Election Observation as “Diplomacy or Assistance” continued–how I spent my pre-election Christmas in Kenya

In my Freedom of Information Act Series I have described how then-Ambassador Ranneberger got his predecessor, Ambassador Mark Bellamy removed from the International Republican Institute’s Election Observation Mission shortly before the last Kenyan election, implying an objection to Bellamy from the Kibaki government. While IRI capitulated in removing Bellamy, I was told to accept “no more b.s.” from Ranneberger in interfering with the IRI Election Observation.  As problems continued to arise, this is a letter I wrote to my USAID officer on December 22, 2007, five days before the voting:

I think that you and I have had a good working relationship over a period of months until just recently, reflecting efforts and intentions on both our parts.  The problem now is that we are in a position of working in part at cross purposes, regardless of how much effort we continue to put into trying to be cooperative.

Previously I thought that you had some real level of agreement with my basic position regarding IRI’s independence, in spite of the contradictory viewpoint of the Ambassador.  At this point, it seems clear that we just do not have a meeting of the minds about this.

As far as IRI is concerned a major line was crossed last week and we expected that there would be as a result of Lorne Craner’s intervention a recognition that IRI’s independence would be respected going forward.  Unfortunately, the only substantive change seems to be that we have one less delegate–one of the best qualified members of the team that we had selected.  And of course people in the State Dept. did know what our own plan was before the Ambassador intervened.  I find the whole situation embarrassing personally.

I have tried to move us to a situation where we agreed to document at least by e-mail the specific things we were doing in terms of direct involvement of the USG with the IRI EO.  I think this is the least we should do and was intended to move us forward in terms of making sure we all understood each other, both personally and contractually.  I am tired of suggestions, directions, demands, “markers”, etc. to do things that people are not comfortable putting in writing.  If it should not be put in writing, maybe it should not be part of how we conduct ourselves here.

There are a variety of basic things that USAID can do that would in fact help IRI do the best it can.  One easy and obvious one would be to add IRI to the distribution list for ECK events, recognizing that the ECK is not at the point of providing IRI with timely notice, or in many cases, any notice, of its activities.  The other would be to provide us security information to assist us in protecting the safety of our teams.  Certainly having ——– come over and brief the teams is a big help.

 As far as I am concerned, if IRI is not substantively independent, rather than just offering an appearance or representation of independence, then all of our work here is at best a waste of time in terms of actually providing assistance to the Kenyan people as per the MOU between USAID and the GOK.  At worst, we could undermine the ability of IRI to accomplish anything substantive in Kenya in the future and taint our election work elsewhere.  IRI adds value if we are independent; we do not add value if we are not independent. (emphasis added)

Please give consideration to this and let me know what you suggest.

At the end of the day IRI’s final report on the Election Observation found strong evidence of fraud, when it was released more than six months later in July, and IRI released the Exit Poll indicating an opposition win one more month later, in August 2008. By that time the election was long over and the President along with his initial appointees stayed in office. The next chance for Kenyans to vote will not be until  March 2013.

Election Observation–Diplomacy or Assistance?

U.S./Somaliland relationship continues to mature as U.S. leads donor delegation on preparation for municipal elections

The key focus in current Somaliland politics is the municipal elections set to be held soon.  The National Election Commission reports being close to readiness, having (with some significant dispute) determined six additional parties to compete with the established three national parties, Kulmiye, UDUB and UCID.  Somaliland’s first local elections since modern independence was declared in 1991 were held in December 2002.  The next election was originally scheduled for December 2007, when I was there, to be followed by the April 2008 presidential election coinciding with the scheduled end of President Riyale’s term.  The Presidential election was delayed until ultimately held successfully on June 28, 2010–and now the local elections are to follow.

The top deputy for Somalia/Somaliland at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi has led a six-member donor group to Somaliland to assess preparations for the elections and opportunities for donor support.

President Silanyo told the visiting delegation his government has already allocated funds for the upcoming electoral process and all preparations have been finalized, he reminded them the need for the international community to support this country in pertinent issues as security and bilateral ones.

Mr. Douglas Meurs said, the United States continues to engage with the administration in Somaliland on a range of issues, most directly Somaliland’s continued progress towards democratization and economic development.

In Feb 2007, the United States provided a total of $1 million through the International Republican Institute to support training for parliamentarians and other key programs in preparations for the upcoming municipal and presidential elections in Somaliland.

