[Update: The Daily Nation, “State Officials on the campaign trail“: “The Jubilee administration has deployed civil servants and key government officials on vote hunting missions across the country in contravention of the law.”]
Let it not be said that there is any serious pretense that the Government of Kenya is neutral in the contest for political allegiance of potential “swing” ethnic groupings, rich in votes or money, in the current election, a contest for power between the Uhuruto ticket representing the current generation of the original KANU establishment led by the Kenyatta family and an opposition coalition led by Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.
Here is the “latest news” from the Government of Kenya, Office of the President (www.president.go.ke): “Kenyan Asian community backs President Kenyatta’s re-election”.
This years’ “Jubilee Party” was literally formed at State House as the Uhuruto re-election vehicle, formally merging Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and Ruto’s URP, just as this meeting of State Officials and “Asian” Kenyan businesspeople and politicians for the re-election campaign was convened at State House.
Conduct of this sort, aside from being a clear form of corruption per se as a misappropriation of public resources for private gain, is explicitly against the mandatory Code of Conduct for the Kenyan political parties. (On paper the campaign, in full swing for months, is not even to start until May 28.)
Will the Registrar of Political Parties and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission take action? The IFES led consortium of US based organizations both facilitating and underwriting the cost of the election, while also coordinating its “observation” at the expense of American (and in parts Canadian) taxpayers? What about ELOG, the donor supported Kenyan observation group?
IFES has already beeen attacked by the Kenyan Government and ELOG is charged with continuing to do business in Nairobi on a permanent basis, so it would be a huge act of institutional courage for it to seriously challenge the conduct of the Office of the Presidency. We have been in the mode of continuous institutionalized democracy promotion in Kenya for 15 years (!) now. No matter how many capacity building seminars we hold for the little people in the cities or the politicians in the resorts in the Rift Valley or at the beaches, if we let ourselves simply be mocked and pretend that this is working we will surely risk moral injury to our own democracy.
Read the whole campaign piece here:
The Asian community in Kenya has endorsed the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Leaders of the community said they have taken the decision to rally behind the President because of his commitment to creating an enabling environment of business and development.
The leaders, who visited President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, said policies implemented by the Jubilee Government have enabled more business to thrive and made Kenya a preferred destination for investors.
At the meeting which was also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, representatives of the community assured the President that they would rally behind him to ensure the country’s development tempo is sustained.
“What we have seen in the last four years needs no magnification and my words can be supported by facts that can be seen and quantified, “said businessman Iqbal Rashid.
The businessman cited the upgrading of the old railway system with the Standard Gauge Railway, the upgrading of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and continuous improvement of the infrastructure connecting cities and towns.
He said the continued flow of investments into Kenya from all corners of the globe was as a result of the confidence in the leadership of President Kenyatta.
Women leaders Parveen Adam, Shamsha Fadhil and Farah Mannzoor thanked the President for championing an agenda that fosters inclusiveness as well as the prosperity and unity of all Kenyans.
They said women appreciate his efforts to spearhead the campaign to have the two third gender rule passed by the National Assembly.
Businessman Bismiahirahman Nirrahim said the Asian community has witnessed the transformative leadership of President Kenyatta which has helped in creating conducive environment for investments.
He cited the increased ease of doing business resulting from President Kenyatta’s policies including the policy to reduce the time it takes to register a new business.
Nirrahim said the youth and women empowerment program implemented by President Kenyatta’s Administration has also been a transformational policy that deserves praise.
President Kenyatta thanked the leaders for their support and assured them that he would continue working tirelessly to make Kenya a more prosperous country with shared prosperity.
He said the Asian community has been keen in developing Kenya saying the community has always been in the forefront championing the interests of the nation since the days of independence struggle.
“Like all of us you were part and parcel of the Kenyan struggle for Independence, the role you played cannot be ignored,” said President Kenyatta.
The President said he is a believer in an inclusive society adding that he would want to see the Asian community participate more in both social and economic development of the country.
“This is the government that believes in encouraging partnership and working together. Your success is our success,” said President Kenyatta.
Also present were the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua among other senior government officials.
Update May 26: See “Asian Kenyans seek to be declared a ‘tribe’ of their own” in today’s New York Times.
U.S. Ambassador Godec spoke out strongly on corruption in pre-election remarks to students at Maseno University on Wednesday as reported by CapitalFM: “Vote so as to bring change to Kenya says U.S. envoy.”
While emphasizing he personally and the United States favored no candidate or party among Kenyans’ choices, Godec stated:
Corruption is undermining the future of Kenya. It is creating huge problems and it is underming democracy., security and having a very bad effect and this needs to chsnge.
