Two “must reads” from Kenya ahead of the opening of the PEV trials at the ICC

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“Why Uhuru and Ruto must attend trials in The Netherlands” by George Kegoro in the Daily Nation.

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I have found possible answers to this question in the record of the first presidential debate that was organised by the Kenyan media in the run-up to the March elections. The moderator, NTV’s Linus Kaikai, explored the question of the trials with Mr Kenyatta against the fact that he was seeking to become president of Kenya. Specifically Mr Kaikai wanted to know how Mr Kenyatta would juggle between attending his trial and the duties of presidency if he was elected to office.

On the night, Mr Kenyatta provided well-considered answers to questions surrounding their cases and the presidential bid. Referring to himself and his running mate Mr Ruto, Mr Kenyatta indicated that “it is our intention to follow through [the cases] and ensure that we clear our names”. He added that he considered accountability before the ICC as a necessary step towards ensuring that the kind of problems that Kenya faced in 2007 would not recur.

In his own words: “At the same time, we are offering ourselves for leadership in this country, a position that we believe and want to pass on to Kenyans, an agenda that will first and foremost ensure that the kind of problems of 2007 are put to an end.”

Asked whether the cases would affect his capacity to run the country, he said, “many Kenyans are faced with personal challenges and I consider this as a personal challenge”.

He said he considered that since personal challenges did not affect the capacity of other people to continue with their day-to-day jobs, they should not prevent him from doing so as well.

On that night, Mr Kenyatta concluded: “I will be able to deal with the issue of clearing my name while at the same time ensuring the business of government is implemented”.

Earlier, during the same debate, in answer to a question about his understanding of the problem of tribalism and how he would be different from Kenya’s first three presidents, Mr Kenyatta answered that “we have a new Constitution now” and added that “my job as president is to ensure that the Constitution is implemented”.
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Kenya Bus Service (KBS) and Security at Polling Place

“The Eagle Has Landed: Kenya and the ICC” by John Githongo in The Star.

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. . . History is being made.

The ICC has redefined Kenya’s foreign policy totally and turned domestic politics inside out. Immediately after the post-election violence in 2008, Kenyans were clamouring for the ICC to intervene given the horrors that had just taken place.

Accountability, justice, impunity, reconciliation and other such words were the primary fodder of political discourse as we headed into the referendum on the constitution in 2010. Indeed, it can be argued that even among those most strongly opposed to the new constitutional dispensation, the dark looming cloud of the ICC and all its implications, especially the public mood that accompanied it through 2008 into 2010, all served to soften them up to demonstrate their pro-change, reformist credentials at a time when the country’s leadership and the messy albeit negotiated coalition arrangement was particularly unsatisfactory to the population.

If it hadn’t been for the ICC, perhaps more of the so-called ‘watermelons’ who pretended to support the new constitution while secretly being opposed to it, would have come out into the open with their true position.

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. . . Parts of the Kenyan population are in just such a trap: caught between our preaching about and, yes, belief in, good governance and accountability; and its realities when brought to bear in our tribalised, politicised and fragmented political economy. Grimly put – ‘it hurts like hell when it is my tribesman who is being held accountable’. It hurts so much it leads to some of the most gibbering rationalisations of absurdity possible.

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Worth reading on Kenyan pre-election violence, and challenge ahead for March election

“John Githongo: Former Anti-Corruption Czar on a mission to change Kenyan leadership” from November 2012 Think Business at “Kenyan Magazines”:

Based on Inuka Kenya’s mapping using information provided by credible Kenyan organisations and partners, more than 480 people have been killed since January 2012 in this violence. “It is pre-election violence associated with the new boundaries and the struggle for power. It is so insidious that it is almost passing unnoticed,” says John.

The new constitution, he adds, poses a lot of challenges for the transition process in terms of implementation. We have created new boundaries, instituted a system of devolved government and initiated new laws. Even the more developed economies have not attempted to implement the number of changes we are attempting to implement at the moment at one go. “We are a very versatile people but we will be tested in a way that is unprecedented.” He worries that the danger of things falling apart is that the disillusionment that might follow will cause Kenya to implode, not to explode, “Like an ice cream melting in the sun.”

“The biggest challenge the IEBC faces” by Wycliffe Muga in The Star.

 

Part Five–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 elections and the new FOIA cables

Getting back to the narrative, I also remember Tuesday, December 18, 2007, the date that Ranneberger wrote the second of the cables that I received recently through a 2009 FOIA request.

