Nuts and Bolts of the American-Kenyan relationship . . . .

A release today from the State Department:

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas M. Countryman welcomes a senior-level Kenyan delegation to Washington, D.C. from April 30 – May 5, 2012 for a Legal-Regulatory Implementation Workshop on Strategic Trade Controls and Border Security.  The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) will host the Kenyan delegation, which will be led by the Assistant Defense Minister of Kenya; Major General Joseph Nkaisserry (retired).  Ambassador Ochieng Adala, Executive Director of the Africa Peace Forum, and other senior Kenyan officials involved in strategic trade control issues will also participate in the workshop. 

 The training, supported by the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program, is organized by the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia.  The five-day workshop will cover the spectrum of issues pertaining to the development, implementation, and enforcement of an effective strategic trade control and border management system in Kenya, which will advance the dual goals of improving international security and fostering sustainable economic growth.

 This visit provides a unique opportunity to discuss the fundamentals of an effective strategic trade control system with key Kenyan legislators and government officials and to help them incorporate strategic trade controls into future legislation. 

Saturday Prime Minister Odinga will be among the commencement speakers at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee:

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, chair-elect of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, will lead the lineup of speakers scheduled for Florida A&M University’s Spring 2012 Commencement on Saturday, April 28.

Joyner, D-Tampa, will address students slated to receive degrees at the first of three sessions beginning at 9 a.m. at the Lawson Center.

U.S. House Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn will speak at 2 p.m. Kenya Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga will speak at 6 p.m.

For those not familiar with Florida A & M, here is a history capsule from the website “Alumni Roundup”:

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University was founded as the State Normal College for Colored Students, and on October 3, 1887, it began classes with fifteen students and two instructors. Today, FAMU, as it has become affectionately known, is the premiere school among historically black colleges and universities.

Prominently located on the highest hill in Florida’s capital city of Tallahassee, Florida A&M University remains the only historically black university in the eleven member State University System of Florida.

Here is coverage of Odinga’s Friday speech to the Atlanta World Affairs Council.

And elsewhere in the United States, being another election year, some of my old right wing friends seem to be promoting a movie that claims that Obama was born in Kenya but that his father was American, not Kenyan (!).  And of course complaining again about Odinga.

Part Nine–New Kenya FOIA Documents: What Narrative Was the State Department’s Africa Bureau Offering the Media While Kenyans Were Voting? And Why?

In my last post in this series, Part Eight, I noted my frustration that the Africa Bureau after roughly 30 months, in response to my 2009 FOIA request, had provided none of the actual documentation from the large-scale 2007 Kenyan general election observation conducted through the Embassy,

The question could be raised then whether the point of the State Department observation through the Embassy became not so much to observe as to be observed observing.  Being observed observing gives an extra patina of gravity to whatever narrative you wish to present about the election afterwards; and who can question without an independent look at your data? [or an independent exit poll?]

Let’s remember how Ambassador Ranneberger concluded his December 24, 2007 cable “Kenya on the Eve of National Elections”:

RANNEBERGER  to WASHINGTON
24 DEC 07  UNCLAS NAIROBI 004830

“It is likely that the winner will schedule a quick inauguration (consistent with past practice) to bless the result and, potentially, to forestall any serious challenge to the results.  There is no credible mechanism to challenge the results, hence likely recourse to the streets if the result is questionable.The courts are both inefficient and corrupt.  Pronouncements by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and observers, particularly from the U.S., will therefore, have be [sic] crucial in helping shape the judgment of the Kenyan people.  With an 87 percent approval rating in Kenya, our statements are closely watched and respected.  I feel that we are well-prepared to meet this large responsibility and, in the process, to advance U.S. interests. [emphasis added]

So what was the narrative?  We have all known about the quick congratulations to Kibaki on winning the election from back in the United States on Sunday December 30 after the ECK’s announcement (and that the U.S. was the only country to issue such congratulations, which were quickly withdrawn–and that later Uganda’s Museveni also congratulated Kibaki).  Something new that I have learned from the FOIA response however, is that the Africa Bureau issued a very interesting December 27 “Press Guidance”  that projects an outcome narrative while the voting is still going on.  Here it is in its entirety:

Kenya:  Elections

Key Points

The U.S. fully supports a transparent and credible electoral process.  The U.S.-Kenyan partnership will continue to grow regardless of who is elected.

