What Will Jendayi Do? Reading “tea leaves” on Kenya’s next presidential race (revised)

[This post is revised to reflect a correction and revision from the East African.]

The East African made an editorial slap at Michael Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer in its “Cry havoc, and let slip the U.S. ex-diplomats” last Saturday to which I added a link in my last post regarding ex-Ambassador Michael Ranneberger’s deal with Salva Kiir:

Michael Ranneberger, whose controversial tenure as United States ambassador to Kenya is well remembered, is the managing partner at Gainful Solutions.

Comparing his posture back then, his flip from the high priest of justice and human rights, to the devil’s advocate cannot escape attention.

Former assistant secretary for African affairs Jendayi Frazer, is another US top gun diplomat who is well known for her consultancy services across East and Central Africa since leaving US government service.

At issue here is whether American diplomacy, as represented by Frazer and Ranneberger, subscribes to any universal values at all. It is obvious that the duo are exploiting the networks made during their career, to make hay today.

In an ideal world, the stakes in South Sudan are so high, that they should be adequate incentive for anybody to think beyond the short-term gains an individual could make out of the situation.

Ultimately, however, external interference cannot be discussed without examining the role of the African politician who has been a willing accomplice by shunting aside the national interest in favour of self-preservation. [this is EA revised text]

Dr. Frazer usually makes appearance in the media in Nairobi for business dealings related to the Jubilee Administration, along with one appearance a few months ago meeting with controversial Mombasa Governor Joho identified as a discussion on “countering violent extremism” on a MasterCard Foundation trip.

REVISION NOTE:

[(East African) EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to remove the association earlier made between big infrastructure projects in Uganda and Ms Jendayi Frazer. Ms Frazer has not been involved in any infrastructure deals in Uganda and her name was inadvertently mentioned in that segment of the leader. We regret the error.]

See also.

Editorial criticism of Ranneberger and Frazer of this type is not the East African’s usual approach, as reflected in the defection of many of their Nation Media Group opinion columnists to The Elephant’s East African Review, as well as to The Standard, in the wake of the handling of coverage of the Uhuruto re-election fiasco in 2017-18 and Jubilee crackdowns on the media. Some years ago the East African passed up a friend’s offer to put together my experience and investigation from this blog on how Ranneberger and to some extent Frazer played the 2007 Kenyan election while they were in the State Department from my “War for History” series.

So kudos to the East African now for calling this issue out editorially, even if the news departments have not been covering these developments in the past. Maybe that can change.

One of my questions in looking at the current Kenyan presidential race has been how Dr. Frazer will play it, especially given that there is no way to know now who will be in power then in Washington. Assuming that the current “handshake” holds and that Frazer’s first relationship is with the Kenyattas, would she affirmatively step up for Raila in the face of a serious challenge from Ruto in a competitive “two-horse” presidential race? Or would she approach this differently? (She was firm in her position that what was done in the Rift Valley in the wake of the 2007 election fraud was “ethnic cleansing” even though “Main State” would not adopt her terminology, so it would arguably seem pretty awkward for her to support Ruto, wholly aside from the current corruption situation with Ruto). She was vital to the Uhuruto ticket in the 2013 race and to its perception and reception in Washington in the Obama years thereafter to my way of thinking. Getting called out publicly in the East African and not just having dealings with Uhuru and Kagame is a wild card.

When The Star had me write some columns in the spring of 2013, they headlined the one dated March 23 challenging Dr. Frazer’s support of the Uhuruto defense in the Supreme Court of the IEBC’s questionable numbers to avoid a runoff after “failure” of the Results Transmission System in the election petition by civil society and the opposition as “Jendayi Frazer lacks moral authority“. Read the whole piece if you are interested in Kenyan elections or U.S. democracy assistance, but I concluded:

The thing that is most striking to me about this now, in light of the current litigation about the manual vote tally by the IEBC in this election, is that Jendayi Frazer was the head of the Africa Bureau at the State Department during 2007-08 when the previous Exit Poll was withheld and the misleading “press guidance” put out [by the Africa Bureau as I had just learned from FOIA]. Today, as a private citizen, Dr. Frazer is aggressively arguing in the Kenyan press and in the press back in Washington to once again uphold the disputed work of the Kenyan election officials against the concerns raised by the opposition. I cannot justify how this was handled when she was in charge in 2007 and 2008.

