Kenya’s Moi hired Paul Manfort and Roger Stone’s firm to lobby the National Democratic Institute and others ahead of 1992 election

Back in the 2008 presidential campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama, Senator McCain got some criticism for using Charlie Black, previously of the Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly firm as a campaign consultant in part because of the firm’s background in lobbying in Washington for various dictators like Moi and Mobutu of African nations and Marcos of the Philippines. More recently, the spotlight has shifted to Paul Manafort and Roger Stone from that storied firm who have been convicted recently of multiple felonies related to their service to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and in Manafort’s case also involving money laundering associated with more recent work for a Russian oligarch in Ukrainian politics.

Washington reporting that I saw during the 2008 campaign noting the Black, Manafort Stone & Kelly work for Moi had a significant oversight in accepting spin that the Moi relationship had concluded with the end of the Cold War and the beginning of active U.S. support for democratization in Africa, including the push on Moi to legalize non-KANU parties, which came to fruition in the December 1991 legalization of political opposition.

My guess is that reporters relied on an incomplete aggregator rather than going directly to the original Foreign Agent Registration Act filings (online at www.fara.gov). Regardless, the point is that Black, Manafort Stone & Kelly made a third filing for Kenya under Moi for March 1, 1992 to February 28, 1993 that covers Moi’s December 29, 1992 re-election. Along with the U.S. Executive and Legislative branches, Black Manafort Stone & Kelly were to lobby the IMF and World Bank and “public interest and activist groups such as the Black Caucus, Africa Watch, Environmentalists, National Democratic Institute, Civil Rights Lawyers, African-American Institute, Article 19 (journalists) and other activists and public interest groups.”

[Another discrepancy is that the summary list on the Justice Department website lists an incorrect name, a successor firm, for the Black, Manafort Stone & Kelly, Inc. filing for 1992-93.]

As I have written previously, see “My Joel Barkan Tribute“, US Ambassador Smith Hempstone, a George H.W. Bush political appointee, wrote in his memoir Rogue Ambassador that he had recommended to Moi that Kenya allow the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to observe that first post-independence multi-party election featuring FORD-Kenya (Jaramogi Oginga Odinga), Ford-Asili (Kenneth Matiba) and the Democratic Party (Mwai Kibaki) among others challenging Moi’s KANU. Moi vetoed NDI for the Election Observation Mission but went ahead to invite “sister organization” the International Republican Institute (IRI) for whom I served years later in 2007-08 as Resident Director for East Africa in Nairobi.

IRI and NDI are private District of Columbia not-for-profit corporations established originally at the Republican and Democratic National Committees, respectively. Along with two other special purpose democracy assistance not-for-profits associated with two other parents, the United States Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO (an affiation of labor unions), these four “core institutes” receive funding from the National Endowment for Democracy or NED, pursuant to 1983 legislation. NED receives direct funding from the United States Government and is also able to raise private donations, as are the four “core institutes”.

It never came to my attention one way or the other whether Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly consulted Moi on the decision to reject NDI in favor of IRI or what Moi’s considerations might have been in taking that position. Nor of the State Department, USAID and/or others in the US Government and in IRI in going along.

Moi was re-elected according to the Electoral Commission of Kenya with approximately 36% of the vote.

The election was seen as badly flawed but nonetheless representing “the will of the people”. Presumably that would mean a recognition that within a year of opposition being legalized and with State resources deployed on behalf of Moi, a good 2/3 of Kenyans wanted to replace him, but without a runoff or a pre-election “deal” among the fledgling opposition parties Moi would be able to keep power and claim to have switched from a single-party authoritarian system to a “democratic mandate” without giving up power or persuading a majority of Kenyans that he deserved it.

After Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in the November 1992 elections, Bush launched Operation Restore Hope, landing Marines and Navy Special Forces on the beach in Somalia December 9 leading UNITAF, a new UN humanitarian mission to replace UNISOM I, the ultimate predecessor of the current AMISOM which began in 2007. See an early official postmortem on Operation Restore Hope from the United States Institute for Peace here.