Kenya’s elections have proceeded with very little violence.  This morning, there was a report of two killed and three injured near a polling station in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, but it is not known if the killings were related to the election.

There were reports of minor incidents such as pushing and shoving at polling stations.  Votes are being tallied tonight and tomorrow.  The Electoral Commission of  Kenya (ECK) has responded well to reports of problems and does not appear to be acting with bias or favoritism.

Voter turnout nationwide has been high.

Late last night and early this morning, 160 U.S. Embassy officials in 56 U.S. Embassy observation teams successfully deployed nationwide to monitor the elections.

Background:

On December 27, Kenya will hold presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections.  More than 2,500 candidates are vying for the 2010 seats in Parliament, and there are three main Presidential candidates.  Ethnic and tribal affiliation remains the most influential factor in voting choices for races at all levels of government.  We expect that the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) will announce the results on either December 28 or December 29.  A team of observers organized by the International Republican Institute will monitor the elections, in addition to Kenyan and other international observers.  The presidential inauguration will likely take place on December 31.  Because the Kenyan government did not fix an inauguration date in advance, it was not possible to arrange for a high-level Presidential delegation to attend.

In the Presidential race, the most recent polls show incumbent Mwai Kibaki at 43 percent, challenger Raila Odinga at 46 percent, and dark horse candidate Kalonzo Musyoka at 10 percent.  If Kibaki wins by a small margin, it is possible that Odinga will allege that the elections are flawed, will refuse to accept the result, and may incite his supporters to protests that could easily become violent.

It sounds to me like the Africa Bureau was “spinning” ahead of time to question the legitimacy of opposition protests rather than remaining objective to entertain the possibility (or likelihood based on what was known about the ECK by this time) of an election “result” of questionable legitimacy.  And as Ranneberger had noted, if the election was stolen there was simply no recourse other than protest.

Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 Election from the Truth Trickling Out About 2007–New Cables From FOIA (Part One)

Lessons from 2007 and New FOIA Cables–Part Two

Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 Election and New FOIA Cables–Part Three

Part Four–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 Election and New FOIA Cables

Part Five–Lessons from the 2007 Election and New FOIA Cables

Part Six–What Did the U.S. Ambassador Report to Washington the Day After the Kenyan Election?

Part Seven–One Last FOIA Cable on the 2007 Exit Poll

Part Eight–new Kenya FOIA documents: Diplomacy vs. Assistance Revisited or “Why Observe Elections If We Don’t Tell People What We See?”

 

Part Eight–new Kenya FOIA documents: Diplomacy vs. Assistance Revisited or “Why Observe Elections if We Don’t Tell People What We See?”

We are in full swing now in the 2012/13 presidential campaign in Kenya, but unfortunately there remains much confusion, misunderstanding and simple lack of awareness over what actually happened in the 2007 elections.  I have gotten a couple of additional partial releases of a few documents from the State Department in December and again this month from my 2009 Freedom of Information Act requests about the State Department’s 2007 election observation and the exit poll, and since we are running out of time to get ready for the upcoming elections, it seems time to start introducing some more of this information.

New this month is the release of a grand total of three documents purporting to be the entirety of the releasable documentation from the Africa Bureau (as opposed to the cables in the central State Department records) related to and derived from the State Department led observation of the Kenya elections.  One (undescribed) document was withheld in full bringing the total Africa Bureau documentation to four items.  In other words, in sprite of the fact that “160 Embassy officials in 56 U.S. Embassy observation teams successfully deployed nationwide to monitor the elections” according to the election day Africa Bureau press guidance (one of the documents released) they did not generate records.

The question could be raised then whether the point of the State Department observation through the Embassy became not so much to observe as to be observed observing.  Being observed observing gives an extra patina of gravity to whatever narrative you wish to present about the election afterwards; and who can question without an independent look at your data? [or an independent exit poll?]

Again, this highlights the difference between the diplomatic function with its command structure to carry out foreign policy with its multiplicity of interests and objectives, but clarity in who is being served, on the one hand, and the function of an independent international election observation mission, funded as a matter of “democracy assistance” intended to serve the very much narrower interest of the internal democratic process in the host country to advance values shared by the funding nation/s and a broader international community (and accepted in theory by the host country).