When I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Frazer the first time later I did apologize to the extent of noting that the phrasing of the headline itself was not something that I myself would personally have written, although I stand by the content of what I did write. When I published “The Debacle of 2007: How Kenyan Politics Was Frozen and an Election Stolen with U.S. Connivance(again, the headline is not mine) in The Elephant in June 2017, I focused primarily on my direct dealings with Ranneberger. Frazer’s exact role as his superior and the intentions of any formal policy beyond the law as such have never been made fully clear. Ranneberger’s cables as provided under FOIA from before and immediately after the election leave gaps and questions as to what was reported to Washington before Frazer and later Rice were dispatched to Nairobi starting several days after the vote during the post-election violence (although it would be unfair to Ranneberger to make assumptions from that circumstance alone, and various facts were misrepresented in Washington after the vote regardless.)

More broadly, I have agreed with some of Dr. Frazer’s many policy approaches and disagreed with some. What I would think about her personal integrity regarding the 2007 election would depend on whether she was acting per instructions of policy or making it herself. In 2013, I did not appreciate her public role and have not qualified my reaction based on anything I seen since.

At the same time, Frazer seems to have been a primary architect of some policy approaches in Africa that were quite positive and that left the U.S. in better stead in the G.W. Bush years in Africa than elsewhere, in spite of conspicuous controversy regarding Somalia. Arguably with PEPFAR and other initiatives there was some actual “compassionate conservatism” undertaken in SubSaharan Africa even as the anti-compassionate forces reflecting the Vice President’s approach changed the direction of the Bush Administration foreign policy elsewhere in the wake of 9-11. Post-Bush Administration she is relatively ubiquitous in elite U.S. institutions associated with Africa, especially as an African-American as well as her various “Afrocapitalism” engagements. So in that regard she earned respect and a willingness on my part not to assume the worst even if there are some things that look bad.

Ultimately, in spite of the fact that she tends to be quite assertive in her positions, I find her to be a bit of an enigma really. Regardless, anyone as involved in as many things in as many places as she is is going to be wrong some of the time. As a diplomat that involvement may not always be optional absent resigning, but it is a choice for a private citizen.

“The great observer gamble” is a “must read” on the Zimbabwe election and international election observation

An important election and election observation drama is playing out now in Zimbabwe, and “The great observer gamble” (free feature) in Africa Confidential is the key explainer.

Subhead: “After an eight-month charm offensive wooing bankers and diplomats, the government is failing the legitimacy test”

Please follow the link and read in full.

In this case the U.S.-funded joint NDI-IRI international observation mission made a difference in international understanding of the difficult realities of the election in the context of seemingly conclusory approvals from the regional SADC (of which Zimbabwe is a member) and the African Union.

I have no criticism of the NDI-IRI effort and as far as I can tell my old colleagues have upped their game in important ways in this situation from my previous experience in Kenya. At the same time I would note that with the incumbent government already under sanction and not an important U.S. ally, and in a fairly small (in population) country with lots of opposition support in the U.S., this was a case where it was easier to stick to the facts of the vote without getting caught in a diplomatic undertow.

An important question now is how IFES in supporting the Zimbabwe Election Commission will handle the announced election challenge litigation from the primary opposition. With a fraction of one percent margin over the 50 percent runoff threshold and a lot of delay and uncertainty with the central tally (aside from voter register and larger “playing field” issues, this looks quite a lot like Kenya 2013, which I have been looking into through the Freedom of Information Act.

Mnangagwa’s team may have done enough to allow the most enthusiastic business people and governments to step up re-engagement. Much will depend on the strength of the opposition’s case at the election tribunal and the credibility of its handling by the courts.

Africa Confidential

[Update – the judicial challenge has been file. As in Kenya the process is truncated by a 14 day deadline for the court to rule.]

[This is one of my photos from the IRI Kenya 2007 Observation, as we arrived at Olympic Primary School in Kibera, Nairobi. One of the Zimbabwean newspaper sites used a copy of this image with the gentleman on the left cropped out for their Zim coverage.]

African Great Lakes Initiative releases report on observation of Kenya elections

I have previously praised the grassroots observation approach and thoroughness of the AGLI in observing the referendum vote in 2010.

Here is their report on the March 4 general Kenya elections.  Basically they found widespread problems in the areas they observed and reported on in detail.  They did not aspire to cover the whole country and thus make no claims as to the total impact of the problems, but show clearly that there were multiple avenues and opportunities for widespread fraud.

