As Vote Nears, Former Deputy Commander of Kenyan Administrative Police continues in hiding

As the Kenyan constitutional referendum approaches, most other aspects of the “reform agenda”, in particular accountability for wrongdoing in the last election, remain stymied. The Internal Security portfolio has passed from John “Rattle the Snake” Michuki, who continues in Cabinet as a key insider, to George Saitoti, another of those who seems a conspicuously odd choice of partners for anyone promoting reform in the security services.

From the Nairobi Star via All Africa.

Nairobi — GOVERNMENT is about to dismiss a key potential witness for the International Criminal Court.

It has written to Oku Kaunya to show cause why he should not be fired as Nyanza Deputy Provincial Commissioner.

In December 2007 he was the Deputy Commandant of the Administration Police and Commandant of the AP Training College in Embakasi. He had originally been scheduled to take over from AP Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua in 2008.

It has been alleged that the Administration Police was partly responsible for the mayhem that followed the December 2007 elections.

Kaunya left Kenya in April this year and has not returned. It has been rumoured that he will be a key witness for ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Government has taken Kaunya’s absence from work as desertion from duty which, according to the Civil Service regulations, is punishable by summary dismissal.

Sources in the Office of the President, to whom the Provincial Administration answers, told the Star that the letter was written in mid-June and sent through the Post Office.

Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh confirmed yesterday that Kaunya had deserted duty and clarified that any communication sent to him was in line with government policy.

“If government officers desert duty as he did, then they have to give an explanation,” said Ojodeh.

The minister however said he could not confirm whether government had formally written Kaunya.

After receiving death threats from unknown people, Kaunya slipped out of Kenya in April claiming he needed medical treatment for a kidney problem. His whereabouts remain unknown but he is believed to be in Europe.

He may turn out to be a key witness should the International Criminal Court try the perpetrators of the post-election violence.

Kaunya headed the AP Training College which, according to the Waki Report, was a central link in the disruption of the December 2007 election.

The Waki Report said 1,600 officers were sent to the college for “special training” so they could act as election agents for the PNU.

“All officers deployed were dressed in plainclothes, easily identified as they were not from the local community and travelled in large groups by more than 30 chartered buses,” the report said.

“In addition, they received Sh21,000 each for their duties. The entire exercise was called off after some officers were killed and many more injured by citizens,” the Waki Report concluded.

Investigators from the office of ICC prosecutor Ocampo have been in Kenya and they are expected to finalise their investigations in October before Ocampo can ask for the ICC to issue arrest warrants for the key suspects.

As many as 20 witnesses whose testimony is considered crucial have been placed under protection. Several have been flown out of Kenya while others are being protected in safe houses in Kenya.

Yesterday Kaunya’s wife Millicent said the government was aware of her husband’s continued stay abroad and that she had not received any communication about his employment status.

“I have not heard anything so far but he (Kaunya) is out and the government knows why,” said the wife without revealing further details.

Ajaa Olubayi, Kaunya’s lawyer, said he last spoke with his client two months ago.

“I haven’t spoken with him for quite some time and I would not be in a position to say whether he has been asked to explain his absence from work,” said Ajaa

In April Kaunya’s wife said her husband had been feeling unwell and travelled to Germany for treatment from where he was to proceed to see their daughter in the USA.

In January 2004, while he was the Uasin Gishu DC, Kaunya called for the abolition of the Administration Police and the Provincial Administration.

He was supporting those delegates to the National Constitution Conference who wanted the Provincial Administration removed from the Draft Constitution that was finally defeated in the 2005 referendum.

Kaunya’s comments were surprising to the AP command, especially Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua who had waged a spirited battle to have the force retained.

In 2007 Kaunya was promoted to head the Administration Police Training College, a post that put him second only to Mbugua in the AP chain of command.

However in June 2008 Mbugua interdicted Kaunya for putting on the rank insignia of the AP Commandant, apparently in preparation for the departure of Mbugua.

He eventually returned to his post in December 2008 but that did not end his tribulations.

Seemingly to ensure he did not testify to the Waki Commission in early 2009, Kaunya was sent for an impromptu “holiday” in Thailand.

When he returned, he was given a scholarship to the Karen-based National Defence College from which he graduated last December.

Sure, we can hope for responsible behavior by the political powers that be in Kenya in the referendum–but to expect it under the circumstances would certainly be foolish.