The one document released that substantively describes observation of voting by State Department personnel is a November 20, 2007 email which is a headquarters “readout” of a video conference held “with Post to discuss the experiences of Post’s first-ever observation of the political primary process in Kenya.”:  Here is the text:

The Observation Effort:
*21 teams (total about 60 people) deployed to the field. This is our first time observing the primaries. We expect to deploy about 50 (100+ people) teams to the general elections as part of the larger international observer effort. The EU plans to deploy 150 people.
*These will be Kenya’s 4th multiparty elections but only the second “free and fair”.

Negatives Observed:
*The process was very poorly organized. We would say the the parties embarrassed themselves, except most of the party leaders have no shame and are thus immune from embarrassment. General feeling is that apparent total lack of organization is not an accident, but reflects efforts to rig/manipulate the outcomes.
*There were obvious deals between the incumbents and local party operatives.
*The process was well-run and by the book only in where parties had no hope of winning in that area anyway. Where there were real stakes, manipulation was rampant and obvious.
*Ballots were delayed for many hours in many locations; some politicians felt this was intentional and especially disenfranchised women voters, who either couldn’t wait all day or had to go home before dark for safety reasons.
*Hate literature observed to date is overwhelmingly generated by PNU supporters.

Positives Observed:
*Turnout was surprisingly good. People were very determined to vote. Many waited from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. or later for ballots to arrive. In some cases where ballots were delayed, people agreed amongst themselves to vote on whatever pieces of paper and honored the results.
*Dozens of outgoing MPs (including some we are very happy to see go, i.e. [REDACTED] were eliminated at this stage, which suggests that you can’t always manipulate the results.
*Our sample was biased as we purposely went to areas where trouble was expected and/or stakes were high, so we likely observed a disproportionate amount of rigging, etc.
*With the recent passage of the Political Parties Bill, this is the last time that the party nomination process will be run by the parties themselves. In the future, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) will run it (at least, for all parties who want public money). PNU contracted with the ECK to run their primary this time, but it didn’t happen in practice–party leaders took over and wouldn’t let ECK do its job.

After the Primaries:
*We expect a lot of horse trading. Some winners were DQed on appeal and even without an appeal. There were also many “directed nominations,” which led to the resuscitation and handpicking of many old dinosaurs/unpopular incumbents notwithstanding voter opposition.
*There may be blowback with an impact on turnout for Dec. 27. There were widespread feelings of bitterness and disappointment, especially among ODM supporters, who expected to participate in a “new beginning.” Many people complained that, populist image notwithstanding, ODM is run like a dictatorship and that the way of doing things is no different than KANU used to do in the past. The positive difference is that the electorate is much more vocal and active in demanding transparency and participation in the electoral process. The howls of protest regarding some of the directed nominations show the electorate’s increasing maturity and lack of interest in this kind of politics.
*Many unsuccessful candidates have jumped to smaller/marginal parties. There is a cottage industry of sorts selling nominations.

Possible Impact on Main Parties:
*The disappointment and frustration with the nominating process was greatest among ODM supporters. Will this experience sap the energy of ODM supporters, or can ODM redeem itself? Will people continue to be willing to take a chance on an unknown quantity?
*Fear/stability is a powerful motivating factor in Kibaki’s reelection prospects. The contest between ODM and PNU can be characterized as “hope vs. fear.”
*PNU has much less internal discipline and message consistency. Virtually all PNU parties are fielding their own candidates for Parliamentary seats, so not much of a real coalition.

Political Violence
*Two possible types. One, aspirant (often incumbent) MPs use paid gangsters (and sometimes local police officials) to intimidate or disrupt the polling process (trash polling stations, threaten voters waiting in line and/or election officials). Two, spontaneous voter uprisings, where voters feel they are being disenfranchised and attach the presiding officers. If the ECK runs an efficient process as expected, this should lessen the possibility of voter violence. —–END—–

For context, this November 20, 2007 summary of what was observed during the primary elections was roughly a month after the Ambassador’s intervention in the public opinion polling as described in previous documents and a month before the Ambassador’s public statement predicting a “free and fair” election the week before the general election. Nairobi is the State Department’s biggest Sub-Saharan post; it was staffed with smart and observant people and obviously well funded–the problem was not what the State Department did not know, rather it was what it would not say.

Meeting

Lessons for Kenya’s 2012 elections from the truth trickling out bout 2007–new FOIA cables (Part One)

Election Observation–Diplomacy or Assistance?

