How is IGAD’s “diplomatic observation” regarding Kenya’s election process helpful?

Africa Review reports on the statement of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from this week’s visit to Nairobi by executive secretary Mahboub Maalim (himself a Kenyan) and others from the Addis headquarters under the headline “IGAD confident of peaceful Kenya election”:

In his statement, Mr Maalim said: “Igad has come to the conclusion that Kenya’s election is not an event. It is a process and that March 4th is not the end; it is the beginning of a process that could last till June 2013. Kenyans must therefore brace themselves for the long haul.”

Mr Maalim said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the judiciary are crucial for the success of the polls.

“The efficiency of the IEBC during the voter registration process must be lauded. We expect that the same efficiency will apply to the March 4 poll. This is critical if Kenya is to avoid petitions arising from IEBC system failure. The efficiency and believability of the Supreme Court in dealing with the presidential election petitions is also critical. This will determine whether or not the transition is successful,” the Igad executive secretary said.

He said IEBC should be encouraged to conduct a systems dry-run with peer reviewers to seal any loopholes that would affect its efficiency.

Dr Kimani said the recent party nominations in Kenya were inclusive, open and transparent and that it was what the rest of the region had expected.

Igad brings together six countries in the Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – for development and drought control in their region

“Party nominations were inclusive, open and transparent”. Wow, that is certainly a unique perspective that contradicts the reporting in the Kenyan and international press, the reporting of Kenyan civil society umbrella KPTJ, and, for example, the reporting of the Center for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya which is a well established and leading presence in Nairobi on these matters. So who is right here? Might it be relevant that IGAD is an organization of governments that are all far more “challenged” in terms of democratic practices in general, and elections specifically, than even Kenya in the wake of power-sharing and the debacle of 2007, along with the Government of Kenya itself?

I am all for whomever exhorting peace, although I am substantially skeptical that official pronouncements of this type have actual impact on ultimate behavior. Likewise, I am all for encouragement, hope and reasoned, well-grounded optimism in the context of pushing for the best election possible from where things really stand today. But this type of statement about the primaries is a “diplomatic” position rather than an observation or representation of fact. It undermines the credibility of whatever else is said in the same statement as being connected to the facts. At best it is unhelpful–it might be dangerous.

Somaliland Update

Home Decoration Shop

Britain warns of “specific threat” to Westerners in Somaliland and urges its citizens to leave. This is sad; I found Somalilanders to be most welcoming and especially appreciative of the interest and attention of Western visitors. Likewise, during 2007-08, Hargeisa just felt safer than Nairobi, or Addis or Khartoum for that matter.

Former Ambassador David Shinn recently gave an interview with the Somaliland Sun that will be reassuring to Somalilanders wondering about the impact on them of the U.S. decision this month to give formal recognition to the new Somali government:

While I don’t speak for the U.S. government, I doubt that the formal recognition of the new Somali government will have any significant impact on Washington’s interaction with Somaliland. I believe the U.S. government will continue to work with Somaliland as it has in recent years. While there may not be public references to the two track policy, the separate administration in Somaliland remains a reality and I believe Washington will treat it as such. It is up to the leaders of Somalia and Somaliland to determine the nature of their relationship. I see no indication that the United States has abandoned any commitments reached in last year’s London conference. Nor do I expect this development will change in any perceptible way U.S. policy on combatting piracy in the region.

See David Shinn’s blog here.

Red Sea

Djibouti–what’s next in French Somaliland?

“Developing Djibouti: An American Imperative” by Saleem Ali of the University of Queensland at NationalGeographic.com:

A nominal democracy, the country has been relatively peaceful yet still desperately poor. I had an opportunity to visit Djibouti recently after a visit to Ethiopia for the United Nations African Development Forum. My curiosity to visit this country was sparked by an article I had read in The Washington Post regarding the expansion of US military presence in the region. Landing at Djibouti International airport, one is alarmed to find one side of the air strip almost completely populated by US Airforce presence. The country is also among the few places in the world where drone aircraft can be seen on a civilian air strip, often overwhelming civilian traffic. The presence of these prized new airforce stealth weapons in Djibouti comes from its proximity to the Arabian state of Yemen which has become an increasingly significant hotbed for Al-Qaeda.

