Trump Administration’s top diplomat for Africa visits Nairobi; public statements adjusted to advocate for “national conversation” as substitute for “national dialogue”

I was pleasantly surprised by the previous statements from the State Department both from Washington and in Nairobi, calling for “national dialogue” in the wake of Kenya’s fraught and objectionably violent environment in the wake of the boycotted October 26 presidential re-run.

In the latest release from Washington on December 4 the State Department said, “the Acting Assistant Secretary will travel to Nairobi, Kenya from December 4-6, where he will meet with representatives of the Kenyan government, as well as with Kenyan civil society. The visit will encourage all sides in Kenya to participate in a national dialogue following the presidential election.” (emphasis added)

Today, however, following the talks, a new statement was issued–by the Ambassador–backing off from the language “national dialogue”. Instead, along with a call for Odinga to back off on a “people’s swearing in”, and a generic call for protesters to avoid violence and the Government’s security forces to avoid unnecessary killing and to investigate themselves on the outstanding accusations that they had been doing so, the State Department now recommends a “national conversation”.

Why is this different? Well, you would have to ask the Embassy or Main State Department and/or the White House why they changed the language, but “national dialogue” is a clear reference to the formal process resulting from the February 2008 settlement agreement between Kibaki and Raila leading to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report (censored and held in abeyance by the Uhuruto Administration–an issue in the August election), the Kriegler Commission on the 2007 Election (leading to the buyout of the Kivuitu led ECK), the Waki Commission on the Post Election Violence (leading to the aborted ICC prosecutions) and constitutional reform process that led to the 2010 Referendum adopting the new Constitution which mandates the 2/3 gender rule (declined so far), diaspora voting (mostly declined so far), devolution (in process), and such. A “national conversation” is a nice notion and probably a good thing to do here in the United States as well as anywhere else culturally divisive politics.

See “Reformers vs. The Status Quo: Is it possible to have free and fair polls” by Eliud Kibii in The Elephant to put the current election disputes and contest in the complete post-Cold War context.

Update: Ambassador Godec’s tweet of Dec 11:

NASA’s decision yesterday is a positive step. We again call for a sustained, open, and transparent national conversation involving all Kenyans to build national unity and address long-standing issues.

My piece on police reform in The Star: “Could Kimaiyo be Kenya’s Kivuitu of 2013?”

“Could Kimaiyo be Kenya’s Kivuitu of 2013?”

.  .  .  .

. . . [H]e is in a new position set down on top of an old and dysfunctional organisation that he has inherited and that he does not have time to change before the election.

The news already reports a rift over appointment authority between Kimaiyo and the chair of the new National Police Service Commission—the kind of kinks in a new system that should be expected and that inevitably take time.

Ultimately, Kimaiyo even on paper, is only one member of the National Security Council. Even though he has some additional theoretical authority, he is to implement rather than set the government’s security policy.

Like Samuel Kivuitu in the weeks before the election in 2007, he has respect and credibility from his past, but he is one man only, one vote on security policy, and not fully in control of what will happen even within the police service at this point. This should be a sobering thought in light of what we all saw play out in the last election.

Follow the link to read the whole piece from the Star.

FYI, this was submitted for publication before the back and forth in the campaigns about alleged involvement of civil servants in politics.

Please also read this from Pheroze Nowrojee in the Star, “Of Civil Servants and our Politics”:

The Inspector-General of Police, David Kimaiyo issued a public statement that politicians should not discuss land ownership in their campaigns. He did not suggest that there was any breach of the law by any politician. Yet he called for a gag. He was stepping into the political arena. He was abridging the Bill of Rights. Kimaiyo too was way out of line.

More Kenyan-U.S. Diplomatic History: Kenyatta’s health and succession; status of whites; military assistance

For those of us who would still like to have a better understanding of what went wrong with the last Kenyan election, and how to do better this year, it’s worth taking advantage of the passage of time (and the declassification and publication of the kind of things that we don’t have yet from 2007) to see more clearly how U.S. and Kenyan leaders have interacted over time.  And in looking at the 1970s, while Kenyatta is no longer with us, he casts a broad shadow, and Scowcroft and Moi are of course very much still around.

