Nairobi’s Star publishes extraordinary story using SECRET 2009 Cable about Amos Wako corruption issues published by Wikileaks in 2010 to explain U.S. visa ban and designation

Read here from The Star: “What Ranneberger told Washington about Wako on corruption”.

Update Nov. 19, see the follow-up: “10 big names join Wako on US travel ban“.

When Wikileaks first published the mass of stolen State Department cables in late 2010 while Michael Ranneberger was Ambassador to Kenya The Star to my recollection did not write any stories from them–including about this 2009 cable, classified SECRET, on the Amos Wako issues. Of course it was more timely then and Wako was still serving as Attorney General.

The Star and The Standard both stayed away from direct coverage of material from the leaked cables, while The Nation did a small number of Kenya stories–not including this Wako subject matter–before quickly backing off.

The most topical of those for me back in 2011 was a Nation story revealing that in early 2008 the US had issued undisclosed (and unknown to me) visa bans against three members of the Electoral Commission of Kenya based on substantial evidence of bribery. The State Department has never to this day acknowledged knowing about the bribery at the ECK in the 2007 election and the publication of such stories in the Nation quickly dried up. (I was told of ECK bribery by another diplomatic source in January 2008.)

Back in the States in my job in the defense industry (with my security clearance) I was told by a friend in the Kenyan media that I had been “sweetly vindicated” on my public contradictions with the Ambassador in the New York Times and otherwise about the 2007 election but the “Wikileaked” cables were not available to me due to the obligations of my security clearance. Readers of this blog will know that I started the process of requesting related information through the Freedom of Information Act in 2009, more than a year before Wikileaks hit, and that I have received released versions of some of the same Cables that Wikileaks published unredacted.

I learned in real time that Ranneberger expressed active displeasure with The Star for publishing a story in February 2008 on the leaked USAID/International Republican Institute exit poll showing an opposition (Odinga) win in the December 2007 election, so I always assumed that it was likely that the Kenyan newspapers received diplomatic encouragement not to publish independently from the stolen cables.

Clearly the Trump Administration has had quite a very different approach with Wikileaks than the Obama Administration did back in 2010 and Ranneberger is now retired from Government himself and working as a consultant and lobbyist looking, among other things, to influence the Trump Administration. So lots of things have changed aside from Wako moving to the Senate from the Attorney General’s office and having a leading role in the current Building Bridges Initiative.

[I will add links to my previous posts, but wanted to go ahead and get this up.]

See “Part Seven — one last FOIA Cable on the 2007 exit poll“:

. . . .

The quest for accountability to Kenyan voters has remained unanswered sadly.  A news story in the Daily Nation in 2011, in the final item on my chronology of links to coverage of the Kenyan election, reports from an alleged leaked cable that ten days before this February 18, 2008 meeting at the Ambassador’s residence, the State Department issued “visa bans” against ECK members based on evidence regarding bribery–but did not disclose this circumstance, or the evidence, at this [Feb 18] meeting (I checked with a participant).  We, the United States, made clear that we were willing to step up financial and rhetorical support for reforms in Kenya–such as the new constitution–under a deal in which the new Kibaki administration shared power with the opposition under an Kofi Annan-brokered bargain–but we brushed aside the issue of the fraud in the election.

Kenya election vote counting Westlands Nairobi

Kenya Senator Amos Wako, former longtime Attorney General under Moi and Kibaki, gets US “public designation” for involvement in corruption and a second US “visa ban”

Secretary of State Pompeo released a press statement today announcing a “public designation” by the United States of former Attorney General Amos Wako, along with his wife and son, for evidence of involvement in significant corruption, seemingly from his time as Attorney General. Wako served during both the Goldenburg and Anglo Leasing corruption scandals.

Recent news finds the successful Goldenburg scam architect Kamlish Pattni obtaining a court judgement for additional funds from the Government relating to incompetent prosecution endeavors against him. Also we read this week that more than Switzerland has been holding frozen funds related to the Anglo Leasing scandal which have not

The previous visa ban on Wako under U.S. Presidential Proclamation 7750 of 2004, was legally confidential, but was announced by then-Ambassador Michael Ranneberger in a Tweet in November 2009. Wako publicly acknowledged the ban for alleged failure to cooperate with reforms in the wake of the Post Election Violance following the 2007 election and announced he would sue to have it lifted. It is unclear when that ban was lifted, although it must have been a some point. As of December 2015 then-Ambassador Robert Godec told The Standard that there were several Kenyans barred from the US under Presidential Proclamation 7750.