Talking to locals, there was little resentment towards American presence but also not much to show for their positive impact on the country. Occasionally one would hear stories of US soldiers volunteering for community service or building some unusual desert residence for local villagers, but the overall development impact of US presence here of over 3000 personnel has been minimal. Unemployment is still over 40% and much of the money that comes in from foreign investment is funnelled back to the foreign-owned businesses in the city. The US government pays only $38 million per year to lease the airfield for the drone operations and the African command base here which is under further expansion.

The lack of US investment in Djibouti is a tremendous missed opportunity to develop a country which could be a low-hanging fruit for citizen diplomacy with the Muslim world. With only 900,000 people and a relatively small land-base and a highly urbanized population, developing Djibouti with aid investment would be very easy to do. . . .

While “easy” may be an exaggeration, I agree with Ali’s point that Djibouti is a place where the United States ought to be committed to “showing our stuff” in terms of development capability.  And of course, as I have written before, a key place where delivering on democracy assistance in advance of, rather than behind, a crisis, ought to be feasible.

h/t John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review

 

Uganda: New links for ongoing themes . . .

Uganda will review its commitment of forces to the AMISOM mission in Somalia due to being “stabbed in the back” by accusation of arming rebels in DRC.

Today, Uganda’s Media Council ordered suspension of a play entitled “State of the Nation” about corruption and poor governance, pending a “review”.

The Ugandan Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadega, is attracting popular support for standing up to pressure on a recent trip to Canada on the longstanding “anti-homosexuality” bill, and rejects the notion that she should block debate on the bill to appease aid donors or avoid visa suspensions.

In the meantime, two patients from a road accident reportedly died after the ICU in Uganda’s largest hospital closed recently due to lack of equipment:

According to a research paper published by the Bio Med Central Journal, Uganda has only one ICU bed for every one million Ugandans. The paper reveals that critical care remains neglected with many patients with potentially treatable conditions unable to access services.

Ideally, with Mulago’s 1,500 bed capacity, at least 150 of them should be in a high dependency ward for people who need more intensive observation and treatment.

Other departments that have ICU beds in the hospital are the pediatric ward (4) which are not working, the Heart Institute (4) and the Cancer Institute (3) while the general ward has 12 beds with no equipment. Other public hospitals that have functioning ICUs in the country are Mbarara, Lacor, Gulu and Jinja.

h/t Rosebell’s Blog on Twitter

VOA reports that Britain has joined Ireland in an aid suspension over corruption in the Prime Minister’s office (although apparently the Irish suspension is general, whereas the UK is apparently only suspending aid to that one office):

The money was meant to have been spent on helping the needy, and to help pay for a ‘peace recovery and development program’ in northern Uganda after decades of conflict and devastation.

The Ugandan government has pledged prosecutions. Two senior officials have been charged, while 17 others have been suspended as the investigation continues.

“This report does not surprise anybody,” said Dr. Fred Golooba Mutebi, a political analyst and a visiting fellow at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The only shock, he added, “is the amounts of money stolen are quite colossal.”

"Freedom of expression is your right"

“FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS YOUR RIGHT”

Consolidating lasting benefits from “liberation” of Kismayu . . .