Here is the link to “Divide and Rule: State-Sponsored Ethnic Violence in Kenya” by Human Rights Watch from 1993, featuring discussion of then-Vice President Saitoti, who was given the Internal Security portfolio by Kibaki in January 2008, during the post-election violence and before the mediation deal ushering in “the reform agenda”.

Kenya Referendum Slugfest One Month Out and other news

“‘No’ Team Attacks U.S. Envoy Over New Kenya Law” Daily Nation, July 2

My take: the Referendum campaign continues to get messier. And we are not helping, having not learned our lesson from the last election. Ranneberger endorsed the draft constitution, then the Administration backed off, after GOP Congressmen complained, raising the tenuous issue of U.S. legal restrictions on “lobbying for abortion” overseas–muddying the waters by not addressing the matter clearly. With the Biden visit and Obama speech on KBC, the official line was that we were not trying to tell Kenyans how they should vote, but were offering inducements if they did vote yes. Now Ranneberger is again making himself an issue in the yes/no campaign in Kenya directly. At this point, I think we (the United States) need to be very concerned about a non-violent and free election and a credible and accepted result, which is the thing of foremost importance. I think the proposed constitution has important positives and am concerned that missing the opportunity to pass this now could be very unfortunate, but Kenyans have to decide this for themselves–and frankly I do not think that they are more likely to vote “yes” because the Ambassador gets mixed up in it.

If many of Kibaki’s circle of ministers are “watermelons”, green on the outside but red on the inside, are we “kiwis”, brown and fuzzy on the outside and green on the inside (and foreign)? Could we be straightforward and consistent, just to try it out and see if that works better than what happened last time?

Certainly the Administration sent another very mixed signal by extending Ranneberger’s tenure again.

Some links of interest:

“House’s Special Gift to Kenyans in Choice to Lead Anti-Graft Agency” Kwamchetsi Makokha spoofs the nomination of P.L.O. Lumumba to head the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, Daily Nation, July 2

“Fear and Loathing in Nairobi” John Githongo writes in the new Foreign Affairs (subscription).

ABC News: “Some of the Best Paid Politicians in the World are in . . . Kenya???”

“Jeffrey Gettleman: Reporting from Nairobi” on NPR’s Fresh Air

“Current Conditions and U.S. Policy in the Horn of Africa”, Congressional Testimony by Ted Dagne of CRS, June 17

Coverage of Kenya’s Constitution Campaigns

Nick Wadhams in Time has a good overview.

In the Star courtesy of the Mars Group media pages Wycliffe Muga suggests that William Ruto’s role as a “no” leader reflects his strategic plan to establish himself as political boss of the Upper Rift Valley rather than a serious expectation of actually defeating the proposed constitution.

In this month’s free article, Africa Confidential says “Campaigning for next month’s constitutional referendum is a mixture of ideology, religion and personal ambition – and now the thugs have moved in”.

Mugambi Kiai writes in the Star (via Mars Group): “It is so easy to miss the obvious. There is so much shouting around narrow sectarian issues that the massive gains in the proposed constitution are hardly getting any airtime” and goes in to detail several of the governance reforms.

Grenades said to cause 5 deaths at Nairobi “no” rally

The reporting on the tragedy around Sunday’s “No” rally against the new constitution in Uhuru Park has been a bit confused. Earlier BBC said the deaths were caused by a stampede and indicated that it was unclear whether there had really been an explosion or not. The AP report carried in the New York Times and elsewhere indicated an explosion, and now the latest on BBC has PM Odinga saying that the detonation of three grenades had been identified as the cause.

Raila also announced a government investigation. Hard to know to what extent the investigation will be serious, and to what extent there will be public information.

Obviously the referendum is going to be going forward in a tense environment. The latest polls, while still strongly “yes” suggest some erosion of support, and there does seem to be a sense that the issue is tightening up as various interests become clearer and swing into action both in public and behind the scenes.

Waking up to the challenges in Kenya

Yesterday’s big news from Kenya was the ruling by a court panel in a 2004 constitutional challenge to the Khadi’s Courts on grounds of discrimination and the separation of church and state. The 2004 plaintiffs were clergy, some of whom are involved in the current “No” campaign (and others not). The Attorney General has announced he will appeal, which will of course carry the case out beyond the date of the August 4 referendum on the new constitution.

