Kenya elections: State Dept declassifies memo of Jan 3, 2008 telecon between Secretary Rice and H.R. Javier Solana on “power sharing”

I originally sought this document in a separate FOIA in 2009 because it seemed to me in Nairobi in real time as Chief of Party for the USAID-funded exit poll and election observation programs that this Rice/Solana conversation marked a key  point for Kibaki in locking down a second term. Up until that time, as best I could tell, the EU supported remediation of the bad election (stolen through bribery as I was told by a diplomatic source later that January during the continued violence as I have written) whereas US Ambassador Ranneberger moved to support “power sharing” as soon as the initial U.S. congratulations to Kibaki were withdrawn.  That same day the Kenyan Attorney General called for an investigation of the alleged election results (such an investigation never in substance happened, although it was a key proviso of the February 2008 settlement agreement between Kibaki on behalf of PNU and Odinga on behalf of ODM and the legislation entering the deal into Kenyan law).

The document was withheld in full on national security grounds in the original 2010 FOIA response and again on appeal, then again in 2016 on a follow up Mandatory Declassification Review request after the requisite two year wait.  Today’s mail was the favorable response to my September 2016 appeal..

See from my page with a chronology of links for the election (in particular BBC’s January 3 “Tic-Toc”):


EA Standard–”Envoy predicts free and fair election” (and praises Kenyan administration on corruption), Dec 18 07

Daily Nation–”Local Firm Conducted Exit Poll Expected to Give Provisional Presidential Results”, Dec 28 07

Somaliland Times–”Kenya: Preliminary Findings of IRI’s International Election Observation Mission” Dec 28 ’07

IRI–“Reuters cites IRI Opinion on Kenyan election” Dec. 28 ’07 

EU Election Observation–Statement on Announcement of Presidential Results, Dec 30 ’07

VOA–”US Congratulates Kenya Presidential Vote Winner, EU Monitors Question Results” Dec 30, ’07

Global Voices–“Is Kenya turning into a police state?” Dec 31 07

Telegraph-“Kenya could be facing it’s greatest crisis” Dec 31 07

VOA–”Britain Expresses Concern About Kenyan Election Results” Dec 31 07

EU Election Observation–Preliminary Statement, Jan 1 08

NY Times–”Fighting Intensifies After Election in Kenya” Jan 1, ’08

Telegraph–EU calls for inquiry into Kenya election Jan 1 ’08

Slate–”What’s Really Going on in Kenya?” Jan 2, ’08

USAToday- “Kenyan official calls for vote probe” Jan 3, ’08

BBC- “At a glance: Kenya unrest” Jan 3, ’08

CBS/National Review Online–”Inside Kenya’s Clumsily Rigged Election” Jan 4, ’08

IFES–“Kenya at the crossroads” Jan 4, ’08

Here we go again–checking in on Kenya’s presidential campaign

I appreciate your indulgence during an informal hiatus–I am transitioning to my new private law practice (and we have raccoons in the attic at my house, school is out, etc.). It has also been useful to step back a bit from posting to catch up on some long form reading and allow reflection on context and larger themes.


It strikes me that in Kenya we are once again seeing the campaign mode where there is big political news every day, but almost all of it is ephemeral and not really worth writing about separately from the daily news reports. In the bigger picture, there are indications of real uncertainty this time that were not as much present in the last campaign.

Last cycle the action was more clearly organized in two blocs with the early questions being (a) the ODM nomination and whether “the opposition” would stay together in ODM or fragment and (b) who would get the highest spot on Kibaki’s coattails through his choice of a party and otherwise how he would put his re-election campaign together.

It was not until well into September last time that Kibaki’s announced the formation of the “Party of National Unity” as a not quite defined hybrid of a party or a coalition of parties. By about that time, according to the later Congressional Research Service reports, Kibaki insiders acknowledged that he wouldn’t win the election. Nonetheless, what seemed to many outside his inner circle as lethargy, or even indecisiveness and lack of motivation, was likely “quiet confidence”. He controlled the Electoral Commission if he wanted to and as President was master of his own destiny.

At the time of the announcement of PNU as Kibaki’s vehicle in September the latest possible time for the elections was late December, with Kibaki having the option to dissolve Parliament early and have an early election. Compare to this season’s announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta of TNA, “The National Alliance”–there seems to be very little likelihood of a pre-December election and the IEBC has announced a set date of March 4, 2013. Reports have surfaced of discussions of further delay in recognition that the reach of the ambitions for a technologically advanced process may exceed the grasp of the IEBC as a new, internally divided and subsidiary player within Kenyan governance.

So Kenyatta, who is the only “establishment” candidate of who seriously contends with Odinga as the dominant “opposition” candidate in national polls in recent months, is not “laying back” as was Kibaki. In part this surely because he has “heel biting” from various other people from the core and periphery of the Kibaki camp, but I think it also derives from the same underlying underlying uncertainty that leaves some of these others with hopes of becoming themselves the anti-Odinga contender. Will some outside force remove Kenyatta from the race?