Ken Menkhaus addresses governance in liberated Kismayo in “Somalia’s Sarajevo” in Foreign Policy:

Since the onset of state collapse and civil war in 1991, Kismayo has been Somalia’s Sarajevo — a chronically contested city, at times half-emptied by armed conflict, at other times bloated with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. It has changed hands many times over the past two decades but has always been in the control of warlords or jihadists and has never enjoyed a day of good governance. Rival Somali clans in Jubbaland — the region of southern Somalia where Kismayo is located — have never been able to agree on how to share the city and have repeatedly fought over it. Even al-Shabab suffered an internal armed battle over control of the seaport in 2008. Thanks to years of political violence, Kismayo has a well-earned reputation as the most difficult and dangerous place for aid agencies to operate in all of Somalia.

This history of violence and instability is tragic, as the city has the potential to be one of the most commercially vibrant, cosmopolitan urban centers in Somalia. The city’s main value is as the site of an international airport and an all-weather seaport near the Kenyan border. Proximity to the large Kenyan market makes trade through Kismayo’s port very attractive; the seaport alone generates lucrative customs revenue for whoever controls it.

. . . .

Kenya, IGAD, Mohamud, and the local political players tapped to administer Kismayo should meet in Mogadishu and quickly negotiate the terms of a provisional administration over the city. This negotiation should acknowledge the sovereignty of the new government, recognize that the new government currently lacks the means to directly administer newly liberated space, and set clear timetables and limits on the authority of a city administration that will be explicitly provisional in nature. At a minimum, this will buy some time until the new Somali national government can form a complete cabinet and address the urgent question of how local or regional administrations are to be formed in newly liberated zones.

President Hassan addressed these issues while traveling within Somalia to visit the site of flooding in Beledweyne, as reported by Garowe Online:

Answering a question about the southern port of Kismayo, President Hassan said: “I share my congratulations with Somali National Forces, local forces and AMISOM forces who jointly took control of Kismayo. It is very important that Kismayo gets a civilian administration soon and we are working on this.”

Diplomatic sources in Nairobi told Garowe Online that President Hassan sent a letter to the Kenyan Government last month, urging Nairobi to steer clear of efforts to establish an administration for the Jubba regions of southern Somalia, where Kismayo is located.

One source added: “President Hassan is pushing the sovereignty card and telling Kenya to allow his government the lead in establishing a local administration. However, there is a difference between the type of administration, with President Hassan wanting to appoint a provincial administration similar to Bay and Hiran regions, while there is a consultative process underway in Kenya over the past year to establish a ‘Jubaland’ state administration, in line with Somalia’s federal constitution.”

Assistant Secretary of State Carson set out U.S. priorities and intentions on Somalia more generally in a Monday foreign press briefing:

Somalia is a good news story for the region, for the international community, but most especially for the people of Somalia itself. Over the past 12 months we have seen the completion of the transitional roadmap ending the TFG and creating a new Somali Government. For the first time in nearly two decades, Somalia has a new provisional constitution. It has a newly selected parliament which is half the size of the former parliament and comprises some 18 percent women and whose membership is comprised of some 60 percent university graduates. There’s been a new speaker selected and a new president elected. Great progress has been achieved in Somalia, and this is in large measure because of the combined efforts of IGAD, the African Union, the UN and the international community, and especially the United States.

At this meeting, we heard from Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and it was broadly agreed that the international community would support the new emphasis in priorities of the government.

For our part in Washington, we are determined to do three things. One is to help the new government put in place the infrastructure so that it can run effectively. This means helping to create effective government ministries, have those ministries staffed with effective civil servants and advisors so that they can carry out their government functions.

The second is to help to create a new Somali national army, an army that is subservient to civilian and constitutional control, an army that is able to work alongside of AMISOM and take on increasingly new responsibilities that are much broader than anything AMISOM has been equipped and manned to do. But creating a new strong Somali army, to eventually replace AMISOM is a second priority. And third priority is to provide assistance to the government so that it can deliver services to the people so that it can rebuild and refurbish and re-staff schools, hospitals, and medical clinics, provide assistance so that it can begin to deal with some of its smaller infrastructure issues, providing clean water to populations, helping to restore electrical power and also opening up markets. We also want to help in developing small enterprise and microcredit operations to help the government as well.

