On #AntiCorruptionDay do not forget how then-fugitive Gideon Mbuvi (“Sonko”) came to Parliament in 2010

With the arrest of Nairobi Governor Gideon Mbuvi (“Sonko”) in Voi on charges of corruption and of fleeing charges and a jail sentence in Mombasa dating back to 1998, it is important to remember how Sonko came into national politics in Nairobi in the first place.

My only personal encounter with Sonko was when he showed up as MP and potential Senator-elect at the Milimani Law Courts in March 2013 when civil society leaders I was working with sought an injunction to stop the IEBC under Isaack Hassan from announcing Presidential election results after shutting down the Results Transmission System, which had allegedly unexpectedly failed (it has turned out the procurement was botched in the first place so the Results Transmission was not ever going to work).

Sonko entered politics and was elected as Member of Parliament from Nairobi’s Makadara Constituency in the by-election of September 20, 2010, as the nominee of the NARC-Kenya party led by Martha Karua, then MP for Gichuga.

Karua was appointed by President Kibaki as Minister of Justice in 2005 following the defeat of the “Wako Draft” constitution at referendum by the nascent Orange Democratic Movement, and reappointed by Kibaki in his original “half-Cabinet” of January 8, 2008 during the Post Election Violence period. Karua resigned as Justice Minister in April 2009 (being replaced by Mitula Kilonzo, father of current ODM Senator and Sonko defense attorney Mitula Kilonzo, Jr.) but one would think she and NARC-Kenya would have had resources to vet Sonko’s background if they were not familiar.

The by-election for Makadara was one of several occasioned by the courts upholding election fraud challenges against the Samuel Kivuitu led and internationally supported Election Commission of Kenya that also failed so obviously in the Presidential race.

As the Daily Nation explained in an article headlined “Makadara rivals bet on the slums” at the time Sonko originally had support of a faction within the ODM party before intervention of party leader Raila Odinga, then Prime Minister in Kibaki’s second administration (sometimes referred to as the “Government of National Unity”):

In Makadara, the roles were reversed in 2007 as ODM’s Reuben Ndolo was ousted by Mr Dick Wathika of PNU. Mr Ndolo also successfully challenged the results in court.

. . . .
The two main parties are seeking to boost their numbers in Parliament ahead of 2012.

The fight is about numbers, especially given that ODM will be seeking to turn the tables on PNU after losing a number of by-elections in the recent past,” Nairobi lawyer and political analyst John Mureithi Waiganjo said.

The party lost in Matuga at the Coast and South Mugirango in Kisii, seats it was expected to win.
Mr Waiganjo says the by-elections also come at a time when ODM, whose party leader Raila Odinga, is at the forefront in pushing for reforms ahead of 2012 elections, requires numbers in Parliament to effect the changes.
The lawyer named Mr Ndolo and Mr Wathika who were on the same side of the referendum campaigns, as the front runners for the seat. But Narc Kenya’s Gedion Mbuvi, popularly known as Mike Sonko, could spring a surprise. 
Mr Mbuvi, who intially sought the ODM ticket, has run a well-oiled, high-profile campaign that has excited many, especially youthful voters.
However, it is his alliance with Nairobi deputy mayor George Aladwa, the Kaloleni ODM councillor, that has been causing Mr Ndolo and the party sleepless nights. Although even PNU’s Wathika received a direct ticket, it is in ODM that the consequences of the nomination fallout are likely to be most felt. 
Mr Aladwa, who was said to have supported the deep-pocketed Mbuvi for the ODM ticket, has been leading a rebel faction which may seriously dent the party’s chances of victory.
Last week, party leader Odinga was forced to intervene in the matter.
At a meeting called by the Prime Minister, Mr Ndolo and Mr Aladwa pledged to bury the hatchet and work together to win the seat for the party. But there has been little evidence on the ground to show the two are back together. Even the joint rally they agreed to hold is yet to happen.
Mr Aladwa is popular among the Luhya, a significant section of voters in the constituency, and the tension between him and Mr Ndolo can only hurt the ODM candidate.
But Mr Ndolo believes that he has an upper hand after reconciling with Mr Dan Shikanda, a former soccer star, who contested the seat in 2007 on a Narc ticket and who could also influence the Luhya vote. Pundits believe that had Mr Shikanda not broken ranks with Mr Ndolo in 2007, ODM would easily have clinched the seat.