In particular, they observed extra presidential ballots being given out by a polling clerk in one station.  The observer reported the matter and the clerk was arrested, but the polling station ended up with roughly 100 extra votes for president over the votes for the other races, and this was apparently reported on and included in the national totals.  This type of conduct would be one explanation for the huge overvote in the presidential race.  I have not seen other explanations . . .

The AGLI recommends a post election audit by the IEBC and an outside group now that the Supreme Court has ruled without delving into the details so that the process can be improved.

 

Kenya Election: Overall Observation on Observations [Updated]

This is a quote from an e-mail I sent to an expert back in the U.S. on my way home from Kenya, where I am now. As far as a candid summary of what I think happened in the Kenya elections:

Overall situation with observers was that they were extremely reticent to say anything of substance because of the fear of violence and the fact that IEBC process was ongoing. Further, because of Jubilee attacks on the British High Commission and the West more generally (in my opinion at least) there was an extra level of reticence to say anything that would confront the Government of Kenya election process. We ended up with little impact, if not window dressing, as far as I can see. Someday they will write final reports that might, I hope, involve a deeper look into the original vote count and subsequent events, as well as the prior problems that led to a small voter registration pool, etc.

See Robyn Dixon’s piece in the Los Angeles Times , “Kenya election over, dispute over outcome heads to Supreme Court”::

The narrow margin and repeated failures of the election commission raise the possibility that the Supreme Court could call for an audit of the election result, analysts said.

Kenyatta got 50.07% of the vote, crossing the line with a margin of some 8,000 votes out of more than 12 million cast.

Despite the failures, Kenya’s news media were muted in their reportage of the commission problems. Even international observers have tip-toed around the subject.
However, respected Kenyan anti-corruption crusader John Githongo called the election a failure Sunday. Githongo, an election monitor, said for months a group of community organizations had tried in vain to warn the election commission of problems in its systems and approach.

“In my personal opinion, it’s a failed election,” Githongo said in an interview with The Times. “I think the IEBC performance was catastrophic. I was part of a group of organizations that repeatedly warned them that these problems were there and on the way.”

Commission Chairman Issack Hassan denied the problems and failed to turn up for meetings with the organizations, according to Githongo.

Githongo said Kenyans were so keen to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the disputed 2007 poll that many, especially in the Kenyan media, kept silent about the obvious problems in the election commission.

. . . .

Githongo’s criticisms come after reports that Safaricom, the mobile phone provider involved in the electronic system that was supposed to transmit results to the central tallying point, also warned the commission of looming failures in the weeks before the election, and was also ignored.

Patrick Smith, editor of the journal Africa Confidential, said Western officials privately condemned the commission’s appalling performance but said nothing publicly “for fear of being seen as interfering in the election”.

. . . .

Freedom of Information Series (Part Eleven): Better to Learn More Lessons from Kenya’s Last Election After the Next One?

Back last May I had checked in with the State Department’s Freedom of Information Office about the status of outstanding documents from my 2009 FOIA requests regarding the 2007 Kenya elections.

At that time the FOIA Office wrote me that State Department documents about the IRI and USAID Exit Poll had finally been received from the Africa Bureau, presumably including the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, in addition to just the Central Records in Washington. (From what I had been told by the FOIA Office previously, the Africa Bureau did not respond for well more than two years following my original FOIA submission.) The estimated additional time to review and release documents was six months, to November 30, 2012.

November 30 came and went with no documents. i wrote to request release on an expedited basis due to the new elections upcoming but got no response. Checking back I was eventually given a new date of May 2013, after the new Kenyan elections.

A lot of people in a variety of capacities in the U.S. government, or otherwise funded by U.S. taxpayers, are working on matters involving the March Kenya elections. Likewise, from other donor governments and international organizations. And of course Kenyans who bore the actual effects of the disaster in the last elections have the most at stake in the new elections. Why further delay disclosing and addressing the documentary record from 2007?

Impunity for election fraud in 2007 makes the 2013 Kenya elections riskier. Even though there will be no accountability now, Americans and Kenyans should at least know as much as possible about what happened.

When did Ruto and Uhuru fight? And why is the “Uhuruto” alliance allegedly so surprising?

Today is the third anniversary of the “AfriCommons Blog”, so let me celebrate by being a bit direct.