The United States will continue to engage with Somaliland, in order to support the return of lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.

by Goth Mohamed Goth
somalilandpress.com

This is encouraging progress in several respects. For my first months as IRI East Africa director, we had to keep our contact with Somaliland on life support as best we could at “no cost”, hoping for renewed funding to come through from the U.S.  When funds were available, we were able to re-start programming supported by travel from Nairobi, then open an office in Hargeisa.  At that time, U.S. Government employees and direct contractors were generally not allowed to travel to Somaliland–even prominent U.S. professors who were contracted to assess our programming in the spring of 2008 were left to work from Nairobi without being allowed to go to Hargeisa. We participated in donor meetings which happened only in Nairobi.  Having senior U.S. officials lead donor groups and interact with the Somaliland stakeholders directly in the county is one more sign of de facto “normalcy” in the interactions.

IMG_1312
With now-President Silanyo (at right) and Kulmiye Party group at party headquarters (I’m second from the right.)

Part Nine–New Kenya FOIA Documents: What Narrative Was the State Department’s Africa Bureau Offering the Media While Kenyans Were Voting? And Why?

In my last post in this series, Part Eight, I noted my frustration that the Africa Bureau after roughly 30 months, in response to my 2009 FOIA request, had provided none of the actual documentation from the large-scale 2007 Kenyan general election observation conducted through the Embassy,

The question could be raised then whether the point of the State Department observation through the Embassy became not so much to observe as to be observed observing.  Being observed observing gives an extra patina of gravity to whatever narrative you wish to present about the election afterwards; and who can question without an independent look at your data? [or an independent exit poll?]

Let’s remember how Ambassador Ranneberger concluded his December 24, 2007 cable “Kenya on the Eve of National Elections”:

RANNEBERGER  to WASHINGTON
24 DEC 07  UNCLAS NAIROBI 004830

“It is likely that the winner will schedule a quick inauguration (consistent with past practice) to bless the result and, potentially, to forestall any serious challenge to the results.  There is no credible mechanism to challenge the results, hence likely recourse to the streets if the result is questionable.The courts are both inefficient and corrupt.  Pronouncements by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and observers, particularly from the U.S., will therefore, have be [sic] crucial in helping shape the judgment of the Kenyan people.  With an 87 percent approval rating in Kenya, our statements are closely watched and respected.  I feel that we are well-prepared to meet this large responsibility and, in the process, to advance U.S. interests. [emphasis added]

So what was the narrative?  We have all known about the quick congratulations to Kibaki on winning the election from back in the United States on Sunday December 30 after the ECK’s announcement (and that the U.S. was the only country to issue such congratulations, which were quickly withdrawn–and that later Uganda’s Museveni also congratulated Kibaki).  Something new that I have learned from the FOIA response however, is that the Africa Bureau issued a very interesting December 27 “Press Guidance”  that projects an outcome narrative while the voting is still going on.  Here it is in its entirety:

Kenya:  Elections

Key Points

The U.S. fully supports a transparent and credible electoral process.  The U.S.-Kenyan partnership will continue to grow regardless of who is elected.

Kenya’s elections have proceeded with very little violence.  This morning, there was a report of two killed and three injured near a polling station in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, but it is not known if the killings were related to the election.

There were reports of minor incidents such as pushing and shoving at polling stations.  Votes are being tallied tonight and tomorrow.  The Electoral Commission of  Kenya (ECK) has responded well to reports of problems and does not appear to be acting with bias or favoritism.

Voter turnout nationwide has been high.

Late last night and early this morning, 160 U.S. Embassy officials in 56 U.S. Embassy observation teams successfully deployed nationwide to monitor the elections.

Background:

On December 27, Kenya will hold presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections.  More than 2,500 candidates are vying for the 2010 seats in Parliament, and there are three main Presidential candidates.  Ethnic and tribal affiliation remains the most influential factor in voting choices for races at all levels of government.  We expect that the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) will announce the results on either December 28 or December 29.  A team of observers organized by the International Republican Institute will monitor the elections, in addition to Kenyan and other international observers.  The presidential inauguration will likely take place on December 31.  Because the Kenyan government did not fix an inauguration date in advance, it was not possible to arrange for a high-level Presidential delegation to attend.

In the Presidential race, the most recent polls show incumbent Mwai Kibaki at 43 percent, challenger Raila Odinga at 46 percent, and dark horse candidate Kalonzo Musyoka at 10 percent.  If Kibaki wins by a small margin, it is possible that Odinga will allege that the elections are flawed, will refuse to accept the result, and may incite his supporters to protests that could easily become violent.

It sounds to me like the Africa Bureau was “spinning” ahead of time to question the legitimacy of opposition protests rather than remaining objective to entertain the possibility (or likelihood based on what was known about the ECK by this time) of an election “result” of questionable legitimacy.  And as Ranneberger had noted, if the election was stolen there was simply no recourse other than protest.

Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 Election from the Truth Trickling Out About 2007–New Cables From FOIA (Part One)

Lessons from 2007 and New FOIA Cables–Part Two

Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 Election and New FOIA Cables–Part Three

Part Four–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 Election and New FOIA Cables

Part Five–Lessons from the 2007 Election and New FOIA Cables

Part Six–What Did the U.S. Ambassador Report to Washington the Day After the Kenyan Election?

Part Seven–One Last FOIA Cable on the 2007 Exit Poll

Part Eight–new Kenya FOIA documents: Diplomacy vs. Assistance Revisited or “Why Observe Elections If We Don’t Tell People What We See?”

 

A “Must Read” on the “Egyptian Circus” from South Africa’s Daily Maverick: “A dangerous habit, spreading of democracy”

This piece from the Daily Maverick‘s J. Brooks Spector is the most detailed and explanatory coverage on the Egyptian charges against the international and local NGO employees.  Do read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

In theory at least, the social and political explosion of the Arab Spring should have been NED and its associated bodies’ next golden moment in the sun. All those regimes, previously frozen in time, now suddenly with their societies breaking out into a new, more open style of politics and freer elections should be making bountiful times for groups like the NED. Instead, these organisations seem to be running into a growing wave of suspicion about their ulterior motives.

Traditionally, of course, authoritarian rulers have viewed these pro-democracy groups with deep suspicion, routinely denouncing them as meddlers or spies – and sometimes directly harassing their staffers. But Egypt’s move breaks new ground in announcing it wanted to try 19 Americans and several dozen others on charges that have left the Obama administration shocked and surprised – and put the major American military aid program to Egypt at risk as well.

In the wake of the announcement of the charges, the Egyptian government quickly recalled a senior military aid delegation that was just about to begin some intensive discussions with members of Congress. The charges, as they were publicly announced, included operating without licenses, “conducting research to send to the United States” and supporting Egyptian candidates and parties “to serve foreign interests”. The fresh winds of last year’s Arab Spring and the heady embrace of the ideas of Gene Sharpe and Saul Alinsky and the power of the Internet, satellite TV and social media appear to have shifted more than just a bit.

In response, the IRI and NDI have argued their activities consisted of teaching the methodologies of grass-roots organising, political campaigns and democratic elections to anyone willing to listen, just as they have been doing in other places for years – without favouring any particular Egyptian political faction. An allied group, the Freedom House NGO, said that for its part it had been training young activists and carrying out international exchange programs while another NGO, the International Centre for Journalists, was doing its training on media issues. All four bodies insisted that had been trying to comply with Egyptian laws and be transparent about their activities. As Freedom House executive director David Kramer told reporters, “Everything we did was out in the open.” Where’s the beef?

Oddly, perhaps, the NDI and IRI seem to have come into the sights of prosecutors because of their role in supporting opposition to President Hosni Mubarak, before he fell from power last year. Sinister stuff that. Former chief of intelligence under Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, explained in his court deposition, “Data was collected about the activities of the American Embassy through the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.” Moreover, back in March 2011, when US officials had announced grants of some $65-million to pro-democracy groups, Fayza Abul Naga, Egypt’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation – and a holdover from Mubarak’s regime – had renewed her longstanding campaign against foreign financing. Some analysts speculate she is close to the country’s highest-ranking military figure, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and their relationship is tied up with the crackdown.

“Tribute to Dr. Peter Oriare: Media Scholar of Great Repute” and a friend to me, to the International Republican Institute, and to Americans who believe in democracy

Dr. Peter Oriare

“Tribute to Dr. Peter Oriare, Media Scholar of Great Repute”

“University of Nairobi mourns committed teacher”

My friend, Dr. Peter Oriare, was in his own way one of those who got hurt because of the election misconduct in 2007. I was very sad to hear on my return from Washington that while I was at the African Studies Association meeting, Peter died back in Nairobi.  At 45 he was too young, the proud father of young children.  I would greatly encourage anyone interested in Kenyan democracy to read the tribute and story linked above.

I am thankful to have known and worked with Peter.  I certainly relied on him in Kenya.   Along with the local staff at the International Republican Institute in Nairobi he was one of the people that made my year working in Kenya an experience that I will always treasure.  When I arrived in Nairobi in June of 2007, we had funded only our baseline National Endowment for Democracy programming working with parliamentary candidates and our ongoing USAID polling program for which I was approved as Chief of Party the week before.  The current polling program had been in place since an exit poll for the 2005 constitutional referendum,and had most recently included a public opinion survey from that spring which we were just then briefing to prospective presidential candidates.  Peter worked with Strategic Public Relations and Research and was our primary point of contact with the firm as well as teaching and working to finish his doctorate at the University of Nairobi.