After winning the by-election by defeating both Ndolo of ODM and the PNU Party nominee Wathika on the ticket of PNU Coalition member NARC-Kenya, Sonko later left NARC-Kenya and joined PNU successor party Jubilee to successfully run for Senate in 2013 and then Governor in 2017. Karua ran separately for president as the NARC-Kenya nominee in 2013 and for Governor of Kirinyaga in 2017.

Hon. Karua has been a member of the International Advisory Council of the International Republican Institute (the organization I worked for in Kenya during the 2007 election) since 2015. The Council is a “select group of recognized leaders from around the world who share in our vision of democracy and freedom, and are willing to lend their names and counsel to this cause.”

So who “went native”? The Ex-Ambassadors’ greatest hit: “Sweet Home Kenya” [updated]

Could one make a case that perhaps it was not me after all, but more the Ambassador and/or others at the State Department who “went native” in Kenya over the 2007 election controversy (and in other situations)?

Interesting to think about as things have played out.

My memory was most recently jogged in seeing that James Swan, a distinguished diplomat who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and signed off on some of the materials related to the 2007-08 Kenyan election controversy that I have obtained through FOIA and written about here over the years, has retired to a Nairobi post with the Albright Stonebridge Group business/investment advisory. (Albright Stonebright Group offers “commercial diplomacy” and advisory services and owns a substantial part of the equity of Albright Capital Management which in turn runs private equity funds out of the Cayman Islands which have investments in other funds and businesses with interests in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in the region. The Albright is former Secretary of State Madeleine, the NDI chair.)

Also one of those strange articles in The Daily Nation this past week, drawing on a particular bit of older Kenyan political history: the article notes that Ambassador Kyle McCarter will soon take up his post in Kenya for the United States, and that the first American Ambassador to Kenya, William Attwood, had acquired property in Kenya and wanted to retire there, but was banned from staying or returning to the country by Jomo Kenyatta who was angered by his act of publishing his memoir, The Reds and the Blacks. Without explaining specifically what Kenyatta was offended by, the article cites some of Attwood’s material about his perception of Cold War tied machinations involving the competition between Oginga Odinga and Kenyatta and allegations of Odinga’s separate East-bloc arms imports. It then notes Ambassador Ranneberger’s re-marriage to a Kenyan and his vacation home on the Coast at Malindi. (Interesting is the omission of any reference to Ambassador Smith Hempstone and his memoir, Rogue Ambassador, which details his interaction with “the second liberation” and his impressions of Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki.)

Maybe Ambassador McCarter is being reminded not to step too hard on certain toes so that the Government of Kenya remains cooperative with his family’s longstanding mission work in Tharaka Nithi?

The topic of “going native” came up for me in early 2010 when my security clearance was up for renewal for my job as a lawyer for Navy shipbuilding contracts where I had returned after my leave of absence to work in Kenya for the International Republican Institute in 2007-08. I filled out the detailed paperwork listing my foreign contacts over the previous years, including my work for IRI in Kenya, Somaliland and Sudan (later to be apparently stolen by Chinese hacking from the Office of Personnel Management) and had my interview with a retired military officer who had served in Somalia in the early 1990’s and thus knew the region.

I did not know how to initiate an explanation in my interview that I had gotten into a “he said/he said” with Ambassador Ranneberger about the 2007 Kenyan election on the front page of the New York Times but I expected it to come up in some form. After the interview, I got a follow up: was I sure that I had been loyal to the United States as opposed to acting on conflicting loyalties to Kenya–had I had gone native? I answered clearly and unequivocally. Essentially I asserted the lawyerly equivalent of the courtroom objection: “asked and answered”. “I already told you I was a loyal American before someone fussed — I have nothing to change.” Apparently this was satisfactory as I did not lose my clearance (and thus my job).

