Will Kenyan Military Engagement in Southern Somalia Disrupt Kenyan Reforms?

Readers will undoubtedly be following the news of the Kenyan military moving to challenge al-Shabaab well across the border in southern Somalia.  I don’t feel that I have anything particularly profound to add to what is readily available on the direct events, but I did want to suggest some questions that need to be considered as to how this military action will interact with democracy and governance at a critical time in Kenya.

In Nairobi, three names have now been passed to the President and Prime Minister for consideration for nomination to chair a new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.  Preparations for the next election are running behind as is the overall “reform agenda” including other key aspects of implementing the new Constitution.  There is progress in some areas, “backsliding” in others, and time is short.

The threat of terrorism by Islamist extremists has been a part of the fabric of Kenyan governance and international relations for a long time now, especially since the 1998 Embassy bombings.  Al-Shabaab has been willing to starve civilians and commit a variety of atrocities on Somalis, and engaged in external terrorism in Kampala last year.  Kenya has a right to be concerned and a right and obligation to protect its citizens and territory.  At the same time, it would be naive not to recognize the potential for this new military action to distract and divert resources from other critical work that needs to be done within the Kenyan government.

Likewise, this new environment will present a big challenge to the United States, and perhaps to the UK and EU in supporting the reform process.  We went through this before in 2006 and 2007.  Compare U.S. criticism of corruption in the Kenyan government before and after the Ethiopians invaded Somalia in December 2006.  (I have no evidence of any correlation between the dramatic change in tone on corruption and events in and relating to Somalia–and no one has ever suggested one to me.  But then, no one has really offered any other clear explanation either, so I have had to wonder about this.)  Heightened military interaction with Kenyan forces could in theory make it harder for the U.S. to push consistently for reforms in Kenyan governance or lower reforms on the list of U.S. priorities.  To me, reform is the best medicine to fight the threat of terrorism and regional instability, and terrorists will always have access to Kenya as long as key pieces of the Kenyan governance structure can be purchased.  But sometimes it is hard for us to keep our eye on that ball when there are challenges from immediate disruptions.

An then there is the upcoming election itself.  If it was ultimately “best not to know” who won in 2007, how much risk can be tolerated to try for a freer and fairer Kenyan election in 2012?

Kenyan Reactions to Bin Laden Death

“Kenyan leaders welcome news of Osama’s death” , Daily Nation:

Kenyan leaders on Monday joined the world in saluting the US for killing al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenyans were happy with the killing.
Kenya has suffered most of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks in East Africa with one in 1998 in Nairobi leaving more than 200 people dead. There was also another attack in Kikambala, Mombasa.

President Kibaki said the killing of Osama in Pakistani brought justice for the Kenyan victims of al-Qaeda.

“On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Kenya I commend all those people behind the successful tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden,” President Kibaki said.

“The killing of Osama has taken place nearly thirteen years after the terrorist bombings in Nairobi that led to the death of over two hundred people, in an act believed to have been masterminded by Osama. His killing is an act of justice to those Kenyans who lost their lives and the many more who suffered injuries.”

Mr Odinga was quoted by BBC saying: “Kenyans are happy and thank the US people, the Pakistani people and everybody else who managed to kill Osama. Osama’s death can only be positive for Kenya, but we need to have a stable government in Somalia.”

“The loss of its [al-Qaeda’s] leader may first upset the movement but then it will regroup and continue.”

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Watching Alliances Experience “Blow Out” from a Build Up of Democratic Pressure

Its a beautiful spring day here in coastal Mississippi.  A nice day for a Mardi Gras parade and to rake leaves, which we do here in the spring instead of the fall, and to watch events unfold in Africa.  As election results are coming in from Uganda, the Libyan army is attempting to repress a budding revolution against Museveni’s recent friend from the north, Col. Gaddafi.  Of course, Museveni is not the only one who has been cozy with the theatrical Libyan dictator, oil baron and would-be “Pan African” leader.

From today’s Guardian, “Britain’s alliance with Libya turns sour as Gaddafi cracks down”:

Now Britain’s risky and controversial relationship with Libya is beginning rapidly to unravel.

BP, which is also heavily involved in the country, is weeks away from beginning a major drilling operation in a vast area around the desert town of Ghadames. Indeed, a group of US senators last year suggested that the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could have been influenced by lobbying over BP’s commercial interests in Libya — an allegation fiercely denied by the Scottish government.

And it is not only Britain’s foreign policy on Libya that has sent diplomats scurrying into disarray as they have tried to keep up with the wave of popular uprisings against regimes that Britain supported, but the policy for the entire region.

According to Claire Spencer, head of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, the rapprochement with Libya in 2004 was founded on assumptions that dominated for a decade post-9/11, obsessed as the west was with the fight against al-Qaida, the wider “global war on terror” and fear of mass migration and the rising influence of Iran.

