The “War for History” part fifteen:  Why the conventional wisdom that Kenya was “on the brink of civil war” in 2008 is wrong

I must have read, or at least skimmed, dozens of Kenya articles, papers or policy briefs that include, usually near the beginning, reference to the alleged circumstance of Kenya being “on the brink of civil war” at the time of February 2008 post election “peace deal” brokered by Kofi Annan between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.  Invariably, this important assertion is without any type of citation or elaboration.  It has become self-referential conventional wisdom.

In the case of political science papers on narrower topics–those along the lines of “What can ‘big data’ tell us about gender disparity in boda-boda fares in rural Kisii eighteen months after Kenya’s Post Election Violence?”–the “brink of civil war” reference is boilerplate contextual introduction.  More significantly the “brink of civil war” phrase is standard in writings on issues of foreign policy, conflict avoidance and resolution, electoral violence specifically and the development of democracy more generally.  In these writings, the validity of this relatively untested characterization matters a great deal.

I don’t say this to be critical–the “brink of civil war” line is found in the writings of personal friends and people for whom I have the utmost regard.  Which in a way makes it all the more important to raise my concern that the terminology may unintentionally mislead those who don’t have personal knowledge of the ins-and-outs of what was happening in Kenya from December 27, 2007 to February 28, 2008 and may skew historical understanding.

There were several types of violence in various locations in the country triggered from the election failure.  My contention is that none of them were close precursors to any likely civil war.

To put it directly, the incumbent administration seized the opportunity to stay in power through the up-marking of vote tallies at the Electoral Commission of Kenya and the immediate delivery of the contested certificate of election to State House for the quick secretly pre-arranged swearing in of Kibaki for his second term before his gathered supporters there.  The incumbent President and Commander in Chief remained in effectively complete control of all of the instruments of state security–the Police Service and Administrative Police and General Service Unit paramilitary forces, along with the military forces and intelligence service–all of which were part of the unitary national executive.

Notably, the Administrative Police had been deployed pre-election to western areas of Kenya in aid of the President’s re-election effort as we in the International Republican Institute election observation were told in a briefing from the U.S. Embassy on December 24th and many Kenyans had seen on television news broadcasts.  While this initially led to disturbing incidences of pre-election violence against individual AP officers, by election day the vote proceeded peacefully with voters cooperating with deployed state police at the polls.

A civil war scenario would thus have involved an insurrection against the State.  I really do not think this was ever likely, most importantly because none of the major opposition leaders wanted it, nor a critical mass of the public without any pre-defined leadership.

While Kibaki’s official “victory” by roughly 200,000 votes rested on a reported 1.2m vote margin in Central Province, significant strongholds of the opposition were in parts of Nairobi and in the west overall, starting in the western/northern parts of the Rift Valley and including Western and Nyanza Provinces.  The violence on the Coast was not broad and extreme and eastern Kenya was not destabilized in the way that it has been in recent times.  The key ‘slum’ areas in Nairobi were fairly effectively sealed in on the eve of the vote as government security forces deployed in Nairobi.  Violence in the slums was no threat to overthrow the government and never broadened to seriously threaten areas where the political class (of whichever party affiliation that year) lived.

Solo 7--Kibera

Solo 7–Kibera

Palpable fear of a mass scale conflict between opposition civilians and state security in Nairobi largely ended when Raila cancelled the planned ODM rally for January 3, 2008 as the GSU continued to surround Uhuru Park shoulder to shoulder.  As best I could tell the EU at that point came around to support the U.S. position in favor of negotiated “power sharing” in lieu of a new election and/or recount or other remediation.  Acts of terrible violence continued to ebb and flow in specific places but Kibaki’s hold on power was not threatened as far as I can see. Continue reading

Nigeria example shows U.S. and other donors should act now on Kenya IEBC technology procurement corruption

For the 2013 election, I have a copy of one last minute USAID procurement through IFES for the Kenyan IEBC related to the failed electronic results transmission system; I would assume there were other USAID procurements involved for the IEBC.  Notably, the Supreme Court of Kenya found that the main cause of the failure of the electronic results transmission system and the electronic voter identification system appeared to be procurement “squabbles” among IEBC members. “It is, indeed, likely, that the acquisition process was marked by competing interests involving impropriety, or even criminality: and we recommend that this matter be entrusted to the relevant State agency, for further investigation and possible prosecution.”   “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court opinion” April 13, 2013.  See also, “Why would we trust the IEBC vote tally when they engaged on fraudulent procurement processes for key technology?”, March 24, 2013.

From “USAID Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers“, February 17,2005.