Jendayi Frazer, Asst. Sec. of State for African Affairs during the second G. W. Bush Administration and Swan’s superior during the 2007-08 Kenyan election imbroglio, maintains a home in Nairobi as I understand, and was the primary international spokesman, informally, for the “Uhuruto” campaign in 2013, accusing then Asst. Sec. State Johnnie Carson of “interfering” in the campaign by suggesting that the election of crimes against humanity suspects could have “consequences” in trying to tamp down the use by the Uhuruto campaign of a statement by President Obama that was asserted to bolster a claim that the U.S. had no concerns about the issue. Frazer has business interests in Kenya and with the Kenyan government, through the the Kigali domiciled but Kenya based East Africa Exchange commodity platform arising out of a partnership between Swiss trader Nicholas Berggruen’s Berggruen Holdings and the East African Community. See my previous post here. Frazer and a Berggruen representative are also on the board of the Mastercard Foundation based in Toronto which has extensive programs in the region. Frazier is an Advisor for Rice Hadley Gates, the international consulting firm of of her colleagues from the Bush Administration (Robert Gates also stayed on as Obama’s Secretary of Defense; Hadley was Rice’s Deputy National Security Advisor during the inception of the Iraq War and took over after she went to State where she brought over Frazer; Hadley also turned his experience to the chairmanship of the United States Institute of Peace. Carson has since retired from the State Department and is also affiliated with the Albright Stonebridge Group as well as the United States Institute of Peace and NDI.)

The cases of Attwood, Frazer, Swan and Ranneberger, if nothing else, are examples of the “Nairobi Curse”, demonstrating the advantages that accrue to Uhuruto in controlling access to permission to live and work in Nairobi.

Another famous case showing the “flipside” is British High Commissioner Edward Clay who complained of the milder-than-now corruption in 2004 that senior officials of Kibaki’s first Administration were eating as “gluttons” and “vomiting on [the] shoes” of donors who had stepped up to attempt to alleviate poverty and sickness among Kenyans. After his term ended in 2005 he continued to speak of corruption and was informed by then Kibaki Justice Minister Martha Karua during a BBC appearance during the early 2008 Post Election Violence in the wake of the stolen election that he had been declared persona non grata and banned from returning by the Government of Kenya in retaliation.

And of course there is the purge of the IFES Country Director during the 2017 Uhuruto re-election campaign.

[Update: to be clear, my point here is about the relationships and dependencies of individual Americans to the Government of the day in Kenya and Kenyan politicians in power, not to get into the merits or demerits of specific investment activity. I think it is good for Americans to be in Kenya and Kenyans to be in America. In concept, Frazer’s East African Exchange, for example, seems to offer potential benefit to small farmers, although the authorities in Rwanda and Kenya have a track record of contradictory priorities, so it is hard to know what to expect. As far as ASG and the associated private equity funds, I would think Nairobi is heavily served on the consultancy side but there is always a need for private direct investment in the region in the abstract, through the Caribbean or elsewhere, with the devil in the details of particular investments.]

A few thoughts on Kenya’s presidential debate

Even though I’m committed to not attempting to “cover” the Kenyan presidential campaign remotely, yesterday’s debate was one of those big moments in various respects that begs some comment from anyone writing about Kenyan politics and governance.

As far as the election itself, I don’t expect a major impact from the debate or anything specific said. Most voters have made up their minds during the course of the two and a half years that the campaign has been the primary focus of Kenya’s pols. The biggest election variable I would expect would be turnout and neither of the two contenders who could actually win at the end of the day stumbled badly enough or scored enough points in this debate to have a dramatic effect.

Several things stand out for me, however. First is national pride. There is a sense of “joining the big leagues” and capturing an international stage as a modern democracy that Kenyans take pride in here. Sports has been the most similar national rallying point otherwise, and the London Olympics was a disappointment so it is good to see Kenyans have a point of positive recognition as Kenyans. Unfortunately, it comes so late in the campaign that the opportunity for this positive spirit to make a major difference in the preparation for voting and the more general groundwork for the election is limited. Tensions are already high because the realization is sinking in that the election is a big challenge and there will be some problems.

