On #AntiCorruptionDay do not forget how then-fugitive Gideon Mbuvi (“Sonko”) came to Parliament in 2010

With the arrest of Nairobi Governor Gideon Mbuvi (“Sonko”) in Voi on charges of corruption and of fleeing charges and a jail sentence in Mombasa dating back to 1998, it is important to remember how Sonko came into national politics in Nairobi in the first place.

My only personal encounter with Sonko was when he showed up as MP and potential Senator-elect at the Milimani Law Courts in March 2013 when civil society leaders I was working with sought an injunction to stop the IEBC under Isaack Hassan from announcing Presidential election results after shutting down the Results Transmission System, which had allegedly unexpectedly failed (it has turned out the procurement was botched in the first place so the Results Transmission was not ever going to work).

Sonko entered politics and was elected as Member of Parliament from Nairobi’s Makadara Constituency in the by-election of September 20, 2010, as the nominee of the NARC-Kenya party led by Martha Karua, then MP for Gichuga.

Karua was appointed by President Kibaki as Minister of Justice in 2005 following the defeat of the “Wako Draft” constitution at referendum by the nascent Orange Democratic Movement, and reappointed by Kibaki in his original “half-Cabinet” of January 8, 2008 during the Post Election Violence period. Karua resigned as Justice Minister in April 2009 (being replaced by Mitula Kilonzo, father of current ODM Senator and Sonko defense attorney Mitula Kilonzo, Jr.) but one would think she and NARC-Kenya would have had resources to vet Sonko’s background if they were not familiar.

The by-election for Makadara was one of several occasioned by the courts upholding election fraud challenges against the Samuel Kivuitu led and internationally supported Election Commission of Kenya that also failed so obviously in the Presidential race.

As the Daily Nation explained in an article headlined “Makadara rivals bet on the slums” at the time Sonko originally had support of a faction within the ODM party before intervention of party leader Raila Odinga, then Prime Minister in Kibaki’s second administration (sometimes referred to as the “Government of National Unity”):

In Makadara, the roles were reversed in 2007 as ODM’s Reuben Ndolo was ousted by Mr Dick Wathika of PNU. Mr Ndolo also successfully challenged the results in court.

. . . .
The two main parties are seeking to boost their numbers in Parliament ahead of 2012.

The fight is about numbers, especially given that ODM will be seeking to turn the tables on PNU after losing a number of by-elections in the recent past,” Nairobi lawyer and political analyst John Mureithi Waiganjo said.

The party lost in Matuga at the Coast and South Mugirango in Kisii, seats it was expected to win.
Mr Waiganjo says the by-elections also come at a time when ODM, whose party leader Raila Odinga, is at the forefront in pushing for reforms ahead of 2012 elections, requires numbers in Parliament to effect the changes.
The lawyer named Mr Ndolo and Mr Wathika who were on the same side of the referendum campaigns, as the front runners for the seat. But Narc Kenya’s Gedion Mbuvi, popularly known as Mike Sonko, could spring a surprise. 
Mr Mbuvi, who intially sought the ODM ticket, has run a well-oiled, high-profile campaign that has excited many, especially youthful voters.
However, it is his alliance with Nairobi deputy mayor George Aladwa, the Kaloleni ODM councillor, that has been causing Mr Ndolo and the party sleepless nights. Although even PNU’s Wathika received a direct ticket, it is in ODM that the consequences of the nomination fallout are likely to be most felt. 
Mr Aladwa, who was said to have supported the deep-pocketed Mbuvi for the ODM ticket, has been leading a rebel faction which may seriously dent the party’s chances of victory.
Last week, party leader Odinga was forced to intervene in the matter.
At a meeting called by the Prime Minister, Mr Ndolo and Mr Aladwa pledged to bury the hatchet and work together to win the seat for the party. But there has been little evidence on the ground to show the two are back together. Even the joint rally they agreed to hold is yet to happen.
Mr Aladwa is popular among the Luhya, a significant section of voters in the constituency, and the tension between him and Mr Ndolo can only hurt the ODM candidate.
But Mr Ndolo believes that he has an upper hand after reconciling with Mr Dan Shikanda, a former soccer star, who contested the seat in 2007 on a Narc ticket and who could also influence the Luhya vote. Pundits believe that had Mr Shikanda not broken ranks with Mr Ndolo in 2007, ODM would easily have clinched the seat.