When I took over as the fourth American to lead the IRI office under that 2005 polling program, my ability to do my job depended on Peter’s expertise and continuity. Peter had worked with everyone in the IRI office and had been our primary local polling expert partner since 2000, before the IRI office opened in 2002.  The polling program was touted as a major success story for both USAID and for the International Republican Institute in Kenya and Peter was the single most consistent element.  Peter had a strong relationship not only with IRI and the USAID Democracy and Governance program locally but with others in the international democracy community.  He led important work in media monitoring for the 2007 election that was crucial to the international understanding of the situation in Kenya.

Peter believed in transparency and he advocated internally for release of the presidential “horse race” figures from our September 2007 public opinion survey which showed Kibaki leading when most polls were showing Raila as having pulled ahead, and when our contract with USAID was amended to add the 2007 exit poll, he expected to release it as well.  The established policy reason that IRI did not release the “horse race” numbers comparing the presidential candidates in our pre-election public opinion surveys–that we wanted to support democracy by informing the public, policy makers and politicians with out having a direct impact on the race itself–obviously did not come into play on the exit poll when people would have already voted when it would be released.

I pushed Peter and Strategic hard in negotiating the contract for the exit poll in the fall of 2007.  We had a modest amount of additional funding from USAID, and some money from Dr. Clark Gibson at the University of California, San Diego–and we had overhead in Washington and Nairobi.  Because it was obviously a close race, we needed results that were methodologically sound and statistically valid at the provincial level and not just the national level, to be able to evaluate the presidential threshold of 25% of the vote in five provinces.   I needed substantially more work from Strategic than they had done in the 2002 and 2005 exit polls, which were universally accepted as successful, but in elections that were not as close.  Ultimately we agreed on the additional work for very little additional money given Kenya’s inflation, and the poll was well executed as millions of Kenyas voted peacefully.

The preliminary results called in by cellphone–which were  obtained by USAID and given to the Ambassador on election day–even though such reporting was entirely outside the scope of anything in the USAID agreement with IRI and I didn’t want anything to get out while the polls were still open–had Raila ahead by a margin of roughly 8 points.  When the actual surveys were obtained and coded and necessary adjustments made for situations such as the seizure of some questionnaires by police–some of which were recovered and some not–the final figure was roughly 6 points.  This was the number in Nairobi in mid-January, 2008 with all the surveys back and coded.  That  was the number on February 7 when someone “inside the Beltway” in Washington decided to throw Peter under the bus by publishing internationally a statement from IRI that poll was “invalid” after State Department and USAID officials were questioned about it by then Subcommittee Chairman Feingold at his hearing in the Senate.  That was the number when I turned over the original questionnaires to my successor in Nairobi in May 2008; the number when the results were released in July at CSIS in Washington by UCSD after IRI’s six month embargo; and the number soon thereafter when the New York Times called me working on their story and asked for an interview.   It was still the number when IRI released the results in August–reconfirmed by a firm in Oklahoma–the day before the UCSD testimony at the Kriegler Commission;  and it is still the number  today, when the poll has been used in published work from scholars in Asia and Europe, as well as in Africa and the United States.

Peter had every right to be proud of his work on this exit poll and it was rightly noted by Rosemary Okello in her tribute as a part of his positive legacy for Kenyan democracy, and for polling and scholarship everywhere.

This is what I wrote in recommending Peter on Linked-In in 2009:

Peter is a true professional, with a strong commitment to his work and high values. He is calm under pressure. He offers deep knowledge and experience and I would be very pleased to have the opportunity to work with him again in the future. July 6, 2009

Top qualities: Personable , Expert

Ken hired Peter in 2007, and hired him/her more than once.

_______________________________________________________________________

Part Seven–One last FOIA cable on the 2007 Exit Poll

See the previous posts in this series:  Part One, Two , Three , Four, Five, and Six.

The last of the five State Department cables released to me last month regarding the USAID Kenyan exit poll is from February 21, 2008.  This is the cable with some redaction.  I suppose all of this may be out on the internet anyway via Wikileaks, but as I have noted previously I am not able to use that material and am only working with unclassified information provided through regular lawful means and published news.

