International Crisis Group report on “Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis” calls on donors to show “complete transparency”; USAID is apparently not convinced yet

Counting-the original tally

Counting-the original tally

“Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis”  March 2017 International Crisis Group paper by Murithi Mutiga

Political tensions are rising in Kenya ahead of elections in August for the presidency and other senior posts. Measures taken now can avert the risk of a repeat of electoral violence that killed hundreds of people in 2007-2008.

.  .  .  .

The equipment for transmitting results from polling places to the tallying centre is as important as the voter kits. Past elections were compromised by lack of transparency in tallying and transmitting. The installation of a transparent, efficient electoral management system would go a long way to assuaging public concerns. Unfortunately, rushed procurement, with little lead-time for testing, may set the IEBC up for failure. That would also deepen suspicions in a situation already marked by significant tension between parties. Government steps to limit the role of external partners, such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, that can offer valuable technical assistance, have not helped.

.  .  .  .

International partners should extend technical and financial help to the IEBC to help it better tackle the challenges. This should, however, be done with nuance, flexibility and complete transparency, in light of unfounded claims by the ruling party that external parties are seeking to influence the electoral outcome. International observers should be deployed in time to monitor crucial stages of the electoral process, such as verification of the vote register and procurement of electoral materials.

. . . .

Unfortunately, USAID is still stuck on maintaining minimal, at most, public disclosure, rather than adapt to the recommendations of the Crisis Group and the obvious lessons to be learned from the failure of 2007, especially, and 2013.

While USAID Kenya has confirmed for me that their original December 2015 Request for Agreement (“RFA”) for the $20M “Kenya Electoral Assistance Program 2017” remains a public document at www.grants.gov, the subsequent Agreement between USAID and IFES is not being treated as public.  Americans who want to understand our government’s approach to subsidizing the Government of Kenya’s election would be well advised to study the Request for Agreement (rfa-615-16-000001-keap-2017) closely to understand the basic structure, but will need to “ask around” informally to get any actual detail as the election now rapidly approaches.  Likewise, Kenyans who want to have input in the administration of their own election.

Meanwhile, still no documents whatsoever, from my October 2015 request for USAID documents relating to our support for the 2013 Kenya election (!).

See “IEBC must look us in the eye and say, ‘We aren’t ready for August'” by Tee Ngugi in The East African.

Solo 7 — Toi Market

When does the transparency start in Kenya’s election preparations?

With Kenya’s constitutionally set election only just more than six months away, Germany’s Deutsche Welle reports “Kenya’s voter registration rocked by fraud claims“. Even the Daily Nation has published an editorial noting serious questions about the integrity of the current voter registration process.

Gabrielle Lynch notes in her column in The East African, “Unrealistic timelines to blame for Kenya’s election shortcomings,” that the time to implement the gender balance rules of the Constitution under the previous Supreme Court opinion has been blown, and other deadlines are upon us.  Dr. Lynch goes through the various pre-election deadlines which were set in legislation and are now in some flux.  She raises the prospect of jetisoning some of the technology because what she refers to as compressed timelines.

To me, the issue is a lack of political will, which is independent of the time involved.  Legislation to implement the mandatory requirements of the Constitution on gender balance was not passed because the legislators in power, along with the President, didn’t feel like it.  They like the old way better than what is required by the “new” (seven year old) Constitution.  There has been plenty of time since 2013 to pass gender balance legislation, just as there was plenty of time to replace the fraudulently procured technology systems purchased with the assistance of the United States and other donors for the 2013 election.

Likewise there was plenty of time to legally address the procurement fraud issues as directed by Supreme Court’s decision of April 2013 on the election petitions.

This time the incumbent administration has attacked the donors who are providing an additional $85 million to defray the cost of the election in spite of all the obvious questions.  The donor group through its diplomats has pledged transparency this time, but very little specific information has been published on the details of the programming so far.

Unfortunately my October 2015 Freedom of Information Act request to USAID for contract documents from our support for the IEBC in 2013 has still resulted in zero

Kenya challenged vote

Kenya presidential ballot

 released documents (even though materials were sent from the Mission in Kenya to Washington more than a year ago.)

Periodically, Westerners are reminded of the brutality and politicization of Kenya’s paramilitary police [updated 18 May]

But there is not much new under the gun in Kenyatta’s Kenya.  

Three years ago, Kenya’s Supreme Court noted the appearance of corruption in Kenya’s election commission and directed investigation and possible prosecution.  No action eventually led to protests which are being brutally suppressed as we speak because the incumbent regime is apparently very afraid of reform, and is reacting just as it has in the past, and each of its predecessors has.

We have no right whatsoever to claim to be surprised.

Update 17 May: Bernard Ngatia, who was shown on video being mercilessly beaten by police, died from the injuries.  Update 18 May: Unsurprisingly there is a lot of murk now about the details of the beating victim from the video and whether he did or didn’t die. We can hope the media will clarify; the same issue of a pattern and practice of police brutality to squelch political dissent confronts us as we hope that thisvictim survived.