“Against that we backed the other half, the so-called moderates standing up for our values – regimes in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.” The domination of that foreign policy agenda, she believes, meant that not only in the Foreign Office but in the Quai d’Orsay and the US State Department, those warning of the growing potential for unrest across the region were ignored.

Though Libya had faced accusations of refusing to recognise the rights of refugees, indefinite detentions, torture and arbitrary expulsions, Spencer believes that British diplomats felt they had only the most limited leverage on their new partner.

By yesterday the queasiness had turned to outright horror, as Britain’s foreign secretary William Hague, a day after his department revoked all British arms licences to Libya and Bahrain, condemned the “unacceptable and horrifying” use of violence by Gaddafi’s security forces against his own people, “including reports of the use of heavy weapons fire and a unit of snipers against demonstrators”.

Which leaves the crucial question of whether Gaddafi can survive. In the past, as Spencer points out, the self-styled Supreme Guide has been adept at ditching prime ministers and others to protect his position and place himself on the side of the people, a tactic he tried to use even in the current protests. Now he has abandoned that in favour of the use of outright violent suppression.

If he believes that he can confine the problems to the country’s east, he may be mistaken. Many from that region have families in Tripoli. He may find it impossible to stop rebellion spreading.

And Britain’s manoeuvring to distance itself from the man it has supported for the last seven years may have come too late.

Needless to say, here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast BP has not been especially popular since last April. I don’t think many people here have paid especially great attention to Gaddafi, but neither I suspect, have they been particularly confused about him.

I pulled out a copy the other day of a J. Peter Pham column from World Defense Review from March 2010 entitled “Libya as an African Power” which I would encourage you to read and reflect on:

The breakout came in 1997 when the annual summit of Organization of African Unity foreign ministers was held in Qadhafi’s hometown of Sirte (some of the diplomats attending were only able to do so because Libya paid their country’s arrears to the pan-African organization, thus restoring their voting rights). The foreign ministers also set up a five-member committee to mediate between Libya and the West over the Lockerbie dispute. On the heels of the summit, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela both visited Tripoli. African backing proved critical to the breakdown of the sanctions regime and the subsequent agreement to hand over two Libyan suspects for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law for the Pan Am bombing.

Meanwhile, Libya’s strategic engagements across Africa multiplied—a state of affairs symbolically demonstrated by the change in name of the country’s state broadcaster from the “Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland” to the “Voice of Africa.” .  .  .  .

Even the creation of the African Union in place of the tired Organization of African Unity has a Libyan connection that is usually glossed over. In response to an initiative promoted by Tripoli, the OAU Assembly of African Heads of State and Government met in extraordinary session for only the fourth time in its nearly forty-year history at Sirte in September 1999. In the resulting “Sirte Declaration,” the African leaders professed to have been “inspired by the important proposals submitted by Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, Leader of the Great Al-Fatah Libyan Revolution, and particularly, by his vision for a strong and united Africa, capable of meeting global challenges and shouldering its responsibility to harness the human and natural resources of the continent in order to improve the living conditions of its peoples” and resolved to “establish an African Union” better able to “cope with the challenges and to effectively address the new social, political, and economic realities in Africa and in the world.”

.  .  .  .

Considerably more important than its role as a donor of development assistance has been Libya’s role as an investor in Africa. A government entity, the Libya African Portfolio for Investments (LAP), overseen by the country’s main sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), numbers among its companies the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (LAAICO), which has a mandate to promote business growth in Africa by investing in sectors as diverse as agriculture, mining, manufacturing, real estate development, telecommunications, and tourism. Currently, LAAIC has holdings in some more than two dozen African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Another LAP company, the Oil Libya Holding Company (formerly Tamoil Africa), is engaged in refining, marketing and distribution of petroleum products in a similar number of African countries. In Morocco, for example, the Libyans have invested more than $5 billion to acquire about 200 gas stations, approximately 10 percent of the local market. Yet another LAP asset, LAP Green, has had telecommunications operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Rwanda, and Uganda. Last month LAP Green acquired 80 percent of Gemtel in South Sudan and the company has been shortlisted among the suitors seeking to acquire a 75-percent stake in the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) being offered by the Zambia Development Agency.

.  .  .  .

Uganda is a good example of a case where Libya’s investments have served its strategic objectives while simultaneously helping the target country’s economic and social development. There are few African countries where Tripoli’s past interventions were so much on the wrong side of history.  .  .  .

.  .  .  . Currently at least $500 million in Libyan capital is participating in Uganda’s growing economy. Libya owns a 49-percent stake in the National Housing and Construction Company (NHCC), a public enterprise with a mandate to increase the housing stock in the country, rehabilitate the housing industry, and encourage Ugandans to own homes in an organized environment. Libya also owns 69 percent of Uganda Telecom Limited (the Ugandan government owns the other 31 percent), where its capital has been used to aggressively expand the company’s market share. In a joint venture with the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Libya has invested in a soluble coffee plant that adds value to Ugandan production by making it compliant with European standards. Libya also has the contract to build an extension of the Mombasa-Eldoret oil pipeline in Kenya to the Ugandan capital of Kampala. The extension will be designed to permit reverse flow once Uganda begins its own petroleum production. Earlier this year, a team from Oil Libya visited Uganda to explore the possibility of building an oil refinery.