Election technology can work, in Africa, just as elsewhere, when it is not sabotaged by corruption.  Nigeria, a much harder case than Kenya, proved that this weekend.

While technology is “not a panacea”, it would have mattered in Kenya in 2007 when it was purchased for Kenya’s ECK at the expense of American taxpayers as an important part of our USAID assistance program if it had not been simply “shelved” by the ECK at the last minute (in a meeting the records of which the ECK refused to turn over to the “Kreigler Commission” charged with investigating the failed election).  It was a central part of the planned assistance program for 2013 shaped on the basis of the Kreigler Commission’s recommendations for what was required based on what was done and not done in 2007.  It was also in 2013 a central and necessary part of election process under the new Kenyan law for the new IEBC, replacing the discredited and disbanded ECK.  It mattered that it did not work, and that it could not have worked because of the failure to procure what was needed when it was needed.

Aside from the basic issues regarding the technology procurements that we have all known about since the 2013 election (and before in some cases)–so thus for more than two years at a minimum–we now have in addition–the “Chickengate” matter where bribery of IEBC officials for ballot paper printing contracts by a British company and its officials, through a Kenyan agent formerly employed by the IEBC, was proven in a court of law to the standards required for criminal convictions.

Yet we see no indication of legal action by the Kenyan government to follow through even on those bribes already proven in the British Court, much less a serious fulfillment of the two-year old recommendation of the Supreme Court of Kenya for the Government to investigate and possibly prosecute the technology procurement cases.  We certainly see that corruption issues are admitted to be remain pervasive at all levels of the current Kenyan government–and perhaps there is a newfound intention to address some of them (time will tell) but apparently no new mention of the IEBC. See “Read the list of public officers implicated in corruption and what the EACC accuses them ofThe Star, March 31. And “Analysis: Kenyatta’s corrupted corruption probe” by Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick, March 30.

What are we waiting for?  Shouldn’t we (the United States) have enough self respect to at least suspend our underwriting of this nonsense and to at least make it clear that we will investigate how our own dollars were spent regardless of what the Government of Kenya elects to do or not do?  Likewise other donors who may have paid for part of this?

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A Guest Post on the State of Kenya@50: “Where Did The Time Go and What Do We Have to Show For It?”

Following is a “guest post” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American now leaving Kenya after more than thirty years of Kenya’s fifty year independent history. This was originally written back in May, after the election failures but months before the Westgate fiasco, about which we learned more damning information with the report this week from the review by the NYPD:
Kenya Map at Nairobi School

It’s mid-May, do you know where your election results are?

Good question! As Kenya prepares to celebrate 50 years of Independence – and, remarkably for Africa, largely free of tribal massacres, wars, natural and/or manmade disasters, successive failed or successful military coups d’etat, vicious secret police operations or state sponsored “disappearances – this steadily failing state is increasingly unable to conduct normal run of the mill governmental functions.

The GOK was able to carry out a national census until the late 1990s, deliver mail and inland cables, find the owners of automobiles allegedly involved in traffic offenses, pay pensions, etc. The more international assistance and support for the GOK and its myriad associated agencies, parastatals, universities and authorities the faster state operations have deteriorated.

The incredible investment in “IT” prior to the 2013 General Elections was not only supposed to prevent or mitigate electoral fraud but was also a belated recognition of just how bad government administration had become.

The IEBC was unable to organize or conduct “voter education” prior to the March 4th polls and is probably unable to find all 120,000 (?) temporary workers hired for these elections; media reports indicate that election- related pay owed to the police, NYS recruits and prison warders has still not been paid.

In essence it is an amazingly foolish leap of faith to expect the IEBC to release any election results for President, Governors and members of the National Assembly and Senate. The longer these results are kept from the public the greater will be arguments that these elections were stolen; 50% of the country is already on a slow boil and the new administration is clearly not able to handle long simmering insecurity in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir Counties or in Western Kenya where criminal gangs are terrorizing the populace.

Reports of a resurgence of Mungiki in and around Nairobi as well as continuing MRC related activity in the “Coast Province” counties – including Lamu – show that the state of national insecurity is more serious than anyone will publicly admit. The heavy handed response on Tuesday, 14/05/2013, by some 400 “security personnel” drawn from the disparate forces within the “National” Police Service to only 250 noisy demonstrators – and 15 or so pigs and piglets – outside Parliament showed an usual lack of any police command and control.

Meanwhile the Obama Administration seems blissfully unaware or unconcerned of the situation in Kenya; our bureaucrats just seem to be hunkering down and covering their asses.

Reports that the police fired live ammunition to “break up the crowd of peaceful demonstrators” after tear gas and water cannon proved “ineffective” indicates a lack of discipline or concern for innocent bystanders or onlookers in offices, shops or even the carparks in the vicinity of Parliament right smack in the CBD!