In Kenya after 27 years the Moi family remains prominent in political and business matters in Kenya with the son of Moi’s original benefactor Jomo Kenyatta eventually succeeding Moi as president in 2013 after a 2003-2013 interregnum under Mwai Kibaki who was Moi’s Vice President for the first ten years of his presidency from 1978 to 1988.

Former Amb. Ranneberger draws storm of controversy with hybrid contract with Salva Kiir’s South Sudan administration [updated May 8]

UPDATE May 8: Reuters reports that an amended version of the “Beneficial Solutions” lobbying agreement has been filed.

“I’m doubtful the revised contract means a substantive change to the lobbying deal,” Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the UN Security Council Panel of Experts for South Sudan, told Reuters.

“The rewording seems to be a response to the negative publicity that both the South Sudanese government and those associated with Gainful Solutions received, but not a rejection of the lobbying efforts.”

Rights groups accused the government of paying to avoid justice. The new contract was “a slap in the face to victims of the horrific crimes that have been committed in South Sudan,” said Elise Keppler, associate director of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

The government did not respond to requests for comment on the old contract or the new one.

——-

Former Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger and a partner, Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou, have formed a firm called “Gainful Solutions” and executed a contract with the Salva Kiir administration for seemingly exclusive representation for inbound private investment from the West and for lobbying with the Trump Administration, seeking military aid, sanctions relief, and to suspend and eliminate the African Union-South Sudan “hybrid court” for war crimes agreed in negotiations to end the South Sudanese civil war. The contract involves an unusual combination of “investment agent” services with ambiguous and open ended compensation and an extraordinary “flat fee” two year lobby deal for $3.7M with $1.2M cash up front.

Adding to a firestorm of criticism since the related Foreign Agent Registration Act filings from April 18 hit the press last week, a coalition of South Sudanese civil society groups has demanded that the contract be cancelled. Susan D. Page, the inaugural U.S. Ambassador to independent South Sudan called the contract “very disturbing and disappointing” on Twitter and former Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard called it “disgusting”. Our current Ambassador is quoted below explaining why he is disturbed.

Ranneberger, Nazari-Kangarlou and Constance Berry Newman are the firm’s three employees with the title of “Consultant” per the Registration.

6. List all employees who render services to the registrant directly in furtherance of the interests of any of the foreign principals in other than a clerical, secretarial, or in a related or similar capacity

Here are some links for a flavor of what seems to be as controversial a Foreign Agent Registration Act filing as I have seen:

Former U.S. Diplomats Lobby to Stop South Sudan War Crimes Court, Foreign Policy, U.S. April 29:

. . . .

The U.S. government, which backs the peace agreement, provided $4.8 million in 2016 through the African Union to set up the court, a State Department spokesman confirmed to Foreign Policy in email. The project is ongoing, the spokesman said.

The lobbying contract provides an unusually candid glimpse into the South Sudanese government’s aims to undercut a peace deal it has committed to. Some current and former U.S. officials are outraged at the former diplomats involved in the contract for accepting millions of dollars from Kiir, whose government is accused of widespread human rights violations during the country’s five-year-long civil war.

Ranneberger lands deal to clean image of Salva Kiir, The Star, Kenya, April 30.

S.Sudan hires U.S. lobby group to block war crimes court, AFP, April 30.

. . . .

US Ambassador to South Sudan, Thomas Hushek, described the contract with the lobby group as disturbing.

“This, to me, is very disturbing because this is a commitment made in the peace agreement. The hybrid court is part and parcel of chapter five of the peace agreement,” Hushek said, according to Eye Radio in Juba.

South Sudan hires U.S. lobby group to block war crimes court, Daily Monitor, Uganda, April 30.

Blocking hybrid court confirms atrocities were committed–FoDAG, Eye Radio, Juba

South Sudan hires U.S. lobby group to avoid war crime charges, TRTWorld, Turkey

Gainful Solutions, Inc. and the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, Thoughts on the Sudans, Aly Verjee:

. . . .

