Jamhuri Day, Christmas and the Year Ahead

Happy Jamhuri Day to my friends and readers in Kenya (and Kenyans in the diaspora–even if you don’t get to vote this time!).

FRESH TEA
Fresh Tea

It has been a week since my last post, even though so much is happening on a day to day basis with the Kenyan election and lots of other news in the region–this reflects a few different things.  For one, perhaps what we could call a “Christmas armistice”.  I live in a peaceful place, and I am enjoying the “festive season” here with my family and am committed to a less digital Christmas.  We’ve survived another election here in the States (in spite of ourselves) and there are a several weeks left in the campaign in Kenya and this is a good time to step back a bit.  In particular, for my family, this is the last Christmas before my daughter goes off to college.  I took my son, our youngest, to get his driver’s license yesterday.  These are the things that can’t wait (and that are uniquely my responsibility).

For another, I have been at this blog steadily for three years.  It’s been through various evolutions and trends and this is an appropriate time for reflective recalibration about what I want it to be going forward.  And in the meantime, there are 601 posts out there for those interested.  And too many of those are just “news” and not real writing, and I do know that I want to get back to “better” rather than “more”.

A third is that I have both new freedom, and new constraints that I need to adjust to.  When I started this blog, and for the first two-and-a-half years, I was a lawyer in the defense industry.  For this reason, I always needed to keep a strong separation between my blog and my professional life.  When I attended the African Studies Association or participated in a “bloggers’ roundtable” at the Millennium Challenge Corporation I was on vacation from my job and generally didn’t talk about it much (both awkward and expensive).  When I was living in Kenya and working for the International Republican Institute I kept entirely away from the job from which I was on leave back home.  Now that I am an independent lawyer, I can synthesize what I know from my prior legal experience and otherwise what I do for a living with the blog to whatever extent I chose, so this is easier.  At the same time, I am also now available professionally as a consultant in matters involving East Africa and have accepted some work, so I need to avoid any conflicts arising out the transition from being purely an avocational commentator.

One thing I have reflected on this past week is the issue of how much is similar and how much is dissimilar between the 2007 campaign in Kenya and the 20012/13 campaign.  All of the major players are the same, although Kibaki will be transitioning from President to “retired President” as Moi is called, and is thus not a candidate himself.  I did get somewhat acquainted at that time and in that environment with Raila and Kalonzo and Mudavadi, and did meet Ruto although never sat down with him.  Uhuru and Dr. Willy Mutunga, who was then at the Ford Foundation and is now Chief Justice, were the only people that ever turned down a meeting request on my behalf when I was IRI Director (a nice symmetry in terms of KANU/Establishment versus Civil Society/Activist roles) so I do have some real sense of many of those involved.  On the other hand, a lot has changed in Kenya, for better and worse, since 2007/08.  So although I know much, much more about Kenya from what I have done from here since I moved back, I don’t want to fall into the trap of relying too much on past experience.

One thing this adds up to is that I do want to write more about “democracy promotion” or “assistance” as a subspecies of “foreign aid” in Africa beyond just the current and most recent past campaign in Kenya.  I also want to do more with East Africa as a region in interacting with the United States–I drafted a “year in review” summary regarding IGAD for a bar committee I am participating in which reminded me of interesting things to explore about how domestic politics in Kenya and in the U.S. will influence cooperation and integration among the East African and HOA states. And then there is Somaliland, which is near and dear to my heart, but I am very cautious in writing about.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few links:

“Uhuru Kenyatta did NOT donate 85 million to Mitt Romney’s campaign” says The Kenyan Daily Post.

Alex Thurston in the Sahel Blog: “Amb. Susan Rice as a Window into U.S. Africa Policy, 1993-Present”

Whither Somalia”–Mary Harper, Bronwen Bruton at USIP

List of Kenya’s Presidential aspirants on Social Media

From the Sunday Nation, the list of Kenyan Presidential aspirants using social media:

Presidential aspirants Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto, Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, James ole Kiyiapi, Kingwa Kamencu, George Wajackoyah, Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, Musalia Mudavadi, Cyrus Jirongo, Eugene Wamalwa, and Moses Weteng’ula are now using websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and You Tube to directly interact with voters. Only David Maillu has no Facebook or Twitter account.

 

In the 2007 campaign and aftermath, blogs were a significant source of information and advocacy, but not generally officially associated with campaigns, and SMS text messaging was widely used; otherwise, this is a big shift in how candidates and campaigns can reach, persuade and organize potential voters, especially through mobile internet.

How serious is Kenya’s IEBC about strict enforcement and prosecution of election law violations?

From a Daily Nation headline story on fines and jail time for election law violators:

A candidate who uses public wealth in political campaigns will be fined Sh10 million or jailed for six years.