In early 2008, according to a Daily Nation report said to be from Wikileaks, the US banned three Kenyan member of the Electoral Commission of Kenya based on evidence of bribery, but the US has never made any type of disclosure of that action or the underlying Election Commission bribery issue although I was told separately of ECK bribery by non-US diplomatic sources in the course of my work for the International Republican Institute during the Post Election Violence.

Reviewing the 1992 Election Observation Report from the International Republican Institute for my last post I noted that Attorney General Wako was accused by IRI of being “responsible for egregious pre-election irregularities related to the election framework” along with many of the District Commissioners.

US response to South Sudan corruption: a shoe drops

New action today on South Sudan corruption today, offering hope on the question from my last post “How quickly will the United States Government act in “analysis, evaluation and investigation” of The Sentry report on South Sudan?

Statement from The Sentry: “US Sanctions Al-Cardinal, Tycoon Named in Reports of The Sentry“:

October 11, 2019 (Washington D.C.) — Today, the United States placed sanctions on Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali, widely known as Al-Cardinal, a tycoon with ties to the U.S., UK, and UAE.

Today’s action by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) target Al-Cardinal and his network of businesses, and come in the wake of two recent investigative reports by The Sentry “The Taking of South Sudan” and “Al-Cardinal: South Sudan’s Original Oligarch,” that detailed the business activities of Al-Cardinal, among others, and urged governments to sanction him and his networks.

. . . .

Joshua White, Director of Policy and Analysis at The Sentry, said: “The Sentry applauds today’s action by the Department of the Treasury, which should serve as a warning to the financial facilitators and commercial enablers of corrupt South Sudanese elites that they will lose access to the dollar unless they cease doing business that funds violence in the country. The United Kingdom and other European countries, as well as those in the region, should follow suit . . .

. . . .

The Sentry’s investigation found that Al-Cardinal has exploited opaque procurement processes, weak oversight institutions, and cozy relationships with South Sudan’s most powerful politicians to line his own pockets.

“A major enabler of corruption and violence for President Salva Kiir’s government,” according to the The Sentry’s reporting, Al-Cardinal has been embroiled in major procurement scandals, set up private businesses with ruthless military generals, imported military equipment during a bloody civil war and landed lucrative contracts linked to the implementation of the peace deal in South Sudan.

Read the full report “Al Cardinal: South Sudan’s Original Oligarch”: https://eno.ug/al-
Read the full report “The Taking of South Sudan”: https://eno.ug/

Reuters: “US imposes sanctions on two South Sudanese businessmen for fraud, bribery“:

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two South Sudanese businessmen, Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal and Kur Ajing Ater, for their involvement in bribery, kickbacks and procurement fraud with senior government officials, the Treasury Department said on Friday.

After the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Benjamin Bol Mel, a key adviser to the South Sudanese president, in 2017, Mel used an account in the name of the companies of Al-Cardinal to evade sanctions and store personal funds, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

In early 2019, the South Sudanese government paid millions of dollars to a company owned by Al-Cardinal ostensibly for food, but that in fact was routed to senior South Sudanese government officials, the Treasury Department said. . . .

Ranneberger’s Gainful Solutions subcontracted Washington Media Relations/Monitoring and Outreach to Sanitas in July after previous pummeling on news of hiring by Kiir Government

Here is the July 19 subcontract agreement between Gainful Solutions and Sanitas as attached to the August 13 Foreign Agent Registration Act filing.

The Gainful Solutions-Sanitas deal was announced appropriately enough through Politico with a professional spin on Gainful Solutions “amending” the original contract with Salva Kiir under which they received the initial $1.2M non refundable cash payment from the Kiir government.

Those that are interested enough to follow the links and read the documents will notice that the “subcontract” goes well beyond the actual contract, raising the question of whether Sanitas could be paid to say things in Washington by Gainful Solutions that Kiir did not commit to in his contract (the April 2 contract initially paid , or the May 7 substitute).

This is the Prime Contract scope of work:

The Consultant services will include, but not necessarily be limited to, thefollowing:

1 Open a channel of communication between President Kiir and President Trump with the objective of persuading President Trump and his administration to expand economic and political relations with South Sudan, and supporting American private sector investment in South Sudan in oil, natural resources, energy, gas, mining, and other areas.

2 Improve bilateral relations between the United States and South Sudan.

3 Address sanction issues.

4 Seek the support of the Trump administration to unite the various ethnic groups of the country in order to build a stable and prosperous country.

5 Mobilize American companies to invest in the oil. natural resources, and other sectors

6 Persuade the Trump administration to open a military relationship with South Sudan in order to enhance the fight against terrorism and promote regional stability.

