Ten years after 2008 post election “peace deal” Kenya is a world leader in crime and impunity

Kenya IDP Camp Post Election Violence Naivasha

Ten years ago today I watched television coverage of the “peace deal” signed by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in the IRI office in Nairobi, on the new K24 television station (owned by the Kenyatta family as I later learned).

I had sent off overnight a briefing memo to IRI’s president as background for a private breakfast confab he was participating in Washington on the “Kenya crisis” in advance of the news of the “peace deal”.  In the memo I explained my assessment of insights from the exit poll we had conducted on the presidential election that had been quashed from public release. For instance, that the poll showed the ODM party candidate Raila Odinga beating the incumbent (and declared winner) Kibaki among both Christians and Muslims, as well as in the overall totals.

One of the indelible memories from that day was watching the teargassing of Kenyans celebrating the agreement and expected end of the Post Election Violence. This conduct by the Police was an enduring legacy and prophetic symbol of continuity.

Uhuru Kenyatta at the time of the settlement had been serving since January as Kibaki’s Minister for Local Government and playing a leading role in city affairs in Nairobi in those days prior to devolution. He was to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister by Kibaki under the deal.  In hindsight this appointment was his functional designation as Kibaki’s successor, although that was not so clear to many of us at the time.  William Ruto, who had been leader of the ODM party’s negotiating team in the mediation process which had failed to close the gap to get to a final agreement, was on his way to serving as Minister of Agriculture as, originally, an ODM appointment in the coalition government, but later switching sides after Kibaki blocked Raila’s effort to suspend him over corruption allegations.  Martha Karua was serving as Kibaki’s Justice Minister, having led the PNU/Government side in the mediation; she resigned in frustration soon thereafter.  She has not found her place in electoral politics thereafter, but has long served as a member of IRI’s Global Advisory Board.

Today, I see news from Quartz Africa that PWC has issued its latest annual report of its Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey. Kenya has ranked #2 in the world (barely trailing South Africa, and solidly leading the rest of the Big Five: France, Russia and Uganda)! The biggest thing I’ve learned from these last ten years may be that in Kenya, you can get away with pretty much anything (from stealing an election to the vilest of mass murder, rape and mayhem in its aftermath, along with looting the public treasury while millions of Kenyans are parched and hungry).

Expect US Africa policy to be led from Pentagon rather than State Department or White House, in near term if not for the next four years [updated]


The President himself has never been to Africa and has shown no particular interest or inclination toward engagement on any of the various issues on his plate regarding the United States’ activities in and relationships with African countries.

In some respects this suggests a level of continuity through inertia that is unavailable in those areas to which Trump has some personal connection or exposure through his business organization or personal relationships (Russia on one hand and Mexico on the other, for instance).

Trump seems to be networked into the Safari Club and is politically very much indebted to Franklin Graham (the  American evangelist/missionary who has been especially engaged in Sudan and otherwise in Africa) but I don’t think that this will put much claim on Trump’s attention, as he already ordered a cutoff in U.S. funding to organizations that separately have connections to programs touching on abortion (a significantly broadened approach to the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations’ rules) as an early low cost “deliverable” to “pro-life” supporters on an issue he doesn’t personally have any particular feelings or opinions on. [Graham does not make specific candidate campaign endorsements–my perception of his influence for Trump is subjective from my vantage point as a white Southern American Protestant, who has been involved in congregational mission efforts that include support for one of Graham’s programs.]

Trump did not get where he is by building a reputation for paying his debts (any more than for forgiving his debtors), so I will be surprised, pleasantly, if Graham were to influence Trump on non-abortion related health issues that involved spending rather than cutting, like famine relief or other things that had some political purchase under “compassionate conservatism” in Africa during the G.W. Bush administration.

Trump is pretty clearly anti-conservation domestically and probably disinclined to have anything much to do with things involving wildlife or the environment in Africa other than to reduce funding for any direct or international programming in these areas, Safari Club notwithstanding.  Generally speaking my big game hunter friends are more concerned about wealth accumulation and tax cutting–Trump’s policies will leave them net ahead even with a likely loss of habit and species diversity (and better situated to buy private reserves).  Along with the expected big overall aid cuts, I would speculate that  conservation programs may be especially attractive targets to “zero out” to give Congress political bragging rights for some program “kills”.

So outside the military and Department of Defense we will probably see Trump to be as slow to fill key policy positions on Africa as Obama was, but with more turnover in the next tiers of the bureaucracy.

Because the Defense Department has already been the big repository of funding to maintain policy expertise in the U.S. on Africa (as elsewhere) during the Bush/Obama years, as funds and political bandwidth are reduced in other areas, we will be more dependent on those functions under the portfolio of Secretary Gen. Mattis at the Pentagon.  It is very fortunate that he stands out as unusually well-qualified and genuinely respected.

In the event any of the major players in the hospitality/tourism/”conferencing” business–say the Kenyatta family of Kenya–were to entice the Trump Organization into their market, certainly that would be expected to profoundly change everything I have observed here.

In that regard, perhaps we will see “The Scramble for Trump” as a new frame for engagement in the post-development era.