Something about the American election from the day before . . .

From my personal Facebook page yesterday, something I wanted to share with my friends:

As I was born between the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy assassination, back during the “Mississippi Burning” era, it’s a bit hard for me to go too far down the road about how exceptionally apocalyptic this particular election is. 

I will also note that if the wolf is really at the door this time, it is only to be expected that so many people can’t hear the warnings because so many people were screaming “wolf” about each of the the last two people who got elected.

Likewise, it seems pretty silly to me to think that we should look to anyone that fights to the top of the dogpile in our current politics for grand moral or spiritual leadership–just because we have generally run down or torn down other institutions does not mean that we can find a substitute in politics. Sure we have a pretty decadent culture in many ways–how have our serially reactive choices for president since the late 70s really made a big impact on this? We are also, of course, in some ways better than we we were 50 years ago.

None of us has a crystal ball and it is very much guesswork to know how the next presidential term will play out–we have to do our best but we ought to be humble enough not to claim certainty about future events. If Trump, who I could never vote for, wins, I’m not going to give up on my country, nor if Hillary wins am I going to suddenly decide that she doesn’t need to be “watched like a hawk” so to speak. Personally, I have a good record of being as gullible as the next person in voting.

Closing out polling station and presidential count: amazing Kenyans exceed 80% turnout in spite of technology failure

Okay, congratulations are in order for a great job by presiding officers and polling clerks, and incredibly patient voters at the polling centre where I spent the late afternoon and on until finishing the presidential count and posting the signed off results on the door to be photographed at the stream I was covering.

Everyone got better at adapting to the absence of the technology and the cumbersome process and voters moved much faster through the remaining lines in late afternoon and early evening. Having stood in the hot son all day in huge lines surely motivated everyone to get done, but essentially no grousing was to be heard where I was at that point.

Turnout at the stream I closed was 626 valid votes cast for president from 755 registered voters. So over 80%. The boxes were jammed full of ballots but the system worked. Totals for president were Odinga 433, Kenyatta 170, Mudavadi 8, Kenneth 7 and the rest less. Dida was the only presidential candidate in that stream to get 0.

Will post “snaps” soon.

“The Devil Made Him Do It”; Why I am going to boycott writing about Kenya’s presidential race

Reflecting on the state of the Kenyan presidential race in its closing weeks, I had come to the conclusion that there was very little I should say, because it seemed that there was just too much “backstory” and intrigue behind the scenes that was not in the media and I was not privy to.  It becomes misleading to pretend that what is apparent on the surface counts for more than it really does.  Certainly a crucial lesson from the 2007 election.

Today, as voter registration is wrapping up, Musalia Mudavdi has revealed and Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted that the two signed in the presence of their lawyers an agreement two weeks ago, on the “coalition” deadline, for Kenyatta to step aside in favor of Mudavadi for the TNA/URP/UDF–“Jubilee Alliance” nomination.  Facing a revolt within his TNA party, Uhuru now wants out of the deal on the basis that he signed under the pressure of powerful forces who claimed that such a move would be in the national interest of Kenya.

The Standard: “Uhuru rescinds decision to back Mudavadi”

Uhuru rescinded his support for Mudavadi as Jubilee presidential candidate and said the decision on who will carry the alliance mantle rests with delegates.
He confirmed authoring the document and signed it but claimed that he was coerced by ‘the devil’.
He said on Tuesday that powerful forces convinced him that his presidential bid was bad for the nation as Kenya would face international sanctions if he wins the elections and that Kenyans were not ready for another president from Mt Kenya.
He confirmed that MPs forced him to rescind his decision and said only delegates will sign.

In the meantime, the IEBC voter registration effort is wrapping up.  It appears that the final totals will be well short of the announced goal of 18 million voters, but in excess of the new fallback target the IEBC announced of 12 million (or 1/3 less).  The 2007 figure was 14,294,739 per the IRI/UCSD/USAID Exit Poll.

