Godec Confirmation Hearing

The U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee will conduct confirmation hearings on the nomination of Ambassador Robert F. Godec for Ambassador to Kenya on Wednesday, November 28.

Godec has been serving in Nairobi since late summer following the resignation of Ambassador Scott Gration. Gration and his wife are staying in Nairobi.

Kenyan Election Violence: why would anyone expect the Kenyan Police to play a positive role in March 2013?

(As an aside, here is a headline to pause over from the Daily Nation“Sudan’s Islamists need new blood: vice president”.)

On Kenya’s police, Jeffrey Gettleman has an outstanding story in the New York Times: “Police Killing in Kenya Deepens Aura of Menace”.  Gettleman ties a compelling story of what amounts to the “typical” extrajudicial execution of two bothers in Nairobi’s slums to the massacre of new police recruits in Samburu:

The two episodes were hundreds of miles apart and technically had nothing to do with each other. But beneath them was the same rotten root: a spectacularly dysfunctional national police force.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give our police a 2,” said Macharia Njeru, the chairman of Kenya’s new police oversight board, citing corruption allegations, human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, failed inquiries and lost public trust.

“The list is endless,” Mr. Njeru said.

.  .  .  .

“On the face of it, it’s quite clear that the police leadership totally failed,” Mr. Njeru said. “The senior commanders were sleeping on the job.”

Kenya’s news media have characterized the massacre as the single most disastrous episode for the Kenyan police since independence in 1963. Unlike Kenya’s thriving business community, its booming safari industry or its reforming judiciary, Mr. Njeru said, the national police service has intentionally been kept weak for decades so it could be manipulated by politicians.

The concept of the various reforms under the new Constitution is great, but surely it is time to face the fact that it is simply too late for deep substantive change.   Of course every effort should be made by Kenya’s international supporters to intervene and step up as well as possible, but let us not kid ourselves.  It has been almost 59 months since the 2007 election disaster–the Kenyan police are still in the state they are in, with less than four months to go to March 4, 2013 because the Kenyan powers that be chose the status quo instead of reform (and for obvious reasons).

Again, please remember that current Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere was the commander of the Kenya Police’s GSU (“General Service Unit”) branch during the 2007 election and its aftermath.

Let’s see what the Kenya Police official website has to say about the status of reforms today:

.  .  .  the Government has made some important steps. A task force appointed in March 2003 is drawing a road map for the Police Reforms. The Commissioner of Police is committed to a Police Force whose members are motivated, people friendly, open, relaxed and honest with one another and the public; know their role and mandate and be proud of their job; appreciated by the public…

The just concluded Constitutional review holds a promise for the establishment of an emancipated Police Service, that will operate in conformity with democratic transformation from the current practice of Regime Policing to Democratic Policing (Community Policing)

These measures augur well with the Police Reforms as well as the goodwill of citizens. An international survey conducted in January 2003 placed Kenyan’s as the most optimistic citizens in the world. The Government will do well to tap into this optimism. It is the energy that will drive the nation’s transformation to Its desired destination.

For citizen’s security:this is the moment.

Yes, 2003 was in fact “the moment”.  Let’s not let 2013 be remembered as a different kind of “moment”.

BVR Kits start arriving in Nairobi

The first two air deliveries of Biometric Voter Registration kits arrived in Nairobi from France today.  Here is the story from The Star, with some additional background:

The IEBC met with President Kibaki on Monday during which they sought to assure him of their preparedness to oversee the election.

The meeting with Kibaki followed a similar one with Prime Minister Raila Odinga where the government undertook to pay the entire cost of procuring the kits from its own resources but with the expectation that the government of Canada would sign off the concessionary loan to refund the cost which has now risen to more than Sh9 billion.

The manufacturer, Morpho Inc of France, had demanded full payment before delivering the kits. At the time, the government had only paid 40 per cent of the cost. Government then signed a loan facility of Sh7.2 billion with Standard Chartered Bank to pay for the 15,000 kits to clear the balance.

The Daily Nation reports that the IEBC is expected to announce the new compressed voter registration schedule tomorrow: 

A massive campaign to mobilise voters is expected to be put in place so as to attract a large number of Kenyans to register within one month due to time constraints.

“We want Kenyans to respond within a month because we will not extend the registration period. We will use the media and other available means to enhance our campaigns to target as many people as possible. We also expect politicians campaigning for various positions to pass this message to the targeted population,” Mr Hassan told a previous media briefing.

The delayed delivery of the equipment has been a major concern in the country forcing the shifting of various crucial timelines.