From talking to friends in Kenya and following things I do believe that there is some real value to the determination of many Kenyans to try to prevent the country from being perceived to make a negative spectacle of itself through violence and it makes sense to me to hope for some incremental benefit to this sort of positive pre-election publicity. Nonetheless, the overall amount of election-connected violence in the year before the vote was lower in 2007 in some respects, and people voted very peacefully and in large numbers. When violence occurred after the vote, the vast majority of Kenyans, especially those who actually voted, did not participate. So I don’t think you can measure the risk of violence by the overall sentiments of the population. Energy is much more wisely spent on preparation than prognostication.

A related point to me is that this debate simply shows the world the level of technological and economic development that exits in Nairobi, particularly in the media. The country was very much ready for this in 2007, and in some ways it seems more surprising that this didn’t happen in 2007 than that it did in 2013. More than anything it reflects, to me, the different dynamics of not having an incumbent seeking or planning to stay in office.

The second major impression for me was how the debate showed the disfunction of Kenya’s political parties at a national level. Without established major parties of some coherence other than as platforms for individuals, we end up with six candidates, then eight by court order at the last minute, and almost all the post-debate discussion centered on the contest for power among the individuals or the event of having the debate itself, rather than on anything of real substance about what one candidate believably could accomplish versus another. Congratulations are due more to Kenya’s media than to the political process or the candidates or parties it seems to me.

Some of the other things commented on widely were less significant to me, perhaps because my expectations of what could be possible in Kenya are higher. Martha Karua on stage was not a big moment in my book. She will rank significantly less of a factor in 2013 than Charity Ngilu did in 1997. Karua’s big moment in national leadership was her role as Kibaki’s lion(ess) facing off with Ruto at the Kenyatta International Conference Center December 28-30, 2007, and facing off with both the ODM side and Kofi Annan in the (generally unsuccessful) mediation afterwards prior to the February 28 post-election settlement signed by Kibaki and Raila. She is a strong capable female lawyer, but she doesn’t have an obvious constituency as a candidate for president of Kenya at this point and I don’t see her presence at the debate or her fortunes in this election as a proxy for the general status of women in politics in Kenya.

More striking is the idea of someone facing ICC trial for “crimes against humanity” this spring on stage on an equal footing and an understood stature as one of the two candidates who could become president. That to me is the greatest novelty of this debate.

[Update: See “What we learned from Kenya’s first ever televised presidential debate” at Africa is a Countyespecially for a fun list of tweets from watching the debate in livestream.]

Friday the 13th Ruling: No Kenyan Election Until 2013 Unless Gov’t Dissolved First says High Court

Here is the story from KBC:

A three  judge bench Friday ruled that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sets the date for the general election.

In a one hour ruling by constitutional court judges Isaac lenaola, David Majanja and Mumbi Ngugi, IEBC should set the election date 60 days after the expiry of the current parliament which is January 15,2013.

Going by the ruling, the general election is likely to be held in 2013. The judges who took time to read through the appeals by different petitioners said it was prudent for the IEBC to determine the date since it is the one bestowed with the mandate to conduct elections.

They ruled that the General Election can only be held in 2012 if President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga agree, in writing, to dissolve the Grand Coalition Government. This would be 60 days after the Principals agree to terminate the National Accord that holds the coalition parties, PNU and ODM, together.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta says his KANU party will respect the court’s verdict.

Narck Kenya leader Martha Karua posted her immediate reaction on twitter saying she totally disagree’s with the court’s ruling.

She argues that the term of office must include the election period and that’s the interpretation world over.

“I totally disagree with the court’s ruling. Term of office must include the election period and that’s the interpretation world over.”

.  .  .  .

Sloppy or deliberately ambiguous work on the new Constitution strikes again.  The big picture here is that the Kenyan voters end up having foisted on them a “grand coalition” of all the major players from the last election until an election that is LATER rather than SOONER in the wake of the failure of the 2007 election.  Hopefully civil society, democracy activists and donors will use the extra time productively to push the political class further forward on the reforms required to implement the new Constitution and prepare for a better election.  No reason to be optimistic that extra time will help, but we can always hope>

Martha Karua announces presidential candidacy

The Daily Nation reports:

The former Justice minister is set to announce her bid to clinch the top seat come the next General Election, due in 2012, at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.

Ms Karua has distinguished herself as a human rights campaigner and a vocal anti-graft crusader especially in parliamentary debates.

.  .  .  .

