Keeping the bar low for Election Observation Missions? ICYMI, IGAD congratulated Sudan’s Bashir on “peaceable and largely credible” election

From AllAfrica.com:

Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD, extended his warmest congratulations to President Omar Al-Bashir for his re-election to the presidency of the Sudan.
Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, noting the role of IGAD in observing the elections in Sudan, noted that the elections “were largely conducted in a peaceful and credible manner.”
Ambassador Maalim said: “I congratulate you on your victory and wish to express IGAD’s confidence that your leadership will continue to make earnest efforts to achieve lasting peace as well as prosperity for the people of the Sudan.” the Executive Secretary added that “I also wish you every success in these efforts and wish to affirm that you can count on my continued support.”

Here is the AU EOM preliminary statement as reported by the Sudan Vision.  The AU’s pre-election assesment had noted that predicate conditions were not in place for a fair election.

New Congressional Research Service report on the U.S. response to the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response was submitted by CRS on May 15 and has been published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The LRA is assessed to remain in much diminished capacity in a territory covering parts of Northern Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan and the Central African Republic, but still resilient in these remote areas.

The most recent concerns are the deterioration of the overall stability and governance of the Central African Republic and South Sudan–with related questions of U.S. and regional priorities.  Likewise there are questions regarding the relationship of continued U.S. support for the Ugandan military to the intention to “review” overall U.S. relations in the wake of Uganda’s new laws targeting homosexuals and more broadly to U.S. support for democracy and human rights within Uganda. In early 2013 AFRICOM’s commander identified the anti-LRA operations, known as “Observant Compass”, as the command’s third highest operational priority after the anti-terrorism efforts in Somalia and Northwest Africa, but obviously a lot of things have been happening since then.

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.

Some good reading on South Sudan’s first anniversary–Updated

From bloggers I follow:

“To mark South Sudan’s first anniversary read this” from Jina Moore is a great linked digest covering a range of perspectives.

“South Sudan’s Unhappy Anniversary” from Terah Edun

“Is a little balance too much to ask?”  and “99 problems, but Bashir ain’t one” from Roving Bandit (Lee Crawford)

. . . the core of impact evaluation; the counterfactual. Imagine what would have happened if the event we are examining had not happened. So let’s imagine for a second what would be happening in South Sudan if there had not been independence. Peace and prosperity? New schools, roads, and hospitals? There are a couple of approaches we might use to think about what would have happened. We could look at the history of South Sudan pre-independence. We could look at all of the sterling development initiatives led by indicted war criminal Bashir in the South between 1989 and 2005. All of the schools and hospitals that he built. Or we could look at some of the people still living in the North. Perhaps those who have fled their homes to hide in caves from Bashir’s bombers. Or the 100,000 who have fled to the South from Blue Nile. The counterfactual for South Sudan is not flowers and kittens, it is rule by a man wanted for five counts of crimes against humanity; murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. Happy Birthday South Sudan.

WALKING TO COLLECT WATER IN JAMAN REFUGEE CAMP–“SOUTH SUDAN, ONE YEAR AFTER . . . ”
A young women walking to collect water, Jamam refugee camp
Photo by John Ferguson/Oxfam; some rights reserved by Oxfam International under Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives generic 2.0 license.

UPDATE 11 JULY–A new “must read” from Reuters:  “Special Report: the wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan” from Rebecca Hamilton.

•  Some thoughts on “Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide” (africommons.com)

Former U.S. Diplomat Calls for Military Action Against Sudan Over Abyei and South Kordofan

The situation in Sudan seems to continue to worsen.  Aside from the tragic consequences in Sudan, another round of war there does not bode well for reform in Kenya and Uganda, especially in regard to the upcoming Kenyan election.

From the Sudan Tribune at allAfrica.com, “Former U.S. Envoy calls for Military Action Against Country”:

A former US envoy to Sudan has called for taking military action against the Khartoum government in order to prevent further escalation of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan regions.

The sense of relief that prevailed after the January referendum on South Sudan independence was conducted smoothly and in a largely peaceful environment has dissipated last month when north Sudan army seized control of the fertile, oil-producing region of Abyei, the ownership of which is also claimed by South Sudan whose vote for independence in the referendum will see it become the world’s newest nation on July 9.

