More concerns about Kenya’s readiness for elections

The Standard this afternoon: Nation Dialogue report questions readiness for credible election.

The full report from South Consulting for the team led by Kofi Annan is here.Among the conclusions:

*The IEBC is also highly rated by Kenyans. Over 90 per cent of respondents said they have confidence in the IEBC, and a similar number believe that the IEBC is independent enough to conduct the next elections. However, there are concerns that the IEBC has been inconsistent with deadlines. While the eventual levels of registration achieved are respectable by any standards, the Commission had to lower its targets and expectations on voter registration to what was achievable. Furthermore, the requisite managerial capacity of the IEBC to conduct elections is yet to be properly tested. Elections comprise several tasks, all rolled into one major task, and carried out in a few days. On account of this, the Commission should carefully test and review its systems and address any weaknesses before the actual date of the election. This is important to ensure there are no feelings of false security.

*Confidence in the police and in political parties remains relatively low compared to the Judiciary and the IEBC. Although public confidence in the police and political parties is relatively low, the appointment to of an Inspector General of Police alongside the promise to undertake fundamental reforms is likely to draw public trust. Gaining this trust is critical, given the poor level of preparedness that the police have shown in halting the violence taking place in some parts of the country.

*Political parties continue in their old ways; some are allegedly recruiting members through fraud. Parties are still tied to individuals who founded them, and some are still based on ethnic identities and loyalties. As a result of this party primaries conducted in January failed to demonstrate any clear break with the past. The behaviour of political parties has detracted from requirements of the Political Parties Act, 2011, and the Elections Act, 2011, which legislators have mutilated or watered down to serve their political survival interests.

*Party hopping, formation of alliances by elites who do not consult members, and founding parties on ethno-regional platforms is happening in spite of the law and the new Constitution. Unfortunately, responsible public officials are yet to apply sanctions on political parties and the key leaders. Without injurious consequences for their actions, politicians will continue ignoring the rule of law and by that weaken the foundation of a credible election.

Meanwhile, The Nation reports on a dispute between the new Inspector General of the Police and the chair of the National Police Service Commission which resulted in intervention by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President and comment from the Independent Police Oversight Authority.

I am working on a more detailed discussion of the problems with the readiness of the Kenya Police Service where reforms have just started to scratch the surface due to delayed implementation of the mandates that were called for by the new constitution. In the meantime, here is the link to the full report released by Amnesty International on January 30 entitled “Kenya Police Reform: A Drop in the Ocean.”

“An Important Day for Justice in Kenya” says Annan–more media coverage of ICC ruling

Scott Baldauf in the Christian Science Monitor raises the issue of whether Kenyan leaders are already working to undermine the ICC.

The Standard: “Ocampo gets nod to nail the ‘Kenya 20′”.

Daily Nation“ICC Judges order Ocampo to probe post-poll violence”.

Xan Rice in The Guardian: “International Criminal Court to investigate violence after 2007 Kenyan election”.

CNN: “Ruling Means Kenyan Leaders Could Face Charges”–Human Rights Watch says ruling could help Kenya “turn a corner”, stresses witness protection.

Kenya Broadcasting Corp: “ICC approves investigations into Kenya’s PEV” from Reuters.

“Two years on, Kenya mediation success fails reality test”–“almost a perfect conspiracy against the Kenyan people”

NAIROBI (AFP) by Jean-Marc Mojon– In March 2008, Kenya’s reconciled foes were trumpeting ambitious reforms and the international community was basking in the glory of a rare African crisis-resolution success.
. . . .
“Something had to be done to end the conflict but perhaps it could have been better thought through,” said Mati, who heads the Mars Kenya Group political watchdog.

Kenyans’ faith in their rulers is at its lowest, the pledged reforms are nowhere to be seen and many argue that, as the government doubled in size to accommodate feuding parties, so did corruption.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan, the chief mediator two years ago, and the Western powers that helped him broker the accord are constantly reminding Kenya of its pledges and sounding alarm bells over impunity and resurgent tribalism.

On at least his fifth visit to Kenya since the signing, Annan on Friday again spoke of “concerns and frustrations”.

“The international community and the mediation team believed in this agreement more than the Kenyans did,” argued Tom Wolf, a Kenya-based governance consultant and pollster.

The incumbent President Kibaki was behind then opposition leader Odinga in opinion polls but surged past his rival in the final stages of a delayed and confused vote-counting process.

The internationally-backed commission probing the ballot claimed it could not determine a victor, Annan urged Kenyans not to dwell on the past and some Western diplomats admitted that knowing who won was the last of their concerns.

The feuding camps “were forced into marriage without opening the pandora’s box of the election’s real outcome,” Wolf said.

