Always “steady progress” – COMESA “elders” to observe COMESA member elections in Kenya and Rwanda

From a COMESA Press Release yesterday:

COMESA believes that elections play a pivotal role in societal transformation in the region and provide a footstall for entrenching democratic principles.

Premised on this critical role, Member States have continued holding periodic elections which have heralded a new dawn by signifying steady progress towards deepening and institutionalizing democracy in the 19-member bloc.

Nonetheless, COMESA is still dispatching teams of Election Observers to issue Preliminary Statements just after the upcoming elections in Rwanda on August 4 and Kenya on August 8, with further reports after 90 days.

Zimbabwean Ambassador Dr. Simbi Mubako will lead the team for Kenya to arrive 30 July.

Think I am too jaded?  Enjoy this:

The presidential elections in Rwanda follows the 2015 referendum that unanimously approved a constitutional amendment that allowed President Kagame to run for office in 2017.  The forthcoming elections are considered important in Rwanda’s socio-economic and political progress.

In the past years, Rwanda has made significant progress in consolidating its political stability, economic growth and development.  Furthermore, Rwanda has recorded major milestones in consolidating democracy through holding periodic parliamentary and presidential elections as stipulated in its legal framework.

Since 2008, COMESA has continued to support the elections process in Rwanda.  COMESA observed the parliamentary that were held in 2008, 2013 and the presidential elections held in 2010.

I am all for extra diplomats and elders from the region being in Kenya for the election to meet diplomatic needs that may arise.  But let’s not confuse this type of “intramembership” diplomatic obsevation with an independent election observation. 

[See U.S. and IGAD Statements on Djibouti election from last year, featuring Kenya’s Issack Hassan for IGAD]

More on risks of President Museveni’s (re)election commission, Rwanda and “book bitings”

Uganda at ‘crossroads’ opposition leader warns” from Amy Fallon for AFP today:

Besigye said he feared Uganda is “now very clearly at a crossroads”, and demanded an overhaul of the electoral commission running the polls.

“If this matter is not corrected at this time, I dare say the country will be at a very serious risk of sliding back into political instability, into violence and chaos,” Besigye said.

“We are very, very determined to do everything within our means to have changes in the management of the election.”

At Africa Watch from the Institutes of Defense Analyses Dr. Stephanie Burchard had a recent update: “Elections in Uganda: a One-Man Show?“.

Meanwhile, on Rwanda, the State Department has released a statement of concern regarding the decision of the Kagame government to form a Constitutional Review Commission that may seek to extend Kagame’s rule by lifting term limits, with a quote from President Obama citing the risk of “instability and strife–as we’ve seen in Burundi.”

Book bitings:  I’ve started reading Dr. Burchard’s new book Electoral Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Causes and Consequences which has a substantial focus from her extensive research in Kenya.  Highly recommended so far and available at an introductory publisher’s discount at the link above.

And today’s “Monkey Cage” column in the Washington Post had a very useful conversation about local society and approaches to aid with China Schurz, anthropologist and author of Having People, Having Heart: Charity, Sustainable Development and Problems of Dependence in Central Uganda.  Will go on the aspirational reading list for me as an interested small donor.

How will the Iran nuclear deal play out in East Africa?

I wish I had a clear sense of how this might develop but I don’t.  It seems to me that there may be several areas of impact over the next few years:

+Diplomatic leverage of Museveni, Kenyatta, Kigame et al vis-a-vis the United States will be reduced as one of the main US “asks”–UN votes to maintain nuclear-related sanctions against Iran–drops away.

+While I do not foresee the current US administration raising expectations for other US priorities from these East African leaders, the next US administration might feel some greater freedom to address “the democratic recession,” declining press freedom, and other issues on the formal US policy list.

+Oil prices:  if a lot more Iranian oil gets to market both in the near term from the immediate impact of lifting sanctions and the longer term from the increase in capacity associated with ramped up foreign investment, the prospects for oil production in Uganda and Kenya will be impacted, especially as related to the 2021-22 election cycle.

+Iran will reassume a stronger role in trade and finance in the region and thus compete more strongly with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

+Iran will presumably increase its regional naval presence.

+The fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya and subsequent sad state of affairs in that country reduced one major “petrocash” player in East African politics; an Iran less cash-strapped by UN sanctions might have aspirations to finance East African politicians aside from its espionage/security/terrorism enagement.

New Developments on Iran’s Geopolitcal Efforts in Africa–another challenge for democracy?

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

High Level  U.S. Delegation Carries Requests to Museveni on Fair Elections and Iran Sanctions

Again: Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling? [originally I asked in April 2013; we are moving that much more quickly along the path with Secretary Kerry’s current visit ahead of Obama in July, as further allegedly necessitated by the Uhuruto administration’s conspicuous incompetence on “security”]

Uhuru Kenyatta, Jendayi Frazer and Paul Kagame walk into a commodity exchange in Kigali . . .