List of Kenya’s Presidential aspirants on Social Media

From the Sunday Nation, the list of Kenyan Presidential aspirants using social media:

Presidential aspirants Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, William Ruto, Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, James ole Kiyiapi, Kingwa Kamencu, George Wajackoyah, Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, Musalia Mudavadi, Cyrus Jirongo, Eugene Wamalwa, and Moses Weteng’ula are now using websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and You Tube to directly interact with voters. Only David Maillu has no Facebook or Twitter account.


In the 2007 campaign and aftermath, blogs were a significant source of information and advocacy, but not generally officially associated with campaigns, and SMS text messaging was widely used; otherwise, this is a big shift in how candidates and campaigns can reach, persuade and organize potential voters, especially through mobile internet.

Observations about the Kenyan and American Presidential Cycle for 2012

-Four years ago I was just moving to Nairobi.  The “Housing Bubble” was still inflated, along with the broader “Finance Bubble”.   The Bush Administration had become deeply controversial and substantially unpopular, in particular because of Iraq, along with some of the whole Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay scenario in Congress that helped the Democrats retake the House in 2006.

-At that time, neither John McCain, the long time chairman of the International Republican Institute, for which I was going to work, nor Barack Obama, the young, fresh-faced green black Senator from Illinois, looked to the pundit class to be likely nominees for President.  McCain had stumbled from his incumbent front-runner status, with various others seeming to emerge.  Obama, obviously, needed to cap his expectations at a running mate slot if he did really well.

-It was interesting that Obama’s father had been from Kenya, and that Obama had written a memoir in part about growing up essentially without that father, but with some awareness of who he was and some communication, and then finally a visit to Kenya as a young adult.  It would never, ever have occurred to me to imagine that later, many millions of Americans could imagine that Senator Obama had been born in Kenya, smuggled into the United States secretly and his story concocted as part of a vast conspiracy by someone for some purpose deeply dangerous to the country.  That all these years his birth in Kenya had been known in Kenya but kept secret in the United States.

-Now that the President has gone to some lengths to make a very high profile release of the State of Hawaii’s actual “long form” certificate to supplement his previous release of a copy of his own birth certificate, the politicians who tried to advance their careers by enabling this nonsense have been damaged and the President’s re-election prospects improved.

-So why the exact timing?

It seems to me that Obama’s people would likely have assumed initially that the whole “birther thing” would die down, rather than grow, after he took office.  I would have.  I wouldn’t have been cynical enough about Republican politicians to realize how many would refuse to disown it or would even tacitly encourage it.

At some point it must have become clear that it should be addressed for the 2012 campaign.  So why wait so long?  Maybe the “rope a dope” factor.  Why interrupt “silly season” among people who are obviously going to be attacking you on some basis, until the time that more independent minded people are starting to think about who to vote for next year?

The conventional wisdom in the media seems to stick with the narrative that this was a “response” to Donald Trump dictated by the traction Trump was suddenly getting through the media.   Maybe, but I haven’t noticed the sourced reporting on this, as opposed to the repetition of assumption from circumstantial observation.  I think this may well be wrong.   Because the media seems to have had no idea about something a lot more consequential going on at the same time as the rump Trump boomlet: the preparation for the raid on the Bin Laden compound.

To me, it would seem that it was necessary for Obama to release the “long form” birth certificate to protect himself, and the country, from the kinds of things that might be said if the Bin Laden raid had failed. Jimmy Carter’s re-election was riding on the 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran–likewise the Bin Laden raid was a singular high risk event in U.S. domestic politics.

-Meanwhile, the Kenyan 2012 campaign is gearing up as well, with the ICC cases from the last election still in their early stages. Even with the birther issue behind him, I would expect that Obama will want to minimize any personal contact with Kenyan controversies until after his own election, relying on Secretary Clinton and his new ambassador, Scott Gration.

Rwanda is voting–links

Rwandans rush to vote for president
The Daily Nation via AFP

“Rwanda votes for president amid crackdown” NPR

“Rwandans hit the polls in presidential election; Kagame favored to win” (you don’t say!) CNN

“Doubt rise in Rwanda as election is held” NY Times

“Kagame set to win in Rwandan election with large majority” The Guardian

“The Paul Kagame I know” Foreign Policy