“Livondo Tosha”? Akasha Brothers sentencing memo has “interesting” discussion about Stanley Livondo, Kibaki/PNU candidate to unseat Raila in Langata in ill-fated 2007 election

“Livondo Tosha”/”Make Peace” in Kibera, early 2008:

Kenya Kibera Post Election Violence Livondo Tosha Keep Peace

From the U.S. Attorney’s Memorandum to the U.S. District Court for the sentencing hearing for Baktash and Ibrahim Akasha, filed back on July 25. (Yesterday Baktash was sentenced to twenty five years, and The Star published a downloadable copy of the Memorandum. ) At page 23:

D. The Akashas’ Armed Confrontation with Stanley Livondo
Tensions escalated in the weeks after Ibrahim kidnapped Armstrong. Baktash began to receive threatening calls and text messages from a local politician associated with Armstrong— Stanley Livondo. Soon after, Livondo confronted Baktash at a shopping mall, and the two began to fight. Ibrahim intervened, drew his gun, and threatened to kill Livondo. The sight of Ibrahim’s gun caused panic in the shopping mall, and so Baktash, Ibrahim, Goswami, and Baktash’s bodyguard quickly fled. Before heading to the police station to ensure—with bribes—that there was no fallout from the incident, Baktash, Ibrahim, and Baktash’s bodyguard stashed their guns with Goswami. They retrieved the weapons later that day.

Armstrong as described in the Memorandum manufactured drugs in Congo and elsewhere and brought them into Kenya. He got into a relationship with the Akashas in this context from which he wanted out, leading to his kidnapping as discussed, and the threats to Baktash Akasha from Stanley Livondo.

Livondo was the candidate of Kibaki’s PNU in the December 2007 elections in Raila Odinga’s Langata Constituency who Amb. Ranneberger told me on December 15, 2007 “people were saying” might unseat Raila, which would disqualify Odinga for the presidency even if he beat Kibaki nationally in the presidential race.

See my discussion here from my post of July 2011, “Lessons from 2007 and new FOIA cables–Part Two”:

So on Saturday afternoon, December 15, 2007, I drove to the embassy residence in Muthaiga and was served tea . . .

. . . .

Ranneberger did let me know that he knew what Bellamy [his predecessor as U.S. Ambassador, Mark Bellamy] had been told as to why he had been dropped from the [International Republican Institute election observation] delegation.  In other words, he was letting me know, without taking responsibility for the situation himself, that he knew that “we” at IRI had lied to Bellamy.  This may not have put us in the best position to hold the “no more b.s.” line with Ranneberger going forward.   He didn’t say how he knew about the “story line” to Bellamy and I have no idea myself.  IRI was in a difficult situation not of our making on the Bellamy situation–would we cancel the Election Observation (as the only international NGO scheduled to observe, and raise lots of questions we couldn’t very well answer) or let the Ambassador interfere with the delegation? Regardless, once the directive from the top was given to lie to Bellamy about why he was off the list, IRI no longer had completely clean hands.

There are a variety of things from the more substantive part of the discussion that leave open questions in my mind now after what ultimately happened with the ECK and the election.  One in particular that stands out now in light of the FOIA disclosure.

The Ambassador told me that Saturday that “people are saying” that Raila Odinga, as the leading opposition candidate for president, ahead in the polls as the vote was nearing, might lose his own Langata parliamentary constituency (which under the existing system would disqualify him from becoming president even if he got the most votes nationally).  This was “out of the blue” for me because I certainly was not aware of anyone who thought that.  Odinga’s PNU opponent Stanley Livando had made a big splash and spent substantial money when he first announced, but he had not seemed to get obvious traction in the race.  Naturally, I wondered who the “people” Ranneberger was referring to were.  Ranneberger said that a Raila loss in Langata would be “explosive” and that he wanted to take Ms. Newman with him to observe voting there on election day.

Ranneberger also went on to say that he wanted to take Ms. Newman [lobbyist and former Asst. Sec. of State Constance Berry Newman, IRI’s lead delegate for our International Election Observation Mission at Ranneberger’s impetus, and his “great friend and mentor” and now lobbying associate at the firm Gainful Solutions] separately to meet with Kibaki’s State House advisor Stanley Murage on the day before the [Dec. 27] election with no explanation offered as to why.