Swiss trader looks up and says, “You must be here to save Kenya’s small family farmers!”

Post-election IDP camp at Naivasha, Kenya, 2008

Post-election IDP camp at Naivasha, Kenya, 2008

“Could Rwanda’s Kagame get thrown out of the ‘smoke filled room’?” AfriCommons, 13 March 2014

“East Africa Exchange Formally Launched” BizTech Africa, 4 July 2014

“Carter Center release; Initial observations on the ‘Frazer v. Carson’ controversy”  AfriCommons, 21 Feb. 2013

“Beth Mugo Admits Kenyatta Family Owns Huge Tracts of Land, But Defends Uhuru” Mwakilishi, 12 Feb. 2013

“How Kosgei pulled strings to block U.S. from endorsing Kibaki presidency” Daily Nation, 13 July 2012

“Kenyan PM Odinga Speaks Out on Election, ‘Dubious’ Role of Jendayi Frazer and Ambassador” AfriCommons, 4 March 2010

Part Ten–FOIA Documents from Kenya’s 2007 election–Ranneberger at ECK: “[Much caan happen between the casting of votes and the final tabulation of ballots and it did” AfriCommons, 30 April 2012

“Africa Bureau under Frazer coordinated “recharacterization” of 2007 exit poll showing Odinga win (New Documents–FOIA Series No. 12)” AfriCommons, 18 March 2013

Could Rwanda’s Kagame get thrown out of the “smoke filled room”?

The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R. Calif.)  has released a letter yesterday “decrying targeted killings of Rwandan regime critics abroad” in which “the Chairman urged Secretary Kerry to reevaluate U.S. engagement with Rwanda, including future assistance”:

Dear Mr. Secretary: I am writing to express my deep concern over the numerous attempted attacks and killings of Rwandan dissidents living outside that country. Any functioning and responsible democracy allows the voices of opposition to be heard. Yet in Rwanda there is a systematic effort to silence – by any means necessary – the voices of those who question the regime in Kigali.   .  .  .  .

This really strikes me as a potentially major setback for Kagame.  In addition to the support Kagame has had from those who were at the helm in the U.S. executive branch 20 years ago during the 1994 genocide and Kagame’s ascension, he has also had an extra level of support in recent years from some House Republicans and others in the Republican Party.  Part of it is the same type of thing that kept Museveni and the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi in favor with some on the “right” in American politics well after most people who pay attention to Africa got over the notion that this class of rulers represented a “renaissance generation” of semi-democratic leadership.  Kagame has lost a lot of his American support over the last few years over the exposure of his actions in relation to the DRC and his growing authoritarianism, even though continuing to solidify his stature as a “go to” source for troops for the U.S. and Europe in the region and a secure landingpad for global investment endeavors. (h/t Cameron Hudson @cch7c on the Royce letter)

Kagame may have finally gone too far to stomach for both the Republican and Democrat mainstream in Washington.

A next question will be what reaction we see from the global elite, what some might refer to as “the Davos crowd”, including the wealthy investor/philanthropist/celebrity networks which have patronized Kagame.  In fact, the World Economic Forum last year was the venue for Kagame to announce with “homeless billionaire” Nicolas Berggruen, Nigerian investor Tony Elumelu and former U.S. official Jendayi Frazer the launch of the “East African Exchange” in Kigali.

As reported at the time in Africa Mining Intelligence, “Kigali, Future minerals trading platform” : “[A] commodities exchange in East Africa that will deal initially with farm goods and minerals covering the entire Great Lakes region, will be set up in Kigali, capital of Rwanda . . . The inauguration of the East African Exchange (EAX) will be seen to by a consortium whose most prominent figure is Jendayi Frazer who was a U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs under George W. Bush.”

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The U.S. “official” infatuation with Kenya, in numbers

I’ve spent some time looking at “Official Development Assistance” (“ODA”) numbers for Africa to test my perception that the U.S. seems, for some reason that is hard to pin down, to give an inordinate amount of “development” money to Kenya.

At play Monkeys at play on UN vehicle

Sure enough. Going through the ODA summaries by country from the OECD, for each of 47 countries in continental Africa, we find plenty of verification of this. The U.S. is the leading bilateral ODA donor for 25 of the 47, including Kenya (Kenya’s number two donor is Japan). Kenya is the number three recipient of bilateral ODA from the U.S. for a 2010-2011 annual average (the most recent listing) of $642M, behind only the Democratic Republic of Congo at $1,053M and Ethipia at $791M.