The Consultant will act as the agents of the GOSS, Office of the President, to facilitate and negotiate with American and Western companies for investment in South Sudan. The Consultant shall be entitled to certain residuals, compensation, commissions, or shareholding resulting from its facilitation and negotiation with American and Western businesses.

The Services will also include any other consulting tasks which the Parties may agree on.

Here is Ranneberger on Eye Radio from an August 15 interview doing a local media roll out: “Ranneberger indeed hired to smooth Juba–Washington DC relations“:

In an exclusive interview with Eye Radio yesterday, Ambassador Ranneberger admitted that the first draft of the contract that was brought to the attention of the public had the provision to stop or block the formation of the hybrid court.

“There was a bit of a mix up with the first draft of the contract and it got published, but you can look at our contract on the website –which the President [Kiir] has approved, and it says nothing about the hybrid court,” Ranneberger said Thursday.

He, however, confirmed that part of the campaign will include convincing US to ease sanctions on South Sudanese leaders.

As I noted on Twitter I do not understand what “a little bit of a mix up” or “first draft” means. The original contract was signed and filed with the Justice Department and according to the filings the nonrefundable initial fee payment of $1.2M of the $3.7M paid. After the barrage of criticism in the international media and organized opposition from South Sudanese civil society the contract was “cancelled” on May 2 and a second contract signed May 5, reflecting that the $1.2M was already paid. See South Sudan: New Salva Kiir-Ranneberger Foreign Agent filing shows $1.2M nonrefundable retainer already paid and $3.7M flat fee (contra Reuters).

Kenya 2007 election- Ambassador Ranneberger and Connie Newman at polling station NairobiMichael Ranneberger (Ambassador) and Constance Newman (Election Observer) at poll in Nairobi, December 27, 2007

The Registered Agents for South Sudan at Gainful Solutions are Rannberger, and his fellow ex-diplomats Connie Newman and Tim Towell and the other principal in the firm Sohai Nazari-Kangarlou.

State Department announces sanctions on head of DRC election commission and constitutional court for “significant corruption”

Good. Let me appreciate this action by the State Department to address a corrupt voting process and pull back from previous language that skipped over what seems to be the reality of what happened.

Here is the statement.

It would seem that collectively we (the U.S.) want to recognize Tshisekedi as fait accompli and “not Kabila”, and make the most of the opportunity for a better relationship and progress while still holding a small flame against election fraud for the future and not be “complicit” in covering it up. I very much approve of not being complicit in a cover up even if we are just trying to make the best of the situation with good intentions.

In Kenya in 2008 we issued private travel sanctions against two members of the election commission, the then ECK, for suspected bribery, but said nothing publicly. In that case there was violence from the election fraud and we had withdrawn our initial congratulations. We never disclosed the sanctions or the issue or evidence regarding the bribery but I learned of the matter from a Daily Nation story from a stolen cable from Wikileaks:

The Daily Nation– “What the cables say” (Feb ’08 US visa warning letters sent to ECK commissioners suspected of accepting bribes to fix vote tally) Mar 2 ’11 The link is apparently dead now; for discussion of the story please see Part Seven of my series on the page “The Story of the ’07 Election Through FOIA” under “The War for History Series: was Kenya’s election stolen?.

The public sanctions now, to me, are a step forward in responding to election corruption and I appreciate that we are taking this step. I also appreciate the many people influential in Washington who have spoken out publicly on the problem and laid the groundwork for this, noting Amb. Michelle Gavin at CFR and Joshua Meservey at Heritage. And of course Nic Cheeseman of Democracy in Africa and the University of Birmingham has been a ubiquitous friendly voice for the democratic process throughout.

As discussed in my previous post “Foreign Policy article gives insight on disagreements within Trump administration on backing off on criticism of flawed DRC vote” we learned a good bit about the intergovernmental back and forth on the U.S. side on these issues from the work of Robbie Gramer and Jeffcoate O’Donnell. (As I wrote I know there was some of this in Kenya 2007 but no one seems to have been willing to write about it yet and I only have pieces.)

So, what’s next?