Concurrently, violence erupted in the country’s north-south border state of South Kordofan after the northern army attempted to disarm local fighters aligned with South Sudan. Over 60,000 people have been displaced, according to UN figures, and hundreds have been killed, according to local NGOs as the northern army carried out aerial bombardment and heavy artillery in the area.

Roger Winter, the former U.S special envoy to Sudan, on Wednesday addressed a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, about the recent upsurge of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan.

Winter called for an immediate military action against Khartoum in order to strengthen South Sudan army and halt attacks on civilians.

“Take a military action against a Khartoum military target now,” Winter said, adding that the goal would be “to strengthen the SPLA in meaningful ways as a deterrent against Khartoum aggression, provocation and attacks against civilians”

Winter blamed the current situation on the approach adopted by the former US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, chiding his “seemingly intimate relationship” with the leadership of north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

“Perhaps the eccentricities of General Gration’s approach to being Special Envoy for Sudan are related to the Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world,” Winter said.

“His seemingly intimate relationship with the NCP leadership led to his many public references to that leadership as ‘my friends’,” he stressed.

Winter said that any commitments made by the Khartoum government are unreliable and that the government’s actions had led to the death of three million people. . . .

The full hearing line up from Thursday afternoon is here.

In “The Man for a New Sudan” in June 2008, the NY Times profiled Winter:

For the past quarter century — as head of a nongovernmental organization called the U.S. Committee for Refugees, as an official at the federal Agency for International Development and, most recently, as a special representative to the State Department for Sudan, a post created for him — Winter has fought in the back rooms of Washington and in the African bush to bring peace to Sudan. It’s not evenhandedness that makes him effective; it’s his total commitment to the people of south Sudan and a conviction, which has only grown with the years, that the government in Khartoum is, in essence, a brutal cabal. After two decades of fighting for their rights at negotiating tables, he has gained the southerners’ complete trust. “He’s simple and clear,” Edward Lino, the southern government’s chairman in Abyei, told me. “He doesn’t mince words. He’s a great man” who also “has great, great push.”

Update–Here is Rebecca Hamilton today in “Trouble in Khartoum” in Foreign Policy:

Northern Sudan will be a different country in geographic, ethnic, religious, political, cultural, and economic terms once the south separates. And the viability of the new northern nation is also in question, as is the survival of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party.

“The NCP are being weakened day by day. They know they don’t have acceptance in the north,” says International Crisis Group analyst Fouad Hikmat.

Northern opposition parties blame NCP policies for the loss of the south, which is where most of Sudan’s oil lies. Moreover, well-connected Sudanese say there is dissatisfaction within the army, in addition to the armed insurgencies and political discontent in peripheral areas across northern Sudan.

Much of the current fighting may be strategic posturing as final deals are being hashed out over the division of wealth and territory between north and south in advance of July 9. But the ominous developments over the past three weeks are perhaps best understood as being driven by the NCP playing to its fiercely nationalistic domestic audience inside northern Sudan. . . .

“Book Bitings”–Some Thoughts on “Fighting For Darfur; Public Action and the Stuggle to Stop Genocide” by Rebecca Hamilton

June 9 update, h/t Africa Files:  Human Rights Watch Report–“As South Split Looms, Abuses Grow in Darfur”.

I will join with many others in recommending Rebecca Hamilton’s Fighting for Darfur as well worth buying and reading for anyone interested in American policy in Africa, citizen activism in the West as a foreign policy input, genocide as a moral and political challenge and Sudan specifically.  Don’t get lost in the debate without taking time to get the book and read it–it is relatively short and quite accessible for busy non-specialists.

African Arguments features noteworthy reviews by Laura Seay of Morehouse College and Texas in Africa and Alex Thurston of Sahel Blog.

Hamilton was personally involved as a student activist and also worked for a time at the ICC after graduating from Harvard Law School before taking up this book project and journalism full-time.  Combining the roles of insider and journalist lets Hamilton provide the reader with direct access to an unusual range of the players in the activist and political community and those in the U.S. government at the time.  She also has direct experience and follow-up reporting from the camps in Darfur and Chad and sources in Darfur and access to officials in Khartoum.  She was also able to get some of the basic U.S. government documents declassified quickly enough to be used in her reporting.