From today’s statement from free expression supporters Article 19:

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns yesterday’s killing of a protestor by police, and injury of others who had joined the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) politicians calling for the removal of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

ARTICLE 19 urges the police to respect Article 37 of the Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, picket, and present petitions to public authorities, as well as its obligations under international human rights law.

New testimony in Kenya’s Parliament on Election Commission “Chickengate” procurement corruption ahead of visit by Obama and U.S. Congressmen

k”Ex-ICT boss tells Parliament that IEBC bungled 2013 electionThe Star July 22, 2015:

“We were put under tremendous pressure to ensure the Evids succeeded. Just days before the certification of the register, we were forced to transfer data, leading to serious discrepancies between the BVR register and the Evids one,” Ong’ondi said. Ong’ondi was speaking when he appeared before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chaired by Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo. The committee is probing the acquisition and subsequent failure of electronic devices used by the IEBC.

. . . .

He explained how business interests triumphed over responsibility upon the commission to deliver a reliable and effective ICT infrastructure that could guarantee, beyond reasonable doubt, a transparent election process.

He provided various dates on which Hassan and IEBC commissioner Mohammed Alawi reportedly forced him to meet individuals pursuing tenders in the commission, both in Mombasa and in Nairobi.

“I was forced to meet people pursuing highly valued tenders. During a retreat in Mombasa the chairman asked me to meet one of his friends whom he said was interested in seeking business with the commission,” Ong’ondi said.

Yesterday Hassan said he could not remember the said meeting . . .

. . . .

The International Forum for Electoral Systems had raised concerns that the tender for the supply of the devices be cancelled because of time constraints to effectively rollout the infrastructure. He said the technology was rushed, without enough time to train polling clerks, leading to massive failure of the system in many parts of the country. “It was true that some clerks were seeing the devices for the first time during the voting day.

From the Daily Nation:   “Hassan tried to influence BVR kits tender, MPs told

See also: USAID Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers (February 17, 2015)

Why would we trust the Kenyan IEBC vote tally when they engaged in fraudulent procurement practices for key technology? (March 24, 2013)

Nigeria example shows U.S. and other donors must act now on Kenya IEBC technology procurement corruption (April 1, 2015)

Curriculum Cooking Kenya Vote

“Curriculum Cooking”

Nigeria example shows U.S. and other donors should act now on Kenya IEBC technology procurement corruption

For the 2013 election, I have a copy of one last minute USAID procurement through IFES for the Kenyan IEBC related to the failed electronic results transmission system; I would assume there were other USAID procurements involved for the IEBC.  Notably, the Supreme Court of Kenya found that the main cause of the failure of the electronic results transmission system and the electronic voter identification system appeared to be procurement “squabbles” among IEBC members. “It is, indeed, likely, that the acquisition process was marked by competing interests involving impropriety, or even criminality: and we recommend that this matter be entrusted to the relevant State agency, for further investigation and possible prosecution.”   “Thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court opinion” April 13, 2013.  See also, “Why would we trust the IEBC vote tally when they engaged on fraudulent procurement processes for key technology?”, March 24, 2013.

From “USAID Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers“, February 17,2005.

Election technology can work, in Africa, just as elsewhere, when it is not sabotaged by corruption.  Nigeria, a much harder case than Kenya, proved that this weekend.

While technology is “not a panacea”, it would have mattered in Kenya in 2007 when it was purchased for Kenya’s ECK at the expense of American taxpayers as an important part of our USAID assistance program if it had not been simply “shelved” by the ECK at the last minute (in a meeting the records of which the ECK refused to turn over to the “Kreigler Commission” charged with investigating the failed election).  It was a central part of the planned assistance program for 2013 shaped on the basis of the Kreigler Commission’s recommendations for what was required based on what was done and not done in 2007.  It was also in 2013 a central and necessary part of election process under the new Kenyan law for the new IEBC, replacing the discredited and disbanded ECK.  It mattered that it did not work, and that it could not have worked because of the failure to procure what was needed when it was needed.

Aside from the basic issues regarding the technology procurements that we have all known about since the 2013 election (and before in some cases)–so thus for more than two years at a minimum–we now have in addition–the “Chickengate” matter where bribery of IEBC officials for ballot paper printing contracts by a British company and its officials, through a Kenyan agent formerly employed by the IEBC, was proven in a court of law to the standards required for criminal convictions.

Yet we see no indication of legal action by the Kenyan government to follow through even on those bribes already proven in the British Court, much less a serious fulfillment of the two-year old recommendation of the Supreme Court of Kenya for the Government to investigate and possibly prosecute the technology procurement cases.  We certainly see that corruption issues are admitted to be remain pervasive at all levels of the current Kenyan government–and perhaps there is a newfound intention to address some of them (time will tell) but apparently no new mention of the IEBC. See “Read the list of public officers implicated in corruption and what the EACC accuses them ofThe Star, March 31. And “Analysis: Kenyatta’s corrupted corruption probe” by Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick, March 30.

What are we waiting for?  Shouldn’t we (the United States) have enough self respect to at least suspend our underwriting of this nonsense and to at least make it clear that we will investigate how our own dollars were spent regardless of what the Government of Kenya elects to do or not do?  Likewise other donors who may have paid for part of this?