We seem to be seeing a policy shift from the U.S. We were strongly opposed to government corruption off and on under Moi after the Cold War and we were also opposed to corruption in 2005-06 with the Anglo Leasing and other scandals.
After getting burned, perhaps, for changing positions in 2007 to become soft on corruption under Kibaki and looking the other way as he stole re-election, we were back to being “against” to some degree on a “go forward” basis after the formation of the “Government of National Unity” in Kibaki’s second Administration. We preached “the reform agenda” through passage of the referendum to approve the new constitution in 2010 (noting that one pesky problem: Daily Nation reports that USAID Inspector General has found that US funding did go specifically to encourage “Yes” vote on referendum.)
After years now of being back on our heels for whatever reason, we have rediscovered the dignity required to speak up and now to take a “small dollar” but conspicuous and significant action in suspending a little over $20M in support for the looted Ministry of Health, and now open acknowledgement of that the magnitude of the problem has reached a point that it is a critical threat.
Update: see Daily Nation: “Analysts skeptical of impact in Somalia of Kenya arms purchases“.
. . . .
This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader, undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab, and a troop contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The proposed sale of the MD 530F helicopters, weapons, ammunition, support items and technical support will advance Kenya’s efforts to conduct scout and attack rotary wing aircraft operations in support of their AMISOM mission. The MD 530F will also replace Kenya’s aging MD500 fleet, which is the current reconnaissance platform supporting Kenyan ground forces. This sale will significantly enhance the Kenyan Army’s modernization efforts and increase interoperability with the U.S. Armed Forces and other partners in the region. Additionally, a strong national defense and dedicated military force will assist Kenya in its efforts to maintain stability in East Africa.
Kenya will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractor will be MD Helicopters, Mesa, AZ. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
. . . .
The $418M L3 Air Tractor sale approved by the State Department in January remains pending for U.S. Congressional approval after objections raised by Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina.
Kenya had the largest military spending in the East African region in 2016 at $908M as reported by SIPRI. Finalization of these two sales of attack aircraft this year would account for dollars equivalent to roughly 60% of last year’s spending.
Here is the headline story from Business Daily: “UN report shows Kenya’s jobs crisis worst in region“. The full UN Human Development Index report and related material can be downloaded here.
It may be worth noting that the United States spends quite a lot of money through many institutions scattered across our country and in many others on the study of and writing reports about the factors driving security threats from the types of things we are concerned about in East Africa. I am not an expert on this and do not have time to read most of this as an interested amateur, but generally speaking I think the research tends to highlight concerns related to the Human Development Index factors and in particular the jobs crisis over any problems with lack of military hardware. Perhaps I misunderstand.
Kiai has taken note of a transparently fake “NGO” that has been playing in this years’ campaign space to sell in advance whatever results are going to be announced. As you would expect in Kenya this “group” does not even seriously try to be subtle enough to be plausible to sophisticated observers, but gets picked up in the Kenyan media in pari passu with bona five organizations without scrutiny (at least until Kiai’s column).
Let’s hope international reporters who “fly in” for Kenya’s election do their homework this time.
Here is Kiai on where things stand as time winds down for election preparation:
. . . .
Something smells really fishy here, verging on being “fake news” meant to influence us with false information.
We clearly have not seen the end of that and we should all try to verify whatever is presented in the media.
And we have been here before. In the lead-up to the 2013 elections, the IEBC was polling as one of the top two institutions that Kenyans had confidence in, together with the Supreme Court, at the time led by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
But with all the shenanigans around procurement, gadget malfunctions, “server crashes” and a return to the discredited manual system for voter identification, tallying and transmission of results, the IEBC quickly lost its credibility.
The “chicken-gate” scandals involving the then chairman of the IEBC and the CEO further damaged the IEBC, even if the politicised Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission eventually “cleared” the chairman.
I am not holding my breath that this IEBC will deliver credible, free and fair elections with the way it is operating.
It blames the courts for its unpreparedness, but this is more than about competence.
Like 2013, there is an emerging sense of willfulness in the way it is making decisions, short-cutting steps that could mitigate some of the emerging worries.
Incredibly, many of the key staff members who were involved in the previous mangled elections are still in place!
I am baffled that despite the court ruling that declares results final in the polling stations, the IEBC has not yet announced plans to ensure that returning and presiding officers are not only recruited transparently, but are based outside their home areas, to reduce ballot stuffing, especially given that we will probably use the easy-to-manipulate manual identification.