On a per capita basis this is $15.53 for DRC, $15.43 for Kenya and $9.34 for Ethiopia. What about “need” based on poverty? PIn the DRC the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is $190; in Ethiopia $400. Kenya, on the other hand, has a GNI per capita of $820, more than double that of Ethiopia and well more than four times that of the DRC.

Across the continent as a whole, Kenya ranks ninth in per capita U.S. ODA. Three countries of those getting more per capita are special cases: Liberia and South Sudan, post-conflict states where the U.S. has a special historic relationship and responsibility relating to the founding of the country itself and Libya, an immediate post-conflict situation where the U.S. government was instrumental in supporting the removal of the prior regime. All of the recipients ahead of Kenya except for the DRC have relatively small populations.

Among the five countries of the East African Community, Kenya receives both the largest amount and the most per capita in ODA from the U.S., even though its GNI per capita is by far the largest:

Country        GNI Per Capita      U.S. Bilateral ODA      Per Capita      Rank/Reference

Burundi           $250                             $48M                      $5.58        2 (1-Belgium 161M)

Kenya             $820                              $642M                   $15.43       1 (2-Japan $139M)

Tanzania         $540                             $546M                    $10.74          1 (2-UK $219M)

Rwanda           $570                             $167M                   $15.32           1 (2-UK $121M)

Uganda           $510                              $388M                   $11.24           1 (2-UK $163M)

————-
And a sampling of other countries of interest:

Somalia           —-                                 $90M                      $9.38           2 (2-UK $107M)

C.A.R.           $470                                $16M                      $3.56           3 (1-France $29M)

Malawi          $340                                $140M                    $9.69           1 (2-UK $126M)

Mali               $610                                $232M                  $14.68          1 (2-Canada $106M)

Niger             $360                                  $97M                     $6.02          1 (2-France $56M)

Chad              $690                                $124M                    $10.75       1 (2-France 45M)

Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling?

Before noting the choice of speakers for the Uhuruto inauguration, the idea that governance in Kenya might be in the process of falling in line with its East African neighbors has been much on my mind since the IEBC’s decision on the election on March 9.

Museveni as the featured speaker–and what he had to say–certainly fits this theme.  Museveni can readily castigate the ICC and “the West” for meddlesome advocacy of international standards, knowing that he has a mutual “security” relationship at a deeper level with the United States.  He gets criticized by the U.S. for changing the constitution to stay in power, and for taking and keeping control of the Ugandan electoral commission–but without discernible “consequences”.

Uhuru himself in his speech said nothing about corruption–a major theme in the KANU to NARC transition and the original Kibaki inauguration, and well understood to be the Achilles Heel for Kenya’s economy.  And as I have noted before, the Jubilee platform’s only “plank” relating to governance is a proposal for active state intervention in the civil society arena.

Museveni and his NRM have been associated with the KANU of Moi and of Uhuru and Ruto over the years and at some level Kenya post-Moi has been an outlier in the East African Community of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.  As well as Museveni, one naturally thinks of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and the recently departed Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia as authoritarian heads of state who could count on strong support in Washington at a variety of levels–both in terms of underlying security relationships and friendships with American politicians who could be counted on for advocacy in the face of international controversy.

Uhuru himself, quite the contrary to his short-lived campaign rhetoric this year as an ICC indictee, has been a favorite Kenyan politician of many in the American establishment.  He talks the talk well.  He was educated in the U.S. and has been a frequent visitor.  A “family friend” of former Assistant Secretary of State Frazer by reputation.  Rich even by American standards, and a business owner whose inherited fortune was generationally cleansed from openly kleptocratic political origins.  Before the confirmation of the ICC charges but after the 2008 post-election violence when the issues with the alleged funding of the Mungiki attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru were well known, he was a primary lobbyist for the Kenyan government in the U.S. seeking things like a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact.  Before the 2007 election, he entertained official American visitors including Senator Obama as the “Official Leader of the Opposition”.  He was singled out for positive recognition in a report by CIPE, the Center for International Private Enterprise (the National Endowment for Democracy’s core institute under the United States Chamber of Commerce) and was spoken of in government as a Kenyan who “says the right things”.

A U.S. foreign policy establishment view on how the United States should deal with a Kenyatta administration was offered in a Foreign Affairs piece by Bronwyn Bruton of the Atlantic Council just before the election:

. . . In all likelihood, the first round of voting will lead to a runoff election on April 10 between Raila Odinga, the current prime minister of Kenya’s hastily-constructed unity government, and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s deputy Prime Minster and the son of Kenya’s first president. The tightness of the race bodes ill; it is unlikely that either side will be able to score a quick victory, and it will not take much vote rigging to influence the election’s outcome. The losing party is virtually certain, therefore, to contest the results. Some violence, in other words, seems all but assured. The question is how long it will last, whether it will spread nationwide, and how many people will be displaced, injured, or killed

Most of the piece is behind the firewall so I won’t copy it here, but she goes on to argue that U.S. interests counsel what I would characterize as essentially a business as usual approach to Uhuru (and by implication of course Ruto) unless and until they end up eventually convicted by the ICC.  I shared this with a friend in Washington with the comment that this could be read as a Washington argument not to get too exercised if Uhuru helped himself to some extra votes to win–the risk of instability was very high and the downside to having Uhuru in office wasn’t that great.