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Why does the House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee keep leaving the Carter Center off their election hearings?

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations is holding a hearing Wednesday morning, March 18, on U.S. Election Support in Africa.

Good.  Unfortunately, as was that much more conspicuous with the hearing about the 2013 Kenyan election, the subcommittee has scheduled testimony from the IFES/NDI/IRI troika, but without the Carter Center scheduled.  The Carter Center conducted the USAID-funded Election Observation Mission itself for Kenya in 2013, so the omission was hard to understand on a hearing on that very election; it is still hard to understand for an Africa-wide hearing.  (I have no idea why things have turned out this way, I am simply making the point that Congress would have an opportunity to be better informed if this wasn’t just an “all in the Beltway” experience.)

For Kenya’s last vote, see Carter Center quietly publishes strikingly critical Final Report from Kenya Election Observation.

For further discussion of the Subcommittee’s April 2013 Kenya hearing, see AfriCOG’s Seema Shah asks in Foreign Policy: “Are U.S. Election Watchdogs Enabling Bad Behavior in Kenya?”

In new developments, now with the British #Chickengate prosecutions for bribing Kenyan election officials: USAID Inspector General should take a hard look at Kenya’s election procurements supported by U.S. taxpayers.

The Carter Center also observed the 2002 and 1997 elections in Kenya, along with many others, including the most recent election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2011 which provides perhaps another set of lessons as the Kabila government arrests democracy supporters and even a U.S. diplomat.

DRC: “We have to debunk the idea that it is peace versus transparent elections. The idea that lousy elections are going to bring peace is madness.”

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

U.S. and other Western donors support review of election irregularities in DRC–offer technical assistance.

State Department to Kabila on DRC Presidential Election: “Nevermind”?

IRI Poll Releae Press Conference

Why would we trust the Kenyan IEBC vote tally when they engaged in fraudulent procurement practices for key technology?

It has been clear for many months that the IEBC’s procurement of BVR kits was irregular.  It is now quite clear that even after Kenyan civil society called the IEBC on the carpet on that problem, the IEBC engaged in clear misconduct in buying the “poll book” system.  When they were caught, the procurement was allowed to go through because of the limited amount of time before the election.  The “poll book” book system largely failed and on election day polling stations used a wholly manual system–a printout on paper.

See the details on the fraudulent bidding here from the today’s Standard: “Minutes reveal how IEBC bought faulty gadgets”:

A review of the tendering procedure by the public procurement regulator found out the tender to supply poll books was awarded to the South African firm, which participated in the Anglo Leasing scandal, on September 29 last year, three weeks before the technical evaluation among the shortlisted bidders.

In other words, the bidding was a sham, because the “winner”, which never could produce a working system, was selected in advance, before the evaluation of which  systems worked–and thus the working systems never had a real rather than a pretend opportunity to be selected over the non-working system.

Getting down into details, the failure of this key procurement left a situation in which much of the presumed value of the Biometric Voter Registration was lost because there was no ability to use any automated voter list at the polls.  The use of the paper print out opens a big window for fraud because one would have to obtain and verify each of the individual print outs from more than 33,000 polling stations to know whether what was used on paper matched up with the central voter registration list in Nairobi (leaving aside the fact that the IEBC never finalized and published a uniform voter registration list as required, which makes the issue doubly important).

I have no way to know whether the IEBC was simply corrupt in its procurement practices resulting unintentionally in the failure of the poll book system, or whether there was some deliberate intent within the IEBC to avoid the application of the electronic system.

Assuming for the sake of argument that no one at the IEBC deliberately wanted to undermine the intended voting systems, it remains quite clear that the IEBC engaged in conduct that clearly violated the public trust in preparing for the election.  So how can we simply trust the same body on the vote tally itself?

“Media Zombie” stirs as Kenyan legal process moves forward [updated]

[Update: here is the Sunday Standard, “How Raila’s poll petition may change the whole game”]

“The many questions IEBC needs to clear with Kenyans over elections.” The Saturday Nation

The “media zombie” awakes with a recitation of damning basic questions about the systems employed by the IEBC.

AfriCOG and other Kenyan civil society groups were left as lonely voices before the election while the public relations of the IEBC and the rest of the Kenyan Government, propped up as best I can see so far by the “western donors” (with money from taxpayers like me) and the “aid industry” peddled false assurance. I will have to admit that the situation is significantly worse than I had realized.

And then beyond the systems that were not even seriously in place, we have the specifics of bogus numbers coming out with election challenge petitions by AfriCOG and by the CORD campaign filed today. So much like 2007 only worse in terms of a mass “overvote” in the presidential race.

“Halt the Party, It’s not yet Uhuru”, Wycliffe Muga in The Star.

In the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman notes the extreme pressure on Kenya’s judges:

The case is sure to be a test of Kenya’s recently overhauled judiciary. It is now much more widely respected, but some analysts have questioned whether all six Supreme Court justices will be able to withstand the pressure of refereeing such a high stakes contest for power. Even before the election, the chief justice received death threats, and analysts have raised questions about the independence of some of the other justices.