A US government-paid exit poll by the International Republican Institute gave Odinga the edge but was kept secret and a Gallup poll nine months later showed that only 25 percent of Kenyans thought Kibaki had won.

As a result, the basis of the power-sharing deal was perceived as being quite different by either side.

What was touted at the time as a 50-50 deal Prime Minister Odinga himself now bemoans as a raw deal, with Kibaki’s people holding the interior, justice, finance and foreign afffairs portfolios.

The dysfunctions of the coalition have been plain to observe since, culminating in Odinga sacking two ministers implicated in graft scandals last month only to see his move vetoed by Kibaki.

Wolf argued that the colossal reform wishlist the West slapped on the newly-formed coalition would be “overwhelming for any government, however unified and well-intentioned.”

“It was as if Western diplomats were trying to prove they were still relevant. The crisis made them look incompetent because they didn’t predict it,” he said.

One of them admitted to shortcomings and also highlighted an undesired side-effect.

“Given other instances in Africa since Kenya, I think we need to look at the message we sent,” said the diplomat on condition of anonymity, referring to political unrest in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

“I think many authoritarian regimes could see the scenario as rather attractive: you want to stay in power so you rig the election, raise the spectre of ethnic violence and wait for a panicked international community to broker a power-sharing deal,” the diplomat argued.

Despite its poor performance over the past two years, the prospect of the coalition’s collapse following recent skirmishes is met with fear that ethnic strife could be re-ignited.

But Mati argued that while they may not manage to agree on substance, Kenya’s foes were happy to keep the shell as it is.

“The truth is that Kibaki won’t end it because it would end his presidency, Odinga won’t end it because it’s as prime minister he gets attention and the ministers won’t end it because they have ministries to run and loot,” he said.

“It’s almost a perfect conspiracy against the Kenyan people.”

Kenya: 40% Done?

Approaching Jamhuri Day, a year after the protests and arrests over the Media Bill at the 2008 celebration, the “Government of National Unity” has now expended 40 percent of the potential time remaining before the end of the second Kibaki term and the next election.

I always agreed with those who felt that a stop-gap coalition government was only appropriate as an interim measure, rather than for a full five year term as insisted on by the US government at the time, and I have remained skeptical about how much of substance can be agreed on by this sort of coalition that goes beyond things that are merely of common interest to all members of the current political class.

To start with, it took a full year to fire the old ECK.  In return for severance and impunity–and impunity of the worst kind in that there was no attempt to actually investigate the conduct of the commission and all were treated equally regardless of whether they tried in good faith to do their jobs or not.  They even managed to get away with declining to turn over key records to the Kreigler Commission.

Another year later, it certainly appears that the alleged legislative agreement to “implement” the Waki Report is no deeper than a press release.  While Annan has stayed engaged and Ocampo has stepped up, the reality remains that almost two years after the election what we have legally are only preliminary steps that  might lead to a full investigation that might later lead to legal charges that might later lead to actual trials–and only for the limited category of “crimes against humanity” as opposed to murder, rape, mayhem, bribery, extortion and all the other things that account for what happened with the election and its aftermath.  At this point, I am skeptical that the ICC process is all that likely to run its course before the 2012 campaign begins in earnest.

We have seen a successful rebellion against the president’s reappointment of the KACC head, but we haven’t seen new investigations keeping up with the new scandals, much less starting to work on the backlog.

On the positive front, we have the promulgation of the draft proposed constitution and the seizure of a very large cache of weapons.   We’ve seen draft constitutions in years past–maybe this will go better, and if so, it has the potential to direct some of the competition in 2012 in slightly different directions than what we have seen in other recent elections, which might be good.  Maybe we will have follow up investigations, arrests and prosecutions from the weapons seizure and there will be some accountability for the people involved–if not, at least we will have clarified how badly Kenya is in trouble in regard to the flow of weapons.

On balance, it seems to me that as we enter 2010 people who care about Kenya while remaining committed to democracy in the international community need some fresh thinking beyond the occasional jawboning and visa bans.   You can sometimes pressure people into doing specific things that you want them to do–you can’t pressure people into transforming their character and priorities.  And surely the US isn’t relying primarily on the ICC since we decline to join.

UPDATE–Some good news of sorts:“>The Daily Nation reports:

They said they are investigating the theory that a senior security officer and a foreign military base were connected to the illegal military equipment.

One of the leads being followed is that the officer, based at the AP Training College, facilitated the smuggling of bullets out of the institution.

Detectives said they suspected that the bulk of the bullets came from the AP armoury and the foreign military base in Northern Kenya.

Of course, we have a classic example of Kenyan reporting in an era of a partially free press:  important news, but “the foreign military base in Northern Kenya” . . . . hmm, which one?