Now more than ever, these officials on the ground will determine the veracity of the election.
Rigging of elections has three basic strands.
The first is ballot stuffing, which is done at the polling stations by all sides (which then effectively balances out); the second is the changes by returning officers of results from polling stations under the guise of tallying, verifying and confirming the votes; and the third and most significant, is the massaging of figures done at the National Tallying Centre in Nairobi.
Note that the Krieglar report refused to go into the rigging at the National Tallying Centre, claiming that the evidence of ballot stuffing from both sides was enough to conclude that the 2007 election was irretrievably flawed.
Privately, Judge Krieglar was afraid that investigating the tallying at the KICC would present a different result from that announced and he did not want to be held responsible for more tensions when different results emerged.
OFFICIALS WITH INTEGRITY
Second, the argument that the National Tallying Centre should be retained to “correct” anomalies from the ground is facile and disingenuous.
It falsely assumes that the commissioners and senior staff are the only ones competent and with integrity, and should be trusted with “rectifying” obvious mistakes like more votes than voters registered.
It is the responsibility of the IEBC to recruit competent persons of integrity at all levels, rather than hire people whose work would need “rectification”.
Every time there is “rectification”, we simply get more rigging.
It is not harder to count the votes in Kenya than in other countries . . . it is just that so much goes in to obscuring those counts, done only at each polling station, so that freedom of action remains at “the center” in Nairobi.
We have seen this before, in 2007 and 2013, but here is the best description I have read. A few details are unique but in general terms this is the same scene from a different year.
Courtesy of a Freedom of Information Act request, here is a November 20, 2007 State Department email which is a headquarters “readout” of a video conference held “with Post to discuss the experiences of Post’s first-ever observation of the political primary process in Kenya.”:
The Observation Effort:
*21 teams (total about 60 people) deployed to the field. This is our first time observing the primaries. We expect to deploy about 50 (100+ people) teams to the general elections as part of the larger international observer effort. The EU plans to deploy 150 people.
*These will be Kenya’s 4th multiparty elections but only the second “free and fair”.
*The process was very poorly organized. We would say the the parties embarrassed themselves, except most of the party leaders have no shame and are thus immune from embarrassment. General feeling is that apparent total lack of organization is not an accident, but reflects efforts to rig/manipulate the outcomes.
*There were obvious deals between the incumbents and local party operatives.
*The process was well-run and by the book only in areas where parties had no hope of winning in that area anyway. Where there were real stakes, manipulation was rampant and obvious.
*Ballots were delayed for many hours in many locations; some politicians felt this was intentional and especially disenfranchised women voters, who either couldn’t wait all day or had to go home before dark for safety reasons.
*Hate literature observed to date is overwhelmingly generated by PNU supporters.
*Turnout was surprisingly good. People were very determined to vote. Many waited from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. or later for ballots to arrive. In some cases where ballots were delayed, people agreed amongst themselves to vote on whatever pieces of paper and honored the results.
*Dozens of outgoing MPs (including some we are very happy to see go, i.e. [REDACTED] were eliminated at this stage, which suggests that you can’t always manipulate the results.
*Our sample was biased as we purposely went to areas where trouble was expected and/or stakes were high, so we likely observed a disproportionate amount of rigging, etc.
*With the recent passage of the Political Parties Bill, this is the last time that the party nomination process will be run by the parties themselves. In the future, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) will run it (at least, for all parties who want public money). PNU contracted with the ECK to run their primary this time, but it didn’t happen in practice–party leaders took over and wouldn’t let ECK do its job.
After the Primaries:
*We expect a lot of horse trading. Some winners were DQed on appeal and even without an appeal. There were also many “directed nominations,” which led to the resuscitation and handpicking of many old dinosaurs/unpopular incumbents notwithstanding voter opposition.
*There may be blowback with an impact on turnout for Dec. 27. There were widespread feelings of bitterness and disappointment, especially among ODM supporters, who expected to participate in a “new beginning.” Many people complained that, populist image notwithstanding, ODM is run like a dictatorship and that the way of doing things is no different than KANU used to do in the past. The positive difference is that the electorate is much more vocal and active in demanding transparency and participation in the electoral process. The howls of protest regarding some of the directed nominations show the electorate’s increasing maturity and lack of interest in this kind of politics.
*Many unsuccessful candidates have jumped to smaller/marginal parties. There is a cottage industry of sorts selling nominations.
Possible Impact on Main Parties:
*The disappointment and frustration with the nominating process was greatest among ODM supporters. Will this experience sap the energy of ODM supporters, or can ODM redeem itself? Will people continue to be willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity?