If Mr Miguna Miguna were to repeat his feat of wrestling Chepalungu MP Isaac Rutto to the ground at the main tallying centre, he would be liable to a Sh1 million fine or a jail term of five years.

Even a thirsty voter who accepts a bottle of water or soda from a political party representative could find himself or herself on the wrong side of the law.

These are among a wide range of offences contained in the Elections Act to curb vote rigging, hooliganism and bribery as Kenyans head to the polls scheduled for March 4, 2013.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) bosses have promised to enforce the law to the letter and appealed to all politicians and voters to follow it.

“We have to learn from the lessons of 2007/08. . . .”

. . . .

Commission chief executive James Oswago said the laws would be enforced following the creation of the departments of prosecution and investigations at the IEBC.

“We are in a position to investigate offences and prosecute cases without referring to any other authority,” he said.

Offences range from falsifying and buying voters cards, double registration, conduct at polling stations, secrecy of commission staff, undue influence, bribery, use of violence, use of public resources and use of national security organs to gain advantage.

Obviously this would be revolutionary if the IEBC could pull it off. This would create a whole new kind of campaign in Kenya–suddenly, this year. See Vote Buying and Women Candidates in Kenya.

While I am certainly all for the concept, there is also an important lesson in the saying “you have to crawl before you can walk”.  For one thing, enforcement authority in the Electoral Commission is a new thing and the capacity has to be created from scratch with the campaign already ongoing.  And the culture of politics in Kenya certainly won’t change overnight.  To date, there have been no prosecutions of even the most egregious election offenses at the highest levels from the last election, much less the rampant “garden variety” vote buying.  Impunity has a fifty-year history.

Just as with implementation of the latest technologies, the new IEBC needs to be careful about realism and resources–and maintaining its credibility by not over-promising while trying to do more than is possible in its inaugural effort.  A lot of sober judgment is going to be required to prioritize and focus enforcement in an evenhanded way that weeds out the worst offenses and ends up generating real progress that Kenyans can see and “buy”.

If Raila Odinga wants to be elected the next President of Kenya, he should expect to be evaluated on his performance as Prime Minister

Personally, from everything I knew professionally in “real time” in Kenya during the last presidential campaign and its aftermath, and everything I have learned since, I am of the opinion that Odinga would have been the President but for the manipulation of the vote totals as ultimately reported.  The lack of any actual investigation of this issue is in itself telling.

Nonetheless, no one is entitled to the Presidency of Kenya.  If the election was stolen on behalf of Kibaki it was stolen from the Kenyan voters, not from Raila personally.  It would appear most likely that a plurality but not a majority of votes went to Odinga in 2007.  In supporting the brokering of a “power sharing” deal following the election our Ambassador Ranneberger was fond of saying that Kibaki and Odinga “needed” each other to govern.  My corollary would be that Kenyans did not “need” either of them to govern.  Both Odinga and Kibaki were credible candidates with plausible cases to be made to the voters based on platform, party and past performance–both were also controversial and had disappointed many who had supported them in various instances in the past.  In my mind at the time, from Nairobi, neither seemed as moved as I would have hoped by the suffering associated with the election debacle and the ensuing violence.

I continue to believe that determining what happened last time and why is a necessary part of trying for a better election process next time in Kenya, and a more effective role for the United States in assisting Kenyans toward that better process.   Nonetheless, Kenyans deciding how to cast their vote in 2012 or 2013 should take account of how Raila has used the power, albeit limited, that he ended up with in the current government.

While there is no confusion about who is President in Kenya, under the “Grand Coalition” Prime Minister Odinga is one of a small  second tier of key actors in Kenyan government–not because of a clearly defined role for the Prime Minister as such, but for the combination of his own stature as the apparent winner of the last race and the perceived front runner in the next, his role as head of ODM as still the largest single party, and his role in consensus appointments with Kibaki on behalf of the “Coalition”.

Kenya has a new constitution approved by a successful referendum–finally, after so many years.  The office of Prime Minister rather than being given a clearly defined role is going away.  Raila may have helped to block some bad appointments and to vindicate a better selection process for the judiciary and election officials–he may have also assented to some other bad appointments.   On corruption, Kenyans will need to be asking whether Raila as Prime Minister has accomplished things to advance reform–or whether he has just been talking the talk like other officeholders.  This is one reason why getting to the bottom of the facts of the  management of the “Kazi Kwa Vijana” programs from the Office of the Prime Minister is important.  What does the stewardship of this program say about what Kenyans could expect from Raila as president?  Likewise, if there is no major scandal here, how do his critics justify baying for his head when there are so many major scandals from this government and its predecessors that have not been addressed and accounted for?