So we will be working there. As I said, Secretary Clinton was there. We think Somalia has made enormous progress. We also believe there has been significant military progress against al-Shabaab. AMISOM deserves an enormous amount of credit in driving al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and its environs and also moving against the city of Kismayo. Much credit for the operations in Kismayo go to the Kenyan forces who were a part of AMISOM, but we must praise the leadership of the Ugandan commanders who have led the AMISOM mission over the last four years. But Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya all deserve credit, and they will soon be joined by forces arriving literally today and tomorrow from Sierra Leone to help strengthen AMISOM. But the international community has been in unison with IGAD and the AU, and the U.S. has been a significant and major contributor to this effort.

Kibaki gets ahead of news on Kismayu, as Kenyan forces conduct assault from beach [updated Sat. Sept. 29]

[Update Sept. 29–Reuters reports that al-Shabab announced they had pulled most of their fighters out of Kismayu overnight Friday, continuing the pattern of avoiding heavy direct fighting.]

Friday afternoon, Sept. 28: BBC News–Somali militants hold Kismayo under Kenyan force attack:

Kenyan and Somali forces launched a beach assault on al-Shabab’s last major stronghold, but by late afternoon were still some miles from the city centre.

Clashes were reported just north of the city and residents report Kenyan shelling of al-Shabab positions.

Kenyan troops are part of a force trying to wrest control of the country for the new UN-backed president.

The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Nairobi says it is probably a matter of when, not if Kismayo falls. . . .

Simultaneously in the Daily Nation, published hours earlier: “Kibaki commends Kenyan forces over Kismayu victory”:

President Kibaki has commended the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for capturing Kismayu terming it a defining moment for Somalia and the region.

The seizure of the port city in southern Somalia is a “game changer”, the President who is also the Commander in-Chief of Kenya Defence Forces said Friday.

“This is a game changer for the people of Somalia, it is a defining moment.

Here is The Standard story: “How KDF took Kismayu”.

It is interesting to note in the context of an amphibious assault that as I understand it, the Kenyan Navy, unlike the ground forces, is not directly integrated into the AMISOM forces.

Update: From Jeffrey Gettleman’s New York Times report, also from Nairobi:

On Friday evening, one Kismayu resident said that the environment inside the town was “very tense” and that “we don’t know where to hide.” The resident, who did not want to be identified, said the Kenyan army was rapidly approaching but that the Shabab were still in control of the city center.

Some analysts predicted that once nightfall came, the Shabab would sneak away under the cover of darkness. Other analysts said that, if cornered, the Shabab fighters who remained in the town might stand and fight.

Kenya’s invasion of Somalia is the most aggressive step it has ever taken against another country. Kenyan officials said they needed to go into Somalia to protect their borders after a wave of kidnappings, and the first troops rolled in last year. But they have also acknowledged that Somalia’s relentless chaos was hindering Kenya’s fast-growing economy and that the invasion was a long-planned objective to secure the coastline and allow Kenya to move ahead with an ambitious, new, multibillion dollar port on the Indian Ocean, not far from the Somali border.

It is not clear what may happen next. Setting up an inclusive, widely accepted local administration for Kismayu will be crucial for any pacification efforts. But Kismayu has always been a tricky place to rule .  .  .  .

Weekend Reading

“How Africa’s most threatening terrorist group lost control of Somalia” in The Atlantic.

Kenya signs deal with China to build standard gauge railroad from Mombasa that would complete with lagging Rift Valley Railroad concession. The East African

Around the Bend

Kenya teachers strike to enter its fourth week Monday.Business Daily

“For Ethiopia’s new premier, a tightrope act” Africa Review.

Hailemariam, Meles Zenawi’s deputy, was last week finally elected chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) after a furious behind-the-scenes battle for control of the powerful ruling party.