The Carter Center has released another round of reporting on the election, “slamming” the IEBC, but concluding with a factually unsupported pronouncement that in spite of the electoral commission’s many failures their announced result happened to “reflect the will of the Kenyan people”.  This was language being tossed around in certain circles before the election with reference to Moi’s races back in the ’90s.  How to say an election is bad but the incumbent or other beneficiary of the state misconduct would have won anyway? The big difference in 2013, of course, should have been that the Kenyan voters had approved–with much U.S. support–a new constitution that was supposed to end the “first past the post” system that so benefited Moi and require a “runoff to majority”.  When you read the Carter Center report it is clear that there is no way they can offer any substantive assurance at all for the IEBC’s award of just enough to Uhuru to avoid that runoff.

But, there are interests at stake besides justice–there is also “stability”, and “peacekeeping” troops in Somalia, etc., etc.

So we shall see.  I hope for the best for Kenya, but the Uhuruto ascendancy looks to me like a big win for tribal chauvinism and a real step back in terms of democratic ideals.  Kenya is very different from either Rwanda or Ethiopia, and from Uganda, too.  Whatever excuses one makes for Kagame and Museveni in their own postwar environments, to me, ought not to apply to Kenyatta or Uhuru in Kenya.

Attacks on Kenyan Civil Society prefigured in Jubilee “manifesto”

The Jubilee (UhuRuto) Coalition manifesto contains a section entitled “Good Governance” which strikingly in a country with so many governance challenges, contains only one section, on “the challenge” of “managing our relationship” with civil society:

THE CHALLENGE

The influence of Civil Society has expanded over the years to the point where the various Civil Society groups play an important role in the country’s political and economic development. In the years following the signing of the National Accord, the sector has grown in stature, influencing government decisions, political culture, and key appointments. We must identify new and innovative ways of working with the sector so that the country can fully benefit from its expertise and experience.

THE OPPORTUNITY

We believe that NGOs have a valuable role to play in monitoring government and helping to strengthen the social infrastructure in our country. We shall manage our relationship with the NGO sector in accordance with internationally recognized best practices.

SOLUTIONS

The Coalition government will:

  • Introduce a Charities Act to regulate political campaigning by NGOs, to ensure that they only campaign on issues that promote their core remit and do not engage in party politics. This will also establish full transparency in funding both for NGOs and individual projects.
  • Establish a Charities Agency to provide an annual budgetary allocation to the NGO sector.
  • Promote accountability and coordination between the NGO sector and national and county governments.
  • Develop strong partnership with the NGO sector that enhances the country’s development agenda and promotes the interests of the people of Kenya.

So what does this mean?  Clearly, what is proposed is substantial “regulation” and government involvement in the workings of civil society.  This was understood by many in civil society before the election to refer to “Ethiopian” style control–you could also look at Rwanda and Uganda for other regimes in the EAC.

Since the election, we have seen some nasty, conspiratorialist, attacks on civil society for not getting in line with the IEBC’s announced result. See “Kenyans fundamental rights under attack” from Mugambi Kiai in the Nation, responding.

 

Four out of the Five Members of the East African Community are among the 20 USAID “‘Feed the Future’ Focus Countries

From a USAID press release, “USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah Announces 20 Feed the Future Initiative Focus Countries“:

In 2008, the Lancet identified just 36 countries that are home to 90 percent of all children whose growth was stunted for lack of adequate food. Based on this global burden of undernutrition and other criteria that examined the prevalence and dynamics of poverty, country commitment, and opportunities for agriculture-led growth, the 20 Feed the Future focus countries are: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Tajikistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and, Nicaragua in Latin America.

These countries experience chronic hunger and poverty in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to food price shocks. At the same time, they demonstrate potential for rapid and sustainable agriculture-led growth, good governance, and opportunities for regional coordination through trade and other mechanisms. USAID will work with strategic partners Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa to harness the power of regional coordination and influence in these focus countries.

Certainly it is encouraging that USAID finds Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda to present potential for rapid improvement–and perhaps the potential of the EAC itself is significant to this.   The listing is also a good reminder for Kenya that in spite of its significantly higher level of aggregate and per capita GDP, and overall growth, rural hunger remains all too common.  While this seems a constructive approach for USAID, I am skeptical that donors will  change the situation dramatically in Kenya until Kenya’s leaders share the priority to a greater extent than they have seemed to in recent years.