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

The State Department issued a Valentines evening statement on the “ongoing” electoral “process” in the DRC.  Hard to know what the point of this is.  Perhaps it is simply an example of the maxim “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  Maybe it means:  “since we are looking the other way on the presidential election, we do expect that surely you can do a bit of something on some of these parliamentary races, please.”  I’ll have to defer to the “Congo Watchers” and be interested to hear more from the various election observations over time.

Ongoing Electoral Process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 14, 2012

The United States continues to closely monitor the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the hundreds of legal disputes against some legislative election results. We urge Congolese authorities to conduct a full, thorough, and transparent investigation into these disputes, and to release vote tabulation and other records related to the elections and their outcome.

We remain deeply concerned about multiple allegations of human rights abuses by security forces, including illegal and arbitrary detentions throughout the electoral process. The Congolese government should fully investigate such reports, hold anyone found responsible fully accountable, and take concrete steps to ensure that security forces exercise restraint and respect people’s rights of assembly and of peaceful protest. We call on all Congolese leaders and their supporters to act responsibly and to publicly renounce violence.

Despite these concerns, we encourage all political parties to participate fully when the National Assembly is seated in order to preserve and protect the basic democratic principle of representative government in the Congo. The United States remains steadfast in its support of the Congolese people as they work to build a brighter, more democratic future for the DRC.

PRN: 2012/220

 

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

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

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

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas for the third time from the AfriCommons Blog.  Sorry for the light posting–I’ve slowed down for the holidays.  I didn’t take note earlier this month of the second anniversary of the blog and have also been taking some extra time to read and take stock of where the blog should go next year with the Kenyan election campaign and so much else going on in the region at the same time.

The latest “birther” lawsuit was thrown out by a federal court today–hope that will die and that people involved in the U.S. campaigns can leave Kenya out of our races here.

I have received a couple of Christmas presents from the State Department this week:  first, I finally got the first installment of cables from my outstanding FOIA request from October 2009 about the Embassy’s 2007 election observation (albeit with pretty extensive redaction on several of them).

Second, the Secretary rose to the occasion and made a strong statement criticizing the cursory approval by Kabila’s Supreme Court of his asserted re-election:

Secretary Clinton’s statement:

The United States is deeply disappointed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the electoral commission’s provisional results without fully evaluating widespread reports of irregularities. We believe that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed, lacked transparency and did not measure up to the democratic gains we have seen in recent African elections. However, it is still not clear whether the irregularities were sufficient to change the outcome of the election.

We believe that a review of the electoral process by the Congolese authorities and outside experts may shed additional light on the cause of the irregularities, identify ways to provide more credible results, and offer guidance for the ongoing election results and for future elections. We strongly urge all Congolese political leaders and their supporters to act responsibly, renounce violence, and resolve any disagreements through peaceful, constructive dialogue.

We have called on Congolese authorities to investigate and prevent election related human rights violations and we urge security forces to show restraint in maintaining order. The United States continues to offer our assistance and we stand with the Congolese people in their quest for greater peace and democracy at home and throughout the region.

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

The U.S. appears to have paid attention and avoided the pitfall of glossing over the questions about the election.

BBC reports on remarks by the U.S. Ambassador:

But the results’ credibility has been criticised by the EU, the Carter Center and other election monitors.

The US ambassador to the country said there had been several “irregularities”.

“The United States believes that the management and technical execution of these elections were seriously flawed,” Ambassador James Entwistle said in a statement to Reuters news agency.

“[They] lacked transparency and did not measure up to the positive democratic gains we have seen in recent African elections,” he said.

Mr Entwistle said that the US and other Western donors were offering technical assistance to the Congolese to review irregularities identified by observer missions, an offer which has already been welcomed by the country’s prime minister, he said.

The country’s Supreme Court must decide by 17 December whether or not to validate provisional results.

.  .  .  .

And the VOA reports on official comments from the State Department in Washington:

In a statement Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. assessment is based on reports from observation teams fielded by the U.S. and other embassies, as well as by independent election monitoring groups.

Nuland said it was not clear, however, whether the irregularities and lack of transparency were enough to change the outcome of the election.

She calls on Congolese authorities to conduct a “rapid technical review” of the electoral process which she says will help determine whether the irregularities resulted from poor organization or outright fraud. She said the U.S. is ready to give its “technical assistance,” for the review.