After midnight Nairobi time I had a telephone call with the Africa director and the vice presidents in charge at IRI in Washington in the president’s absence.  I was given the option to “pull the plug” on the observation mission based on the concerns about Ranneberger’s approach following my meeting with him.   The Ambassador, rather than either IRI or USAID, had initiated the observation mission in the first place, and IRI was heavily occupied with other observations.  Nonetheless, based on assurances that Ms. Newman would be fully briefed on our agreement that she needed to steer clear of separate interaction with the Ambassador and that the Murage meeting must not happen, and my belief that it would be an “incident” in its own right to cancel the observation, we agreed to go forward with precautions.

I got the idea of commissioning a separate last-minute poll of the Langata parliamentary race.  I thought that the notion that Livondo might beat Raila in Langata seemed far fetched, but objective data from before the vote could prove important.  We hired the Steadman polling firm for this job, to spread the work.  Also Strategic was already heavily occupied with preparing for the exit poll, and  Steadman was the firm that Ranneberger had instructed his staff to call (too late as it happened) to quash the release of poll results that he knew  would show Raila leading back in October, so I thought that it was that much more likely that word would get back. Further, in the partisan sniping which I generally did not credit, Steadman was claimed by some in opposition to be more aligned with Kibaki so would be extra-credible to verify this race.  I also made sure that we scheduled an “oversample” for Langata for the national exit poll so that we would have a statistically valid measure of the actual election day results in the parliamentary race.

On to the new FOIA release:  On Tuesday, December 18, Ranneberger sent another cable to the Secretary of State entitled “Kenya Elections:  State of Play on Election”.  This cable says nothing about the “explosive” Langata parliamentary race issue that Ranneberger had raised with me on Saturday, three days earlier.  It concludes:  “Given the closeness of the election contest, the perceived legitimacy of the election outcome could determine whether the losing side accepts the results with minimal disturbances.  Our staff’s commendable response to the call for volunteers over the Christmas holiday allows us to deploy teams to all sections of the country, providing a representative view of the vote as a whole.  In addition, our decision to host the joint observation control room will provide much greater access to real-time information; allowing a more comprehensive analysis of the election process.”

Next, we have a cable from Christmas Eve, December 24, three days before the election.  The first thing that morning the IRI observation delegates were briefed on the election by a key Ranneberger aide.  I told him then that we had commissioned the separate Langata poll.  He said that the Ambassador would be very interested, and I agreed to bring results with me to the embassy residence that evening when the Ambassador hosted a reception for the delegation.  The results showed Odinga winning by more than two-to-one.

There are a number of noteworthy items that I will discuss later from this cable, but for today, let me note that  Ranneberger has added in this cable a discussion of the Langata race:

“11.  We have credible reports that some within the Kibaki camp could be trying to orchestrate a defeat of Odinga in his constituency of Langata, which includes the huge slum of Kibera.  This could involve some combination of causing disorder in order to disenfranchise some of his supporters and/or bringing in double-registered Kikuyu supporters of the PNU’s candidate from outside.  To be elected President a candidate must fulfill three conditions:  have a plurality of the popular vote; have at least 25 percent in 5 of the 8 provinces; and be an elected member of Parliament.  Thus, defeat of Odinga in his constituency is a tempting silver bullet.  The Ambassador, as well as the UK and German Ambassadors, will observe in the Langata constituency.  If Odinga were to lose Langata, Kibaki would become President if he has the next highest vote total and 25 percent in 5 provinces (both candidates will likely meet the 25 percent rule).

12.  The outside chance that widespread fraud in the election process could force us to call into question the result would be enormously damaging to U.S. interests.  We hold Kenya up as a democratic model not only for the continent, but for the developing world, and we have a vast partnership with this country on key issues ranging from efforts against HIV/AIDS, to collaboration on Somalia and Sudan, to priority anti-terrorism activities.

.  .  .