Hamilton is left asking more questions than she is able to answer in the wake of the failure of the activists to deliver any clear positive change in the situation in Darfur in spite of their success in moving the domestic American political process in such a way that the United States officially engaged in a variety of diplomatic efforts.   Nonetheless, there is significant learning on offer here–and perhaps that learning can save some lives in the future.

It seems that there is some realization that the activists did not know enough about the context and specific background of the complex situation in Darfur as opposed to some other situation of mass atrocities in some other place or time.  There may be ways to address this shortfall in preparation for future conflagrations.  At the same time, I don’t think that it necessarily follows that our government would have accomplished more without the youthful energy and passion of the activists, or that things would not have gotten even worse in Darfur if the United States had not engaged to the extent that it did.

Writ large, this is a reminder that we don’t get second bites at the apple.  Darfur is not Rwanda and cannot offer redemption for our failure to act there.  Likewise, 2003 did not offer a second chance at the situation that the United States faced at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.  In fact, invading Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein ended up hamstringing the U.S. in responding to the newer crisis in Darfur.  Nonetheless, from our failures we can learn, and Hamilton’s is a real contribution.

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On the “to read” list, here is a review from the Stanford Social Innovation Review of More Than Good Intentions:  How a New Economics is Helping to Solve Global Poverty” Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel.

[Updated April 6 and 16] Senate Hearing this Afternoon on Gration as Ambassador to Kenya

[Update April 16:  The Gration nomination was approved on voice vote by the Committee, vote by full Senate to be scheduled.]

[Update April 6:  The National Journal reported on the hearings which generated relatively little coverage.  The story notes the strong opposition to Gration from Sudan activists but concludes that he is expected to be confirmed, with support from Committee Chairman Kerry (as well as the President) and with no indication of opposition from the Republican side either.  There is probably just too much other news out of Ivory Coast and Libya, along with Sudan itself, for these hearings on the appointments for Kenya and Botswana to get much mainstream media coverage.]

Confirmation hearings for Scott Gration for Ambassador to Kenya and Michelle Gavin (recently Africa director for the National Security Council) for Ambassador to Botswana begin at 2:30pm Washington time.

Here is the link to the video and for subsequent transcript and submissions from the Senate.

See Diplopundit for counter-Gration advocacy from Save Darfur and related Sudan activists who are unhappy enough with Gration as Special Envoy on Sudan to work against his Kenya nomination.  Staying away from domestic politics, and not being a Sudan expert myself, I won’t weigh in other than to say that the Kenya/Somalia job seems much different than the Sudan envoy job.  And to point out that the post in Nairobi has been waiting for him for a long time and that he has loyalty from President Obama as discussed in previous posts.

Previous on Gration:  Discussion about Gration as Ranneberger Replacement Hits the Media and Gration Spoke Out on Obama/Odinga ‘Smears’ in 2008 Campaign and Obama taps Gration.

Obama Taps Gration

As widely expected throughout the administration’s term, the President has named Gen. Scott Gration, current envoy to Sudan as nominee to be the next U.S. Ambassor to Kenya. As discussed here previously, Gration was the military officer assigned to then-Senator Obama on his 2006 trip to Kenya and defended him from smears during the Presidential campaign.

Here is Africa Review story.

Africommons:  “Discussion about Gration as Ranneberger replacement hits media” August 16, 2010

Africommons:  “Gration spoke out on Obama/Odinga ‘smears’ in 2008 campaign” August 16, 2010

Warning That U.S. might cave on ICC for Kenya and Sudan

Africa Confidential’s February 4 “free article” titled “Rewards and Realpolitik” should be troubling to those in civil society in Kenya and in the West who, like I do, consider the pending ICC prosecutions in Kenya to be crucial for addressing impunity.

Africa Confidential suggests that the United States and France are giving serious consideration to acting in the U.N. Security Council to agree to defer prosecution of Sudan’s al-Bashir as part of the “carrot” approach endorsed by Envoy Gration and others to try to maximize his cooperation on the split with the South and on Darfur. Reportedly some detailed conversations at high levels of the State Department have taken place. A Sudanese source reportedly says that a deferment for the “crimes against humanity” charges for the six Kenyan suspects would be thrown in as part of a deal with the AU to provide diplomatic cover on accusations of a “double standard”.

Please take time to read the whole detailed article and weigh in if you care about this.

