Kenya Government “pranks” U.S. into reassuring on unrequited “partnership” while suppressing protesters (updated)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Kenya’s government is led by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who barely left KANU in form, and not at all in substance. Not surprisingly, as in the past, protests against the government are in general not allowed and protesters are normally teargassed, beaten and arrested. The fact that this is unlawful behavior by the government does not change the facts on the ground, whether under the 2010 “reform” constitution backed by the United States and the Kenyan voters, or under the old Lancaster House constitution as amended. This was the case during the Kibaki interlude when I lived in Kenya in 2007-08, and it has most certainly been the case during the original Kanu regimes and the current Jubilee revival.

The most recent conspicuous episode was on Thursday, February 13.

For people protesting against the Kenyan government to get the attention of the media they need to engage in something especially catchy beyond the usual shedding tears and blood and getting arrested. Last year, for instance, protesters made international news by releasing pigs in front of parliament to protest the extra-legal raises that the MPs, or “MPigs” were giving themselves. Of course the protesters were teargassed, beaten and arrested, but at least they made the news.

Unfortunately, after the fact the use of the pigs became something of a distraction to the issue of the financial avarice in parliament. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan capital in its own way, and for many, naturally, there is a right way to get teargassed, beaten and arrested, and a wrong way to get teargassed beaten and arrested. Everyone is a lot more used to greedy politicians than to real pigs turned loose in front of parliament. So this time organizers of the February 13 protest assured that they would not use any such animal stunts. (This time they had foam dolls to depict an infantile “diaper mentality”.)

With the build up of publicity and momentum for the announced and pre-cleared protest, the police blinked and announced to the media at the last minute that the protest was purportedly “cancelled” because of unspecified alleged terrorism concerns. Overlapping with this some Kenyan media outlets carried what the Standard headlined: “National Security Advisory Committee Statement on plans to destabilize government”:

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Why would we trust the Kenyan IEBC vote tally when they engaged in fraudulent procurement practices for key technology?

It has been clear for many months that the IEBC’s procurement of BVR kits was irregular.  It is now quite clear that even after Kenyan civil society called the IEBC on the carpet on that problem, the IEBC engaged in clear misconduct in buying the “poll book” system.  When they were caught, the procurement was allowed to go through because of the limited amount of time before the election.  The “poll book” book system largely failed and on election day polling stations used a wholly manual system–a printout on paper.

See the details on the fraudulent bidding here from the today’s Standard: “Minutes reveal how IEBC bought faulty gadgets”:

A review of the tendering procedure by the public procurement regulator found out the tender to supply poll books was awarded to the South African firm, which participated in the Anglo Leasing scandal, on September 29 last year, three weeks before the technical evaluation among the shortlisted bidders.

In other words, the bidding was a sham, because the “winner”, which never could produce a working system, was selected in advance, before the evaluation of which  systems worked–and thus the working systems never had a real rather than a pretend opportunity to be selected over the non-working system.

Getting down into details, the failure of this key procurement left a situation in which much of the presumed value of the Biometric Voter Registration was lost because there was no ability to use any automated voter list at the polls.  The use of the paper print out opens a big window for fraud because one would have to obtain and verify each of the individual print outs from more than 33,000 polling stations to know whether what was used on paper matched up with the central voter registration list in Nairobi (leaving aside the fact that the IEBC never finalized and published a uniform voter registration list as required, which makes the issue doubly important).

I have no way to know whether the IEBC was simply corrupt in its procurement practices resulting unintentionally in the failure of the poll book system, or whether there was some deliberate intent within the IEBC to avoid the application of the electronic system.

Assuming for the sake of argument that no one at the IEBC deliberately wanted to undermine the intended voting systems, it remains quite clear that the IEBC engaged in conduct that clearly violated the public trust in preparing for the election.  So how can we simply trust the same body on the vote tally itself?