Upcoming Nairobi Seminar

Institute for Security Studies and Hanns Seidel Foundation Seminar, Nairobi
Oil and Gas Discoveries in Kenya and the Region: Opportunities and Challenges
Tuesday 6 November 2012
10h00 to 13h00

East Africa, and Kenya in particular, is increasingly developing into an important hydrocarbon region. With proven reservoirs and heightened exploration activity, the region is hoping for an oil boom and the attendant profits. In ideal circumstances, the oil and gas resources in Kenya and the region should become engines of stability, economic growth and improved governance. Looking at experiences elsewhere on the continent, however, there is a danger of the ‘resource curse’ syndrome, which counsels about the perils of hydrocarbons turning into sources of instability and ecological catastrophe. Indeed, the dismal track record of Africa’s oil producers has led to concerns about the possibility of Kenya and the greater region falling victim to Africa’s paradox of plenty. There are already emerging concerns about territorial disputes relating to Kenya and the region linking to the discovery of natural resources.

As Kenya in particular draws increasing interest from major oil companies, the question is: what are the short- and medium-term projections for oil and gas discoveries, and what are the geostrategic implications? Significantly, what policy options should Kenya pursue to avoid past development failures associated with petroleum and to militate against potential conflict? This seminar will examine these questions, among others, with the aim of offering policy recommendations on improving outcomes of oil and gas production in Kenya and the region.

At the ISS office at Braeside Gardens on Gitanga Road in Lavington.

Link to register is here.

Sunday music: Sauti Sol

 

Nairobi’s Sauti Sol featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition for a “sunny” but authentic appeal: “Native Sons Sing Straight to Kenya’s Youth”.

Here is “Blue Uniform”, video with lyrics, at Ghalfa.com.

At the Ghalfa Blog: “Sauti Sol is the Finest Kenyan Band to Walk the Earth:  Here’s Why”:

They have cross demographic appeal

Whether you are from the hilly valleys of Kakamega, or from the concrete jungle in Nairobi, Sauti Sol don’t leave you feeling alienated. Why? They sing in fluent English, Kiswahili and their native Luhya dialect. That’s a rare triple threat that you don’t get from many Nairobi bands, ESPECIALLY those from suburbia.

They have cross border appeal

These guys top charts from Kenya to the Netherlands. They also have mzungu fans screaming their name at international festivals such as South by South West in Austin, Texas. But don’t take my word for it, just take a look at the video . . . for their spellbinding performance of ‘Awinja’ at SXSW earlier this year . . .

 

 

Happy Saba Saba Day–and how is Kenya?

Today is the final “Saba Saba Day” in Kenya under the “Government of National Unity.” The presidential campaigns are in full swing and new political parties, alliances and temporary coalitions are announced and denounced weekly.

So how is Kenya?

To be positive, there are lots of important things right in Kenya (as always).

For one thing, there is energy in politics and some real hope that votes will be counted and thus that Kenyans will chose their leaders going forward under the new Constitution.  Of course it must be remembered that Kenyans were more hopeful in 2007.  An improvement politically is a lack of complacency or naiveté.

The economy in the aggregate continues to grow and attract increased foreign investment.  Over the last couple of years taking note of Africa as the last great investment frontier has gotten so commonplace as to be, finally, cliché.

Kenya has tremendous advantages in reference to serving international investors over most other Sub-Saharan African countries at the inception.  Aside from Indian Ocean coastline which makes Kenya a natural gateway for Asian trade, Kenya speaks global English and is home to Nairobi which was already well-established during the era of what I have called “the aid bubble” as the favored location for internationals.  Whatever happens in South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia in the next few years, a lot of the international support/involvement will come through and be “back officed” in Nairobi.  Kenya has been the key regional military ally of the United States throughout its history, while separately serving as “Americans’ favorite African country” in the popular imagination, and attracting a lion’s share of private tourism and aid/mission activity.  And of course there are close ties to Great Britain and British companies of long-standing and plenty of interchange with the rest of Europe.  Nairobi has been an attractive draw for white African businessmen, especially since the mid-90s, and has become more Continue reading

A third year has gone by since the murders of Kenyan civil rights activists Oscar Kingara and J.P. Oulu

From March 2011::Five Years After the Kenyan Government’s Raid on the Standard and Two Years After the Oscar Foundation Murders, Impunity Reigns and a “Local Tribunal” for Post Election Violence Remains a Pipe Dream

As I have previously written, I have to miss the frenzy of reading the Wikileaks diplomatic correspondence, but the Kenyan newspapers are full of articles related to a few of the cables newly leaked.  Much of this is Kenyan politicians dishing on each other to curry favor at the U.S. Embassy, and probably in some cases news to Kenyan voters who don’t have the same access to their leaders as Americans do.