14.  As long as the electoral process is credible, the U.S.-Kenyan partnership will continue to grow and serve mutual interests regardless of who is elected.   While Kibaki has a proven track record with us, Odinga is also a friend of the U.S. . . .

15.  It is likely that the winner will schedule a quick inauguration (consistent with past practice) to bless the result and, potentially, to forestall any serious challenge to the results.  There is no credible mechanism to challenge the results, hence likely recourse to the streets if the result is questionable.  The courts are both inefficient and corrupt.  Pronouncements by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and observers, particularly from the U.S., will therefore have be [sic] crucial in helping shape the judgment of the Kenyan people.  With an 87% approval rating in Kenya, our statements are closely watched and respected.  I feel that we are well -prepared to meet this large responsibility and, in the process, to advance U.S. interests.”  END

None of this material was mentioned in the briefing to the observation delegation or to me that day.  Long after the election, the Standard newspaper reported that the original plan of the Kibaki camp had been to rig the Langata parliamentary race, but at the last minute a switch was made to change the votes at the central tally, supposedly on the basis of the strength of early returns for Odinga in Western and Rift Valley provinces.

To be continued .  .  .  .

For my entire series of posts from 2011-2012 see my page “The Story of the 2007 Election Through FOIA“. And my summary story in The Elephant: “The Debacle of 2007: How Kenyan Politics Was Frozen and an Election Stolen With U.S. Connivance“.

Langata Ballot Specimens showing Kibaki versus Odinga for President and Livondo versus Odinga for Member of Parliament:

Kenya Awaits ICC Rulings; Calls Continue for New Charges on Kibera and Kisumu and for Local Tribunals

The International Criminal Court is widely expected to announce rulings by its Pre-Trial Panel in the cases against the “Ocampo Six” during the third week in January.  Today’s Standard details the various options available to the Panel:

The ICC could commit all or some of the six to trial, or decline to confirm the charges if it determines that there is insufficient evidence.

It could also opt to adjourn the hearing and request the Prosecutor to consider either providing further evidence or conducting further investigations, or amending a charge because the evidence submitted appears to establish a different crime within the jurisdiction of the Court.

Once the charges have been confirmed, the Presidency of the court shall constitute a Trial Chamber.

. . . .

Ruto and Kosgey are charged with being indirect co-perpetrators of murder, forcible transfer of populations and persecution. The court ruled that there was not enough evidence that Sang was an indirect co-perpetrator in the crimes, but accused him contributing to the same set of crimes. . . .

Uhuru and Muthaura are accused of being co-perpetrators of murder under Articles 7(l)(a)), forcible transfer of persons, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts while Ali is accused of contributing to their commission.

In an article yesterday, the Institute on War and Peace Reporting discusses the calls for renewed attempts to prosecute cases on the violence in Kibera and Kisumu:

Rights activists say international indictments in cases arising from post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-08 must be expanded to cover killings and other abuses committed by police in a Nairobi neighbourhood and the city of Kisumu.

Judges at the International Criminal Court, ICC, removed the two elements when they considered the prosecutor’s application for charges in March, saying there was insufficient evidence to pin them to the individuals accused.

Lawyers say the failure to charge three of the six suspects with the shootings means the victims of violence in Kibera and Kisumu feel left out of the justice process.

Kibera, a slum area of Nairobi, and Kisumu in western Kenya experienced some of the most brutal attacks in the violence that followed a December 2007 presidential election. The Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence, set up in February 2008 to investigate the violence, found that overall, the police killed 405 of a total of 1,100 people who died during the violence, and injured a further 557. The vast majority of killings by police are thought to have occurred in Kibera and Kisumu.

When he formulated charges against six senior figures accused of responsibility for the violence, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accused a group of three of them, who fall into one of the two cases he brought, of being behind the Kibera and Kisumu attacks.

. . . .

When ICC judges issued their ruling on Moreno-Ocampo’s application for charges on March 8, they found insufficient evidence had been presented to link the three PNU suspects to events in Kibera and Kisumu.