After winning the by-election by defeating both Ndolo of ODM and the PNU Party nominee Wathika on the ticket of PNU Coalition member NARC-Kenya, Sonko later left NARC-Kenya and joined PNU successor party Jubilee to successfully run for Senate in 2013 and then Governor in 2017. Karua ran separately for president as the NARC-Kenya nominee in 2013 and for Governor of Kirinyaga in 2017.

Hon. Karua has been a member of the International Advisory Council of the International Republican Institute (the organization I worked for in Kenya during the 2007 election) since 2015. The Council is a “select group of recognized leaders from around the world who share in our vision of democracy and freedom, and are willing to lend their names and counsel to this cause.”

“Freedom Under Threat”: New report on the spread of laws restricting NGOs in Africa from Freedom House

The new report “Freedom Under Threat: the Spread of Anti-NGO Measures in Africa was released today. It provides a valuable review of recent developments in counter-democracy push back from governments in power in numerous countries.

In Kenya, here is a good, straightforward recitation of the approach taken after the “UhuRuto” election of 2013 with a Jubilee Party platform calling for a crackdown on independent NGOs said to be modeled after post 2005 repressive measures established by the Meles Zenawi government in Ethiopia (see “Attacks on Kenyan civil society prefigured in Jubilee ‘manifesto’“) and the legal “pitched battle” since:

In Kenya, meanwhile, the new government elected in 2013 made six successive attempts to modify the PBO Act—a progressive law passed by Parliament and signed by the outgoing president just months prior to the elections.49 All of the attempts were loudly opposed by NGOs and the political opposition, and the High Court ordered the government on October 31, 2016, to publish the original PBO Act in the official gazette to bring it into operation.50 The government refused to comply, prompting NGOs to request that two cabinet secretaries—overseeing the Ministry of Devolution and Planning and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government—be held in contempt of court.51 The court ruled in the NGOs’ favor on May 12, 2017. Rather than implement the court order, however, the government continues to apply the outdated NGO Act of 1990, and it is unclear how the situation will be resolved. The broad-based Civil Society Reference Group, an alliance of over 1,500 leaders of national and international NGOs that ran a multiyear campaign for the adoption of the PBO Act,52 continues to insist on its implementation. Indeed, Kenya represents an interesting case study of the pitched battles that have characterized the struggle between governments on the continent that seek to narrow democratic space on the one hand and civil society sectors that seek to preserve democratic gains on the other.

The moves by African rulers appear related to or inspired by authoritarian trends elsewhere:

Although no attempt is made in this report to analyze laws outside Africa, there are parallels between anti-NGO measures adopted across the continent since 2006 and those adopted in Russia and China—two influential global actors that have forged close ties with African governments. Sudan’s anti-NGO law coincided with the first of several Russian laws,6 closely followed by Rwanda’s measure in 2008. Russia’s second wave of legal restrictions coincided with those of several African countries—notably Ethiopia, Zambia, and Mozambique—while China’s 2016 and 2018 regulations came alongside measures by several other African governments surveyed in this report. It is difficult to establish specific links between the African laws and those adopted by the two global powers, but the close relationships built in Africa since 2000—particularly by China—support a modeling hypothesis.

On Cambridge Analytica for Kenyatta, The Star reported arrival of a campaign team back in May – why no follow-up?

Below is a draft post I wrote but did not publish back on May 10, 2017:

Uhuruto re-election and Cambridge Analytica coverage in The Star: why now?

Today, the Star, Nairobi’s previously opposition-leaning third daily newspaper (a must read together with The Daily Nation and The Standard) ran a story announcing the arrival of a team from Cambridge Analytica for the Uhuruto/Jubilee re-election campaign.

Note the attribution to “well placed sources in the Office of the President.”

Generally speaking the Kenyan media declines to cover the foreign firms working the Kenyan election campaigns, especially for an incumbent president.  That type of thing is in the category of “we are a ‘free press’ but not free like that”.  For the “foreign correspondents” the Western campaign operatives are fellow habitues of the expat “circle of trust” or omertà or whatever you want to call it: sources not subjects of reporting.

So why this story today?  If I can put myself in the loafers of an Uhuruto campaign operative rather than just a bystanding fan of “truth, justice and the American way of life” I might want this for a couple of ressons that I can think of: 1) this could be what has been famously termed a “limited modified hang out” – if information is starting to leak you might want to seize control to misdirect attention by putting out a shaped half-truth version; 2) this could be a way for the Uhuruto campaign to “signal” the idea that it has powerful support in Washington and London in response to the black eye received in the form of the USAID suspension of Ministry of Health funding due to corruption which went public Monday.  Of course, this is all just hypothetical/conjectural “thinking out load” from someone who is not involved.