That morning’s Standard featured a big, full page exclusive interview with Ambassador Ranneberger, nine days before the election.  For me this article was something of a benchmark in terms of my “no more b.s.” from the Ambassador instructions.  There are several reasons I found the article troubling, part related directly to the independence of  our IRI election observation mission, and part related to the Kenyan campaign itself,  in particular the corruption issue.  On corruption:

[From “Envoy Predicts Free and Fair Election”, The Standard, December 18, 2007–an interview with U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger nine days before the Kenyan election]

Q: What are your views on corruption?

A: Lots of people look at Kenya and say lots of big cases have not been resolved because of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg. I always point out that we have lots of corruption even in the US. These cases take a lot of time to bring to justice. We had the famous Enron case. It took over four years to resolve in a system that works efficiently, yet only a couple of people were convicted. These things take a long time.

There has been substantial effort to fight corruption in Kenya and the award the country won for Civil Service reform [from the World Bank] is a pointer to that effect. The fact that the Civil Service is more professional than ever before is progress as are the new procurement laws recently put in place and the freedom of the Press to investigate and expose corruption. More, of course, needs to be done.

The economy has grown by 7 per cent. How much of that has actually trickled down to the people will again be determined by time.

A career diplomat, Ranneberger has been in Kenya for close to one-and-a-half years, and has served in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

This was a full page “exclusive” feature interview in The Standard nine days before the 2007 Kenyan election.

During previous days The Standard had been running new revelations about corruption in the Kibaki administration from documents from exiled former Permanent Secretary for Ethics and Governance  John Githongo. Rumor had it that Githongo wanted to be able to return to Kenya and might want to be able to return to government after the election, although I had no knowledge one way or the other about whether that was true. Githongo’s personal adventure trying to address corruption in the Kibaki administration is the subject of Michela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat. Wrong rightly noted in her book that stealing the election was the ultimate corruption.

Githongo had previously alleged that the Anglo Leasing scandal that Ranneberger referred to was intended to fund the campaign to re-elect Kibaki. See this from BBC News, January 26, 2006, “Kenya ‘safe’ for anti-graft czar”:

On Wednesday, the World Bank urged Kenya’s president to take tough action against any cabinet ministers found to be corrupt.

The warning came as the World Bank approved a new $25m loan to help fight corruption – a decision slammed by former UK Kenya envoy Sir Edward Clay.

Sir Edward, who has condemned Kenya for not tackling graft, said the new loan would feed the “pig of corruption”.

‘Insensitive’

“The Anglo-Leasing cases represent an excellent opportunity for the authorities to invoke the disciplinary provisions of the code of conduct signed by the new cabinet weeks ago,” said World Bank Kenya director Colin Bruce.

“I believe that this is an historic moment for the government to signal where it stands on the issue of political accountability,” he said.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

President Kibaki is under increasing pressure over corruption

President Kibaki was elected in 2002 on a pledge to fight corruption.

Some donors, including the UK, have suspended some aid to Kenya over concerns about corruption and Sir Edward, who retired last year, thought the World Bank should have sent out a tough message.

“How can the World Bank be so insensitive and hapless to announce new loans to Kenya?” reports the Guardian newspaper.

“They have added insult to injury by feeding the pig of corruption in Kenya when many Kenyans were beginning to hope they might smell the bacon beginning to fry.”

Over the weekend, Mr Githongo’s leaked report said his attempts to investigate the Anglo-Leasing scandal were blocked by four top ministers – Vice-President Moody Awori, Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, Finance Minister David Mwiraria and sacked Transport Minister Chris Murungaru.

Mr Murungi and Mr Awori have publicly denied the claims.

Mr Murungi said the report was “untrue” and an attempt to bring down the government.

Mr Githongo resigned last year amid reports that his life had been threatened.

The money raised by the alleged scam was to be used to fund the ruling Narc coalition’s campaign in elections due next year, Mr Githongo said.

Following the leaking of the 31-page report, the opposition has urged President Kibaki to dissolve cabinet.

Opposition Orange Democratic Movement leader Uhuru Kenyatta said: “This is clear evidence that the government can no longer be trusted to conduct detailed and honest investigations into this saga.”

Other diplomats were maintaining effective “radio silence” in the sensitive closing days of the 2007 campaign, while Ranneberger was speaking out to defend the Kibaki administration’s corruption record. In the meantime, after my December 15 experience at the Embassy residence I was quietly preparing the new last-minute pre-election Langata survey, along with all the other work for the exit poll and Election Observation Mission.