While I am not a Kenyan lawyer, I think that the approval of a new constitution at the referendum would render the current case moot before reaching finality, but in the meantime, the ruling will surely energize the “No” campaign and give greater relative attention to the new draft constitution’s provisions continuing the Khadi’s courts for “family law” and related matters among Muslims on a consensual basis. Surveys have shown that large majorities of Kenyans find the draft constitution a mixed bag, with things they prefer and things they don’t, with the balance weighing in favor of the overall reform. This ruling could have some real impact on that balancing act.

As an American Christian I have been favorably impressed by the general ability of Kenya’s Christian majority and Muslim, traditional and other minorities to get along and live among each other respectfully relative to so much of the rest of the world. As with tribalism, this has the potential to be one more opportunity for politicians with wholly irreligious motives to exploit and divide based on emotions, especially fear.

Certainly the last thing the Kenyans need as they work through this is outsiders who also have other priorities injecting themselves and their money into the campaign.

Kenyan Draft Constitution to be published by AG Thursday for referendum

Read it for yourself here.

My take is that Kenyan voters can make their own choice. That’s what this is supposed to be about. Personally I think the process could have been better and the draft could have been better–and avoided unnecessary ambiguity and controversy–but that does not mean, to me, that it does not contain some very important improvements in the governance and political process for Kenya. Regardless, a fair vote in which everyone has the opportunity to vote, and have that vote accurately counted, is the first and indispensable step toward healing from the 2008 violence and moving toward a restoration of bona fide democracy.

Status of Reforms and Recounts in Kenya

We are now down to the last four days of debate in the Kenyan Parliament on a draft constitution.  The MPs appear fractured along the lines of competition for 2012 (party and factional splits) and on a regional/ethnic basis over issues of sub-national governance structures.  Changes to the current Committee of Experts draft require a 2/3 approval which appears to be a difficult hurdle.

If Parliament is unable to reach a broad consensus on changes, as appears likely, the referendum will go forward with the draft “as is”.  This will mean that there will be a lot of groups and interests that are not really happy with it, including some who have pledged or threatened opposition.  This will call everyone’s bluff at some level.

My guess would be that the current draft would be perceived by the voting public as enough of an improvement–and symbolically important enough in the post-2007 environment–that it will have broad support.  At the end of the day, I suspect it would be mostly people currently sitting in government in some form who would prefer the status quo.  It may well be that we will have behind the scenes efforts toward defeating the referendum from some politicians that offer a lukewarm endorsement in public.  Regardless, I suspect Kenyan voters will have a heightened resistance to being manipulated.

On other issues, Capital FM reports that a group of religious leader presented a memorandum to Kofi Annan during his present visit to Nairobi that seems to summarize well:

“We are concerned that political leaders, on whose shoulders the burden of implementing the reform agenda was placed, have shifted their focus to the 2012 general election,” the statement read.

They continued to say: “The situation is made complex by the fact that one principal is retiring while the other is firmly in the 2012 presidential race. This has made synergy remote since succession politics rather than national wellbeing is the overriding consideration in their minds.”

The leaders also told Mr Annan that very little effort had been made to address underlying issues classified as the root causes of the 2007/2008 post election violence.

They rated the government’s effort almost at zero in dealing with poverty, unemployment and regional inequalities which are some of the challenges that were identified as primary causes of the violence.

According to the leaders, the government was also not doing enough to realise land reforms despite the Cabinet passing a new land policy, “This is quite sad considering that land ownership and use was one of the causes of the post election violence.”

But they appreciated that a lot had been achieved in constitutional reforms though they expressed worries that political, ethnic and religious interests had almost overshadowed the national concerns.

They also called for consensus to ensure that the draft enjoys majority support when it will be subjected to a referendum.

On the issue of prosecutions from the post-election violence, the Justice Minister says the ICC is acting too slowly (like Kenyan courts) to approve Ocampo’s request to authorize a formal investigation. He says that a new effort to pass a “local tribunal” is first up following the consideration of the constitution. (Of course, the lack of finality/clarity about the potential for local prosecutions may be a primary issue restraining the ICC.)

Voter registration is underway. There are complaints about the slowness of issuance of national ID cards to potential new voters in some areas, but overall no surprising controversies that I am aware of yet.

Judicially supervised recounts continue in parliamentary challenges from the 2007 election. They are recounting the yellow ballots for parliamentary candidates. Hmm. Seems like it would be interesting to count the pink ballots for president, too. This is what the EU called for when the election results were disputed–but was dismissed as not possible by the US through Ambassador Ranneberger. Would have also been interesting for the Kreigler Commission to have done some sample recounts also. I’ll develop this further in subsequent posts . . . .

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.