*Fear/stability is a powerful motivating factor in Kibaki’s reelection prospects. The contest between ODM and PNU can be characterized as “hope vs. fear.”
*PNU has much less internal discipline and message consistency. Virtually all PNU parties are fielding their own candidates for Parliamentary seats, so not much of a real coalition.
*Two possible types. One, aspirant (often incumbent) MPs use paid gangsters (and sometimes local police officials) to intimidate or disrupt the polling process (trash polling stations, threaten voters waiting in line and/or election officials). Two, spontaneous voter uprisings, where voters feel they are being disenfranchised and attach the presiding officers. If the ECK runs an efficient process as expected, this should lessen the possibility of voter violence. —–END—–
As I wrote in including this content in my 2012 post titled “Part Eight, new documents from FOIA: Diplomacy versus Assistance Revisited–why observe elections if we don’t tell people what we see?“:
For context, this November 20, 2007 summary of what was observed during the primary elections was roughly a month after the Ambassador’s intervention in the public opinion polling as described in previous documents and a month before the Ambassador’s public statement predicting a “free and fair” election the week before the general election. Nairobi is the State Department’s biggest Sub-Saharan post; it was staffed with smart and observant people and obviously well funded–the problem was not what the State Department did not know, rather it was what it would not say.
From the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening (KEPPS) Program from USAID for the last Kenyan election:
“Considering the role that results transmission played in the 2007 election violence, IFES will build on its recent work with Kenya’s results transmission system to further enhance it and ensure its sustainability. IFES will ensure this system is fully installed, tested and operational for the 2012 election. Furthermore, IFES will fund essential upgrades and adjustments to this results transmission system.”
[p.28 of the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening 2012 Program – Cooperative Agreement between USAID and CEPPS (coalition of NDI, IFES and IRI)]
The Agreement is heavily redacted and divided into four files for length;
Since I have been fussing periodically about how long it has been taking to get any documents released from my October 2015 FOIA request to USAID for documents about our funding for the IEBC in 2013 and related, I need to thank the USAID FOIA Office for getting this initial release out (and hope for the rest to be in time to be usable for process improvement for the impending next election).
As I wrote more than two years ago, as more information was being uncovered in the UK’s prosecution of Smith & Ouzman, Ltd. and its owners for bribing Kenyan election officials for favor on procurements: USAID’s Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers.
Also see: “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court Opinion” from April 2013:
The Court did not give rulings on the admission of evidence such as the videotapes presented by AfriCOG’s counsel of results being announced at the County level that differed substantially from those announced by the IEBC at its national tally centre in Nairobi, or otherwise grapple with any specifics of reported anomalies, including those among the sample of 22 polling stations that were to be re-tallied. Nor did it address the fact that its order to review all 33,000 Forms 34 and the Forms 36 from all constituencies was only slightly over half completed.
The Court declined to impose legal consequences in terms of the announced election outcome from the failure of the IEBC’s technology, but significantly did find that the main cause of the failures of the electronic voter identification system and the electronic results transmission 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.”
According to the Independent Review (“Kreigler”) Commission, in 2007 USAID through IFES paid for the purchase of computers for the planned results transmission system for the ECK. Very late before the vote, according to the Commission, the ECK voted to shelve the system and not use it. None of the actors, ECK, IFES, USAID nor the US Ambassador publicly disclosed the “shelving” decision. The Ambassador gave his subsequent pre-election Nairobi interview published as “Ambassador expects free and fair election” nonetheless.
The Kreigler Commission investigating sought the minutes of the ECK’s action; the ECK refused to release the minutes and the Commission went ahead and submitted its report to President Kibaki and disbanded, noting the missing evidence. [Again, I was told by a diplomat involved in January 2008 that key Returning Officers at the last minute were bribed to turn off their cell phones and “go missing” so that vote tallies could then be “marked upwards” to give Kibaki the necessary margin at the national level; likewise, we learned from the Daily Nation that Wikileaks published cables showing that the U.S. issued “visa bans” against three ECK members based on evidence of alleged bribery. The late decision by the ECK to shelve the U.S. purchased computer system would thus have been critical to allowing the bribery scheme to be effectuated. See “The War for History part seven: What specifically happened to Kenyan’s votes?“.]
In 2007 we obviously knew that the system had been shelved and kept quiet about it. In 2013 we let on that we expected the system to work–even was in the process of working–until it was shut down early after the vote. That is hard to understand given that IFES was to “ensure this system was fully installed, tested and operational” and make the necessary purchases. I will hope that the rest of the requested documents will clarify all this and be released as soon as possible to benefit the planning for the upcoming 2017 election.