After reading the Standard article, I e-mailed my local USAID officer on the Election Observation and Exit Poll to complain, noting my opinion about the article and where things seemed to be going in regard to my obligation to supervise an objective and independent Observation Mission and the Ambassador’s alternative approach.

Part One;   Part Two;    Part Three;    Part Four;    Part Six;    Part Seven;   Part EightPart NinePart Ten

“What are your views on corruption?”

[From “Envoy Predicts Free and Fair Election”, The Standard, December 18, 2007–an interview with U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger nine days before the Kenyan election]

Q: What are your views on corruption?

A: Lots of people look at Kenya and say lots of big cases have not been resolved because of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg. I always point out that we have lots of corruption even in the US. These cases take a lot of time to bring to justice. We had the famous Enron case. It took over four years to resolve in a system that works efficiently, yet only a couple of people were convicted. These things take a long time.

There has been substantial effort to fight corruption in Kenya and the award the country won for Civil Service reform [from the World Bank] is a pointer to that effect. The fact that the Civil Service is more professional than ever before is progress as are the new procurement laws recently put in place and the freedom of the Press to investigate and expose corruption. More, of course, needs to be done.

The economy has grown by 7 per cent. How much of that has actually trickled down to the people will again be determined by time.

A career diplomat, Ranneberger has been in Kenya for close to one-and-a-half years, and has served in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

This was a full page “exclusive” feature interview in The Standard nine days before the 2007 Kenyan election. “Envoy predicts free and fair election”, December 18, 2007.

During previous days The Standard had been running new revelations about corruption in the Kibaki administration from documents from exiled former Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission chairman John Githongo. Rumor had it that Githongo wanted to be able to return to Kenya and might want to be able to return to government after the election, although I had no knowledge one way or the other about whether that was true. Githongo’s personal adventure trying to address corruption in the Kibaki administration is the subject of Michela Wrong’s It’s Our Turn to Eat. Wrong rightly noted in her book that stealing the election was the ultimate corruption.

Ranneberger has somewhat reinvented his public persona in Kenya the last couple of years, in that he now openly criticizes and challenges Kenyan politicians and is outspoken against corruption. Readers of this blog will know that I agree with him, now, on corruption and that corruption is nothing new. I wish him “happy trails” as he completes his tenure in Nairobi and moves on.

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission steps up; Kibaki reverts to form; TJRC fails

News from Kenya suggests that a fresh breeze has finally started to stir on the corruption front. Nairobi Mayor Majiwa was forced to resign in the wake of his arrest on corruption charges, after initially vowing to stay on duty.

“The Big Story” yesterday in the Daily Nation reveals that the Anti-Corruption Commission, the KACC, has begun new efforts to recover from overseas proceeds from the massive and notorious Anglo-Leasing and Goldenburg fraud schemes and probe additional ministries in current scandals. The Commission has written seeking formal assistance from the US, the UK and Switzerland. The Commission cleared away through a successful appeal a 2007 court ruling that it did not have authority to seek such foreign cooperation, with the Court of Appeals finding the argument that persuaded the lower court to be “idle”. Today, we have the detail that PLO Lumumba, KACC head, says that they are investigating four ministers and at least 45 heads of parastatals.

Nonetheless, President Kibaki appointed George Saitoti, his minister of Internal Security since January 8, 2008 during the post-election violence and a longtime insider, to the additional portfolio of Interim Foreign Minister. As I have noted previously, Saitoti was implicated by human rights groups in Moi-era election violence. He previously stepped aside as Education Minister as suspect in Goldenberg investigations, although the High Court ruled that he should not be prosecuted and he was reinstated. The BBC said at the time:

The court rejected the conclusions of an earlier commission of inquiry that recommended Mr Saitoti’s prosecution over the so-called Goldenberg affair.

The $1bn scam in the 1990s involved government payments to a company for non-existent gold and diamond exports.

Mr Saitoti was serving at the time as finance minister and vice-president.

The court ruled that Mr Saitoti had been acting according to procedure when he approved a payment to the firm Goldenberg International.

The court also noted the attorney-general had cleared Mr Saitoti of wrongdoing in a statement that he issued in parliament more than a decade ago.

“Today marks my happiest day in the last 16 years because during that period I have gone through much pain and suffering,” Mr Saitoti said after the judgement.

Both Mr Saitoti and former President Daniel arap Moi, in whose administration he served, have denied any knowledge of the scam.

