Saturday Nation: Kiplagat and Ranneberger go for “Softer” Sell of TJRC Chairmanship

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation commission chairman Bethwel Kiplagat (left) with US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger during a youth forum on Agenda Four on March 5, 2010. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

By SATURDAY NATION ReporterPosted Friday, March 5 2010 at 22:30

Embattled Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission chairman Bethuel Kiplagat on Friday softened his stance, saying he would seek forgiveness from Kenyans if proven guilty of any wrongdoing in the past.

“If I made a mistake, then I will ask for forgiveness but it is important that we stop wasting time on enmity and build an atmosphere of truth, justice and reconciliation,” Mr Kiplagat said at a Kenya Youth Development Trust conference.

Mr Kiplagat said his experience in diplomacy and reconciliation work in Sudan, Mozambique and other war-torn countries compelled him to apply for the TJRC job and Kenyans should help him to take forward the work.

Warmed up

US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger warmed up to Mr Kiplagat, saying he had had an outstanding career and was among the first Kenyans to help seek ways to end the post-elections violence in 2008. “I wish you well,” Mr Ranneberger said.

Mr Kiplagat and Mr Ranneberger concurred that the post-election violence was caused by tribal bitterness and intrigues where the youth were used as foot soldiers by politicians who later dumped them when their interests were accomplished.

Executive director of the Committee of Experts drafting the new constitution, Dr Ekuro Aukot told youths:

“Are you being driven in GK Passats now, or is traffic being stopped for you to pass? Why allow yourselves to be used by these politicians?” he queried.

Again, it seems clear to me that the diplomatic role of facilitating negotiations between warring foreign parties is something entirely different than acting as a Kenyan to lead the TJRC. Kiplagat was without dispute a key Moi insider–period–regardless of whether he is personally guilty of specific acts, for which he now graciously offers to apologize if proven guilty (by whom?). Moi ran the country from 1978 to 2003; he reportedly stole perhaps $1B and otherwise distributed the wealth of the public for his private purposes; he acted in all sorts of extralegal manners to repress legitmate opposition, including the use of torture, etc. Moi eventually stepped aside as President under constitutional term limits, but kept all the money and a substantial role for himself and his cronies in key areas of the economy and politics.

What is the purpose of a TJRC process if not in substantial part to examine the conduct and consequences of the Moi rule?

You would have to be pretty naive to believe that many of the current crop of Kenyan political leaders–MPs, President Kibaki, etc.–really want much light shed or justice done. Thus, the process will of course be subject to powerful efforts to subvert and divert it, so that it poses no real threat to the status quo. As with other commissions in the past.

As for what side of this Ranneberger is on, I would suggest he has a track record that is worth taking a look at.

Kenyan PM Odinga Speaks Out on Election, “Dubious” Post-Election Role of Jendayi Frazer and Ambassador

We’ll stay on and fight for reforms: Raila from The Sunday Nation

The key quote:

Friends of Kenya played a major role in getting both sides to talk. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a key player. He called me at night and talked genuinely and passionately about developments happening in the country. He said he was willing to use his influence to facilitate negotiations. He also spoke to Mr Kibaki and relayed a similar message.

At that time, the US was playing a dubious role. The US Ambassador (Michael Ranneberger) was trying to manipulate diplomats in Nairobi. He was very quick to accept the results. (Then US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs) Jendayi Frazer also arrived and played a dubious and ambiguous role.

The British PM was more forthright and engaged genuinely.

On the election:

The election in 2007 will go down as a watershed in Kenya’s history because of the manner in which the vote tallying was manipulated. In the past, people had known that elections are manipulated. But that was before the era of Information Communication Technology and particularly before mobile phones became widely available. The mobile phone changed everything. It was now possible for results to be relayed instantly from every polling station in the country.

We in ODM had set up a very elaborate communication network and, by midday on December 28, we had a good idea what the results were. Media outlets were also announcing results directly from polling centres and the whole country could see what the result of the election was. There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many Kenyans what the outcome of that election was.

Eventually, the tallying of the vote was manipulated at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre. Kenyans only blame the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) but it was a far wider operation. ECK officials were heavily coerced by the state security apparatus, including the intelligence services, the police and especially the Administration Police.

This is the first time I have read of the PM speaking explicitly in this way on the record. Obviously Frazer is out of government and into the lobbying world with the firm representing Museveni, as well as her academic post, and Ranneberger’s tenure is winding down–perhaps this is intended to be a signal that the expectations for reform run both ways.

HT CK in Nairobi–had managed to miss this.

