What Wangari Maathai had to say during the Post Election Violence

Interview on NPR’s Tell Me More, January 17, 2008, “Nobel Laureate Explains Kenya’s Battle for Peace”:

Dr. MAATHAI: I believe that  what we are experiencing is the reason that I lost the seat. Since the year 2003, I’ve been trying to tell our side of the government that it is very important to accommodate Raila Odinga and his team, who at that time, were part of the government.

But we have agreed in a written memorandum of understanding that we would share a power a certain way. And that we did not do when we formed the government. And that was actually the beginning of this problem – that many other issues have happened in between. And for me, because I’ve been raising my voice and been telling the government that we need to listen to what the people are saying, we need to pay attention to the public opinion led by Raila and his team, I was perceived it to be anti-President Kibaki. I was projected as an anti-Kibaki person in the media that is dominantly supporting President Kibaki. And so I was punished for really trying to tell the people that we need to avoid the kind of crisis we are now in.

.  .  .  .

Burundi: “Back to Square One” politically after ten years of power sharing? [Update 9-14]

From a new story on IRIN today assessing the state of democracy in the "other" partner in the East African Community:

“We convened on a political system liable to take into account both the political and ethnic dimensions of Burundi’s problem,” recalled Jean-Baptiste Manwangari, one of the Tutsi negotiators who worked on the pact. “It was a democratic system functioning much on the basis of a consensus and dialogue instead of a system of majority [rule], which for Burundi was likely to bring forth dictatorship.”

Now, according to one civil servant, Burundi has “gone back to square one… a [new] political accord needs to be negotiated to bring the opposition back on board.”

The pre-Arusha winner-takes-all style of politics is dangerous because it “creates a kind of survival strategy for the losers”, explained Pacifique Nininahazwe, head of the Forum pour le Renforcement de la Societé Civile, a coalition of civil society organizations outlawed in 2009.

“If the ruling party behaves in the same way as other victorious parties did in the past, the losers will adopt the same survival mechanisms,” he added.

One-party warning

The more than two-thirds parliamentary majority won by the CNDD-FDD “will transform the state from a multiparty system to essentially one-party dominance”, Henri Boschoff and Ralph Ellermann warned in a paper for the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies – Elections without competition and no peace without participation: where might it go from here.

“Ultimately [this] could have a highly detrimental effect on peace and democracy in Burundi,” they wrote, arguing that “the reluctance of Nkurunziza and the CNDD-FDD to govern the country in the spirit of its power-sharing constitution … drove the political climate towards a hostile environment where trust between the parties and in the constitution dissolved.

“Burundi is at risk of civil disobedience… The worst-case scenario would be a rebellion [against] state institutions caused by opposition parties,” the paper warned.

Update: See at the Africa Works blog “A Great African Journalist Sheds Tears for Burundi”.

New Academic Work on African “Power Sharing” from Carl LeVan at American University

I wanted to take time to commend to your reading list a forthcoming article entitled “Power Sharing and Inclusive Politics in Africa’s Uncertain Democracies” to appear in the January issue of “Governance: an International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions” available through Carl LeVan’s blog.

I won’t try to summarize in a blog post but let me offer some quotes that may intice you to take time to read the paper for yourself:

The power of elections to serve as a democratizing agent evaporates though when political authority can be negotiated independent of institutions. Without the possibility of political turnover, leadership selection yields neither uncertainty about outcomes nor institutional credibility for the process. Power sharing pacts in Kenya and Zimbabwe offer a cautionary tale because they serve as substitutes for political liberalization rather than engines for it. . . . .

. . . .

In other words, African cultural norms appear to embrace an expectation of democratic competition which empowers citizens. Elite bargains therefore drive a wedge between politicians and citizens. The international community exacerbates this preference gap when it provides an element of legitimacy externally that (corrupt) elections fail to bestow internally.

. . . .

. . . mandated inclusion formally weds governments to unsustainable levels of spending. Power sharing emerges as resource distribution, rather than an aggregating device for for formulating a shared policy agenda. . . .

. . . .

The international community shares a measure of complicity. It buttresses institutional capacity by praising decent elections in Ghana and Zambia and then it undermines institution building by renegotiating the rules or by relying on presumed virtues of self-proclaimed democrats. Julius Nyerere, independent Tanzania’s first president once said “Leadership cannot replace democracy.” Supporting African democracy now requires strengthening institutions with the capacity to formulate competing interests and the courage to respect the risks inherent in certain levels of competition. As donors weigh the competing foreign policy goals mentioned in the introduction, they should respect the differences between strengthening democracy and the post-9/11 predisposition for strengthening states. Post-election pacts oftern promote the latter at the expense of the former, and this distinction should not be lost in the discourse on institution building.

“Two years on, Kenya mediation success fails reality test”–“almost a perfect conspiracy against the Kenyan people”

NAIROBI (AFP) by Jean-Marc Mojon– In March 2008, Kenya’s reconciled foes were trumpeting ambitious reforms and the international community was basking in the glory of a rare African crisis-resolution success.
. . . .
“Something had to be done to end the conflict but perhaps it could have been better thought through,” said Mati, who heads the Mars Kenya Group political watchdog.