For further perspective on the status of corruption and the middle class in Kenya, I highly recommend John Githongo’s inaugural post today on his “The State of Hope” blog: “Colonial Spoils Recycled as New Money”.

In this context, a crucial part of the 2008 settlement and “Reform Agenda”, the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, has completely derailed over the continued clinging to power of Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat. The American member loudly resigned, neither Parliament nor foreign donors will pay to operate the Commission, and the public obviously has expressed no confidence.

The Aid Bubble has burst–the West wants profits in Africa (a follow up)

To pick up on an earlier theme about the shift in "climate" for Western involvement in Africa, it is clear that there is a huge upswing in Western investor interest. I’ve been collecting some of the interesting stories and anecdotes and will share as time permits. Bloomberg is providing lots of coverage out of Nairobi now, and the Wall Street Journal has an Africa page that is well worthwhile. Clearly Western investors are playing "catch up" to the Chinese in some markets, but there remains a difference in the nature of Western private investment and Chinese operations. Likewise the Libyans, the Gulf States and and Iranians have moved more quickly than Western funds, but have some different objectives and approaches. See Nick Wadhams blog for some interesting observations on Chinese projects.

Newsweek has the other side of the coin in a new feature by Joshua Kurlantzick on "The Death of Generosity". This is the background for my thought that I should go so far as to label the Bono era as a "bubble". A lot of "promises" that will not be met and IOUs that will not be paid, in part because the rich nations are finding themselves less rich than they thought they were, in part because a certain amount of it was a political fad fueled by the finance/housing bubble and the political winds have changed. Some of it is an appropriate sobriety about what actually works and make sense.

One big obstacle to aid is the politics of spending money on other nations’ problems. President Bush enjoyed a Nixon-goes-to-China credibility with conservatives, who tend to be more skeptical of foreign aid. But Obama’s low popularity among conservative voters makes it nearly impossible for him to sell an aid program to them. Reaching out in this way might feed into American stereotypes that Republicans are tougher on national security while Democrats prefer soft power.

What’s more, Americans are not in a generous mood. In a poll released last December by the Pew research organization, nearly half the Americans surveyed said that the U.S. should “mind its own business” in the world. This figure was the highest level of support for isolationism in decades. And it is not just the U.S.; polls show that this isolationism is matched in many wealthy nations in Europe and Asia, including Japan, long one of the biggest donor nations.

It is not surprising that nations such as Italy, one of the weakest industrialized economies, have slashed their aid budgets by more than 30 percent, while France has not met promised commitments, and the Obama administration has presided over reductions in the budget of the Millennium Challenge Corporation from $3 billion requested for 2008 to $1.4 billion this year.

Recipient nations have not exactly helped themselves. In the early 2000s many developing countries eagerly pledged to improve governance in order to make aid more effective. In 2001 African nations agreed to a New Partnership for Africa’s Development, a continentwide compact to improve governance, promote equitable development, fight graft, and fulfill other aims favored by both Western donors and civil-society activists in most developing nations. In 2006 wealthy Sudanese communications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim established a $5 million prize for the African leader who best focused on development, governance, and education. Yet the performance of these aid-recipient nations often has been woefully poor, a failure that only further alienates donors. Kenya, for one, vowed in 2002 to implement a tougher reform program, appointing prominent graft fighter John Githongo as anti-corruption czar. Within two years, Githongo had been forced out of real power, and he soon fled the country, his investigations having failed to change Kenya’s climate of corruption. Githongo has since returned to Kenya to launch a grassroots advocacy group, but little has changed, though there is some hope that the new Constitution, passed in Kenya this month, might curb some of the worst abuses. Still, Kenyan M.P.s recently voted themselves another salary increase, and now earn roughly $170,000 per year, nearly the same as members of the U.S. House of Representatives, though the average nominal annual income in Kenya is only about $900, compared with roughly $46,000 in the United States.

In rich nations, the growing demand for instant political gratification also undermines the long-term commitment to aid programs. For instance, India, fueled partly by foreign assistance, launched the agricultural-modernization program that would come to be known as the green revolution in the early 1960s, but most of the results were not seen until the 1970s and even later. After the devastating Haiti earthquake last January, governments and private citizens around the world rushed to contribute to the reconstruction effort, often pledging money through new tools such as mobile phones. But as the Haitian government, weak in the best of times, struggled to rebuild and resettle the homeless, many donors grew frustrated. Though it has been only seven months since the quake, only $506 million of the $5.3 billion pledged to the country has been disbursed. “Donors typically set unrealistic time frames for reconstruction, and the level of infrastructural and political damage inflicted in Haiti suggests that they must think in terms of years, if not decades,” notes a report by Oxfam Great Britain on the Haitian disaster.