One of many fruitful questions for further review now is the extent to which these operations were run by Government of Kenya officials out of Government offices.

Was Cambridge Analytica given access to Government of Kenya data? On the pattern of use of State resources for the Jubilee campaign, beyond running the campaign through office holders and out of the Office of The President and State House, note this from The Star story;

Aspirants who won nominations in the just-concluded Jubilee primaries will be expected to campaign for Uhuru in their home areas.

A deal has been offered to nomination losers to stick with Jubilee and be rewarded with state jobs after the election.

Here is yesterday’s Reuters report with the first “on record” confirmation from Jubilee after the now-infamous Channel 4 undercover expose and leaks regarding Facebook that it used SCL/Cambridge Analytica in the campaign.

And please remember as well the role of the American firm Harris Media: “Don’t Mess From Texas: disturbing Privacy International report indicates Uhuruto re-election campaign bought Texas-based negative propaganda campaign.”

An appreciation for church leaders and diplomats pushing dialogue in Kenya; next steps?

Someday, my hope remains, administration of elections in Kenya can be a straightforward and transparent affair that is not the stuff of secrets, drama and death.  However, that is not an option on today’s menu.  Church leaders by first speaking out earlier on the need for reform of the IEBC, followed by a call for dialogue now with escalating tensions and killings by police, have served the needs of the mwananchi; the foreign envoys who have spoken collectively both publicly and presumably privately during the recent opposition demonstrations and crackdown have added muscle toward an a needed de-escalation.

Next steps: let’s lance the boil of secrecy in the administration of elections; I firmly believe that Kenyans can be trusted to know how they voted and that counting votes in Kenya does not really have to be harder than in other countries.  

Without the secrecy, the opportunity opens for the more patriotic and more humane voices within the policitical process, both within parties and in civil society, to come to the fore.

Jubilee at 1; Kenya at 50 1/4

Half a Crossing

Africa Confidential‘s free article this month gives the best overall summary of the state of the Kenya government a year after Uhuru and Ruto took office, “A Year of Living Precariously”

Crime, inflation and grand corruption have risen sharply in the last year. Expectations of an economic take-off have dimmed since the cheers that greeted Kenyatta’s disputed election victory. The government has incurred new debt and inflated the public wage bill against a background of falling tourism revenue – the result of the Westgate terrorist attack and Islamist activity on the coast. Beside concern about loans from China and elsewhere, mostly for infrastructure expansion, there are worries about the growing cost of the new, devolved counties.

As for the environment in which to address these challenges, AC says “the politics of sycophancy reminiscent of President Daniel arap Moi’s era [are] now in full flow”.

Of course the most immediate critical issue on the referenced infrastructure projects involving Chinese loans is the construction of a new, “from scratch”, Standard Gauge Railroad. Renowned Kenyan economist David Ndii here explains why the project is far too expensive to make economic sense in lieu of renovating the existing railroad:

Part of the other side of corruption and maladministration in Kenya’s fiscal crisis is exposed in a gutsy report from The Standard this week, “Revealed: How Karuturi got away with denying Kenya millions in taxes“.

And from the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Digest: “Kenya Declares Human Rights ‘Subversive'”.

Have ODM and TNA run their course in Kenya?

UhuRuto 2013 sign downtown
The great puzzle for those of us who have worked on “democracy promotion” or “democracy support” in Kenya has been whether there is something that can be done to assist Kenyans in building meaningful, coherent political parties that are more than amorphous vehicles for individual ambitions and a “tribal” spoils system.  The record in this regard has been discouraging.  When I was with IRI in 2007-08, one of my European counterparts of long experience explained that his organization had concluded that the effort was simply not fruitful and resources were better spent in other areas.

At this point I am afraid that we see some history repeating itself.  TNA is having difficulties with the inattention of its titular leader, President Kenyatta.  It is not hard to see TNA now as simply a vessel for Uhuru’s campaign, a means that he created to line up his core Kikuyu support when, supposedly, there was significant sentiment among the elites to find alternatives due to the difficulties of the ICC charges, and even the notion that it might be safer to chose Mudavadi or someone else who was an amenable insider but a member of another tribe.  Certainly Uhuru’s record as a party builder is not encouraging.  After being tapped as KANU leader by Moi in 2002 and losing to Kibaki he kept leadership of the party (with Ruto as a Secretary General) and was one of the leading figures in the formation of the Orange Democratic Movement as leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, campaigning against the “Wako Draft” constitution in Central Province during the November 2005 referendum.