The judges said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Kenyan police shot and killed more than 60 people in Kisumu, and that police killed and raped civilians in Kibera. However, they took the view that the prosecutor had failed to demonstrate that crimes in Kibera and Kisumu were part of a wider state policy, so that they would fall within the court’s jurisdiction.

“The material presented by the prosecutor does not provide reasonable grounds to believe that the events which took place in Kisumu and/or in Kibera can be attributed to Muthaura, Kenyatta and/or Ali under any mode of liability,” the judges said in their ruling.

The judges’ ruling provoked outrage among victims and raised questions about the scope of the justice process, given the omission of two key focal points of the violence.

“[Nairobi] experienced a lot of violence and Kibera was the epicentre of it,” Priscilla Nyokabi, executive director of the legal aid centre Kituo Cha Sheria in Nairobi, said. “It will be so bad if Kibera is not made to feel a sense of justice.”

According to Godfrey Musila, an expert on international law based in Nairobi, “Ideally, charges brought by the prosecutor should reflect patterns of the violence. It undermines the court when the perception around is that the epicentres of the violations are out of the scope of the cases.”

Rights activists and legal experts are urging the ICC prosecutor to renew his request for judges to include Kibera and Kisumu in the charges against Muthaura, Kenyatta and Ali.

Moreno-Ocampo told IWPR in early December that he was gathering additional evidence on crimes committed in Kibera and Kisumu, but that he would not decide whether to ask for these charges to be added to the case until ICC judges had assessed his evidence of other crimes.

And Human Rights Watch’s “Turning Pebbles” report last month on accountability for post election violence called on Kenya to establish a special judicial mechanism or “local tribunal” to go beyond the few and limited charges being brought in the ICC system.

On Kibera, please see the report of exiled investigative journalist Clifford Derrick regarding his own experience as a victim of violence intended to stop him from reporting on illicit activity to disrupt the vote in Kibera.

The challenge for the West in Kenya’s 2012 election–and how we can learn and do better this time

Toi Market-Nairobi

I just returned from a few days at the annual conference of the African Studies Association, held in Washington this year.  This gave me the chance to hear presentations by and informally rub elbows with some of the most knowledgeable experts on Kenya and African democracy and governance from a variety of places and institutions around the world.  The summary overview is that as we approach four years from the last election, there is so much that is still “up in the air” about the next one that it is impossible to know much about how it will play out.

Here is my view of where things are:

1.  The election date remains in active dispute.  Much Kenyan opinion holds that the new Constitution mandates an election in August of 2012 which is fast approaching.  The members of the brand new electoral commission have said in the recent past that they cannot be ready by then.  The Cabinet has just withdrawn a bill in Parliament to amend the Constitution to move the date [update: the Speaker has ruled that the bill may be re-filed tomorrow and be heard] and the Supreme Court has ruled that the matter must come up through normal channels through the High Court rather than be determined by an advisory opinion.

2.  While it is positive that the new Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission has been formed in a process widely seen as appropriate, the time involved means that we do not yet even know the constituencies and boundaries for the new elections; further this new Commission is untested.

3.  The issue of implementing the gender balance in Parliament under the new Constitution remains unsettled.  A lot of seats and salaries are at stake on this issue.

4.  Candidates, parties and coalitions remain very much unsettled and can be expected to remain so.   There has been very little obvious progress in actually enforcing the laws governing political parties and elected officials in relation to parties.  The relationship between “parties” and “coalitions” remains elusive.

5.  Politics in Kenya certainly seems more openly ethnic now than at a similar time in the 2007 election cycle.  One could perhaps make the argument that it is better to have it more “on the table” rather than “under the table”, but I do not necessarily buy that.  Regardless, there is this time no basis for outsiders to underestimate it.  How this will play out in the campaigns is unknown.

6.  Like in 2007, we have high inflation rates for staples such that the wananchi are being squeezed on the basic cost of living–while the GDP growth rate in the region and in Kenya is much less robust than in 2006-07–all aside from the drought and food crisis in many regions.  Whether this will get better or worse as the election approaches is unknown.