Beyond the outrage that has focused on the moral wrongs of any effort to block the hybrid court, the contract may expose its parties to legal peril in two distinct areas.

First, the contract’s clear intent to obstruct the formation of a key institution required by the peace agreement, the hybrid court, raises the prospect of sanctions pursuant to presidential Executive Order 13664, which permits sanctions against:

any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State…to be responsible for…(B) actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan; (C) actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes.

Executive Order 13664 allows for the freezing of the property of any person so designated under the order.  It may be applied to both U.S. and non-U.S. persons, whether within the United States or abroad.

The second area of legal jeopardy concerns three potential areas of non-compliance with the FARA: [issues of completeness and accuracy of disclosure in the filings and of late filing].

Kenya 2007 election- Ambassador Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling station Nairobi

Amb. Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling place in Nairobi, during Dec. 27, 2007 Kenyan election

Ranneberger’s “great friend and mentor” Connie Newman–his choice as lead delegate for IRI to observe Kenya’s ill-fated 2007 election–is separately registered as a “consultant” on the South Sudan deal [“As an advisor to Gainful Solutions, I will travel to South Sudan with the partners of Gainful Solutions for a meeting with President Kir, The meeting will discuss how to improve the relationship between the U.S. and South Sudan and thus promote peace and stability. Other work or meetings on my behalf with Gainful Solutions will be determined on a case by case basis. There is thus far no set agenda for future activity.” For a $5,000 fee.] as discussed in Aly Verjee’s blog post. Newman is a longtime lobbyist who has been Africa lead for the Carmen Group after serving as Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs from June 2004 to April 2005 (with Ranneberger serving as Principle Deputy Asst.Sec.) and Assistant Administrator for Africa for USAID from 2001. As a domestic lobbyist in 1991 after a long pioneering career in federal service she was given high credit in GOP circles for helping to persuade the NAACP not to oppose the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall.

More: Former U.S. Ambassador to Kenya lobbying to stop South Sudan war crimes court.An Africanist Perspective (Ken Opalo) Apr. 30:

. . . .

Everyone is rightfully outraged. More than 400,000 have died since South Sudan descended into civil war and millions more were displaced.

These revelations also highlight the many challenges the court is likely to face if and when it is eventually set up. South Sudanese political elites (on both sides of the post-2014 conflict) are not particularly keen on facing justice for atrocities committed against civilians and armed actors. It is also unclear if Juba’s friends in Kampala, Nairobi, or Addis have any incentive to inject yet another variable into the ongoing efforts to establish a modicum of stability in South Sudan.

Moral outrage alone will not move the needle. The court’s success will depend on how much pivotal actors within IGAD are willing to lean on Machar and Kiir.

As far as lobbying in Washington, DC goes, this is yet another reminder that even weak states like South Sudan are not passive members of the international system. While their options are limited on account of their position in the hierarchical structure of the state system, they still have agency and have a variety of tools at their disposal through which they can influence the behavior of much more powerful states. See also here.

[As an aside I also want to thank Dr. Ken Opalo for hosting a great book discussion event with Dr. Gabrielle Lynch on her most recent “Performances of Injustice: The Politics of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Kenya” which I was able to attend Tuesday.]

A timely new read: “Selling Apartheid – South Africa’s Global Propaganda War”

 

I ordered this book through the University of Chicago at the African Studies Association meeting in Washington last month– newly published in the U.K. and released in 2015 in South Africa:

For fifty years the South African government spent an estimated $100 million annually on a campaign of disinformation, much of it in the US and UK.

New York Times journalist Ron Nixon provides a lively and shocking account of how power and influence were used to buy media coverage and create extensive support networks.  These included an unlikely coalition of anti-communist black conservatives, religious organizations and global corporations.