Kenyans’ faith in their rulers is at its lowest, the pledged reforms are nowhere to be seen and many argue that, as the government doubled in size to accommodate feuding parties, so did corruption.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan, the chief mediator two years ago, and the Western powers that helped him broker the accord are constantly reminding Kenya of its pledges and sounding alarm bells over impunity and resurgent tribalism.

On at least his fifth visit to Kenya since the signing, Annan on Friday again spoke of “concerns and frustrations”.

“The international community and the mediation team believed in this agreement more than the Kenyans did,” argued Tom Wolf, a Kenya-based governance consultant and pollster.

The incumbent President Kibaki was behind then opposition leader Odinga in opinion polls but surged past his rival in the final stages of a delayed and confused vote-counting process.

The internationally-backed commission probing the ballot claimed it could not determine a victor, Annan urged Kenyans not to dwell on the past and some Western diplomats admitted that knowing who won was the last of their concerns.

The feuding camps “were forced into marriage without opening the pandora’s box of the election’s real outcome,” Wolf said.

A US government-paid exit poll by the International Republican Institute gave Odinga the edge but was kept secret and a Gallup poll nine months later showed that only 25 percent of Kenyans thought Kibaki had won.

As a result, the basis of the power-sharing deal was perceived as being quite different by either side.

What was touted at the time as a 50-50 deal Prime Minister Odinga himself now bemoans as a raw deal, with Kibaki’s people holding the interior, justice, finance and foreign afffairs portfolios.

The dysfunctions of the coalition have been plain to observe since, culminating in Odinga sacking two ministers implicated in graft scandals last month only to see his move vetoed by Kibaki.

Wolf argued that the colossal reform wishlist the West slapped on the newly-formed coalition would be “overwhelming for any government, however unified and well-intentioned.”

“It was as if Western diplomats were trying to prove they were still relevant. The crisis made them look incompetent because they didn’t predict it,” he said.

One of them admitted to shortcomings and also highlighted an undesired side-effect.

“Given other instances in Africa since Kenya, I think we need to look at the message we sent,” said the diplomat on condition of anonymity, referring to political unrest in Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

“I think many authoritarian regimes could see the scenario as rather attractive: you want to stay in power so you rig the election, raise the spectre of ethnic violence and wait for a panicked international community to broker a power-sharing deal,” the diplomat argued.

Despite its poor performance over the past two years, the prospect of the coalition’s collapse following recent skirmishes is met with fear that ethnic strife could be re-ignited.

But Mati argued that while they may not manage to agree on substance, Kenya’s foes were happy to keep the shell as it is.

“The truth is that Kibaki won’t end it because it would end his presidency, Odinga won’t end it because it’s as prime minister he gets attention and the ministers won’t end it because they have ministries to run and loot,” he said.

“It’s almost a perfect conspiracy against the Kenyan people.”

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

Kenyan Constitutional Reform and Michel Martin interview with Johnnie Carson

NPR’s Michel Martin interviewed Obama’s Asst. Secretary of State for Africa last week on “Tell Me More”–transcript is up on NPR.org.

Interesting that Martin starts with Kenya and the second anniversary of the election violence.  Carson is very specific that Kenya needs a new constitution and that it needs to include “a sharing of power” between “the” president and “the” prime minister, devolution of power to the provinces, and “a land reform bill”.  This raises the question of what the US role might be in moving the constitutional negotiation in that direction–and why.

Also significant is that Carson specifies the new constitution in the context of increased “goodwill and cooperation” among the current Kenyan political players.  Nothing said about impunity, the ICC, justice, corruption, et al.

Personally, I am more interested in “power sharing” between branches of government than in having a shared executive role, which in my view doesn’t do much for accountability.  I’m old enough to remember (from junior high school days) the brief flirtation with the idea of a Ford and Reagan “co-presidency” at the Republican Party convention.  Seems like everyone ended up agreeing it just wasn’t workable here.  It’s hard to make this succeed as a compromise deal negotiated between two individuals; not sure it isn’t harder to come up with a way to structure it systemically as a permanent choice in the constitution.

Land reform is crucial, of course, and the problem gets worse and worse as the population grows at a 2.7% clip–but the present Kenyan instutitions and the present crop of political leaders are, to my way of thinking, “no how, no way” ready, willing or able to tackle this until other reforms are effectuated.  Start by admitting that the problems are, in fact, unfixable and have no good solutions.  There is a price to be paid for all those years of corruption, venality and tribalism.  I wonder what the United States and other Western countries were doing about this back when the Kenyan population was 20 million instead of 40 million and the options were better? 

Regardless of any of the policy preferences of any of us in the US, however, I do completely agree that Kenyans need the opportunity to have the constitutional reform process move forward at pace, and go to vote in a referendum on the final product.  It seems to me that Kenyans are pretty well aware at this point that, in general, the political leadership does not have their best interests all that much in mind–giving the public the opportunity to have a direct say, for the first time since December 27, 2007 is crucial to restoring functional democracy.