7.  Corruption remains a huge issue.  Overall there may have been some small progress at the margins, but in reality the accumulation of exposed cases of major graft in which no one major has been prosecuted just continues to grow.  The corruption in the 2007 election specifically was swept under the rug.  No one has been held accountable and the facts have remained concealed enough that any politician or spokesman can say whatever they want about what happened last time.  It seems to me hard to argue that there is much deterrent in place to attempts to corrupt the 2012 elections.

8.  The threat from terrorism seems to be greater and this time Kenya itself rather than Ethiopia is at war in Somalia.

No one that I heard or talked to seemed to feel that we knew much more about how the next Kenyan election might play out now than we did when I attended the same conference in New Orleans in 2009.

And yet, I picked up on what I see as disturbing reports of a repetition of the complacency that we got burned by in 2007.  At the risk of sounding “preachy” I want to argue passionately that this is a mistake.

Okay, Kenya had a peaceful and well accepted referendum in 2010 when there were worries about violence.  Let me explain why I don’t think at means so much in regard to 2012.

First, the referendum was not a close election–just as the 2002 NARC election was not a close election.  The question in the referendum was how big the margin would be, not whether it would pass.  Since the outcome of the referendum was not in play it would not have been impacted by violence or protests one way or the other.  In 2007 the outcome was in play and disputed and violence served the interests of both sides to a point.

If there had been no protests regarding the election Odinga would never have become Prime Minister–and the incumbent government was clearly committed to not allowing protests, and clearly prioritized keeping power over security for the public.  At the same time, if there had not been a murderous mobilization of Kalenjin militias against Kikuyu in the Rift Valley to the point of what Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer controversially labeled “ethnic cleansing” there might have been some remedial action about the subversion of the election count itself.   This was the approach initially advocated by the EU and other Western countries.  I would like to think that if this militia violence in the Rift Valley had been less egregious that perhaps the higher levels of the U.S. government might have come around to some form of election remediation in spite of the U.S. Ambassador’s approach.  Obviously I have no way to know–but the point remains, I think, that even the violence against Kikuyu in the Rift Valley in a way indirectly helped keep for Kibaki the new five year term that the ECK awarded him.

The bottom line is that violence ended up “working” in a sense for certain political interests in 2007-08–and the price was paid only by the wananchi so far–whereas there was no political utility for such violence in 2010.

Further, the referendum was a national vote and the outcome at individual polling centres and in localities and regions did not directly matter–very unlike the simultaneous election of the President and MPs and local officials in Kenyan General Elections.

On balance, the 2010 Referendum seems to me to provide less reasonable assurance about a clean and safe General Election in 2012 than the2002 General Election and the 2005 Referendum would have provided in 2007.

There are Kenyans whose opinions I respect who think that the era of election violence is over in Kenya because of the actions of the ICC to date.  Perhaps.  I hope they are right, but I do not see that it makes sense to bet anyone’s life on it. Which presidential contender today is showing up in the polls as less popular because he was charged by the ICC prosecutor and named in various investigative reports about the post election violence?  Who knows what will happen with the ICC process or what impact it will ultimately have?

The key for Western donors is to be prepared for contingencies rather than guessing and gambling about what might or might not happen.  To have the political will to “call out” the electoral commission before the election if it abandons the practices and tools that are clearly necessary to have a transparent and reliable election.  To reserve judgment on the process until it is concluded.  To speak out, at least, if Kenya’s paramilitary  security forces are diverted for political purposes such as sealing off Kibera and defending Uhuru Park to keep it free of protestors.  To commit to transparency to assure trust.  And to decide now how to respond to violence if things go wrong later.

To close this, I am going to fulfill a personal request from someone from the West who was importantly involved in trying to help the process last time by linking to an account of a Kenyan investigative journalist to the Kriegler Commission about what was happening in Kibera in the last election.  I have to do this with a READER DISCRETION ADVISED WARNING–this is not “family-friendly” reading.  I have no personal knowledge of any of the specifics but this does come with the personal recommendation of someone very credible who knows the source well.  We all know that Kenyan politics can be murderous and there is no reason to be complacent.

Part Six–What did the U.S. Ambassador report to Washington the day after the Kenyan election?

See the previous posts in this series:  Part One, Two , Three , Four and Five.