MEMORANDUM

  • OF CONVERSATION
  • PARTICIPANTS:
  • Brent Scowcroft
  • Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall
  • Robert S. Smith
  • SUBJECT:
  • Current Situation in Kenya

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

DATE & TIME: Wednesday – October 13, 1976 5:45 p.m.

PLACE: Scowcroft’s Office

Ambassador Marshall summarized the present security and political situation in Kenya. The GOK very much appreciated our moral support during the Uganda crisis. They believe this brought the Ugandans to the conference table. Ambassador Marshall remains pessimistic, however, about Uganda’s capacity for destabilizing Kenya. He does not expect an invasion, but he does see the continuation and increase of terrorist activities from Uganda. Nevertheless, he thinks that the ultimate threat to Kenya comes from Somalia with Soviet support. He also sees Tanzania’s economic difficulties and political policies affecting Kenya.

Ambassador Marshall believes that our interests in Kenya are to see the country remain stable. Military and economic aid and political reassurances from us can help. He sees Kenya as a buffer among the East African states and a means of slowing down Soviet penetration in East Africa. He believes that continuing stability in Kenya might even turn some of the other countries in the region to Kenya’s way of thinking. [Note: Unfortunately, African nations do not learn economic stability from one another.]

Ambassador Marshall said we have excellent bilateral relations with Kenyatta. Kenyatta is very pleased to be receiving our arms aid even though we are one of several suppliers. We have stressed the defensive purpose of our arms aid.

Ambassador Marshall turned over to General Scowcroft a letter from President Kenyatta to President Ford. It covers two principal issues. One is the possibility that the U.S. will provide a “fly past” in Kenya on December 12, Kenya’s independence day. This was discussed by Secretary Kissinger when he was in Nairobi in September. General Scowcroft knew of the proposal but did not know whether there would be an aircraft carrier available in the area at the time. If not, he said the planes could be ferried down.

The second important issue in the letter is Kenyatta’s prospective visit to the United States. Unfortunately, according to Ambassador Marshall, although Kenyatta knew about the trip in advance of Secretary Kissinger’s visit, he had not told his staff about it. The room was full of people when Secretary Kissinger brought it up and the invitation for November 10 drew a laugh from staff members who could not understand the implications of a date which followed our elections. Kenyatta himself did not understand that, in the event that President Ford was defeated, he would still be in office until late January.

General Scowcroft inquired as to Kenyatta’s health and the prospect that he could really travel to the U.S. Ambassador Marshall explained that Kenyatta has a blood clot which occasionally causes total unconsciousness for periods up to one and a half days. This has occurred three times in the past year. The rest of the time Kenyatta is in good health for a man of 84.

Ambassador Marshall noted that a move to change the constitutional provision for a 90-day Vice Presidential succession when the President dies was squashed. Nevertheless, said Marshall, we should not put all our eggs in Vice President Moi’s basket. There are other potential candidates and so far Kenyatta has not named anyone. [Note: There are indications Kenyatta does not favor Moi.] Marshall said that part elections which are expected in early 1977 (for the first time since 1966) may fill three senior vacancies and thus be a clue to the succession.

As to the post-Kenyatta era, Marshall sees the continuation of civilian government, slightly to the left of the present government. There would be tribal disturbances but the situation would remain stable. There is a good civil service and the Kenyans are interested in maintaining foreign investment and a sound economy.

General Scowcroft asked about the status of whites in Kenya and Ambassador Marshall replied that they flourish. Scowcroft was impressed.

General Scowcroft asked about the status of the MAP program and Ambassador Marshall said that it was on schedule and the Kenyans were highly satisfied. We have requested the Kenyans to accept a U.S. Defense Attache but we are not pushing it. General Scowcroft agreed that we should not push.

There was a brief discussion of the Seychelles, to which Ambassador Marshall is also accredited. The Ambassador referred to the importance of tourism to those islands. The U.S. has an Air Force tracking station there with 300 Americans. [text not declassified] We are concerned that the Prime Minister, Mancham, is flirting with the Communists.

1 Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 3, Kenya. Confidential. The meeting took place in Scowcroft’s office. All brackets are in the original memorandum. The letter from Kenyatta to Ford, dated September 28, is ibid.