David Throup of CSIS wrote a useful thumbnail overview of the post election violence in Kenya and the underlying ethnic and political tensions. While David was controversial as an outspoken critic of the EU election observation in Kenya, it should be noted that his own calculations as initially discussed publicly in Washington had Kibaki losing the election and claiming victory through fraud, so in that sense he has been part of the overall international consensus regarding the voting. The crucial point is that there were different types of violence that happened for different reasons–thus demanding a differentiated response as reflected in ICC prosecutor Ocampo’s selection of cases to bring forward.

“The International Criminal Court and the Post-Election Violence in Kenya” by David Throup at CSIS’s Online Africa Policy Forum Blog.

Most Kenyans, according to opinion polls by the local press, however, believe that the six named individuals should be prosecuted. They are right–the era of impunity must be ended. Most of those displaced in 2008 still remain in encampments, too frightened to return to their homes. The next election may well be even more closely contested and violent unless a clear message is sent that the era of impunity is over and that perpetrators of violence will either be tried in Kenya’s courts or appear before the International Criminal Court. Both Kalenjin and Kikuyu as Kenyans have the right to live and farm in the Rift Valley and in other parts of the country. As Kenya becomes more ethnically intermixed, ideas of ethnic hegemony and arguably the era of ethnic-politics can no longer be tolerated.

There is, however, one danger. William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta are “big men”. . . The ICC preliminary charges may possibly intensify ethnic identities, uniting the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities in a joint sense of persecution. Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are highly regarded in their communities and would constitute a formidable alliance at the next election. The ICC and the international community should proceed with caution and encourage moderate voices which urge compliance in the hope of a better Kenya.

As far as Kenya goes, the perception that Ruto and Kenyatta and associates, with Kibaki’s help, successfully faced down the ICC and the international community generally, seems to me to be about the worst thing that could happen in terms of enshrining impunity and deterring further reform efforts by Kenyan citizens and civil society. Even if the Administration takes the approach of protecting al-Bashir, it would seem especially cowardly to sacrifice Kenya in the mix for the reasons suggested here.

The human rights community in the U.S. seemed to be caught off guard when the Administration issued blanket waivers for countries employing child soldiers, so presumably they will not be complacent now.

Watching Jon Stewart in Khartoum

“Sudan Protests spark 113 arrests and one death,”  Pambazuka covers the January 30 movement.

[Update:  Sudan Tribune story covering the protests and repression, and Human Rights Watch statement condemning excessive force.]

In many respects Khartoum was the most oppressive place I worked in or visited during my time in East Africa.  At the same time, it seemed vaguely surreal to turn on the television in my (Malaysian) hotel room and see Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in the fall of 2007.  This was definitely one of those “we are not in the Cold War any more, Toto” moments.  This is perhaps worth an essay I just don’t have time to write at the moment, but it certainly struck me that this was one reason that “public diplomacy” seemed dead–global communications had moved on.  On one hand I was cringing about what Stewart might say, and noting the difference between laughing at ourselves at home and others laughing at us; on the other, what greater symbol of America’s exceptional freedom than that you could still go on television in the midst of the war in Iraq and the “Global War on Terror” and the associated restrictions on civil liberties, and put down the government?

Around the corner on a wall was a poster from an African-American evangelist, part of the way to the Greek Orthodox church.  I was there to participate in a seminar to encourage the empowerment of Muslim women at a grassroots level, courtesy of the U.S. State Department through IRI. [Note:  “International Republican Institute”, not “Islamic Republic of Iran”]  I think it was a good program, led by my colleague who was an empowered Kenyan Muslim woman of Nubian ancestry.  We had representatives of various local groups from various places around the country (the North)–women, although perhaps a small majority of the local leaders were men who were interested in a more active role for women.

I almost got arrested once for taking an innocuous  picture of a sign on a building, and was rescued by a good Samaritan who intervened on my behalf.

I am sure that I learned a lot more than I taught, but I do think that as people in the new Sudan (the North) seek a better future, there will be some who will appreciate knowing that the American taxpayers were willing to take some note of and interest in them as citizens, as well as simply the grand geopolitical calculations.

U.S. Department of State, on FlickrSecretary Clinton Shakes Hands With Sudanese Foreign Minister Karti

“Secretary Clinton Shakes Hands With Sudanese Foreign Minister Ahmen Ali Karti”   Jan. 26, 2011