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

Release from Carter Center: DRC Presidential Election Results Lack Credibility

The Carter Center finds the provisional presidential election results announced by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) on Dec. 9 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lack credibility. CENI results point to the re-election of incumbent President Joseph Kabila with 49 percent of the vote followed by Etienne Tshisekedi with 32 percent and Vital Kamerhe with 7.7 percent.  Voter turnout was 58 percent.

Carter Center observers reported that the quality and integrity of the vote tabulation process has varied across the country, ranging from the proper application of procedures to serious irregularities, including the loss of nearly 2,000 polling station results in Kinshasa.  .  .  .

.  .  .  .  The Carter Center is therefore unable to provide independent verification of the accuracy of the overall results or the degree to which they reflect the will of the Congolese people.

U.S. not participating in Kenyan offensive in Somalia, says State Department

Contradicting the previous reports from Kenyan military spokesmen, the U.S. responded yesterday as reported by the Voice of America:

The United States has denied taking part in Kenya’s operation against al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia.

A U.S. State Department release said Tuesday that the U.S. has helped Kenya build its border defense capacity for years, but added, “The United States is not participating in Kenya’s current operation in Somalia.”

A Kenyan army spokesman said Sunday that so-called “partners” had launched airstrikes against al-Shabab, and indicated that one of those partners was the United States.

The Kenyan army spokesman also said the French Navy had shelled the al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo.  The French navy denied that claim on Monday.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia this month in pursuit of al-Shabab militants, which it blames for a series of cross-border kidnappings.

Somalia’s president said Monday that he opposes the Kenyan intervention.  President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said only African Union troops can operate legally in Somalia.

That drew a sharp response from a top Kenyan lawmaker, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Farah Moallim, who told VOA Somali Service Tuesday that Kenya has a right to defend itself.

.  .  .  .

As reported by the BBC, France, on the other hand, has said that it will provide logistical support to the Kenyan forces–while denying reports that its Navy was involved in shelling Al-Shabaab positions.

Part Six–What did the U.S. Ambassador report to Washington the day after the Kenyan election?

See the previous posts in this series:  Part One, Two , Three , Four and Five.

There were additional machinations with the Ambassador’s approach to IRI up through election day that I think raised legitimate concern about what his objectives and intentions were in regard to the election, as reflected in my complaint to USAID, but for present purposes, I will skip ahead to the next cable I have received, a report by the Ambassador to the Secretary of State and others on December 28, 2007 entitled “Kenya’s Elections – A Positive Process Thus Far”  [Ed.  Note:  the group of cables I have been discussing is limited to five items from the Central Foreign Policy files in Washington,  whereas the Africa Bureau has made no response to the Department FOIA office as to its records on the same FOIA request, including those kept at the embassy in Nairobi.  Follow up: In October 2011, two years after my request was filed, my status inquiry finally indicated that documents from the Africa Bureau were under review for release.]

So what did the Ambassador say on the day after election?  Here is his summary:

“The relatively smooth and peaceful way in which the elections were carried out on December 27 represents a victory first and foremost for the Kenyan people and their democracy.  Herculean efforts by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), the responsible statements made by the leaders of the main parties, the constructive role played by the media, and strong U.S. support and observation all contributed to this positive outcome.  All observers share a relatively positive view of how the election process was carried  out.  I have made an informal positive statement to the Kenyan media.  It is, however, too early to make final pronouncements.  Septel will provide text of a proposed draft statement that can be issued by Washington on December 29 .  The vote counting will not be completed until the 29th.  The potential for last minute fraud cannot be ruled out.  The electoral process in some areas was characterized by delays and problems with voting procedures and electoral registers, but these were largely resolved in a way that did not disenfranchise voters, who turned out in record numbers.  Initial informal results show opposition candidate Raila Odinga leading President Kibaki by between 3 and 8 points, but this reporting is uneven and not systematic.  The election is still, in our view, too early to call.”

. . .  The most striking impressions from all observers about election day are the peacefulness and orderliness of the process.  Even the most problematic and contentious constituencies completed voting in an acceptable fashion.