We don’t know who won poll, says envoy–Standard reports from 2nd Anniversary of “Power Sharing”

By David Ochami

The US Government has defended its quick recognition of President Kibaki’s controversial win of the disputed December 2007 presidential election.

However, US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger admitted that to date the US was not sure who won the election. Mr Ranneberger on Sunday said power sharing between ODM and PNU had not brought the desired dividend against impunity and corruption.

“The election was disputed. We did our best to get to the bottom of it. It is almost impossible to say who won,” he said.

The envoy spoke on the second anniversary of the signing of the National Accord and disputed perceptions that former Under Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer’s intervention at initial stages of the post-election crisis favoured Kibaki’s win.

Addressing the Press in Addis Ababa in 2008, Dr Frazer suggested that opposition supporters in Rift Valley were cleansing Kibaki’s tribesmen from the region. She later retracted the reference a few days after Ranneberger led the US’ recognition of Kibaki’s disputed win. As violence spiralled across the country, the US withdrew the recognition.

On Sunday, Ranneberger claimed Frazer’s statements and US recognition was forced by circumstances.

He said the US had little recourse after the Electoral Commission of Kenya declared Kibaki winner.

“We knew there was no possibility of a recount in the circumstances,” the envoy said, adding that after violence broke out, the US led foreign powers in calling for AU mediation and a negotiated settlement.

Two years later and the same ambassador giving similar answers to the same questions, about events from two years ago. I think it is fair to say that he hasn’t been particularly persuasive.

HT to DS in Nairobi

Ranneberger speaks out to defend Kiplagat–Why? (Updated)

Civil society leaders have been truly thrilled with the news that Bishop Tutu and 9 other former Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission leaders have called for Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat to step aside from his recent controversial appointment to such a role in Kenya by President Kibaki.

Now US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger is quoted as having stepped in to support the Kiplagat appointment. From the story entitled “Why Tutu and team told Kiplagat to resign” :

speaking to The Standard in Nairobi yesterday, Mr Ranneberger said Kiplagat was internationally recognised and capable of steering healing and reconciliation in Kenya.

His support comes at a time TJRC is expected to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs today, to discuss the calls for Kiplagat’s resignation.

Ranneberger cites Kiplagat’s role as in international negotiator. But Ranneberger instigated Kibaki’s appointment of Moi as envoy to Sudan back in mid-07. By this logic, why not appoint Moi to the TJRC?

The qualifications involved in the international diplomatic roles filled by Kiplagat in the past are simply different than what is called for in the TJRC position for a Kenyan today. The parties in foreign disputes who were dealing with Kiplagat didn’t care about his past dealings within Kenya as a member of the Moi government–Kenyans today care very much.

We have already seen the Kreigler Commission (the IREC) stop short of doing its job–if the TJRC is “the Kiplagat Commission” it will simply not be what is needed, and risks being like those other previous reports raising concerns about Kiplagat himself that did stop his appointment now. He is being reckless and irresponsible, in my estimation, by hanging on to this appointment when it is clear that he does not have the level of public confidence that is necessary.

It is very disappointing to see the Ambassador cutting at the feet of Kenyan Civil Society once again.

A good BBC World Service report explains the issues with Kiplagat and the fact that the matter may be in Kibaki’s hands.

“No News” (Updated Feb. 26)

Superficially, the steam of daily Kenyan political drama has been escalated during these recent days when I have not been posting with the usual frequency, but on the other hand, nothing much new has actually happened. I certainly do not want to contribute to anyone’s complacency about the situation. What we have in Kenya now is simply wafts of the odor naturally emanating from the overripe nature of the “coalition” government.

The second Kibaki administration continues on its somnambulent pacing, while all the others jockey as part of “government” with no one formally in opposition. The Prime Minister has returned from a week in Japan with a pledge for a soft loan of more than $300M for geothermal power and a grant of $55M for environmental restoration but has to cool his heels to get a meeting with his “partner” the President.

Driving home from the airport in New Orleans yesterday I listened to a BBC Newshour report from Nairobi about the “crisis”, the potential undoing of the “coalition”, corruption, and the threat of a return to the violence that saw the country “on the brink of civil war”. Of course, it was really pretty much the same report that could have been given the weekend before, or anytime in between (unless distracted by the various meaningless announcements of the day in the meantime). Bwana Ranneberger, the American Ambassador, has had a Casablanca-like shocking discovery that there is corruption going on right here in Nairobi. In fact, as a student and would-be teacher of history he explained to the Newshour audience that corruption had been “endemic in Kenya since independence”. Things are so bad that even the natives have noticed all on their own, as evidenced by his experience on safari outside Muthaiga where even a Nairobi woman selling potatoes on the ground was aware that she was being ripped off on her market fees and felt that all of the politicians should be arrested.