This will present yet another challenge to Western diplomats and further tension between other diplomatic objectives and democracy support. One of the many hats worn by our Ambassadors, and the Ambassadors of the other nations comprising "the diplomatic community" in places like Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, is the promotion of the interests of investors from "home". Thus, one more area in which Western diplomats will be seeking cooperation from people like Kagame and Museveni, and Kibaki, while also asking them to behave better on political rights and civil liberties.

John Githongo: “Wheels Come Off Kenya’s Embedded Corruption Networks”

From today’s East African, “As thieves fall out, wheels come off Kenya’s embedded corruption networks”:  a must read about the turmoil being caused by the current political environment in which recent scandals are coming much more quickly to light and senior civil servants suspended.

In the meantime, the Business Daily reports “Hidden files expose rot at Lands ministry”, with 12,000 supposedly missing files discovered stashed in the offices of senior civil servants, with another 30,000 still unaccounted for.

“No News” (Updated Feb. 26)

Superficially, the steam of daily Kenyan political drama has been escalated during these recent days when I have not been posting with the usual frequency, but on the other hand, nothing much new has actually happened. I certainly do not want to contribute to anyone’s complacency about the situation. What we have in Kenya now is simply wafts of the odor naturally emanating from the overripe nature of the “coalition” government.

The second Kibaki administration continues on its somnambulent pacing, while all the others jockey as part of “government” with no one formally in opposition. The Prime Minister has returned from a week in Japan with a pledge for a soft loan of more than $300M for geothermal power and a grant of $55M for environmental restoration but has to cool his heels to get a meeting with his “partner” the President.

Driving home from the airport in New Orleans yesterday I listened to a BBC Newshour report from Nairobi about the “crisis”, the potential undoing of the “coalition”, corruption, and the threat of a return to the violence that saw the country “on the brink of civil war”. Of course, it was really pretty much the same report that could have been given the weekend before, or anytime in between (unless distracted by the various meaningless announcements of the day in the meantime). Bwana Ranneberger, the American Ambassador, has had a Casablanca-like shocking discovery that there is corruption going on right here in Nairobi. In fact, as a student and would-be teacher of history he explained to the Newshour audience that corruption had been “endemic in Kenya since independence”. Things are so bad that even the natives have noticed all on their own, as evidenced by his experience on safari outside Muthaiga where even a Nairobi woman selling potatoes on the ground was aware that she was being ripped off on her market fees and felt that all of the politicians should be arrested.

The BBC also talked to John Githongo about corruption and the possibility of a return to violence.

Of course, they didn’t ask the Ambassador why in the run-up to the election, the corruption of which triggered the violence, he had used his “bully pulpit” to speak up in praise of the Kibaki administration’s supposed strong record of progress in fighting corruption, as evidenced by an award from the World Bank even. Just as the same John Githongo was taking the risk of speaking out with more revelations about corruption in that same Kibaki administration.

My thought is that the BBC could be a bit less breathless. Yes, the notion of a functional coalition is proving illusory, but this is just the latest instance that status quo has been maintained rather than changed in the face of an opportunity to take action. Yes, there is a possibility of violence, but as I have written previously violence has been the norm in competitive elections in Kenya in general, just as ordinary Kenyans suffer from a baseline level of violence that politicians, diplomats and paid publicists in Washington don’t like to acknowledge. Certainly even Ranneberger now seems to agree that corruption has been the norm.

Yes, Kenyans face a crisis. But to paraphrase “The Who” playing at the American Super Bowl halftime, “Meet the New Crisis, Same as the Old Crisis”.

UPDATE: The BBC story is MUCH better in the on-line “print” version. It includes a very good quote from Ranneberger about politicians stealing from children, but leaves out the patronizing stuff, and generally reads much more measured.

Githongo to Speak at CSIS Friday: “Prospects for Political Reform”

The African Center for Security Studies and the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies will host “Prospects for Political Reform in Kenya: A Discussion with John Githongo, Kenyan anti-corruption campaigner, Moderated by William M. Bellamy, Director of ACSS and former Ambassador to Kenya”

Friday 10:30am-12:00pm at CSIS

Public Event, but RSVP to CSIS Africa Program at africa@csis.org

Space is Limited!

Worth reading Githongo’s June speech in Senegal upon receiving ACCS’s  “African Visionary Award”  here.