A US official revisited the controversial 2007 presidential election when she said her country was aware two million dead voters were not weeded from the electoral register as pressure on reforms mounted. US Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero said America is aware that there were over two million dead voters whose names remained in the register and voted in 2007. “We are aware that over two million people voted in 2007, so we will support the process of compiling a new voter register. At a time the whole world is watching Kenya, we want to be there with our support,” Ms Otero said. She spoke on Thursday during a meeting with Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Nairobi where she affirmed the US pledge to fund the reform agenda, including new voter registration by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. Otero, who was accompanied by US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, said America will support the IIEC with the ambassador saying they are putting together “a couple of millions of dollars” for IIEC.
One of the devilish inconsistencies here, of course, is reflected in what the State Department’s Africa Bureau had to say about the 2007 election in a new edition of its “Background Notes” for Kenya issued January 10: “On December 27, 2007, Kenya held presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections. While the parliamentary and local government elections were largely credible, the presidential election was seriously flawed, with irregularities in the vote tabulation process as well as turnout in excess of 100% in some constituencies.” The problem of course is that 2 million dead people didn’t vote for President alone–they also voted for Members of Parliament. The Standard article ties Otero’s remarks to the report of the Kreigler Commission, which noted large numbers of dead voters on the roles, among many systemic failures and basically found the whole process deeply questionable (while declining to excercise its mandate to investigate the presidential voting and tallying specifically–citing lack of time and resources as well as lack of feasibility–not so surprising perhaps from a Commission reporting to the Kenyan President, which met privately with the President before reporting, and that was funded by at least one donor who was not supportive of that mandate). You really can’t have this both ways. If the major problem with the 2007 elections was systemic then you cannot plausibly act like there isn’t a problem about who did and didn’t end up in Parliament vis a vis how actual live Kenyans voted or intended to vote.
This matters a lot right now when you have the Constitutional Review process seemingly taken over by a Parliamentary Commission. My personal opinion is that both sets of election problems are fully real: the presence of dead voters and all the other across-the-board systemic failures identified by the Kreigler Commission are substantiated; likewise, the observations and allegations of specific misconduct in the presidential race asserted by civil society and international observers and diplomats are also real. Thus, we do not have a legitimate democratic government in Kenya and the notion that the present coalition of convenience could effectively govern the country for a full five year term and actually deliver major reforms is wishful thinking.
Now that the US has–very appropriately in my book–moved to join the UK in suspending budgetary assistance for Kenya’s “free” public education program pending accountability for the corruption that has now come to light going back to the early days of the first Kibaki administration–it might be worthwhile to also ask ourselves how we got duped, too.
Here is Gene Sperling, writing in Huffington Post as Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations. (and former National Economic Advisor to President Clinton) in September 2008 after spending a week in Nairobi (excerpts with emphasis added):
And in a bright spot, one area where this coalition government seems truly united is on education. Kenya made international news in 2003 by eliminating the terrible practice of charging even poor parents fees for each child they send to school – a practice that denies tens of millions of your people – especially girls – an education in much of the developing world. The announcement of free education by President Kibaki brought 1 million new children into school in one week! Since then, enrollment has gone from 5.9 million to over 8 million. Now Kenya is taking the pioneering step of eliminating fees for secondary school – even though it will cost the government ten times the amount to cover the cost of secondary school as opposed to primary school. While parents still face the expenses of boarding, uniforms, and travel, the abolition of fees has again led to a surge in enrollment.
While President Kibaki and his first Education Minister George Saitoti – both of the PNU – deserve great credit for pushing the elimination of fees, the Orange Democratic Movement seems just as committed. When I met with Prime Minister Odinga in his Nairobi office, he told me that the same education goals were in the platforms of both parties because “we all agree that education will be the ultimate engine of Kenya’s economic growth.”
The Ministry of Education has garnered international respect through both excellent civil servants like Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi and Basic Education Secretary George Godia as well as their decentralized and transparent system for dispersing funds to local school districts. Rather than hold the money in the Ministry of Education, Kenya ensures that every shilling gets to the local level by depositing a per-child grant of 1,020 Kenyan Shillings (approximately $15 USD) to local banks accounts for each school. The headmaster is then required to post the amount received in plain view (which I saw firsthand in school after school that I visited) and work more closely with parent committees on how to spend the money that anything I had witnessed in the United States.