The subject matter of this cable is “Secretary Rices’s February 18, 2008 visit with Kenyan business and civil society leaders.”  The names of the Kenyans are redacted.  On the U.S. side of the conversation were Secretary Rice, Ambassador Ranneberger and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer, along with the spokesman for the National Security Council and a notetaker.  Here is the exit poll discussion:

______________ stressed the need for accountability–so that Kenyans who turned out in record numbers for the December election learn what happened to their votes, and the leaders behind vigilantism and state violence be held to account.  Constitutional reform, [s/he] said, is necessary to address two great problems:  gross partiality by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and excessive power held by the executive branch of government.  Noting that Kenya’s Diaspora in the UK reportedly are mobilizing funds to support ethnic militias, ____ asked the Secretary to make sure that the same is not happening in the United States. [ S/he] then questioned why a survey conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) was not released that suggested that ODM candidate Odinga may have won the December elections.  IRI says the survey was in training analysis and has methodological errors calling into question its reliability.

Secretary Rice clarified that the IRI is wholly independent of the US government and that its views, analysis and conclusions should not be confused with USG policy.  Assistant Secretary Frazer underscored this by relaying that she was asked about the IRI survey by members of the United States Congress, and affirmed that she had no information about why the survey was not released and had no position on whether it should be released or not.

The cable, which was sent over Rice’s name and “from” the Secretary’s delegation, does not provide any information about the source of its statement that “IRI says the survey was in training analysis and has methodological errors calling into question its reliability”.  I never heard the “training exercise” justification for not releasing the poll within IRI, although I did see it from the Ambassador in his “web chat” Q & A a few weeks later in March, as I have noted.  Likewise, there were no bona fide issues with the methodology of the poll as conducted on December 27, as IRI later acknowledged in publishing the results in August.

Again, the “training exercise” notion is specifically contradictory to what Ranneberger wrote in his previous cables–as well as what I was explicitly told by USAID, as well as the purposes of the program set out in the USAID funding agreement to IRI.  Secretary Rice was right about IRI being independent, and the specifics of what she said are unexceptionable–however, the implication that the exit poll in Kenya that the Kenyan civil society leaders were asking for was somehow IRI “private property” is completely wrong as has been explained.  USAID initiated the poll and funded it with tax dollars–“for early intelligence for the Ambassador” as I was told on election day or as a check on potential election fraud as the Ambassador wrote in his cables to Washington before the election–and the US Government owned the rights to the data (not to say that Kenyans didn’t also have rights to it as well).

Ultimately, this only became complicated because certain people involved could not bring themselves, for whatever reason or reasons, to address the facts in a clear and forthright manner.

The quest for accountability to Kenyan voters has remained unanswered sadly.  A news story in the Daily Nation in 2011, in the final item on my chronology of links to coverage of the Kenyan election, reports from an alleged leaked cable that ten days before this February 18, 2008 meeting at the Ambassador’s residence, the State Department issued “visa bans” against ECK members based on evidence regarding bribery–but did not disclose this circumstance, or the evidence, at this meeting (I checked with a participant).  We, the United States, made clear that we were willing to step up financial and rhetorical support for reforms in Kenya–such as the new constitution–under a deal in which the new Kibaki administration shared power with the opposition under an Kofi Annan-brokered deal–but we brushed aside the issue of the fraud in the election.

[Note on the exit poll methodology and funding:  In preparing for the 2007 exit poll I had looked back at the 2002 and 2005 exit polls conducted under the same USAID program by IRI and Strategic Public Relations and Research–although everyone had been satisfied at the time, the USCD experts and I felt that we needed a lot more from this poll.  The election was expected to be much closer than the 2002 election and 2005 referendum and the outcome could come down to the 25% in 5 provinces requirement–the previous polls were less reliable at the provincial as opposed to national level.  I successfully pushed the polling firm, Strategic, hard to agree to do much more work for very little more money, since the funding that was added extend the polling program was comparable to that for the previous polls.  We had a small amount of additional funding through UCSD, but there was never any “private” IRI funding available to me in the East Africa office for our Kenya programming so I had no choice but to drive a hard bargain.  In a time of very high inflation in Kenya, of course, Strategic’s actual costs would be significantly higher in 2007 than on the 2002 or 2005 exit polls.  After the failure to release the poll on a more timely basis ended up in the New York Times in 2009, IRI pulled out a lot of irrelevant material from pre-contract negotiations with Strategic.  This had nothing to do with waiting for several months to release the poll under the methodolgy that was ultimately agreed to by IRI and UCSD, and Strategic, with the implicit blessing of USAID, shortly before the election.]

Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 Elections from the Truth Trickling Out About 2007–New Cables From FOIA (Part One)

The time for Kenya elections under the new constitution should be August, although there remains some uncertainty on the date of the first election for “the second republic.”  See “The Election Date not Clearly Spelt Out” by Yash Ghai and Jill Ghai in The Star.  Regardless, the point is that elections are in a general sense “next year”, and that since I started this blog in December 2009 we have gone from roughly “40% done” with the allotted time for reforms under the “Government of National Unity” to “80% done”.

One of the points of the mediated settlement agreement between PNU and ODM negotiators that provided for the formation of the “power sharing” coalition government was the investigation of the facts of the disputed 2007 elections. Toward this end, and as part of my own desire to learn what I could about what had been going on around me in the context of my work managing the IRI poll program and election observation program in Nairobi, I submitted three Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department back in September and October of 2009. One of the requests was denied back at the first of this year on the basis that the records were classified, but this weekend I finally received the first partial release of unclassified documents under one of the other two requests.

Regular readers will know that for the last several months my professional circumstances have just not allowed much time for original writing here–that hasn’t changed, but I think this is an important area where I can add value to the learning process and preparations toward more successful elections in 2012, so I will be working my way through what these newly public documents tell us, and don’t tell us, about the last Kenya elections over the next few posts.

This FOIA request covered State Department communications about the 2007 exit poll that was conducted by Strategic Public Relations and Research under contract with IRI, funded under an agreement with USAID and by the University of California, San Diego. This initial partial release covered the “central records” of the State Department in Washington and identified six “cables”, of which four were released in full, one was released with some redaction, and one was held for review with another agency of the government prior to a decision on release.  To date, the Africa Bureau has provided no response to State’s FOIA office regarding the Embassy records.

We’ll start for today with basic points from the first cable, a December 14, 2007 report from Ambassador Ranneberger to Washington on the preparations for the December 27 elections. I remember that day well–it was a Friday.

The day before I had gotten a call from the USAID Democracy and Governance head to fax to the Ambassador our delegate list for the election observation mission. After I had done so I was driving to lunch with my wife and an American friend who had recently been an election observer in another African country for another U.S.-based NGO and wanted to assist the Kenya observation as a volunteer. The Ambassador called and I had to pull over to the side of the road and step out of the car as I was getting loudly “chewed out” about the inclusion of former Ambassador Bellamy on the delegate list. Ambassador Ranneberger elaborated that he did not want to hear that it was not my decision as he was holding me “personally responsible” as the person in charge “on the ground”. He went on to say that he would pull the funding and cancel the election observation if I didn’t get Bellamy off the list, and not to think that he couldn’t do it.

After my calls to USAID and my immediate superior in Washington, IRI’s president called Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer on his way to the airport for a trip to Thailand, as he related to me, to tell her to “get her Ambassador under control”, then called Ranneberger from Thailand.  As a result, IRI capitulated and removed Bellamy as a delegate, but I was instructed to accept “no more b.s.” from the Ambassador.  Bellamy was told (not by me) that there was a problem funding his plane ticket.

The next day, on Friday, Ranneberger sent his cable to the Secretary of State touting his election preparations.  Some points of interest:

*Ranneberger notes regarding the UNDP’s $11.3 million comprehensive election assistance program, that the U.S. is the largest donor, providing nearly $3 million.  “As USAID/Kenya’s Democracy & Governance officer is the lead coordinator for all/all donor related election activity, USAID represents the donors on the joint ECK/Donor Steering Committee managing this program.”

*Ranneberger writes regarding Election Observers:  “The Mission is funding an international election observer team headed by the International Republican Institute (IRI).  The team will have about 20 members, and will be headed by former Assistant Secretary Constance Newman.  This team will be strategically deployed to high-profile locations and will coordinate with other international observer missions being fielded by the EU and the Commonwealth.  In addition to the international team, we will field over 50 three-member teams of Mission observers (American and Kenyan staff).  Locations for deployment focus on election “hot spots” where we anticipate the greatest potential for violence or other irregularities as well as constituencies with viable women candidates.  As circumstances on the ground evolve, we can continue to adjust our deployment strategy.”

* Regarding the ECK:  “Developing the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) lies at the  heart of our strategy.  The USG funded International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) has been providing support to the ECK since late 2001.  Activities focus on providing appropriate technology for more efficient and transparent elections administration while improving the skills of the ECK technical staff.  This support additionally includes capacity building and technical assistance to support election administration.  Technical assistance includes computerization of the Procurement and Supplies Department, which is responsible for printing and distributing election materials.  Assistance will also support implementation of the ECK’s restructuring plan, strengthening logistics capacity, and accelerating the transmission and display of results.”