With all the current buzz about Russian involvement in U.S. and European elections and political controversies, and since I knew some of the people who played a role in this story through my work in the Republican Party during the later years of Apartheid, I was naturally glad to see this and anxious to read through and see what new I learn about this fairly recent era in US and African politics and relations.

See my post  Abramoff’s Africa and Obama’s America from 2012.

Update:  I’ve finished it and highly recommend.  Here is a review from The Daily Maverick.  Of personal interest, some events took place in familiar locales in Mississippi, and Jack Abramoff gave an interview with the author in 2014 in which he claims, amazingly, that he didn’t know that the  International Freedom Foundation which he helped found with South Africans in 1986 was a front for South African intelligence.  (Jack was in relevant news this week sharply criticizing Senator Marco Rubio for his questioning of Trump Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during confirmation hearings.)

[Updated] Latest Podesta Group Foreign Agent disclosure filing on lobbying for Kenya: Media, Congress and Executive Branch, State Comptrollers and Treasurers

[Update March 25–readers have asked how much Kenyan taxpayers are giving the Podesta Group.  According to the Justice Department filings, the current 1 year contract through May 2016 costs $360,000 US, payable at $30,000 month in advance, plus expenses. So the minimum cost of the “contacts” shown at the link below for June-August is $90,000.]

The Podesta Group filed its latest supplement to its Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosure of lobbying contacts for the Government of Kenya with the U.S. Justice Department last month, covering its work during the third quarter of 2015:

Foreign Agent Registration Act filing Podesta Group Supplemental Statement 2-16 for 2015-Q3 Kenya

As you can see, the lobby group continued to work public relations efforts with media outlets such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Reuters and The Guardian, along with Congressional offices, the National Security Council, the State Department and other agencies, various think tanks, and financial officers of the States of Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.

See: Washington Post, New York Times, Poltico, Roll Call, Foreign Policy, Guardian, Financial Times, Reuters, Washington Diplomat

Podesta Group lobbies Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, Roll Call, Foreign Policy, Guardian, Financial Times, Reuters, Washington Diplomat for Kenyatta Gov’t

Kenyan taxpayers paid The Podesta Group of Washington, DC for public relations/lobbying contacts with these media outlets on behalf of their Government in the first half of 2015.  The Podesta Group provided similar or related lobbying services at the same time for the governments of Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Iraq, India, and Vietnam, among various others, aside from their nongovernmental clients.

I’m certainly not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the Government of Kenya spending tax dollars on working media contacts when it isn’t paying teacher’s salaries or meeting basic human needs in health care, for instance.  After all, the United States and various multinational and other foreign donors can be counted on to spend their taxpayer dollars to help ameliorate the consequences of this choice by the Government of Kenya.

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Another sad tale of why it IS hard to support democracy from inside the Beltway in Washington . . .

“Democracy Digest” from the National Endowment of Democracy reports on a perplexing problem that anyone who is interested in democracy support or promotion should give some serious attention to:

. . . But as President Barack Obama was telling the ruling military [in Egypt] to stop harassing pro-democracy groups, powerful lobbyists were pressing the regime’s case in Washington.

Egyptian security forces seized computers, documents, and tens of thousands of dollars in cash in December 29 raids on the offices of pro-democracy NGOs, including several Egyptian groups as well as the US-based National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House.

“The lobbyists quickly mobilized to provide Egypt with political cover, touching off a behind-the-scenes battle between K Street interests and U.S. officials — with potentially huge implications for the critical U.S.-Egyptian relationship,” Politico reports.

A lobbyist working for the Livingston Group immediately circulated talking points — which some Capitol Hill insiders suspect were drafted by Egyptian officials in Washington — claiming that the IRI and NDI were operating outside Egyptian law. These lobbyists vehemently opposed any calls for cuts in U.S. aid to Egypt. The United States gives Egypt roughly $2 billion per year in aid, mainly as military assistance.

“[There] are foreign NGOs working in Egypt without being licensed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Social Solidarity. Under this category falls NDI and IRI,” the talking points stated, which were obtained by POLITICO. “No organizations, entities or individuals, national or foreign, should be allowed to operate outside the law.”

