A thought about the International Crisis Group statement headined “Kenyans should come together” . . .

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Kenya election banner Kibaki Nakuru 2007

Yes, of course, they “should”.  As we Americans should also, for instance.  How is another question entirely.  Anyone who wants to “help” Kenyans should engage with them and see what they want and need toward that far off goal.

Needless to say, politics and these elections have not historically been involved in bringing Kenyans “together”.  Quite the opposite in fact.

“Shocking” news again from Kenya:  the more things don’t change the more they stay the same.  This election time is quite different than 2007 or 2013 in many ways and not in others.

In regard to post election mechanics (analog and digital), these change a lot each election.  Not as much as the law requires perhaps, but significantly.The process of voting by paper ballot, counting the paper ballots by hand and recording the vote by hand on paper on Form 34A and posting it on the door (or in some cases deciding not to) is fixed and well established, 2007, 2013, 2017.  Kenyans have and do “come together” over this process.  They always do it peacefully.

Not sure why people are seeming to find that to be a novelty.  A great and important thing yes–and it should not be taken for granted. Nor should it be misrepresented as “progress” or any form of “change” each time it is repeated.

So no, this peaceful turnout in long lines to vote by this same process in 2007, 2013 and again in 2017 is not, in fact, an act of faith at all as described by ICG.  It is an act of hope each time.  Arguably for many an act of love for country or subgroup.  Kenyans are broadly faithful, but not in the election process as a whole.

Here is the ICG statement.

More on the Somali roundups in Kenya

Another must read is from Cedric Barnes at the International Crisis Group: Losing Hearts and Minds in Kenya. Horne argues that the roundups specifically contradict the unity messaging offered by the Kenyan government after Westgate and are likely to backfire by promoting marginalization and thus increasing the persuasive power of extremists.  The operations highlight the extremely slow pace of security reforms in Kenya; the going rate to avoid getting arrested if you are of Somali ethnic background is 5000 KSh. Horne also points out that Kenyans of Somali ethnicity and those from the historically marginalized regions in the eastern and northeastern part of the country have always had difficulty getting identity documents from the authorities in the Kenyan government.

Here is Muthoni Wanyeki in The East African : Usalama Watch–State is Fracturing Kenyan Society: “A journalist in discussion with a senior Anti-Terrorism Police Unit officer tells of the ATPU’s alleged frustration with the whole operation — for breaking down its intelligence networks, having nothing to do with counter-terrorism and the likelihood of blowback.”

And Andrew Franklin in Business Daily: Let’s Change Our Tactics in Fighting Terrorism:

Kenyans of Somali origin have also been detained as potential terrorists, making citizenship no bar to this programme of racial profiling.There is no indication that any useful intelligence leading to the apprehension of the café bombing Al-Shabaab terrorists has been obtained although at least 82 “illegals” have been deported to Somalia.The reality is that if the deportees are genuine hardcore Al-Shabaab operators, they will soon return to Nairobi via Kenya’s undefended porous border.

The obvious question about all this: why?  At least one opposition politician has suggested that the operations are intended to curry favor with the West or the U. S. in particular for some reason.  Admittedly I am not objective as an American but I tend to think that the roundups are obviously enough counterproductive (e.g., they increase rather than decrease net terrorism risk) that the Kenyatta administration would not find any serious encouragement for this from Western governments.  Maybe I am naive, but its worth noting that the International Crisis Group is a firmly Western Establishment voice.

[Updated] International Crisis Group releases key up-to-date guide to Kenyan election preparations

Toi Market-Nairobi

Update– the Associate Press reports “Analysts: Political Party Polls in Kenya a Failure”:

Political party primaries to select candidates for Kenya’s March national elections have been fraught with irregularities, disorganization and disgruntled losers, increasing the chances of conflict during the upcoming vote, analysts said Friday.

That’s bad news for those trying to avoid a repeat of what happened after Kenya’s 2007 elections, when a dispute over who won the presidency led to weeks of violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. The primary voting this week did little to instill confidence that officials are ready for another national vote.

.  .  .  .

Kennedy Masine, an official of the local Election Observer Group, described Thursday’s attempt to hold nominations as a “phenomenal failure.” . . .]

I’ve now finished an initial reading of the ICG report released yesterday entitled “Kenya’s 2013 Elections.”  It’s an important resource for two key reasons: 1) it is strikingly up to date for this kind of thing, with lots of new information, including footnote references for events even this week; 2) it is relatively comprehensive, covering a lot of ground in substantial detail.  It gives fair, sober assessment of the status of the major areas of reforms that were identified as needed in the wake of the disaster in 2007-08.  I hope it will be updated quickly once things shake out further with the primaries over the next few days.

In fact, you could take this report and prepare a “grade card” for implementation of the “reform agenda” over the course of the Government of National Unity.  Without being cynical or fatalistic, it would simply have to be quite low so far.  Regardless, by gathering a lot of the information that a lot of us have been thinking about in various areas in one place, the report could also be used as a road map to realistically “play to strengths” in the terms of the existing Kenyan institutions and develop last minute contingency plans and “gap fillers” in those areas where reforms and preparation are clearly going to be getting an “incomplete”, such as policing.  Surely it is clear by now that there need to be plans in place for how to provide extraneous security support beyond the Kenya Police Service in the event of a crisis triggered by major failure of the election itself.

Here is the Executive Summary with a list of recommendations.

An interesting point of reference is the NDI Kenya Pre-Election Mission of May 2012, to see what has been accomplished and not accomplished in the meantime.

New Somaliland Report

The International Crisis Group has just released http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6420“>a new report on Somaliland. 

Somaliland’s general election was scheduled for spring 2008 during my tenure in East Africa.  Due to delays in the voter registration process all three political parties were able to agree on a postponement of the election date, but the matter of extending the president’s tenure in office after the expiration of his term was always a bit ambiguous.  A year-and-a-half later, this really needs to be brought to fruition.

I always greatly admired the ability of Somalilanders to pull and keep a meaningful form of governance together with so little to start with, and such little help.  Certainly the economy is hampered in many ways by the isolation resulting from the lack of formal diplomatic recognition.  While I was there it was extremely difficulty to get US permission for official US travelers (for instance, we were unsuccessful in getting US Gov’t permission for USAID consultants sent to Nairobi to evaluate democracy support programming to actually visit the country).  At the same time, the isolation has given them some space to work through their own challenges without some of the pitfalls often seen from international involvement, and a little breathing room in the lee of the winds of a globalized economy.

As a practical matter, it always seemed to me that Somaliland was a country of equal legitimacy and coherence with many others in the general area, whether the diplomatic community was ready to speak in that language or not.  The US always said it was waiting on the AU, and the AU was always going to act in accordance with the interests of its current players.  And of course the Bush Administration was heavily invested in that particular iteration of the TFG in Baidoa at that time.