The BBC also talked to John Githongo about corruption and the possibility of a return to violence.

Of course, they didn’t ask the Ambassador why in the run-up to the election, the corruption of which triggered the violence, he had used his “bully pulpit” to speak up in praise of the Kibaki administration’s supposed strong record of progress in fighting corruption, as evidenced by an award from the World Bank even. Just as the same John Githongo was taking the risk of speaking out with more revelations about corruption in that same Kibaki administration.

My thought is that the BBC could be a bit less breathless. Yes, the notion of a functional coalition is proving illusory, but this is just the latest instance that status quo has been maintained rather than changed in the face of an opportunity to take action. Yes, there is a possibility of violence, but as I have written previously violence has been the norm in competitive elections in Kenya in general, just as ordinary Kenyans suffer from a baseline level of violence that politicians, diplomats and paid publicists in Washington don’t like to acknowledge. Certainly even Ranneberger now seems to agree that corruption has been the norm.

Yes, Kenyans face a crisis. But to paraphrase “The Who” playing at the American Super Bowl halftime, “Meet the New Crisis, Same as the Old Crisis”.

UPDATE: The BBC story is MUCH better in the on-line “print” version. It includes a very good quote from Ranneberger about politicians stealing from children, but leaves out the patronizing stuff, and generally reads much more measured.

Friendly Fire? IRI Chairman McCain Labels Exit Polling as Pork!

Republican Senators McCain and Coburn have issued a purported list of 100 wasteful porkbarrel programs getting funding under federal stimulus legislation–one item targeted on the list is a little over $200,000 for exit polling in Africa by the University of California, San Diego. 

Is this just a political cheapshot at UCSD for publishing the results of the Kenyan exit poll from the 2007 general election and accompanying research? 

For this Kenyan exit poll, McCain’s International Republican Institute (“IRI”), for which I was Resident Director of the East Africa Office at the time, received funding from USAID, along with an extra $10,000 from Dr. Clark Gibson, chair of Political Science at UCSD.  The poll showed the challenger Raila Odinga soundly defeating the incumbent Mwai Kibaki.  When the Electoral Commission of Kenya announced that Kibaki had won amid disputes and allegations of fraud, the US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger initially called on Kenyans to accept the results and the Bush State Department initially congratulated Kibaki (later retracting), even though the Ambassador had received the preliminary exit poll results on the evening of the vote.

Dr. Gibson and his associate James Long designed the poll under a consulting agreement with IRI and Long supervised the field work of IRI’s Kenyan polling firm Strategic.  IRI maintained a six month “exclusive” on rights to publicity on the poll under the consulting agreement and refused to let UCSD or Strategic release or comment on the results.  IRI declined to comment on the poll and then began telling journalists and others in Washington that it was flawed, eventually issuing a statement on February 7, 2008 that it had determined the poll to be “invalid” after hearings that day of Senator Feingold’s Africa Foreign Relations Subcommittee in which Feingold called on Asst. Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer and the Asst. Administrator for USAID to explain why the poll had not been released as post-election violence and negotiations between the contestants continued.

After the expiration of the six month embargo, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) sponsored the release of the poll by UCSD on July 8.  Gibson and Long presented a detailed rebuttal to the alleged concerns raised by IRI.  The UCSD team also presented at SAIS at Johns Hopkins.  In August, more than a month later, on the day before Gibson and Long were to testify on the results of the poll before the Kreigler Commission in Nairobi, appointed to review the election under the February 28 power-sharing settlement, IRI released the poll, having found that it was valid after all. 

In the meantime, IRI continues exit polling all over on the taxpayer dime–and trumpets the “earned media” it gets for this from publications like the New York Times.  But apparently National Science Foundation funding for polling done by actual social scientists at UCSD outside the auspices of International Republican Institute is pork!

As Gibson and Long pointed out in their presentation of their research to the Working Group on African Political Economy last year, the US spends hundreds of millions on democracy promotion, but we don’t even know what motivates African voters.  Of course, if we don’t really always want to know HOW they vote, I guess maybe we don’t care why either?  And for that matter, maybe we don’t want to learn more about how effective that “democracy promotion” money is?

James Long worked tirelessly under pressure to help execute the Kenyan poll for IRI under difficult circumstances, and even provided substantial free assistance on IRI’s September 2007 pre-election poll (which was quickly released, by the way).  File this under the category of “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”.