Nonetheless, as things were shaking out to nominate a presidential candidate for the ODM side in the second half of 2007, Uhuru made the unprecedented move as leader of the parliamentary opposition to cross over to support Kibaki’s re-election.  Moi also announced his support for Kibaki in this time frame.  Uhuru kept formal control of KANU but the party was gutted as most of the potential KANU voters in the Rift Valley went with Raila, along with Ruto who formally joined ODM, contested for the nomination there and served as a key figure in the “Pentagon”.  Then Uhuru himself struck out to form TNA for the 2012-13 race.

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“Do not be afraid. The government will protect you.” KANU Revivalists offer alternative to democratic values in Kenya

Shortly after I arrived in Kenya in mid-2007, Kenya’s parliament passed a media regulation bill which faced a storm of international diplomatic criticism as well as domestic protest.

President Kibaki at the time backed down and sent the bill back to Parliament where it was ultimately somewhat watered down. New legislation passed last week goes much further than what was dared under the first Kibaki Administration, in spite of the new constitution. This time there doesn’t seem to be much reaction from international governments–we give our aid money quietly and tiptoe so as not to step on important toes since we have been aggressively accused of imperialism and racism for not intervening to stop the ICC prosecutions of The Now Elected for the mayhem after the 2007 election–but the international media is much more aware of these issues than they were in 2007.

And if the media bill has been put in some limbo, it has been followed by the introduction of the Jubilee bill to assert more state control over civil society and restrict and channel foreign funding to non-governmental organizations. The Uhuruto team had not shown its cards on attacking the media during the election campaign, but civil society was always a known target. See Attacks on Kenyan Civil Society prefigured in Jubilee Manifesto, my post from March this year.  More freedom for the media and for civil society means more restraints on politicians in control of government.  Restricting civil society can help maximize the opportunity to control the media, and vice versa.

Kenyans are confronted once again by the hard choice of whether they are willing to challenge their “leaders” in governmental power to maintain their individual freedoms as citizens.

Uhuru Kenyatta stayed with KANU throughout his life through the formation of TNA as a vehicle for his presidential campaign in this year’s race.  Other than running in elections himself, he has not given much indication over the years that I am aware of being concerned for opening the democratic space and by running as “Moi’s Project” as the KANU nominee in 2002 he chose the old banner.  Of course when you are one of the richest men in Africa, and your mother is one of the richest women, because of what your father took for himself and his family when he was the one-party ruler, you find yourself with plenty of freedom of speech and freedom to politically organize regardless of the details of the system that confront the small people.

In the wake of the Westgate attack, and the desire of the government to avoid scrutiny or challenge, I am reminded poignantly of what Kibaki said when he first ventured out thirteen days after he had himself sworn in for his second term:

January 9, 2008–13 days after the 2007 election (NBC News):

Kibaki made his first trip to a trouble spot, addressing more than 1,000 refugees in western Kenya, many of whom had fled blazing homes, pursued by rock-throwing mobs wielding machetes and bows and arrows.
“Do not be afraid. The government will protect you. Nobody is going to be chased from where they live,” Kibaki said at a school transformed into a camp for the displaced in the corn-farming community of Burnt Forest. “Those who have been inciting people and brought this mayhem will be brought to justice.”
He indicated he would not consider demands for a new election or vote recount.
The election “is finished, and anybody who thinks they can turn it around should know that it’s not possible and it will never be possible,” he said.

Perhaps for those Kenyans that feel sure that the government will always protect them, there is no need for these things of a free media, civil society, the questioning of elections.  Kenya could just go back to the Chinese model of the one party state.  Kenyans who prefer a freer, more empowered citizenship as a matter of values, or who don’t feel they can count on the government to always protect them will have to decide to engage to protect those rights which are of course expressed in law in the new constitution.  See “CIC (Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution) says new media law unconstitutional”, Daily Nation.

Kenyan Media

Kenyan Media

“Media Zombie” stirs as Kenyan legal process moves forward [updated]

[Update: here is the Sunday Standard, “How Raila’s poll petition may change the whole game”]

“The many questions IEBC needs to clear with Kenyans over elections.” The Saturday Nation

The “media zombie” awakes with a recitation of damning basic questions about the systems employed by the IEBC.