For example, I observed the opening of the polls in the Kibera slum, which is a key part of Langata constituency, where presidential candidate Raila Odinga was a candidate for Parliament.  This race was ground zero in the election process given widespread fears that extra-legal efforts would be made to defeat Odinga there, thus making him ineligible to become President (since whoever is elected President must also be an elected member of Parliament).  At 0600 there was already over 5,000 people lined up to vote at the largest polling station in Langata, which is Olympic School in the Kibera slum.  The bigger problem was confusion over voting procedures.  People had begun lining up since just after midnight.  [Ed. Note:  Why?  According to one account I have been provided this was done in the context of the exposure of organized efforts to bus in large numbers of people to disrupt the voting.]  . . . Calls from us to ECK were instrumental in getting senior ECK officials to act quickly to resolve the issues [the need for more full copies of the electoral register for the polling station], and I was able to make some reassuring statements to the media.  ECK Chairman Kivuitu went to Kibera himself to calm people.  In another remarkable testament to the professionalism of ECK officials, all those waiting to vote were eventually processed, and by late evening Kibera was quiet (a truck standing by with riot police was not needed).  .  .  .

“One embarrassing stumble by the ECK actually became on the the day’s best examples of Kenya’s maturing commitment to a responsible democratic process.  The ECK inexplicably failed to include Raila Odinga’s name in the voting register in his own polling station in his Langata constituency, resulting in a potential crisis when Odinga was turned away.  Instead of inflaming the Kibera slum, Odinga simply drove to ECK headquarters and officially protested the omission.  The ECK offered no excuses and acted immediately to amend the register to include Odinga’s name.  There were a few quick press conferences and the situation ended peacefully with Odinga casting his vote.

That the voting process was so relatively smooth and peaceful despite delays and organizational problems testifies to the commitment of the Kenyan people to democratic values.  The leadership of the President and the opposition candidates in calling for peaceful elections and respect for the results was also crucial to this positive outcome.

The other remarkable aspect of the elections was the unprecedented high turnout (which will average somewhere between 65 and 80 percent).  Not surprisingly, Kibaki’s team produced a record turnout of around 85% in his home area of Central Province, and Odinga produced a high turnout in his home area of Nyanza Province.  Many people waited in line for six hours or more.  Some of the turnout was clearly the result of increased participation by youth.  It appears that Odinga will profit from youths’ perception that he represents a younger generation (though he is 63 to Kibaki’s 76, and both are from the same political class) and that he will be more decisive against corruption.

The electoral process thus far deserves a strong statement of support, and clearly meets a high standard for credible, transparent, free and fair elections.  I made an informal statement last night that was carried extensively on Kenyan television.  It is, however, too early to make definitive pronouncements.  The ECK will likely not announce final results until December 29.  The EU and Kenyan domestic observation missions will make statements on the 29th.  By COB Washington time on the 29th we will send a proposed draft for a statement by Washington.  IRI will make a largely positive statement the afternoon of the 28th.

The ballot counting process is carried out in three stages, each fraught with the potential for fraud.  First, the ballots are counted at each polling station in front of party agents.  Party agents were given copies of the results and they were also posted publicly at each station.  My observations and those of our observers indicate that this counting process was generally transparent and efficient.  Second, the ballots were taken to central tally stations in each of the 210 constituencies.  Observations indicate that this process has also been carried out well.  Finaly, the ballots and results of the tally stations are, where possible, being called or sent by e-mail to the ECK and then physically carried to ECK headquarters.  This process, which will be carried out during the course of today and this evening, is where the potential for trouble is currently greatest.  Ballots can be lost, burned, or otherwise destroyed.  Even though results will have been posted at polling stations, any interference with the final phase of the count would raise serious issues that the ECK would have to address (especially if the ballots delivered to the ECK in any way differed from results tabulated at polling stations).  During this period tensions will rise as inevitable rumors circulate (given the history of extensive fraud in all previous elections except the one in 2002).  We have received, unconfirmed reports that the police had to fire into the air at several tally centers to disperse unruly crowds worried that ballots were being tampered with.   Commissioner of Police Ali gave a press conference this morning and said all the rights things to assure people of his commitment to ensure protection for ballots and to highlight the non-political role of the police.

As a result of its generally responsible, extensive, and timely reporting, the media also deserves credit for how well the process has proceeded thus far.   Since before the polls closed the media has been reporting on a 24-hour basis.  They are reporting vote totals based on the results posted at polling stations, but making clear that only the ECK can announce official results.  The results that the media are reporting reflect uneven inputs from around the country, but so far show Odinga leading Kibaki by about almost 10 points.  Two exit polls (with uncertain methodology) also show Odinga winning by 3 -8 points.  The race is, in our view still to [sic] early to call.   It appears, as expected, that these elections will result in a sea change in Parliament, with up to 70 percent of incumbents replaced.  This may in part be due to a wave of ODM support, but is even more the result of dissatisfaction with the incumbents’ perceived inattention to their constituencies and to the exorbitant pay raise that they awarded themselves.  Initial reports indicate that some of the most corrupt incumbents have been defeated.