There were additional machinations with the Ambassador’s approach to IRI up through election day that I think raised legitimate concern about what his objectives and intentions were in regard to the election, as reflected in my complaint to USAID, but for present purposes, I will skip ahead to the next cable I have received, a report by the Ambassador to the Secretary of State and others on December 28, 2007 entitled “Kenya’s Elections – A Positive Process Thus Far”  [Ed.  Note:  the group of cables I have been discussing is limited to five items from the Central Foreign Policy files in Washington,  whereas the Africa Bureau has made no response to the Department FOIA office as to its records on the same FOIA request, including those kept at the embassy in Nairobi.  Follow up: In October 2011, two years after my request was filed, my status inquiry finally indicated that documents from the Africa Bureau were under review for release.]

So what did the Ambassador say on the day after election?  Here is his summary:

“The relatively smooth and peaceful way in which the elections were carried out on December 27 represents a victory first and foremost for the Kenyan people and their democracy.  Herculean efforts by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), the responsible statements made by the leaders of the main parties, the constructive role played by the media, and strong U.S. support and observation all contributed to this positive outcome.  All observers share a relatively positive view of how the election process was carried  out.  I have made an informal positive statement to the Kenyan media.  It is, however, too early to make final pronouncements.  Septel will provide text of a proposed draft statement that can be issued by Washington on December 29 .  The vote counting will not be completed until the 29th.  The potential for last minute fraud cannot be ruled out.  The electoral process in some areas was characterized by delays and problems with voting procedures and electoral registers, but these were largely resolved in a way that did not disenfranchise voters, who turned out in record numbers.  Initial informal results show opposition candidate Raila Odinga leading President Kibaki by between 3 and 8 points, but this reporting is uneven and not systematic.  The election is still, in our view, too early to call.”

. . .  The most striking impressions from all observers about election day are the peacefulness and orderliness of the process.  Even the most problematic and contentious constituencies completed voting in an acceptable fashion.

For example, I observed the opening of the polls in the Kibera slum, which is a key part of Langata constituency, where presidential candidate Raila Odinga was a candidate for Parliament.  This race was ground zero in the election process given widespread fears that extra-legal efforts would be made to defeat Odinga there, thus making him ineligible to become President (since whoever is elected President must also be an elected member of Parliament).  At 0600 there was already over 5,000 people lined up to vote at the largest polling station in Langata, which is Olympic School in the Kibera slum.  The bigger problem was confusion over voting procedures.  People had begun lining up since just after midnight.  [Ed. Note:  Why?  According to one account I have been provided this was done in the context of the exposure of organized efforts to bus in large numbers of people to disrupt the voting.]  . . . Calls from us to ECK were instrumental in getting senior ECK officials to act quickly to resolve the issues [the need for more full copies of the electoral register for the polling station], and I was able to make some reassuring statements to the media.  ECK Chairman Kivuitu went to Kibera himself to calm people.  In another remarkable testament to the professionalism of ECK officials, all those waiting to vote were eventually processed, and by late evening Kibera was quiet (a truck standing by with riot police was not needed).  .  .  .

“One embarrassing stumble by the ECK actually became on the the day’s best examples of Kenya’s maturing commitment to a responsible democratic process.  The ECK inexplicably failed to include Raila Odinga’s name in the voting register in his own polling station in his Langata constituency, resulting in a potential crisis when Odinga was turned away.  Instead of inflaming the Kibera slum, Odinga simply drove to ECK headquarters and officially protested the omission.  The ECK offered no excuses and acted immediately to amend the register to include Odinga’s name.  There were a few quick press conferences and the situation ended peacefully with Odinga casting his vote.

That the voting process was so relatively smooth and peaceful despite delays and organizational problems testifies to the commitment of the Kenyan people to democratic values.  The leadership of the President and the opposition candidates in calling for peaceful elections and respect for the results was also crucial to this positive outcome.