AfriCOG and other Kenyan civil society groups were left as lonely voices before the election while the public relations of the IEBC and the rest of the Kenyan Government, propped up as best I can see so far by the “western donors” (with money from taxpayers like me) and the “aid industry” peddled false assurance. I will have to admit that the situation is significantly worse than I had realized.

And then beyond the systems that were not even seriously in place, we have the specifics of bogus numbers coming out with election challenge petitions by AfriCOG and by the CORD campaign filed today. So much like 2007 only worse in terms of a mass “overvote” in the presidential race.

“Halt the Party, It’s not yet Uhuru”, Wycliffe Muga in The Star.

In the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman notes the extreme pressure on Kenya’s judges:

The case is sure to be a test of Kenya’s recently overhauled judiciary. It is now much more widely respected, but some analysts have questioned whether all six Supreme Court justices will be able to withstand the pressure of refereeing such a high stakes contest for power. Even before the election, the chief justice received death threats, and analysts have raised questions about the independence of some of the other justices.

What does Kenya’s High Court ruling on the civil society challenge to Uhuru and Ruto eligibility for election say about the state of Kenya’s judiciary?

The Nairobi media reporting is a bit garbled but the gist of things is that the Kenyan High Court (as opposed to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court) has dismissed a petition filed some months ago by civil society groups, including significantly the Kenyan Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, challenging the eligibility of many of the candidates for President of Kenya on the basis of the “integrity” provisions of the new Kenyan Constitution.

Almost 13 months ago I posted that it was time for Kenya’s judicial system to answer the question posed regarding the application of these constitutional provisions to the candidacy of those facing confirmed charges from the International Criminal Court.  Unfortunately, even though the election has ended up being set for a delayed date, the Kenyan court system has still managed to let the clock seemingly run out without reaching any clarity or finality, such that the election is expected to proceed with the “Uhuruto” ticket on the ballot.

Without having a copy of an opinion yet, from the media reports, the High Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over the challenge because the constitution vests exclusive jurisdiction in the Supreme Court over challenges involving the nomination and election to the presidency and that further the jurisdiction of the Kenyan courts and ICC was concurrent and with the ICC case proceeding only the ICC could bar the indictees from running for office.

As an American rather than Kenyan lawyer, and having not read the opinion, I don’t want to go too far into the details here, but I would note that (1) Ruto as opposed to Uhuru is no longer running for president, so the practical question now for his eligibility is distinguishable; (2) the High Court has original jurisdiction to interpret the provisions of the constitution, which seems to me to clearly be the issue here–as opposed to a more ordinary nomination or election challenge which would seem to me to be a more plain way to interpret the various constitutional provisions as a whole.

Here is a long quote from the Daily Nation story “Jubilee, Cord plaud ruling on eligibility case”:

Mr Odinga on his part said he respected the ruling saying that the court had held that in matters relating to the presidential election, the Supreme Court had ‘exclusive and original jurisdiction.’

“I have repeatedly said that my main competitor should have the opportunity to face me in a free and fair election whose outcome is determined by the people of Kenya,” said Mr. Odinga upon hearing of the Court’s decision.

But Restore and Build Kenya (RBK) presidential candidate Prof James Ole Kiyiapi accused the judges of failing to give Kenyans directions on matters of integrity.

“By declaring that they lack jurisdiction, Kenyan courts have failed to give the country direction on matters of integrity as outlined in chapter six of the constitution,” he stated.

The five High court judges – Mbogholi Msagha, Luka Kimaru, George Kimondo, Pauline Nyamweya and Hellen Omondi – dismissed a petition filed by civil society groups challenging Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto;s suitability to run for the presidency and deputy presidency as they face serious crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Judges ruled that despite the serious nature of the crimes facing Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto at the ICC, they are still presumed innocent until the contrary happens.

“It is common knowledge the two have been indicted but since Kenyan courts and the ICC are of concurrent jurisdiction, we cannot adjudicate over the same matter. Only the ICC can bar them to run for public office,” ruled the judges.

They ruled that the High Court had no jurisdiction to hear any petition relating to presidential candidates’ nomination.

So I tend to agree with Prof. Ole Kiyiapi that the High Court has ducked the issue and left a real lack of clarity as to the meaning of the constitution.  The problem is appeals and further proceedings are now unlikely to have time to be resolved before March 4.