“Advancing U.S. Interests”

We will keep the Department closely informed as results become clearer.  At this point, there are sound reasons to believe that this election process will be a very positive example for the continent and for the developing world, that it will represent a watershed in the consolidation of Kenyan democracy, and that it will, therefore, significantly advance U.S. interests.  The Kenyan people will view the U.S. as having played an important and neutral role in encouraging a positive election process” [End]

All told, a smashing success then, reports the Ambassador.

No particular security concerns.  Kudos to the ECK, kudos to the police, kudos to the media and kudos to the State Department.  “And that exit poll I commissioned through USAID to ‘provide an independent source of verification of electoral outcomes’ as I described it in my December 14 cable (and to provide ‘early intelligence’ for me as the USAID officer said on the afternoon of election day)?   Its methodology is ‘uncertain’ ” (even though it was developed by experts, at the expense of USAID and UCSD, with open consultation with USAID all along). [Ed. Note:  The other exit poll Ranneberger referred to in the cable is apparently one conducted by the Institute for Education in Democracy in Nairobi with funding from the British Westminster foundation as I was told.  I was told that the IED, unlike IRI, was not able to obtain complete results from the field in the context of the violence and was not able to publish final results.  I could, arguably, say that its methodology is “uncertain” because I don’t personally know anything about it.]

IRI was criticized by members of the EU Observation Mission for releasing its “largely positive” statement of that day, the 28th, while all the other observation delegations waited.  Ironically, the U.S. was the largest and lead donor for the UNDP election coordination effort, through which other delegations cooperated in waiting to make preliminary statements for the ECK to announce results.

[See Part Seven–One Last FOIA Cable on the 2007 exit poll.]

Lessons from the 2007 Kenyan election and the new FOIA cables–Part Three

Before doing more narrative of events in 2007 I want to take stock of the significance of various pieces of new information from the newly released pre-election cables I have written about so far.

Personally I am naturally gratified to finally get the first cable where Ambassador Ranneberger himself refers to the exit poll as having been commissioned by the U.S. Mission “to provide an independent source of verification of electoral outcomes” as part of the American effort to support a free and fair election. This is obviously completely different than what he said in a State Department webchat on March 12, 2008, linked on my chronology of Documents and Stories from the Kenya General Election at right, where he said that it was his understanding that the poll was a “training exercise . . . never intended for publication” rather than the use that he described in the pre-election cable.  He went on to assert that it was not a U.S. government poll and the government did not have a right to release it.   (Further detail on the initiative for funding the exit poll comes in what I was told by the USAID official  who called me at the polls on election day seeking the preliminary results:  “The whole reason we did this poll was for early intelligence for the Ambassador”.   I included this in my “hotline” submissions to the Inspectors General of the State Department and USAID.)   Legally the Government having funded the poll with tax dollars had under the standard “data rights” clauses in this and other State Department/USAID funding agreements every right to use the polling data which they were provided under the agreement.

Perhaps the most significant new information for me is Ranneberger’s report on December 24 of credible information of a plan by some in the Kibaki camp to “orchestrate a defeat” of Odinga in the Langata parliamentary race through possible disruption of Odinga voters and bringing in outside votes.  Certainly I was very leery when Ranneberger told me on December 15 that “people were saying” that Odinga might lose that race, but he said nothing to me of orchestrated fraud.  Why was this “explosive issue” not mentioned in his cables to Washington of December 14 (the day I was called to come see Ranneberger) or certainly December 18?  Let me be clear that the reason that I commissioned the special Langata survey was not because I wondered whether Odinga really had more support than Livondo, rather it was in hopes of deterring or combating fraud.  I didn’t tell the Ambassador’s staff or anyone else not directly involved about the survey until I had the results safely in hand.

Another very interesting item from the December 24 cable is Ranneberger’s discussion of the likelihood of the declared winner having a quick swearing in to preclude challenge.  Was this an abstract prognostication or was there some information behind it?  How would an opposition candidate, as opposed to the incumbent, pre-empt the announced plans for a ceremony at the national stadium?  He certainly would have had to secure special cooperation from, at least, both the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and the Chief Justice.

•  Freedom of Information Series (africommons.com)