The other remarkable aspect of the elections was the unprecedented high turnout (which will average somewhere between 65 and 80 percent).  Not surprisingly, Kibaki’s team produced a record turnout of around 85% in his home area of Central Province, and Odinga produced a high turnout in his home area of Nyanza Province.  Many people waited in line for six hours or more.  Some of the turnout was clearly the result of increased participation by youth.  It appears that Odinga will profit from youths’ perception that he represents a younger generation (though he is 63 to Kibaki’s 76, and both are from the same political class) and that he will be more decisive against corruption.

The electoral process thus far deserves a strong statement of support, and clearly meets a high standard for credible, transparent, free and fair elections.  I made an informal statement last night that was carried extensively on Kenyan television.  It is, however, too early to make definitive pronouncements.  The ECK will likely not announce final results until December 29.  The EU and Kenyan domestic observation missions will make statements on the 29th.  By COB Washington time on the 29th we will send a proposed draft for a statement by Washington.  IRI will make a largely positive statement the afternoon of the 28th.

The ballot counting process is carried out in three stages, each fraught with the potential for fraud.  First, the ballots are counted at each polling station in front of party agents.  Party agents were given copies of the results and they were also posted publicly at each station.  My observations and those of our observers indicate that this counting process was generally transparent and efficient.  Second, the ballots were taken to central tally stations in each of the 210 constituencies.  Observations indicate that this process has also been carried out well.  Finaly, the ballots and results of the tally stations are, where possible, being called or sent by e-mail to the ECK and then physically carried to ECK headquarters.  This process, which will be carried out during the course of today and this evening, is where the potential for trouble is currently greatest.  Ballots can be lost, burned, or otherwise destroyed.  Even though results will have been posted at polling stations, any interference with the final phase of the count would raise serious issues that the ECK would have to address (especially if the ballots delivered to the ECK in any way differed from results tabulated at polling stations).  During this period tensions will rise as inevitable rumors circulate (given the history of extensive fraud in all previous elections except the one in 2002).  We have received, unconfirmed reports that the police had to fire into the air at several tally centers to disperse unruly crowds worried that ballots were being tampered with.   Commissioner of Police Ali gave a press conference this morning and said all the rights things to assure people of his commitment to ensure protection for ballots and to highlight the non-political role of the police.

As a result of its generally responsible, extensive, and timely reporting, the media also deserves credit for how well the process has proceeded thus far.   Since before the polls closed the media has been reporting on a 24-hour basis.  They are reporting vote totals based on the results posted at polling stations, but making clear that only the ECK can announce official results.  The results that the media are reporting reflect uneven inputs from around the country, but so far show Odinga leading Kibaki by about almost 10 points.  Two exit polls (with uncertain methodology) also show Odinga winning by 3 -8 points.  The race is, in our view still to [sic] early to call.   It appears, as expected, that these elections will result in a sea change in Parliament, with up to 70 percent of incumbents replaced.  This may in part be due to a wave of ODM support, but is even more the result of dissatisfaction with the incumbents’ perceived inattention to their constituencies and to the exorbitant pay raise that they awarded themselves.  Initial reports indicate that some of the most corrupt incumbents have been defeated.

“Advancing U.S. Interests”

We will keep the Department closely informed as results become clearer.  At this point, there are sound reasons to believe that this election process will be a very positive example for the continent and for the developing world, that it will represent a watershed in the consolidation of Kenyan democracy, and that it will, therefore, significantly advance U.S. interests.  The Kenyan people will view the U.S. as having played an important and neutral role in encouraging a positive election process” [End]

All told, a smashing success then, reports the Ambassador.

No particular security concerns.  Kudos to the ECK, kudos to the police, kudos to the media and kudos to the State Department.  “And that exit poll I commissioned through USAID to ‘provide an independent source of verification of electoral outcomes’ as I described it in my December 14 cable (and to provide ‘early intelligence’ for me as the USAID officer said on the afternoon of election day)?   Its methodology is ‘uncertain’ ” (even though it was developed by experts, at the expense of USAID and UCSD, with open consultation with USAID all along). [Ed. Note:  The other exit poll Ranneberger referred to in the cable is apparently one conducted by the Institute for Education in Democracy in Nairobi with funding from the British Westminster foundation as I was told.  I was told that the IED, unlike IRI, was not able to obtain complete results from the field in the context of the violence and was not able to publish final results.  I could, arguably, say that its methodology is “uncertain” because I don’t personally know anything about it.]