Intoxication from the ICC process is giving way to the reality of an “overhang hangover”–the ICC has been clear that it intends to proceed as its track record indicates, with “deliberate speed” during the campaign. It has only been a little more than fours years since the crimes against humanity took place in Kenya’s post election period, for heaven’s sake. From whence came the notion that the ICC process might be near finality before the next Kenyan election unless the result was a dismissal of all charges at an early stage? Nonetheless, there are other possibilities.

For instance, what will Mutunga do? Would he provoke a showdown between Kenya’s newly partially reformed judicial branch and the executive branch and the Kenyatta scion over the standards in the new constitution to qualify for election? And if so, who would win?

Perhaps the most deeply symbolic event in Kenyan politics since the August 2010 referendum on the new constitution was the invitation of Sudan’s al Bashir to the subsequent ceremonies without regard to Kenya’s obligations as an ICC member party. It was as if the “owners” we’re saying to the “reformers”: “you have your new law, just don’t read too much into it”. But maybe they won’t have the final word this time.

Toi Market-Nairobi

Kibaki’s PNU seeks Government Control over Political Opinion Polls [Updated]

From the Star, “Ban Opinion Polls — PNU”:

President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity is now planning to control opinion polls. A team of PNU lawyers working with MPs Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo) and John Muthutho (Naivasha) are drafting a Bill to control opinion polls conducted by research companies and even media houses.

Kamau yesterday filed a party motion in Parliament calling for regulation of opinion polls. The Bill will create an Opinion Polls Control Board to regulate the conduct of surveys.

One clause under consideration is a requirement that the Board approves all questionnaires in advance and authorise results of surveys before they are released to the public. The Bill is intended to end political opinion polls altogether, according to inside sources.

Yesterday Kamau, the PNU vice chairman, confirmed the upcoming crackdown. “Mututho and I are working on a Bill that will put discipline and restore professionalism in the operations of research so far as opinion polls are concerned. This will be in the House in a matter of weeks,” said Kamau.

In April Synovate said that Prime Minister Raila Odinga was the preferred 2012 candidate was for 38% of Kenyans; Uhuru 18%, Kalonzo 13% and Ruto 8%. PNU politicians, including Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, have been criticising political opinion polls in recent months. Kalonzo accused research companies, especially the market leader Synovate, of doctoring opinion polls in favour of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

.  .  .  .

Yesterday the Managing Director of the Synovate Kenya George Waititu said that the research industry will suffer severely if the two MPs and the PNU succeeded in pushing government into regulating the industry. “This is actually war on the freedom of expression and an attempt by the two MPs to gag the media because it is the media that publishes those polls,” Waititu said.

He explained that opinion polls should be allowed to flourish as it allows citizens to express their opinions on matters relating to governance and other fundamental issues. “The proposed legislation will only introduce bureaucracies that will keep marketing research companies out of business,” he said.

Waititu said ethics and ‘push-polling’ were matters of concern, but government involvement will only undermine the democratic practices. Waititu said research companies in Kenya operate under the Market and Social Research Association that has rules governing their operations. Other researchers in Kenya include Infotrak, Consumer Insight and Strategic Research.

In the months before the 2007 election the Government proposed draconian regulation of the media.  Now, with elections coming again, there are those in power who seek control over polling.  No big surprise as long as it is appreciated how the last election went.

The performance and professionalism of the polling industry in Kenya compares quite favorably to that of Parliament and certainly of any Kenyan government regulatory authority I encountered.  As IRI director, I continued a successful relationship with Strategic and also used Synovate for a key pre-election poll.

In general terms, the development of polling in Kenya is a success story–and it is for that reason that it threatens politicians who want to have the unilateral power to tell the public, through a docile media, what “the facts on the ground” are.

[IRI played a role over a period of years in the development of polling, through its USAID funded survey program, including the exit polls in the 2002 election and the 2005 referendum.  This is part of why I was offended at the decision of IRI’s Washington office to denigrate the quality of the 2007 exit poll to justify not releasing it in January and February 2008.  IRI corrected itself in August 2008 and released the exit poll results at that time after they were released by the University of California, San Diego team in Washington.  Obviously a Government of Kenya “Control Board” would have made sure that the exit poll showing the opposition winning never saw the light of day.]

Update:  The Daily Nation, “MP’s plan to regulate opinion polls opposed”:

Synovate and Strategic Research demanded involvement in the drafting of a Bill on the polls should the Party of National Unity’s MPs go ahead with a motion that was filed in the House on Wednesday.

Mr George Waititu of Synovate and Mr Caesar Handa of Strategic Research termed the attempt by MPs Jamleck Kamau and John Mututho as a step backwards.

“We are operating in a political market in which there is a lot of information in the public domain. One would hate to go back to the dark days when only politicians could give out information,” said Mr Waititu.