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

U.S. Rachets Up Pressure on Kenyan “Drug Kingpins”

The White House released its designation of seven individuals, including two Kenyans, to Congress as appropriate for sanctions as “foreign drug kingpins”, including Kilome MP John Harun Mwau (Sultan Hamud, Eastern Province–on the way from Mombasa to Nairobi) and another Kenyan. This follows the delivery to Attorney General Wako earlier this year of a dossier supporting these charges.  So far, Kenyan authorities have indicated that they find no evidence on which to take legal action.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
June 01, 2011

Letter from the President on the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act

June 1, 2011

Dear Mr. Chairman:  (Dear Madam Chairman:)
(Dear Representative:) (Dear Senator:)

This report to the Congress, under section 804(a) of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, 21 U.S.C. 1901-1908 (the “Kingpin Act”), transmits my designations of the following seven foreign individuals as appropriate for sanctions under the Kingpin Act and reports my direction of sanctions against them under the Act:

Manuel Torres Felix (Mexico)
Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza (Mexico)
Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai (Afghanistan)
Kamchybek Asanbekovich Kolbayev (Kyrgyzstan)
John Harun Mwau (Kenya)
Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa (Kenya)
Javier Antonio Calle Serna (Colombia)

Sincerely,

BARACK OBAMA

Here is a link to “Narcotics:  What You Need to Know About U.S. Sanctions Against Drug Traffickers; an overview of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpins Designation Act . . .” published by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control:

The Kingpin Act blocks all property and interests in property,
subject to U.S. jurisdiction, owned or controlled by significant
foreign narcotics traffickers as identified by the President.  In
addition, the Kingpin Act blocks the property and interests in
property, subject to U.S. jurisdiction, of foreign persons
designated by the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the
Attorney General, the Director of Central Intelligence, the
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the
Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of State, who are found to
be: (1) materially assisting in, or providing financial or
technological support for or to, or providing goods or services in
support of, the international narcotics trafficking activities of
a person designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act;  (2) owned,
controlled, or directed by, or acting for or on behalf of, a person
designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act; or  (3)  playing a
significant role in international narcotics trafficking.

Mwau filed suit against outgoing U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger in the Kenyan High Court in April in response allegations raised against him by the U.S. late last year:

Mwau says the diplomat has made false allegations of drug trafficking, contract killings and money laundering to the police. The diplomat on December 7, 2010, filed a criminal complaint with the Minister for Internal Security Prof George Saitoti and had the same complaint delivered to the Police Commissioner.

Mwau states that he has never been involved and has never contemplated or even dreamed of being involved in trafficking narcotic drugs and does not know any person who sells, buys or consumes narcotics of any nature.

He says he was shocked when his name was announced by Prof Saitoti in Parliament on December 22, 2010, as one of the people named in Ranneberger’s dossier. Mwau says the dossier had contents meant and calculated to injure his dignity and reputation.

The contents of the dossier, he adds, alleged that he has been linked to contract killings against law enforcement officials and that he is linked to a tonne of cocaine consignment seized by Kenya Police in 2004. Ranneberger also alleged he (Mwau) was a close family member of Akasha family in Mombasa.

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

This Bloomberg/Business Week article, “Iran Arms Shipment May Deal Setback to Expansion of Africa Ties” , is worth a read.

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) — A political wrangle over an Iranian arms shipment seized in Nigeria has set back the Persian Gulf nation’s efforts to cultivate links in Africa as it seeks to forestall diplomatic isolation over its nuclear program.

A United Nations team arrived in Nigeria Jan. 16 to probe the consignment of rockets, grenades and mortar shells that may have been destined for Gambia or Senegal in West Africa. Gambia cut ties with Iran in November and ordered its diplomats out of the country over the shipment. A month later, Senegal recalled its ambassador, citing “grave concern” about the weapons.

.  .  .  .

Zimbabwe, Uganda

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Africa at least three times last year. In April, he visited Zimbabwe to attend a trade fair, and then Uganda, where Iran is building a tractor-assembly plant and may invest in a proposed $2 billion oil refinery, according to Uganda’s Foreign Ministry. Three months later, he traveled to Nigeria, where Saipa, Iran’s second-biggest car manufacturer, signed an accord in November to jointly produce and market budget vehicles in Africa’s most- populous nation.

The commercial diplomacy has some parallel in Iran’s expanding trade and investment in Latin America, where Ahmadinejad has found ideological partners in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. Saipa and Iran Khodro, the country’s largest automaker, aim to quadruple production at a joint-venture car plant in Venezuela.

Economic Clout

In Africa, “their goal is to win votes in the UN and to increase the number of countries that support them there, to win economic points, to increase Iran’s economic clout in the region and in the world,” Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Middle East analyst at Meepas, said in an interview on Nov. 11. “The Iranian leadership sees Iran as a superpower, and superpowers build alliances.” Meepas is a risk-analysis group based in Tel Aviv.

.  .  .  .