I lived in Nairobi with my family during the last Kenya elections campaign and the duration of the post-election violence. I certainly saw both Uhuru and Ruto in Nairobi during the uncertain post election period, and they were on local television as well–serving in Parliament together and carrying out their functions as members of the political class. Never saw either with a police rifle, a panga or a can of petrol. No recollection of seeing either of them in the slums or other types of neighborhoods where most of the violence in Nairobi took place.

Rather, the ICC has accused them of being involved in the incitement, organization and funding side of the organized part of the post election violence or PEV.

I don’t recall ever seeing any indication that the two had any type of personal animosity between them or couldn’t get along between themselves. Could be, but not necessarily obvious from the context of funding militias and gangs in the hinterlands on opposite sides of a political tussle. In terms of the political debate it was Martha Karua that squared off with Ruto during the ECK “vote counting” at the KICC and the post-election negotiations.

When I moved to Kenya in June 2007, less than seven months before the elections, Uhuru and Ruto, along with Mudavadi, Raila and Kalonzo were in ODM-K (later to become ODM) and all were running against each other for the opposition presidential nomination through their mutual coalition. Uhuru was KANU leader and titular Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. They were all rivals, but all against Kibaki. Uhuru and Kalonzo split off the main ODM, with Kalonzo running as ODM-K nominee as a “third party” and Uhuru switching sides to Kibaki/PNU, presumably at least in part because he could not hope to get re-elected to his seat in Parliament in Central Province otherwise. (And maybe he was looking to 2012/13.)

If there was a question of anyone not getting along personally, it was more about Kalonzo and Raila than Uhuru and Ruto.

It just seems naive to me to be especially surprised that Uhuru and Ruto would hook back up–and most especially so when they are in a serious jam together with the ICC charges.

Did Uhuru oppose Moi because of Moi’s role in the related violence in the Rift Valley around the 1992 and 1997 elections? Seems to me he stayed in KANU and was anointed as Moi’s candidate for the succession in 2002. Perhaps if he did, as accused, get involved in using the Mungiki in post-election violence in Naivasha and elsewhere, could it have been for instrumental political reasons rather than some atavistic “tribalism”? Has Ruto ever supported a non-Kalenjin candidate before? (hint: Uhuru in 2002)

Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 Elections from the Truth Trickling Out About 2007–New Cables From FOIA (Part One)

The time for Kenya elections under the new constitution should be August, although there remains some uncertainty on the date of the first election for “the second republic.”  See “The Election Date not Clearly Spelt Out” by Yash Ghai and Jill Ghai in The Star.  Regardless, the point is that elections are in a general sense “next year”, and that since I started this blog in December 2009 we have gone from roughly “40% done” with the allotted time for reforms under the “Government of National Unity” to “80% done”.

One of the points of the mediated settlement agreement between PNU and ODM negotiators that provided for the formation of the “power sharing” coalition government was the investigation of the facts of the disputed 2007 elections. Toward this end, and as part of my own desire to learn what I could about what had been going on around me in the context of my work managing the IRI poll program and election observation program in Nairobi, I submitted three Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department back in September and October of 2009. One of the requests was denied back at the first of this year on the basis that the records were classified, but this weekend I finally received the first partial release of unclassified documents under one of the other two requests.

Regular readers will know that for the last several months my professional circumstances have just not allowed much time for original writing here–that hasn’t changed, but I think this is an important area where I can add value to the learning process and preparations toward more successful elections in 2012, so I will be working my way through what these newly public documents tell us, and don’t tell us, about the last Kenya elections over the next few posts.

This FOIA request covered State Department communications about the 2007 exit poll that was conducted by Strategic Public Relations and Research under contract with IRI, funded under an agreement with USAID and by the University of California, San Diego. This initial partial release covered the “central records” of the State Department in Washington and identified six “cables”, of which four were released in full, one was released with some redaction, and one was held for review with another agency of the government prior to a decision on release.  To date, the Africa Bureau has provided no response to State’s FOIA office regarding the Embassy records.

We’ll start for today with basic points from the first cable, a December 14, 2007 report from Ambassador Ranneberger to Washington on the preparations for the December 27 elections. I remember that day well–it was a Friday.