IRI was criticized by members of the EU Observation Mission for releasing its “largely positive” statement of that day, the 28th, while all the other observation delegations waited.  Ironically, the U.S. was the largest and lead donor for the UNDP election coordination effort, through which other delegations cooperated in waiting to make preliminary statements for the ECK to announce results.

[See Part Seven–One Last FOIA Cable on the 2007 exit poll.]

“Incredible Shrinking Kibera”–a lesson that should inspire humility in Western capitals

When we see popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that no one in the United States or the West more generally seems to have anticipated we ought naturally to be drawn to some soul searching about how much we really know about societies and countries in Africa–and how what we do know gets filtered and reported back to policy makers and the public at home.

My experience in East Africa and what I have learned since certainly suggested caution and humility to me.  One particular glaring example I can highlight is the fiasco of what I will call “Incredible Shrinking Kibera”.  First let’s start with the setting:  right in the heart of Nairobi, one of the most cosmopolitan African capitals in many respects–a city that is a magnet for Western expats, in particular offices of international organizations and NGOs on a regional or Africa-wide basis, as well as a huge regional diplomatic presence.  Lots of tourists from the UK and the US in particular.  Yet, it has turned out that Western conventional wisdom about Nairobi has included numbers for the population of the Kibera informal settlement (“the largest slum in Africa”) that are vastly beyond those cited in Kenya’s new census.  Either the conventional wisdom about 1 million people, or perhaps many more, living in Kibera was vastly inflated, or the new Kenya census finding only a fraction of that population is completely flawed–or both if the real population is, say, double the census figure and less than half the “conventional wisdom”.   If Kenya can’t get anywhere close in a census, even in Nairobi, then how serious can we really be about drawing new boundaries and electoral districts and free and fair elections with equal voting rights for all citizens next year?  If the census is close, then a lot of us in the West have been shown to be either seriously misinformed about something that shouldn’t be so hard to know, or of “spinning” beyond the bounds of a fair representation of the facts.  I myself have referenced the “conventional wisdom” without the skepticism that I should have had.

I was fortunate to have a friend in Kibera and thus an introduction to one family and community in one neighborhood there, as well as being involved in a pre-election survey of the Langata parliamentary constituency in December 2007 and in observing a bit of the voting in one of the more upscale areas on election day with our international delegates.  I started to scratch the surface.  Personally, my family and I had more connection to Kawangware.  Wherever you live in Nairobi, if you are interested, you can pick a nearby informal settlement and start getting acquainted.

Here is a good blog about Kibera:

“Slum Tourism in Kibera: Education or Exploitation?” Brian Ekdale

4) Don’t assume you understand Kibera after spending a couple of hours there. I’ve been there 10 months and still learn new things every day. Kibera is a very complex place. People like to say 1 million residents, but population figures are contested. Not every organization is doing what they say they are doing. Not everyone is impoverished (I know some who have good jobs but would rather financially support their families and neighbors than move to a wealthy area and leave behind those that helped raise them). Now that you’ve been there, go back and read those articles and watch those videos I mentioned in #2.

5) Don’t think Nairobi is a city of contradictions. Sure, you can get a mocha and french toast at Nairobi Java House, go on a Kibera tour in the late morning, and then grab some upscale Indian food at Yaya Centre for lunch without traveling very far. But understand the Java House/Yaya/Westgate life does not exist in spite of Nairobi’s slum population, they exist because of Nairobi’s slum population. Cheap labor built those massive structures. Cheap labor stocked the shelves. And cheap labor keeps them running. That labor walks home at night to sleep in Kibera, or Korogocho, or Mathare, etc.

Maziwa Fresh by AfriCommons
Maziwa Fresh, a photo by AfriCommons on Flickr.

Kenya’s Kibera slum overflows with street art — latimes.com–Solo 7

Kenya’s Kibera slum overflows with street art — latimes.com

Feature on Solomon Munyundo, a.k.a Solo 7

Solo 7 — Toi Market

Solo 7–Kibera