He was consequently due to be sworn in on September 21 as prime minister in what is the first peaceful and constitutional power transition in Ethiopia’s recent history.

The new premier would be in place until the next general election set for 2015, a tenure probably too short to consolidate any meaningful political base and influence, suggesting an authoritarian Meles-like approach to matters of government would leave him vulnerable.

His appointment is also a major milestone in Ethiopian politics as it marks the first time a minority ethnic group has ascended to power in the country’s modern history.

All Ethiopian leaders have tended to emerge from the north, particularly the Amhara and Tigray ethnic groups. Hailemariam is from the marginalised Wolyta ethnic group of the South. He is also a Pentecostal Protestant adherent, unlike his predecessors who have all been Coptic (Orthodox ) Christians.
. . . .

Hailemariam would be less impressive on the international stage such as the G8 or UN climate summits where his predecessor excelled as he spoke on behalf of the continent, but western allies mainly the US have reaffirmed their cooperation with Ethiopia.

President Barack Obama spoke with Hailemariam early this month.

But at home, the new man at the helm faces an uneasy two years ahead, with ruling party confrontations and government power squabbles, already simmering under the surface, prone to erupting into the public domain.

Political and economic competition between the old guard and the new leadership could deepen existing fault lines, and for many Ethiopia watchers, it is only a matter of time.

Any divisions in the authoritarian ruling party tends to greatly affect Ethiopia’s political sphere, and Hailemariam will need to be adept at putting together smart compromises, unlike Meles who is remembered for running a one-man show, and with an iron fist.

“In Uganda, mixed reactions to Africa’s youngest MP” VOA

Weekend reading on Somalia and the Somaliland elections

The Daily Nation’s Rashid Abdi reports on a new review of security in Mogadishu:

The 27-page report by Saferworld, a conflict-prevention research and advocacy organization based in London, entitled Mogadishu rising? – Conflict and governance dynamics in Mogadishu”, notes tentative gains in security.

It acknowledges that there is an improved public perception, but says progress “remains inadequate and uneven with significant areas of Mogadishu – particularly the city’s northern districts – almost entirely unpoliced.

“In the absence of state-provided security, residents and officials have formed an array of neighbourhood vigilante groups and private militia to protect themselves and their property.”

The report, based on a comprehensive field research that involved opinion surveys and focus groups, from April to July 2012, accuses the TFG of failing to capitalise on the military gains achieved to improve security and instead fuelling a “privatization of security” likely to undermine the efforts to stabilize the capital in the longer term.

Here is the link to Saferworld’s summary and to download the full report.

Lisa Otto at the South African Institute for International Affairs writes in yesterday’s Africa Portal “At the End of the Transition Period Somalia is Going Nowhere–Slowly.  Her piece is dated August 10 and doesn’t reflect the latest developments in the final week of transition, but provides a pessimistic summary of the TFG’s eight years.

Super Market & Baby Shop

In Somaliland, delayed local elections are now set for November, with a new court ruling upholding the selection of six “political associations” to participate in addition to the three established parties (Kulmiye, UCID and UDUB) in the last two presidential elections.  Progressio has released a report on August 31 entitled “Preparing for local elections in Somaliland: plans, challenges and progress.” From the announcement:

The lack of a robust voter registration system could also lead to issues such as multiple voting.

There are also concerns about the process of assessing new ‘political associations’, which are vying to join the three existing authorised political parties and so be able to participate in the elections. According to the report, there is “the potential for six political associations to join the three existing political parties to contest the elections, and for each of those nine parties/associations to stand a candidate in every seat”.

Recent and continuing challenges to press freedom also pose a barrier to legitimate elections, and there are worries that recent gains in promoting women’s involvement in democratic processes could be undermined by the ‘open list’ system.

Despite highlighting these concerns, the report makes recommendations and suggestions for improvements by a number of key players, including the government of Somaliland, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), political parties and associations, civil society organisations, and the international community including donors.