IRI, NDI and Freedom House have pushed back hard, with help from their own high-profile supporters. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the chairman of IRI’s board of directors, while Sam LaHood, son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and a particular target of Egyptian ire, runs its program there. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is the head of NDI’s board, with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) serving as a vice chairman.

“I think what’s concerning about this, about where we are right now, is you have American citizens being hauled into the Egyptian Ministry of Justice and questioned, interrogated, and at the same time, you have American citizens — lobbyists — lobbying on Egypt’s behalf,” said Scott Mastic, IRI’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It’s very distressing.”

“I think a lot of people were very angry to see Livingston up here lobbying for the Egyptians after all this,” a congressional source told Politico. “Some people up here are pretty pissed.”

“To be prosecuted now strikes us as 100 percent political,” said Les Campbell, NDI’s Middle East program director. “This is more about what is happening in Egypt, and we’re caught in a Catch-22.”

For the record I had an entirely positive experience running the NED-funded portion of the IRI Kenya programming when I was Resident Director of the IRI East Africa office–the controversy that we ended up having was strictly about the Kenyan election observation and exit poll that the Ambassador got funding for through USAID which did not involve NED at all.

At the same time, it has to be noted that IRI certainly has Americans who are lobbyists for foreign governments on its board — including the board member who was the lead delegate for the Kenya election observation. What is being done to IRI and NDI–most especially to their local staffs who don’t have the protections associated with American citizenship–is to me very wrong and unfortunate. But what thuggish foreign government that can afford it does not hire one or more lobbyists in Washington to represent its interests (including opposing pressure for democratic reforms) unless it is prohibited by U.S. law from doing so?

We all read about the Abramoff scandals, etc., etc. I have noted here before some of the people who served this role for the Moi regime in Kenya at the same time IRI was doing an election observation back in 1992. Yes, it would be nice if Americans refused to do this work for foreign governments working at cross purposes with our professed values and our stated policies, but that just does not appear to be a realistic thing to hope for given the long track record of how these things work–this is not a new problem. [Update–it appears that the “naming and shaming” approach may have borne fruit in this case: “Lobbyists Drop Egypt’s Government as Client”, NYTimes.]

The Kenya Lobby, Corruption, and Hunger

Here is a link from the newly published digest of 2009 foreign lobbyist disclosure filings for Kenya from ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundations.

Assume some focus this year is on the MCC vote coming up for December 15 and the ICC indictment situation on a similar timeframe. New Congressional leadership and staff to cultivate for the new year. And then there’s the corruption.  [Update: here is a story from this fall in The Hill magazine entitled “Kenya turns to K Street to help reshape image”.]

Today at the Voice of America, John Githongo contradicts Government of Kenya spokesman Alfred Mutua regarding criticism of Kenya as a “swamp of corruption” in the wikileaked cables:

Kenya government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the comments are “malicious and a total misrepresentation of Kenya and its leaders.” However anti-corruption crusader John Githongo called them “quite accurate.” Githongo investigated domestic bribery and fraud as a journalist, and later as Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics of Kenya under the presidency of Mwai Kibaki.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is expected to be worse next year:

NAIROBI, 30 November 2010 (IRIN) – Kenya is likely to witness worsening food security, significant disease outbreaks, and further pockets of conflict in 2011, as well as a continuing flow of refugees from Somalia, say aid officials.

“There is a fear of La Niña compromising the [food security] gains made,” said Aeneas Chuma, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator at the 30 November launch of Kenya’s 2011 Emergency Humanitarian Response Plan (EHRP) appeal. Most of the US$525 million funding requested is expected to meet food security and refugee needs.

At present, the number of food aid beneficiaries has dropped to 1.2 million from a peak of 3.8 million during the 2009 drought due to favourable October-December 2009 short rains and March-May 2010 long rains. But numbers are expected to rise, with poor rains in eastern and northeastern regions, as well as lower levels in western areas.