One of the main impacts of the leaks in Kenya, that I would not necessarily have realized, is the degree to which the well-publicized cables give the Kenyan media cover to report facts that are quite well known but that they would not otherwise dare print for fear of libel suits and official displeasure.  Certainly much of what Kenyan politicos tell the Embassy they will have told reporters, or reporters will have learned independently, but couldn’t report until the State Department’s internal “news bureau” was stolen and partially put out on the internet.

Some of the material dates back to the Government’s raid on the Standard media house on March 2, 2006.  Enough of this outrageous incident (really series of incidents) has long been well known that in any country with leadership at all serious about press freedom and the rule of law there would be some people in jail.  Nonetheless, total impunity for each and every player in all of the multiple criminal acts remains the status quo.  While U.S. Ambassador Bellamy was sharply critical at the time, there is no indication that this has been on the public diplomacy agenda since.

It is in this context that observers of the Kenyan scene have to realize that the notion of a Kenyan “Local Tribunal” that would try the kingpins of the Post Election Violence identified by the Waki Commission report was always a pipe dream.

We have a recent report on the killing of former Foreign Minister Ouko, said to have taken place at State House in Nakuru–no action.  We have the circumstances crying out for investigation in the murders of civil rights activists Oscar Kingara and J.P. Oulo–two years have gone by today with no action.

While I agree completely with the notion that as a wholly conceptual matter, a Kenyan tribunal rather than the International Criminal Court would be the best place to try the suspects for the Post Election Violence, it is also quite clear that that was never going to happen.  The will is simply not there–the Government of Kenya has a well established policy of impunity which has served the interests at stake very successfully for many years.  It will not change of its own accord, or through simple persuasion or jawboning.  A “Local Tribunal” in Kenya, if there ever were such a thing, would be a platform for deal making to preserve impunity, not a court of law.  Because the United States is not a member of the ICC, it may well be that we are not so credible as leading advocates of the ICC as the appropriate venue for the election-related trials–nonetheless, I think we should stop indulging political frivolity in the context of these grave crimes.

Related Post on local tribunal.

“Tribute to Dr. Peter Oriare: Media Scholar of Great Repute” and a friend to me, to the International Republican Institute, and to Americans who believe in democracy

Dr. Peter Oriare

“Tribute to Dr. Peter Oriare, Media Scholar of Great Repute”

“University of Nairobi mourns committed teacher”

My friend, Dr. Peter Oriare, was in his own way one of those who got hurt because of the election misconduct in 2007. I was very sad to hear on my return from Washington that while I was at the African Studies Association meeting, Peter died back in Nairobi.  At 45 he was too young, the proud father of young children.  I would greatly encourage anyone interested in Kenyan democracy to read the tribute and story linked above.

I am thankful to have known and worked with Peter.  I certainly relied on him in Kenya.   Along with the local staff at the International Republican Institute in Nairobi he was one of the people that made my year working in Kenya an experience that I will always treasure.  When I arrived in Nairobi in June of 2007, we had funded only our baseline National Endowment for Democracy programming working with parliamentary candidates and our ongoing USAID polling program for which I was approved as Chief of Party the week before.  The current polling program had been in place since an exit poll for the 2005 constitutional referendum,and had most recently included a public opinion survey from that spring which we were just then briefing to prospective presidential candidates.  Peter worked with Strategic Public Relations and Research and was our primary point of contact with the firm as well as teaching and working to finish his doctorate at the University of Nairobi.

When I took over as the fourth American to lead the IRI office under that 2005 polling program, my ability to do my job depended on Peter’s expertise and continuity. Peter had worked with everyone in the IRI office and had been our primary local polling expert partner since 2000, before the IRI office opened in 2002.  The polling program was touted as a major success story for both USAID and for the International Republican Institute in Kenya and Peter was the single most consistent element.  Peter had a strong relationship not only with IRI and the USAID Democracy and Governance program locally but with others in the international democracy community.  He led important work in media monitoring for the 2007 election that was crucial to the international understanding of the situation in Kenya.

Peter believed in transparency and he advocated internally for release of the presidential “horse race” figures from our September 2007 public opinion survey which showed Kibaki leading when most polls were showing Raila as having pulled ahead, and when our contract with USAID was amended to add the 2007 exit poll, he expected to release it as well.  The established policy reason that IRI did not release the “horse race” numbers comparing the presidential candidates in our pre-election public opinion surveys–that we wanted to support democracy by informing the public, policy makers and politicians with out having a direct impact on the race itself–obviously did not come into play on the exit poll when people would have already voted when it would be released.