The use of live ammunition to quell demonstrations in Kisumu in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on March 30th elicited little comment in the domestic media and certainly no public protests from the US Embassy. Apparently the rubber bullets procured by the NPS prior to the elections are still in their original packing?

The bottom line is that “Something’s happening here. What it is, is very clear…” To Some!

Andrew J. Franklin, J.D.
Former U.S. Marine, resident of Nairobi since March, 1981

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.

.  .  .  .
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”.
.  .  .  .

Kenya Bus Service (KBS) and Security at Polling Place

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

. . . .

. . . 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.

.  .  .  .

. . . 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.

Continue reading

Kenya’s ELOG delivers major report on election

The Elections Observation Group (ELOG) has published yesterday a lengthy report for the first time on its observation of the March 4 Kenyan election.  Having criticized the lack of transparency of aspects of ELOG’s observation and Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) program in the immediate post-election period, and cited criticism of their public communications in characterizing the PVT I wanted to quickly recognize the level of their follow-up here in their first release since March 9.

I will need more time with the report before discussing it in detail here as it runs to 78 pages plus attachments (and in the meantime I have recently rejoined the corporate world so I am back to avocational status on Kenya projects) but this deserves real attention and goes far beyond what has been published by the other major observation groups.

In the meantime, here is ELOG’s conclusion:

This report has delved deep into the electoral process starting the journey from the troubled times of 2007/2008 when the country burnt.  It has given an insight into the insidious political problems that Kenya has had to grapple with.

The report analyses the ills that the country must heal before it finally gets out of the political woods.  From negative ethnicity fueled by the “tyranny of numbers” to weak or unreliable institutions, the country has major problems to fix to ensure free and fair elections that are beyond reproach.

The report also makes it clear that although the restored faith in the judiciary and the fear of the ICC may have averted the violence that engulfed the nation after the 2007 general elections, faith in the IEBC and the judiciary was eroded following the Supreme Court ruling on the presidential petition filed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

All stakeholders need to put in extra work and resources to help enhance the public understanding of their civil rights while enhancing the efficiency of all institutions charged with conducting elections in Kenya.

Peace Wall

“After the Dust Has Settled” shiny new Kenyan institutions left dingy

Dr. Stephanie Burchard has a piece in the current issue of the Institute for Defense Analyses’ Africa Watch entitled “After The Dust Has Settled: Kenya’s 2013 Elections”, noting the unexplained failure of the IEBC to release election results that were required in mid-March until mid-July.  The key takeaway:

Unfortunately, after all that has happened since, it is unclear how much respect or trust Kenyans continue to have in their political institutions.  Politicians seem wary of Kenya’s political institutions.  Raila Odinga promised that he and CORD would boycott future elections until changes within the IEBC take place.  Even more troubling, public trust in Kenya’s new institutions appears to be eroding.  In early July a national survey conducted by Ipsos Synovate revealed that confidence in Kenya’s new political institutions, including the Supreme Court and the electoral commission, had fallen precipitously over the course of the past few months.  In particular, confidence in the IEBC had fallen by 30 percentage points–from a high of 62 percent in February to 32 percent less than five months later.

 

Bonus reading on the American foreign assistance political and policy process: from the Lugar Center, “Lessons for the Next QDDR” by Diana Ohlbaum and Connie Veillette.

 

“Choosing Peace Over Democracy”

“Kenya’s 2013 Elections: Choosing Peace Over Democracy” has been published in the new Journal of Democracy by James D. Long, Karuti Kanyinga, Karen E. Ferrer and Clark Gibson.  Important and worthwhile reading for anyone interested in Kenyan politics or democratic process in Africa or the developing world more generally.

This is the first of formal publications using the exit poll and other polling data that were presented by Professors Gibson and Long at Johns Hopkins’ SAIS on May 2 and widely covered in the Kenyan media.  See my post with the video:
“Fraud and Vote Patterns in Kenya’s 2013 Election: Evidence from an Exit Poll”–Gibson and Long event in Washington Thursday.

Long and Gibson were the researchers who also carried out the 2007 IRI/USAID/UCSD Kenyan exit poll that showed an opposition victory.

Voting Procedure

134 days after election, Kenya’s IEBC fails to produce election results in Parliament

Daily Nation, July 16, “IEBC fails to submit final poll tally” :

The electoral commission failed to furnish Parliament with the final results of the March 4 General Election Tuesday amid claims that some commissioners refused to sign the report.