While Kenya is stepping up to the plate with serious reforms and the financial commitment to replace lost school fees – including for 4,000 secondary schools – they cannot do it alone. The overwhelming funds needed are for teacher salaries – which typically make up 80% of school budgets. What Kenya most needs from the international community is help with the recurrent costs that would come with hiring the 47,000 new teachers that current Minister of Education Sam Ongeri says Kenya needs to handle the additional three million students while focusing on quality.
“During our review of the costs for seven grants, we found that only 41% of
the grant funds were actually spent on direct program activities. More than
60% of IRI’s expenditures and almost 50% of NDI’s expenditures were for
security and overhead costs; mostly security. NDI spent almost one third of
its funds on security, and IRI spent more than one half of its funds on
security. Thus, only approximately $47 million of the approximately
$114 million was spent on direct program activities.”
The overall subject of the audit was almost $250M in grants to have been supervised by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor. Hugely dislocating sums relative to what the US spends on democracy work in places like Kenya. Sudan was number two while I was at IRI, but Iraq was by far the largest dollar program, and surely the “bill payer” for Washington overhead.
The Daily Nation is replete with stories and commentary on the Mombasa-Kampala railroad and the various claims and disputes among the parties to the Rift Valley Railroad concession, granted in 2005 for a term of 25 years and reporting about the original “wheeling and dealing” that set up the current failure of the operation.
When Kibera slum dwellers uprooted the railroad tracks during the 2008 post-election violence, it seemed to be taken by some from the West as confirmation of a violent and uncontrollable nature of the Opposition, as well as perhaps by some as consistent with certain ethnic stereotypes–and was said to be be a major international incident due to reduced supplies to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Unfortunately, it would appear that even greater property damage has been done–albeit more genteelly and more discretely, by better dressed people with a lot more money–over a period of years in the privatization. I say nothing in defense of vandalism here, but just simply point out that some forms of property destruction get condemned while others get financed.
The World Bank extended a Sh6 billion loan to pay off the sacked workers. But, despite all these concessions, Mr Puffet turned up with an empty pocket on November 1.
According to experts who have been involved in such deals, it would have been possible to detect that Mr Puffet did not have money right from the start if the due diligence conducted was thorough and if the Treasury had demanded for guarantees that the money is available.
To save the situation, the governments and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is owned by the World Bank, hastily amended the contracts by introducing two legal devices that would enable Mr Puffet to raise the money required in 30 days before he could be handed over the railway.
Mr Puffet and his financial adviser from PWC, Mr Vishal Agarwal, started by knocking on the usual doors looking for the cash at firms such as major private equity shops and investment houses, but many could not touch the deal — despite the world then being awash with excess money — because either the window to close the deal was too short, or they were put off by the political risk and the shareholding squabbles that plagued Rift Valley Railways (RVR).
One commonly hears statements like the “Kenyan economy is bigger than Tanzania’s and Uganda’s combined.” Yes, but that was 20 years ago.
Kenya’s gross domestic product in 1990 was $11 billion. Tanzania’s was $5.4 billion, and Uganda’s $4.03 billion. Kenya’s economy then was bigger than Tanzania and Uganda combined; twice that of Tanzania, and nearly three times Uganda’s.
By 2008, Kenya’s GDP was $31 billion. However Tanzania’s was $21 billion, and Uganda’s $15.8 billion. It’s no longer bigger than Tanzania’s and Uganda’s combined; it is not double that of Tanzania; nor is it three times bigger than Uganda’s. Indeed, depending on the GDP figures you look at in three or so years, Tanzania could be East Africa’s largest economy.
The story of the past 20 years in East Africa, therefore, is not how large Kenya’s economy is compared with those of its neighbours, but rather how much the others have closed the gap.
Something I missed in the Committee of Experts draft Constitution: provision that would eliminate portaits of individuals from currency and coins (in other words Kenyatta and Moi–and no new Kibaki money to come). Said to be first recent effort at enacting such a law globally. (Strikes me as a great idea–subject to wise phase in. Maybe next there could be a radical move like taking down the picture of the president in the dry cleaners, the book shop, the cafe, etc. . . . )
New Kenyan Media–Kenya Today “Breaking News 24/7” on the web. CEO is Jerry Okungu. Congrats and good luck!
More confusion–BBC News reports that Kenyan authorities reported that “Jamaican Hate Cleric” al-Fairsal had once again been expelled and had departed for Jamaica. Or maybe he hasn’t left the country after all.
In case you were wondering, the 2009 UN Human Development Index rankings for Kenya and Haiti (using 2007 data) are 147 and 149, respectively, separated by Papua New Guinea (see the link at Studies and Reports in the column at right). Very different places, but a point of reference nonetheless.