The day before I had gotten a call from the USAID Democracy and Governance head to fax to the Ambassador our delegate list for the election observation mission. After I had done so I was driving to lunch with my wife and an American friend who had recently been an election observer in another African country for another U.S.-based NGO and wanted to assist the Kenya observation as a volunteer. The Ambassador called and I had to pull over to the side of the road and step out of the car as I was getting loudly “chewed out” about the inclusion of former Ambassador Bellamy on the delegate list. Ambassador Ranneberger elaborated that he did not want to hear that it was not my decision as he was holding me “personally responsible” as the person in charge “on the ground”. He went on to say that he would pull the funding and cancel the election observation if I didn’t get Bellamy off the list, and not to think that he couldn’t do it.

After my calls to USAID and my immediate superior in Washington, IRI’s president called Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer on his way to the airport for a trip to Thailand, as he related to me, to tell her to “get her Ambassador under control”, then called Ranneberger from Thailand.  As a result, IRI capitulated and removed Bellamy as a delegate, but I was instructed to accept “no more b.s.” from the Ambassador.  Bellamy was told (not by me) that there was a problem funding his plane ticket.

The next day, on Friday, Ranneberger sent his cable to the Secretary of State touting his election preparations.  Some points of interest:

*Ranneberger notes regarding the UNDP’s $11.3 million comprehensive election assistance program, that the U.S. is the largest donor, providing nearly $3 million.  “As USAID/Kenya’s Democracy & Governance officer is the lead coordinator for all/all donor related election activity, USAID represents the donors on the joint ECK/Donor Steering Committee managing this program.”

*Ranneberger writes regarding Election Observers:  “The Mission is funding an international election observer team headed by the International Republican Institute (IRI).  The team will have about 20 members, and will be headed by former Assistant Secretary Constance Newman.  This team will be strategically deployed to high-profile locations and will coordinate with other international observer missions being fielded by the EU and the Commonwealth.  In addition to the international team, we will field over 50 three-member teams of Mission observers (American and Kenyan staff).  Locations for deployment focus on election “hot spots” where we anticipate the greatest potential for violence or other irregularities as well as constituencies with viable women candidates.  As circumstances on the ground evolve, we can continue to adjust our deployment strategy.”

* Regarding the ECK:  “Developing the capacity of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) lies at the  heart of our strategy.  The USG funded International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) has been providing support to the ECK since late 2001.  Activities focus on providing appropriate technology for more efficient and transparent elections administration while improving the skills of the ECK technical staff.  This support additionally includes capacity building and technical assistance to support election administration.  Technical assistance includes computerization of the Procurement and Supplies Department, which is responsible for printing and distributing election materials.  Assistance will also support implementation of the ECK’s restructuring plan, strengthening logistics capacity, and accelerating the transmission and display of results.”

*On “Public Opinion Polling”:  “The Mission is funding national public opinion polling to increase the availability of objective and reliable data and to provide an independent source of verification of electoral outcomes via exit polls (emphasis added).  The implementing partner is IRI.  In addition, we were concerned that other widely published public opinion polls, which showed ODM’s Raila Odinga well ahead of President Kibaki, did not accurately reflect the true status of the contest.  Given the rising political temperature, partially due to the use of blatant ethnic appeals by both sides, we were concerned about the reaction of ODM supporters should their candidate lose in a close outcome when they were led by public opinion polls to expect a landslide victory.  The solution involved quietly reaching out to polling firms and their clients to suggest that poll sampling distribution should be based on the regional distribution of registered voters, not on raw population.  Today, the major polling firms have all adjusted their sampling and limited their responses to those who at least claim to be registered voters.”

That afternoon, Friday, December 14, I got a call as I left the offices of Strategic, the polling firm, where I had been working on exit poll preparations.  A caller who identified himself only as working with the Ambassador said that the Ambassador would like me to see him at the residence the next afternoon and I agreed to come.  In the next post, I’ll pick up the story with that meeting and two more pre-election cables.

Part Two;    Part Three;    Part Four;    Part Five;    Part Six;    Part Seven.

“Electoral Fraud and the Erosion of Democratic Gains in Kenya” — James Long of UCSD Center for Study of African Political Economy presents new draft paper on Kenyan election

James Long with whom I worked on the USAID/IRI/UCSD/Strategic exit poll has more detailed study of fraud in the 2007 Kenya elections along with further discussion of the exit poll and its handling.

Read Long’s working paper as presented May 1 to the Working Group in African Political Economy meeting at Pomona College.