I pushed Peter and Strategic hard in negotiating the contract for the exit poll in the fall of 2007.  We had a modest amount of additional funding from USAID, and some money from Dr. Clark Gibson at the University of California, San Diego–and we had overhead in Washington and Nairobi.  Because it was obviously a close race, we needed results that were methodologically sound and statistically valid at the provincial level and not just the national level, to be able to evaluate the presidential threshold of 25% of the vote in five provinces.   I needed substantially more work from Strategic than they had done in the 2002 and 2005 exit polls, which were universally accepted as successful, but in elections that were not as close.  Ultimately we agreed on the additional work for very little additional money given Kenya’s inflation, and the poll was well executed as millions of Kenyas voted peacefully.

The preliminary results called in by cellphone–which were  obtained by USAID and given to the Ambassador on election day–even though such reporting was entirely outside the scope of anything in the USAID agreement with IRI and I didn’t want anything to get out while the polls were still open–had Raila ahead by a margin of roughly 8 points.  When the actual surveys were obtained and coded and necessary adjustments made for situations such as the seizure of some questionnaires by police–some of which were recovered and some not–the final figure was roughly 6 points.  This was the number in Nairobi in mid-January, 2008 with all the surveys back and coded.  That  was the number on February 7 when someone “inside the Beltway” in Washington decided to throw Peter under the bus by publishing internationally a statement from IRI that poll was “invalid” after State Department and USAID officials were questioned about it by then Subcommittee Chairman Feingold at his hearing in the Senate.  That was the number when I turned over the original questionnaires to my successor in Nairobi in May 2008; the number when the results were released in July at CSIS in Washington by UCSD after IRI’s six month embargo; and the number soon thereafter when the New York Times called me working on their story and asked for an interview.   It was still the number when IRI released the results in August–reconfirmed by a firm in Oklahoma–the day before the UCSD testimony at the Kriegler Commission;  and it is still the number  today, when the poll has been used in published work from scholars in Asia and Europe, as well as in Africa and the United States.

Peter had every right to be proud of his work on this exit poll and it was rightly noted by Rosemary Okello in her tribute as a part of his positive legacy for Kenyan democracy, and for polling and scholarship everywhere.

This is what I wrote in recommending Peter on Linked-In in 2009:

Peter is a true professional, with a strong commitment to his work and high values. He is calm under pressure. He offers deep knowledge and experience and I would be very pleased to have the opportunity to work with him again in the future. July 6, 2009

Top qualities: Personable , Expert

Ken hired Peter in 2007, and hired him/her more than once.

_______________________________________________________________________

THE Book on Recent Kenyan Politics to Read in 2011

The Politics of Betrayal; Diary of a Kenyan Legislator by former journalist and MP Joe Khamisi was published early this year and made a big stir in Nairobi with portions being serialized in The Nation.  Khamisi is definitely not your average politician in that he got a journalism degree from the University of Maryland, worked for years as a journalist, and became managing director of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and worked in the foreign service before being elected to parliament from Bahari on the Coast in 2002.

Khamisi was part of the LDP, the Liberal Democratic Party, and in 2007 became an ODM-K insider with Kalonzo.  While there is inherent subjectivity in a political memoir from one particular actor, Khamisi’s background in journalism serves him well.  While I cannot vouch for his accounts of specific incidents that I do not have any direct knowledge of, and I do not necessarily agree with his perspective on some things and people, he seems to try to be fair and there is much that he writes that rings true to me from my own interactions and observations in the 2007 campaign.

From his chapter on “The Final Moments” of the 2007 race, at page 223:

It needs to be said at this point that Kalonzo’s appointment as Vice President was neither an afterthought by Kibaki, nor a patriotic move by Kalonzo to save the country from chaos.  It was not a miracle either.  It was a deliberate, calculated, and planned affair meant to stop the ODM from winning the presidency.  It was conceived, discussed and sealed more than two months before the elections.  It was purely a strategic political move; a sort of pre-election pact between two major political players.  It was s survival technique meant to save Kibaki and Kalonzo from possible humiliation.

In our secret discussions with Kibaki, we did not go beyond the issue of the Vice Presidency and the need for an alliance between ODM-Kenya and PNU.  We, for example, did not discuss the elections themselves; the mechanisms to be used to stop Raila; nor did we discuss whether part of that mechanism was to be the manipulation of the elections.  It appeared though that PNU insiders had a far wider plan, and the plan, whatever it was, was executed with the full connivance of the ECK .  What happened at the KICC tallying centre–even without thinking about who won or lost–lack transparency and appeared to be a serious case of collusion involving the ECK and officials at the highest levels of government.  It was not a coincidence that the lights went off at the very crucial moment when the results were about to be announced; nor was it necessary for the para-military units to intervene in what was purely an administrative matter.  The entire performance of ECK Chairman Kivuitu and some of the Commissioners was also suspect and without doubt contributed to the violence that followed.