Ms Karua has also distanced herself from ethnic political alliances and has refused to play second fiddle to Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta in central Kenya politics. She is on record saying that the era of political dynasty is gone and Kenyans should be allowed to elect leaders based on choice.

With the launch, the Gichugu MP will become only the third woman to vie for the presidency in Kenyan history. In 1997, Water minister Charity Ngilu and environmentalist Wangari Maathai endured unsuccessful presidential bids.

Kikuyu Wananchi Deserve to Know about Bribery at ECK in Deciding Whether to Follow Uhuru and Kibaki

The public side of the tribal rhetoric from politicians in Kenya right now is already at a level beyond what it was in the 2007 presidential campaign. [April 16 update–following warnings of arrest and other punitive consequences from the ICC the rhetoric of the suspects has been toned down at present and a movement to “blackout” coverage of the Ocampo 6 defendants had taken off.]

Uhuru Kenyatta has presented himself at the ICC in the Hague as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, by authority of “the duly elected” President.  He bases his defense for his alleged involvement with the support and orchestration of ethnic revenge attacks in the Rift Valley on Prime Minister Odinga’s call for “mass action” in the face of the ECK’s announcement of Kibaki as the election winner rather than commencing an action in the Kenyan courts.  Basically the whole situation is to be blamed on Odinga personally for not accepting his loss in the elections.

Uhuru has been designated a Kikuyu elder and announced by the old guard as Kibaki’s successor as leader of the ethnic Kikuyu, as well Kibaki’s successor in politics.  And now he is in alliance with William Ruto, his dockmate at the Hague accused on being an instigator of ethnic  Kalenjin militia against Kikuyu in the Rift Valley.  All should be forgiven except Raila.

And the spokesman for PNU, partner in the alleged Government of National Unity, has published an editorial expressing his personal view that the Prime Minister is essentially the devil incarnate.

More politics as usual, perhaps, in Kenya–but politics as usual may mean that people get killed.  It is obviously time to be concerned about the 2012 election.

A key question is whether large numbers of rank-and-file Kikuyu are willing to answer Uhuru’s war cry.  Another is whether Kikuyu business leaders outside of elective politics will aid in eventually resisting the ICC.

Most Kikuyu did in fact vote for Kibaki’s re-election in 2007.  It was a close election.  I think they deserve to know the truth about what happened at the ECK in that election in making their decision about how to respond to Uhuru’s rhetoric now.

This is from an Inter Press Service story this weekend on Martha Karua’s 2012 presidential candidacy:

[Martha] Karua helped form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) that won the 2003 general election, and ended nearly four decades of rule by KANU. When she entered parliament, there were six female MPs. Now there are 22 out a total of 222.

Karua strongly supported the current president, Mwai Kibaki, during his days as the Democratic Party (DP) leader and during the violent conflict that followed the disputed 2007elections which gave birth to the current coalition government with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

“I supported the president at that time because that is what the electoral commission said,” she says. She was appointed Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs in January 2008.

But she resigned her ministerial position in frustration in mid-2009.

“I realised all they wanted was Moi to be out so that those who assume office continued with the same vices that were rampant during Moi’s era. Impunity and corruption are still the order of the day. So I quit because I did not want to be part of a government that does not listen to the cries of the governed,” Karua says.

Links to Start the Week

Qaddafi demise helps African Union at Africa Works by G. Pascal Zachary:

The collapse of Qaddafi’s dictatorial regime in Africa has concrete benefits for the African Union, whose international standing has repeatedly been undermined by the Libyan leader’s eccentric Pan-Africanism and past embrace of terrorism. . . . . Qaddafi and Libyan cronies invested in African real estate but they never provided either finance or expertise to promote industrial enterprises. Should Qaddafi vanish permanently from the club of African leaders, the African Union will be the beneficiary. The AU struggles with legitimacy and effectiveness; Qaddafi made the tests of pragmatism and idealism much more difficult. His absence from the AU governing body will make the renovation of this disappointing regional body easier, though even without the burden of Qaddafi, the task facing reformers of the AU remains daunting.

In Uganda, a new inflation–in the price of votes, Jina Moore

Martha Karua, running for the Kenyan presidency next year, says Kibaki administration has increased extrajudicial killings from the level of the Moi administration.