Michael Walls says: “Our hope is that this report will help encourage all concerned to pull together and ensure that these elections become another significant milestone in Somaliland’s progress towards democratic accountability.”

Here is the Somaliland Press this week on the court ruling on the political association registration:

A High court in Hargeisa has dismissed a civil case filed by a group of political parties to contest the decision by the political associations and parties Registration & Approval Committee (PPR&VC).

The case which had been filed by a cluster of parties namely UDHIS, NDB, HORYAAL and jamuuhiriga were part of the nine out of fifteen political organizations which failed to qualify verification and approval process hence their disqualification from the process.

The chairman of the High Court Prof. Yusuf Ismael Ali while reading the court’s ruling said that with all due respect, we hereby find no evidence of the irregularities in the qualification process contrary to what was alleged by the disqualified political parties.

Progressio notes the complementary British-funded work of the International Republican Insitute (IRI) in the Somaliland election preparation, along with Interpeace and others.

Kenya Update: election campaigns, teachers strike, Mombasa unrest

Close to 100 Kenyan civil servants tendered their resignations by Monday’s deadline in order to run for public office in the upcoming elections. The Standard reports.

Perhaps the most conspicuous is controversial Government Spokesman Alred Mutua who will seek the Governorship of Machakos County through the Wiper Party, formerly ODM-Kenya, headed by V.P. Kalonzo Musyoka.

Charity Ngilu, Water Minister from Kitui South, has entered the presidential race, the second female candidate along with Martha Karua. Ngilu was the first Kenyan woman to run for president in 1997.

Kenya’s public school teachers have gone on strike, from the Daily Nation:

School activities have been paralysed as teachers went on strike to demand for more pay.

The teachers defied a court order issued on Friday declaring the strike illegal and failed to report to the more than 30,000 public primary and secondary schools countrywide.

A survey by the Nation established that no learning took place on the first day of Third Term.

In Mombasa, a Muslim cleric, Said Abubaker Shariff Ahmed, suspected of involvement in terrorism has been charged with inciting the deadly riots following the killing of his associate Aboud Rogo.

New Somalia and Uganda reports

The Institute for Security Studies covers the Somali transition in its Daily Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Report:

A total of 215 parliamentarians were sworn in on Monday, 20 August 2012, at a well-guarded ceremony at the Mogadishu airport, ushering in a new era of reforms in Somalia. The ceremony marked the attainment of one of the key milestones identified by the 2011 consultative meeting on ending the transition in the country. . . .

. . . 20 August 2012 was the actual date scheduled for the end of the transition and therefore Somalia should in fact have had a parliament, speaker and deputies, and a president in place by that date. However, due to delays in meeting a number of the deadlines largely blamed on the politics surrounding the selection and submission of names by the traditional elders, and subsequently the vetting process by the Technical Selection Committee (TSC), the whole process was delayed. As a result, the deadline has passed without Somalia meeting all the important milestones envisaged under the Roadmap.

. . . . The politics surrounding the election of the speaker and the president are two remaining crucial issues. This is because the two positions cannot go to the same clan and, as such, clans may try to play their cards to get the optimum result, given the winner-takes-all-nature of the politics surrounding the transition. The situation is still extremely fragile and the country would benefit from maximum support from the international community, while ensuring Somali-centeredness and ownership. Although Somalia did not meet the deadline for the selection of the speaker and the president, the swearing-in of parliamentarians is a watershed moment for a country that has been riddled with lawlessness for 20 years. The progress made has given new hope to some Somalis and renewed the faith of the international community in the peace process.

Human Rights Watch yesterday released a report “Curtailing Criticism: Intimidation and Obstruction of Civil Society in Uganda”.  See a summary here at “Child Troopers.”  In addition to civil liberties issues, the Museveni regime is cracking down “particularly on organizations that might be seen as infringing upon the officials’ political and financial interests,” according to Maria Burnett of HRW.