*On “Public Opinion Polling”:  “The Mission is funding national public opinion polling to increase the availability of objective and reliable data and to provide an independent source of verification of electoral outcomes via exit polls (emphasis added).  The implementing partner is IRI.  In addition, we were concerned that other widely published public opinion polls, which showed ODM’s Raila Odinga well ahead of President Kibaki, did not accurately reflect the true status of the contest.  Given the rising political temperature, partially due to the use of blatant ethnic appeals by both sides, we were concerned about the reaction of ODM supporters should their candidate lose in a close outcome when they were led by public opinion polls to expect a landslide victory.  The solution involved quietly reaching out to polling firms and their clients to suggest that poll sampling distribution should be based on the regional distribution of registered voters, not on raw population.  Today, the major polling firms have all adjusted their sampling and limited their responses to those who at least claim to be registered voters.”

That afternoon, Friday, December 14, I got a call as I left the offices of Strategic, the polling firm, where I had been working on exit poll preparations.  A caller who identified himself only as working with the Ambassador said that the Ambassador would like me to see him at the residence the next afternoon and I agreed to come.  In the next post, I’ll pick up the story with that meeting and two more pre-election cables.

Part Two;    Part Three;    Part Four;    Part Five;    Part Six;    Part Seven.

Observations about the Kenyan and American Presidential Cycle for 2012

-Four years ago I was just moving to Nairobi.  The “Housing Bubble” was still inflated, along with the broader “Finance Bubble”.   The Bush Administration had become deeply controversial and substantially unpopular, in particular because of Iraq, along with some of the whole Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay scenario in Congress that helped the Democrats retake the House in 2006.

-At that time, neither John McCain, the long time chairman of the International Republican Institute, for which I was going to work, nor Barack Obama, the young, fresh-faced green black Senator from Illinois, looked to the pundit class to be likely nominees for President.  McCain had stumbled from his incumbent front-runner status, with various others seeming to emerge.  Obama, obviously, needed to cap his expectations at a running mate slot if he did really well.

-It was interesting that Obama’s father had been from Kenya, and that Obama had written a memoir in part about growing up essentially without that father, but with some awareness of who he was and some communication, and then finally a visit to Kenya as a young adult.  It would never, ever have occurred to me to imagine that later, many millions of Americans could imagine that Senator Obama had been born in Kenya, smuggled into the United States secretly and his story concocted as part of a vast conspiracy by someone for some purpose deeply dangerous to the country.  That all these years his birth in Kenya had been known in Kenya but kept secret in the United States.

-Now that the President has gone to some lengths to make a very high profile release of the State of Hawaii’s actual “long form” certificate to supplement his previous release of a copy of his own birth certificate, the politicians who tried to advance their careers by enabling this nonsense have been damaged and the President’s re-election prospects improved.

-So why the exact timing?

It seems to me that Obama’s people would likely have assumed initially that the whole “birther thing” would die down, rather than grow, after he took office.  I would have.  I wouldn’t have been cynical enough about Republican politicians to realize how many would refuse to disown it or would even tacitly encourage it.

At some point it must have become clear that it should be addressed for the 2012 campaign.  So why wait so long?  Maybe the “rope a dope” factor.  Why interrupt “silly season” among people who are obviously going to be attacking you on some basis, until the time that more independent minded people are starting to think about who to vote for next year?

The conventional wisdom in the media seems to stick with the narrative that this was a “response” to Donald Trump dictated by the traction Trump was suddenly getting through the media.   Maybe, but I haven’t noticed the sourced reporting on this, as opposed to the repetition of assumption from circumstantial observation.  I think this may well be wrong.   Because the media seems to have had no idea about something a lot more consequential going on at the same time as the rump Trump boomlet: the preparation for the raid on the Bin Laden compound.

To me, it would seem that it was necessary for Obama to release the “long form” birth certificate to protect himself, and the country, from the kinds of things that might be said if the Bin Laden raid had failed. Jimmy Carter’s re-election was riding on the 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran–likewise the Bin Laden raid was a singular high risk event in U.S. domestic politics.

-Meanwhile, the Kenyan 2012 campaign is gearing up as well, with the ICC cases from the last election still in their early stages. Even with the birther issue behind him, I would expect that Obama will want to minimize any personal contact with Kenyan controversies until after his own election, relying on Secretary Clinton and his new ambassador, Scott Gration.

“In Southern Sudan, for the money”

“In Southern Sudan for the Money”

JUBA, Sudan, April 9 (Reuters) by Ed Cropley – The only thing that’s cheap in southern Sudan is life.