Iran is still a modest player in Africa compared with Turkey, which sold $10.2 billion worth of goods in the continent in 2009, according to the State Statistics Agency in Ankara. Brazil shipped $9.26 billion last year, 6.1 percent higher than in 2009, according to Brazilian Trade Ministry figures.

U.S. Interests

Even so, Iran’s efforts on the continent are a “big test” of U.S. influence, said Alex Vines, Africa analyst at Chatham House, the London-based research group.

“For the U.S., other emerging powers in Africa wouldn’t be such a concern, but Iran is kind of hard-wired to give American diplomats concerns,” he said. “That makes Iran different from a Turkey or even China.”

Expanding ties with Iran may cost African nations some of the $6.7 billion in annual aid the continent receives from the U.S. The Republican-led Congress plans to reassess all foreign development aid in the coming year, said Ed Royce, the ranking Republican for the Congressional subcommittee on nuclear proliferation.

“African governments forging close relationships with Iran are not the types of governments we want to do business with,” Royce said in an e-mailed response to questions on Nov. 24.

With the Uganda elections upcoming, Museveni will presumably do his best to play this to maximum advantage.  He attracted high level U.S. courting for his sanctions vote back in May as I discussed here at the time, along with the unsuccessful appeal to open up his Electoral Commission. See also, Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Yes, U.S. policy should consistently prioritize democracy, and the State Department’s diplomats should carry that priority forward.  But realistically diplomats will always have a full card, and frankly the norms of diplomacy are pre-democratic if not outright anti-democratic, as reflected in the degree to which the basic records of our policy are self-classified by the diplomats.  This is why U.S. democracy support or promotion as a development effort needs to be primarily centered elsewhere.

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Secretary of State Clinton noted this week to the African Chiefs of Mission the Africa Bureau’s efforts on wrangling votes for Iran sanctions:

The bureau was enormously helpful in rounding up votes for the sanctions resolution on Iran – Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, thank you, because it wasn’t easy. I think I talked to President Museveni three times and Johnnie visited him several times. But – end result was we got strong African support for the international sanctions regime. We are building, and in some – many cases, rebuilding collaboration not only along bilateral lines, but multilateral alliances, most especially in our collaboration and engagement with the African Union, because it’s very important that we do more to build up the African Union and other regional entities like the East African Community, which has a real potential for being an engine of economic prosperity. [emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at African Chiefs of Mission Conference

Tensions continue building over Uganda’s February 2011 elections–see yesterday’s news about opposition plans for a parallel electronic vote count and the Ugandan government’s strident reaction.

Carl LeVan has an excellent discussion of "Democratization and Securitization in Uganda" that I would highly recommend.

The ruling NRM has cleverly adopted the Global War on Terrorism as a political resource. Even before the terrorist bombing in the capital in July 2010, the government began closing political space in the name of national security while it successfully obtained aid commitments from the United States to fight counter-insurgency wars, one of which is against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north.

. . . .

Looking beyond the Pentagon, Washington is clearly aware of Uganda’s governance drift. For example the US announced that will not renew 10 million dollars committed through Millennium Challenge Corporation to help Uganda move from “threshold” status to a full compact (ie, an agreement) for aid. USAID’s plans call for strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing political competition, and improving parliamentary capacity for oversight through partnerships with civil society. Unfortunately USAID faces an uphill battle, with no increases in the lines funding for either for civil society programs or for its good governance in Uganda, and cuts are planned for programs relating to “political competition and consensus building.” Even aid to fight transnational crime is slated for cuts.

In addition to all the regional security issues involving Somalia, Sudan, Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Iran sanctions issue adds another interesting twist. I noted back in May that Assistant Secretary Carson and AFRICOM Commander General Ward were seeking Museveni’s support on Iran sanctions during a visit to Kampala, as well as pushing for Museveni to relinquish unilateral control of the Electoral Commission. The U.S. succeeded in persuading Uganda to support sanctions, but did not secure action on the Electoral Commission. Both worthy goals, but is there a trade off?

It is also interesting to note a report that Uganda has now been working with Iran to create a joint bank as a mechanism to allow Uganda to obtain access to $46M in pledged Iranian credits that have impeded by the sanctions:

[A] memo prepared by the ministry for Parliament’s public accounts committee, in response to an audit query, said that sanctions had complicated the money transfer. "The ministry has followed up the implementation of this line of credit. However, it has faced challenges, especially following the imposition of sanctions on Iran," said the memo.

"In a bid to overcome the difficulty in transferring funds to and from Iran because of sanctions and to promote investment and trade, the two countries agreed on the establishment of a bank as a joint venture as the best way forward," it said.