Sixth Fleet Frigate USS Stephen W. Groves is  spending roughly two weeks at Dar Es Salaam for African Partnership Station program training East African sailors, along with some community relations.

“Real Conservatives Don’t Slash Foreign Aid:  What House Republicans Can Learn From David Cameron and the Tories” Thomas Carothers in The New Republic.

“Wako reserves his most potent sting for Kibaki” Emeka-Mayaka Gekara in the Daily Nation. A good example of how things really work in Kenyan politics.

“Somalia:  The Transition Government on Life Support” International Crisis Group report, February 21.  Says the international community has continued to fail to appreciate the reality that attempts to create a European-style centralized national government are doomed to failure.  The TFG is further hampered by corruption and irresponsibility.  Without serious progress and reform by August, the attention of the international support should shift:

Yet, the situation is not as bleak as it may seem. Some parts of Somalia, most notably Somaliland and Puntland in the north, are relatively stable, and as the ill-fated Union of Islamic Courts demonstrated in 2006, it is possible to rapidly reestablish peace and stability in central and south Somalia if the right conditions exist. Contrary to what is often assumed, there is little anarchy in the country. Local authorities administer most areas and maintain a modicum of law and order. Somalis and humanitarian agencies and NGOs on the ground know who is in charge and what the rules are and get on with their work. The way forward needs to be a more devolved political and security structure and far greater international support for local administrations.  Furthermore, if by August, the TFG has not made meaningful progress in coping with its internal problems and shown itself genuinely willing to work and share power with these local authorities, the international community should shift all its aid to them.

Skullduggery on the Contitution in Kenya

NARC-K, the party now led by Martha Karua, has issued a public warning about powerful forces scheming to derail reforms under the proposed new constitution. As when she raised the alarm some months ago about bribery in parliament she has not named names. Karua, having fronted for the PNU hardliners in the Annan-led “mediation” following the 2007 elections and served as Kibaki’s first Justice Minister, has been on the inside, has been around quite a while, and is  recognized as a sharp lawyer.

It certainly seems that the announced High Court ruling on the 2004 challenge to the Khadi’s courts is being widely viewed as transparently political in timing.  Likewise the investigation into the insertion of “national security” as a general qualifier of individual rights under the proposed Bill of Rights at the Government Printing Office has not been resourced seriously, has stayed away from people in power and extended in duration, seemingly set up to fade into the distance as such investigations normally do.

Credibility of the voting and counting in the referendum on August 4 may well be at issue, and handling this correctly and transparently will be vital for Kenya’s future. I hope that we in the United States are doing a good job with our support for the IIEC especially.

Kenyan Speaker on Law Enforcement and Impunity

Speaker of Parliament Marende has called for the enforcement of existing laws as the way to end impunity, in particular calling for MP and former Justice Minister Martha Karua to record a statement with the police to specify her charges that large bribes change hands to influence votes in Parliament.  At pains of being prosecuted for making a false statement if she doesn’t in fact back it up.

I agree with the Speaker that enforcement of existing laws is really the key to changing the environment of impunity for politicians.  New laws will not help if the law is ignored anyway.  Certainly there have been plenty of rumors and more specific stories in circulation about bribery in Parliament.  Almost two years in to this Parliament it certainly seems past time to face this head on.

A way to proceed is to have specific statements from those with knowledge and certainly MPs such as Ms. Karua should follow up.  But likewise the media should follow up.  Corruption issues are continually raised or hinted at in the Kenya media, or even covered in depth initially, but then nothing more.  For the Kenyan media to effectively fulfill any type of watchdog role, they will have to learn to start and finish these stories, and to do a lot more actual reporting rather than simply relaying to readers what the various politicians and officials have to say.

Likewise, there is no reason for law enforcement to wait for insiders to hand them the evidence.  We see in some areas that the various Kenyan law enforcement agencies can conduct investigations–why do they have to wait for insider whistleblowers?

I must say that I don’t agree with prosecuting a Member for what we in the US would call “speech and debate” in the legislature, but nonetheless, those with knowledge of bribery in Parliament do have an obligation to come forward–and should be protected in doing so.