One of the world’s poorest regions, where four out of five people are illiterate and one in five children fails to make it to their fifth birthday, the south’s economy has been turned on its head since the end of a 22-year civil war in 2005.

A flood of foreign aid workers and more than $2 billion a year in oil revenues under a peace deal with the central government in Khartoum has transformed the south into one of the most expensive corners of Africa.
. . . .

Nobody knows how many people live in the city, although some say its population has trebled in the last five years under the weight of tens of thousands Kenyans and Ugandans out to make a quick buck.

“Earning $100 is difficult in Kenya. Here it’s easy,” said Amos Njay, a Nairobi taxi driver hoping a year in Juba will set him up in a trucking business.

Africans are not the only ones with an eye on the cash.

Foreign aid workers, holed up behind barbed-wire fences and armed guards in semi-permanent tented camps on the banks of the Nile, boast of earning $10,000 a month tax-free and with all their living expenses taken care of.

“You know what they say: in places like this you only get missionaries, mercenaries and misfits. Me? Sure, I’m just here for the money,” said one U.S. aid contractor knocking back a cold beer in a bar on the banks of the Nile.

Other drinkers ranged from dapper pro-democracy activists from the U.S. International Republican Institute to former soldiers whose lives are spent treading in the heels of conflict across the globe, cleaning up mines and unexploded bombs.
. . . .

“Two years on, Kenya mediation success fails reality test”–“almost a perfect conspiracy against the Kenyan people”

NAIROBI (AFP) by Jean-Marc Mojon– In March 2008, Kenya’s reconciled foes were trumpeting ambitious reforms and the international community was basking in the glory of a rare African crisis-resolution success.
. . . .
“Something had to be done to end the conflict but perhaps it could have been better thought through,” said Mati, who heads the Mars Kenya Group political watchdog.

Kenyans’ faith in their rulers is at its lowest, the pledged reforms are nowhere to be seen and many argue that, as the government doubled in size to accommodate feuding parties, so did corruption.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan, the chief mediator two years ago, and the Western powers that helped him broker the accord are constantly reminding Kenya of its pledges and sounding alarm bells over impunity and resurgent tribalism.

On at least his fifth visit to Kenya since the signing, Annan on Friday again spoke of “concerns and frustrations”.

“The international community and the mediation team believed in this agreement more than the Kenyans did,” argued Tom Wolf, a Kenya-based governance consultant and pollster.

The incumbent President Kibaki was behind then opposition leader Odinga in opinion polls but surged past his rival in the final stages of a delayed and confused vote-counting process.

The internationally-backed commission probing the ballot claimed it could not determine a victor, Annan urged Kenyans not to dwell on the past and some Western diplomats admitted that knowing who won was the last of their concerns.

The feuding camps “were forced into marriage without opening the pandora’s box of the election’s real outcome,” Wolf said.

A US government-paid exit poll by the International Republican Institute gave Odinga the edge but was kept secret and a Gallup poll nine months later showed that only 25 percent of Kenyans thought Kibaki had won.

As a result, the basis of the power-sharing deal was perceived as being quite different by either side.

What was touted at the time as a 50-50 deal Prime Minister Odinga himself now bemoans as a raw deal, with Kibaki’s people holding the interior, justice, finance and foreign afffairs portfolios.

The dysfunctions of the coalition have been plain to observe since, culminating in Odinga sacking two ministers implicated in graft scandals last month only to see his move vetoed by Kibaki.

Wolf argued that the colossal reform wishlist the West slapped on the newly-formed coalition would be “overwhelming for any government, however unified and well-intentioned.”

“It was as if Western diplomats were trying to prove they were still relevant. The crisis made them look incompetent because they didn’t predict it,” he said.

One of them admitted to shortcomings and also highlighted an undesired side-effect.

“Given other instances in Africa since Kenya, I think we need to look at the message we sent,” said the diplomat on condition of anonymity, referring to political unrest in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

“I think many authoritarian regimes could see the scenario as rather attractive: you want to stay in power so you rig the election, raise the spectre of ethnic violence and wait for a panicked international community to broker a power-sharing deal,” the diplomat argued.

Despite its poor performance over the past two years, the prospect of the coalition’s collapse following recent skirmishes is met with fear that ethnic strife could be re-ignited.

But Mati argued that while they may not manage to agree on substance, Kenya’s foes were happy to keep the shell as it is.

“The truth is that Kibaki won’t end it because it would end his presidency, Odinga won’t end it because it’s as prime minister he gets attention and the ministers won’t end it because they have ministries to run and loot,” he said.

“It’s almost a perfect conspiracy against the Kenyan people.”