 

The commission was expected to submit the final tally to the Justice and Legal Affairs committee at a meeting scheduled with the team at Parliament Buildings Tuesday. The committee was to relay the report to Parliament.

 

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan and chief executive James Oswago appeared before the committee but were turned away after the chairman indicated that the tally was not ready for submission as per the request from Parliament. . . .

Here is the Standard story.

 

Are “free and fair” elections passe in Kenya?

Uganda Debt NetworkHappy American Independence Day–it has now been a full four months since Kenya’s 2013 election, yet the results have still not been released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The 2012 Kenyan Constitution mandates in Article 81: “The electoral system shall comply with the following principles––

(e) free and fair elections, which are—

(i) by secret ballot;
(ii) free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or
corruption;
(iii) conducted by an independent body;
(iv) transparent; and
(v) administered in an impartial, neutral, efficient, accurate
and accountable manner.

Thus “free and fair” is the legal standard in Kenya. So what standard did the international observer missions that issued their reports on Kenya’s elections without waiting for the official results apply?

Note this from Mienke Mari Stetytler’s “Observing the observers: how the Kenyan election was verified” republished in the Daily Maverick this week:

One month after the election, on April 4th, the Carter Center released its postelection statement. “In spite of serious shortcomings in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s management of technology and tabulation of final election results, the paper-based procedure for counting and tallying presented enough guarantees to preserve the expression of the will of Kenyan voters.”
Kenneth Flottman, an independent elections consultant, noted that not one of the observer missions referred to the elections as “free and fair” in their preliminary or post-election reports. “Holding back on calling the election ‘free and fair’ reflects the reality of the known problems with the election,” Flottman said. “At its most crass, this is a way to say that the government in power cheated some, but the opposition probably would have lost anyway.”

He conceded that “there is a tendency to apply lower standards to achieve a ‘free and fair’ election in Africa compared to other regions [of the world]. If anything, this makes the decision not to apply the label to this election in Kenya more noteworthy.”

David Pottie, associate director of the Carter Center’s democracy programme, contested this view. “It isn’t that African elections are held to a different (higher or lower) standard than countries elsewhere in the world,” Pottie said in an e-mail. “Rather, the Carter Center bases its assessment on a) Kenya’s international obligations and b) Kenya’s constitutional and legal framework.” He added that “free and fair” is no longer the “language of choice in international public law”.

Peter Visnovitz, EU election observation mission spokesperson, agreed: “The ‘free and fair’ phrase fell out of use because defining an election as ‘free and fair’ is very black and white—it requires a yes or no answer. Whereas, in fact, electoral processes are complex and it is very difficult to come up with a concept of ‘fair’ that would please everyone.”

Ilona Tip, operations director at EISA’s South African office in Johannesburg, explained that phrases like “transparent and credible” or “the expression of the will of voters” are now preferred.

.  .  .  .

“The long, long vote count” –new reporting from Kenya in Africa Confidential

Election Observers

The new “free article” from this month’s Africa Confidential says better what I have been getting at about the extraordinary delay in releasing the results from the Kenyan election, along with new independent reporting on the facts:

. . . In the longer term, such doubts could prompt a re-evaluation of foreign election monitoring missions in Africa. Some on the European Union mission, for example, had serious doubts about the integrity of the process, but it quickly endorsed Kenyatta’s election. By that stage, the EU had contributed more than 50 million euros (US$66 mn.) to the cost of the elections, reckoned to total over $400 mn. One diplomat in Nairobi joked that it was a case of ‘responsibility without power’, meaning that the EU would be blamed for a messy result due to its financial involvement but had no power to change anything.

The IEBC found that a million more votes were cast in the presidential election than in any other, Africa Confidential has learned, although all were held on the same day. Opposition and civil society activists have raised questions about such discrepancies for several months.

An unnamed electoral commissioner quoted in the Nairobi daily The Star appears to confirm their suspicions: ‘We are having sleepless nights reconciling the presidential results and those of the other positions. Over a million votes must be reconciled with the others and if the requirement is not changed, then it will cast the IEBC in a negative light.’

Kenyatta’s supporters reject the concerns, arguing that it is natural that voters were more worried about selecting the national president than candidates for other positions. Few neutrals see this as credible. In the past, dramatically higher turnouts in presidential elections than in others on the same day have been taken as a sign of ballot-box stuffing.

It seems far-fetched that over a million Kenyans would queue for several hours to vote and then ignore all of the ballots apart from the presidential one, especially since there was great excitement about the contests for new, powerful positions such as senator and governor. None of the many election observers we asked said they had seen significant numbers of voters putting a ballot paper in the presidential box but not the others.

. . . .

Please read the whole piece; this is important for the future of Kenya and for future elections everywhere.