of unlawful repression. Amnesty International gave an award last year to Wikileaks for its work making available information on Kenya’s extrajudicial killings. Does that mean that it would be appropriate for someone to steal and publish all or most of Kenya’s diplomatic correspondence? Uganda’s? China’s? India’s? What about central bank records? All private bank records? All police records? All records of a civil society organization or a political party? All communications among members of parliament? Who decides?

*Technology is opening vast new possibilities but our moral judgment and the means by which we evaluate and make decisions about what is appropriate may not be well prepared.

*When I was contacted by the New York Times when they were working on their story about the withheld IRI Kenya exit poll (initially in July 2008 after it was released by UCSD at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but before IRI retracted its previous statement that it was invalid), I agreed to be interviewed and tell the reporter what I knew. I related a comment the Ambassador made to me personally about one Kenyan politician, but told them that I was not comfortable with that being published because it was in fairness a private conversation, and that the Ambassador was entitled to his opinion, as opposed to specific actions that involved my job and that I was concerned about. These things are a difficult judgment.

What 21st Century Elections in Africa (or elsewhere) Can Be . . .

From Kui Kinyanjui in the Nairobi Business Daily:

The technological revolution in Kenya’s electoral process became abundantly clear as the final numbers came in from Wednesday’s referendum.

Analysts said the digital shift contributed to making the referendum a more transparent affair, with citizens emerging as a vital tool in ensuring the process remained free and fair.

The biggest beneficiary from the transformation is likely to be the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), that effectively received the mandate to fully digitise the elections process.

“We have learned that the use of technology has greatly enhanced the process and sped up the gathering of results,” said Isaak Hassan, IIEC Chairman.

More than 27,000 GPRS-enabled mobile phones were used to send results from polling stations to the main tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

“Using mobile phones, SMS and some software we got results securely checked into a central server, tallied and instantly relayed to the public … this is eGovernance without the usual big budgets and failure that often accompanies ICT projects,” said industry analyst John Walubengo, on an online forum.

In 2007, the ECK elected not to use the technology at the last minute, the votes for president were not reported honestly and chaos ensued. Congratulations to everyone involved in the Independent Interim Electoral Commission for showing how it can be done and delivering an election to be proud of.

Kenya’s Referendum–Uchaguzi platform for citizen monitoring is up


Uchaguzi is a technology platform that allows citizens and civil society to monitor and report incidences around the electoral process.

Uchaguzi provides web and mobile-based channels for citizens and civil society to report on electoral offences such as intimidation, hate speech, vote buying, polling clerk bias, voting mis-information etc. The reports are then sent to the electoral authorities or security personnel for action.

Uchaguzi recognizes the need for empowering citizens in the protection of democracy by inspiring individual and collective action in enforcing transparency, accountability and efficient electoral service delivery.

Here is the BBC World Service on security preparations.