2. Given that the Kenyan Government is led by politicians widely understood to have been major players in the killing and mayhem following the failure of the 2007 election — elevated to office on the basis of their status as tribal champions indicted by the ICC — #1 can hardly be any surprise.
3. Further, the “reform agenda” intended to address the catastrophe of 2007-08 has long been diverted and shelved. Zero accountability across the board for the previous election violence. The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report was interfered with by the Executive, then shelved with so many other accumulated Kenyan commission reports gathering dust. No accountability for the bribery of Election Commission members and officers in 2007 (in fact, a cover up), followed by impunity in the buyout of the IEBC last year after Chickengate and the failures of 2013.
4. The main reform was the passage of the new Constitution of 2010, but in the hands of anti-reform politicians under no serious further international pressure, the main change is more offices to potentially fight over. There has been some strengthening of some institutions and backsliding in others. I think everyone agrees there is still widespread extrajudicial killing by police (the biggest cause of death in the PEV) and extensive corruption (which facilitated the collapse of the ECK).
5. Certainly the performance of the KDF as well from Westgate to Somalia suggests a less disciplined force than most of us perceived in the 2007 and 2013 elections.
6. Arguably the incumbent Kenyan Administration has more leverage over the US and UK governments now than Kibaki did in 2007. Although in 2007 Kenya was a key security cooperator with the US on Al Shabaab, at this point the KDF is in Somalia on an indefinite basis, in part as a component of AMISOM in which the US and the UK are heavily invested, with the US now stepping up direct action against Al Shabaab. In the meantime, South Sudan — the other “nation-building” project with its back office in Nairobi — is really failing. Conflict threatens in the DR Congo with Uganda and Rwanda pulling away from democratization progess as the potential threats and temptations may be increasing in the neighborhood. Obviously it would be hard for the US or the UK, as well as for others, to “cry foul” over a situation like 2007 where the incumbent was not willing to be found to have lost re-election.
7. It’s too early to know what the dynamics of the campaign will be and I am not closely in touch at all with the hidden backstories this time (like most outsiders, especially those not even living in Kenya this year). It seems foolish for any of us to gamble much on prognostications or predictions, but the macro risk is surely great enough to warrant some soul searching and some planning. Part of this is sobriety in recognizing that there is no time left for extensive reconciliation efforts or deeper institutional work that has eluded us over the years.
8. Boris Johnson will have Kenya on his radar, for better or worse, but it’s hard to guess who outside of AFRICOM will really be engaged on Kenya at a senior level in the US Government before any election crisis, even though the risk is so much more widely recognized this time. Pre-election funding is much greater than in 2007 but extra resources for a political crisis may be harder to rally.
9. I remain of the belief that Kenya was not really “on the brink of civil war” in 2008 because such a large part of the violence was instrumental for political gain and none of the politicians would have benefited from a civil war. In 2013, I agree that some level of optimism about institutions, mostly the Supreme Court, that we don’t necessarily see now had a lot to do with reducing violence, but a big factor was the mass security mobilization – it was understood that protestors would face police and military bullets and not many were willing to take an initiative in that direction. The benefit of 2013 and the other problems with the institutions pre-election this year is that expectations are low — an openly stolen election would be far less of a shock than in 2007 and as in 2013 the State’s willingness to kill cannot be doubted. On the other hand, if violence did break out inspite of these initial barriers it might be harder to temper and eventually end than in 2008.
A Kenya High Court ruling has determined that the presidential election votes–which are counted only at each polling station–are to be treated as final when announced at the initial parliamentary constituency tally centre. This means that any changes to the tally at the national level in Nairobi by the IEBC, the electoral management body, will have to come in the form of a court challenge.
This approach would have prevented the ECK and IEBC from taking the approach of 2007 and 2013, where national results relied on changed and missing vote counts.
The key thing to remember about Kenyan elections is that the votes are all hand marking of paper ballots, which are counted only at each polling station. The results are recorded on Form 34 and–if law is followed–posted for the public on the door to the polling station.
The ballots and another exected copy of the results are sealed in the ballot box.
After that, it is all a power struggle and smoke and fog–high tech and low tech. Arithmetic is done or not done in accordance with power and interests.
The court appears to have moved some power back toward the voters and away from central government. We shall see.
I will follow up after I’ve read the opinion and caught up on some of the “moving pieces” on the election preparation.
Congratulations to Maina Kiai and his colleagues who brought the constitutional challenge.