The Qadhafi regime’s decision in 2003 to abandon its WMD program, settle the Lockerbie claims, and give up its hitherto support of international terrorism (the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2007) led to the lifting of numerous economic and trade restrictions as well as the ban on American citizens doing business there. The potential economic and political rewards of deciding to work with instead of against Washington may actually strengthen Tripoli’s capacity in dealings with the rest of the African continent, especially the poorer states of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Given some of the anti-Western, post-colonial rhetoric that has emanated from Tripoli over the years, it may be surprising for some to learn that since the thaw in bilateral relations with Washington, Libya has even demonstrated greater openness to the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) than some other states on the continent. AFRICOM Commander General William E. “Kip” Ward actually traveled to Libya twice in 2009 and met with Colonel Qadhafi .  .  .

Thus last May, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell arrived in Tubruq for a three-day port visit that was the first of any U.S. military vessel to Libya in more than four decades.  .  .  .  The visits were returned in September when a delegation of three senior Libyan officers visited AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, as well as U.S. Air Force Africa headquarters at Ramstein Air Base.During the officers’ visit, General Ward gave an unprecedented interview to Al-Musallh, the official journal of the Libyan armed forces, in which he described his discussions of African security matters with Qadhafi and “we look forward to working together in ways that help us achieve those common objectives for peace and stability.”

In the interest of renewing links to professionals in the Libyan military and security services after a nearly four-decade hiatus, the Bush administration requested $350,000 in State Department-administered International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding for Libya in fiscal year 2009. The Obama administration requested the same amount for the current fiscal year, specifying that the funding would be used for English language education as well as courses on civil-military relations, border security, and counterterrorism (Libya has been invited to join the U.S.-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership). In addition, the Obama administration budget also allocated, for the first time ever, a token $250,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to provide assistance to the Libyan air force in developing its air transport capabilities and to the Libyan coast guard in improving its coastal patrol and search-and-rescue operations. As significant as these steps may be, there is no reason why bilateral cooperation should not extend to other spheres. As Saif Aleslam al-Qadhafi, noted at the start of the U.S. rapprochement with his father: “Libya does not envisage limiting relations to fighting terrorism. It proposes joint efforts, for example, to meet the needs of Africa by eradicating disease and promoting investment.” .  .  .  .


Kenyan Justice Minister claims he did not know of renditions to Uganda, calls it “a failure of institutions”

Another surprising statement from Mutula Kilonzo:

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s justice minister said the rendition of Kenyans to Uganda to face charges of involvement in bomb attacks in Kampala should not have occurred and that parts of the judicial system had failed.
Mutula Kilonzo comment’s to Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday supported the view of two high court judges who have criticised the transfer of several suspects to Uganda.

"It is a failure of institutions because it should not happen. The judge in many respects is dead right because if you believe a Kenyan citizen has committed an offence, put him through the process," Kilonzo said late on Wednesday.

Judge Mohamed Wasarme said on Tuesday the transfers flouted the rights of the Kenyan citizens.

On Thursday a high court judge labelled the arrest, detention and removal of one of the Kenyan suspects as illegal.

A total of 38 people, including Ugandans, Kenyans and Somalis, have been charged with terrorism over the twin bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in July.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission, a civil society group, says 13 Kenyans were illegally transferred to Uganda.
. . . .
Reprieve, a UK-based legal rights group, said worrying new patterns of counter-terrorism were emerging in east Africa.
"If it’s true Kilonzo was unaware of the renditions, then what we’re talking about is a rogue police force … that operates outside all chains of command," said Clara Gutteridge, a deputy legal director at Reprieve.

Earlier in the week we have seen Kilonzo back down on last week’s statement that the ICC was no longer needed to prosecute Kenya’s Post Election Violence since Kenya had passed a new constitution that would reform the police and courts. Hmm. . .

Gration spoke out on Obama/Odinga “smears” in 2008 campaign

It is easy to see why President Obama might want retired General Scott Gration as Ambassador to Kenya for the 2012 presidential campaigns in both the U.S. and Kenya. Gration served as a campaign military and foreign policy advisor to Senator Obama in 2008 and spoke out against allegations from the U.S. hard right that Obama played some nefarious role as a secret supporter of Islamic terrorism in respect to Raila Odinga and the 2007 election in Kenya. Gration became acquainted with Obama through accompanying him on his visit as a Senator to Kenya in 2006.

Gration has enhanced credentials as both a retired air force major general and the son of missionaries who grew up in Congo and in Kenya and speaks Swahili. He has said that he was a Republican prior to the 2008 campaign.

Here is Gration’s October 17, 2008 letter to the Washington Times:

Mark Hyman’s “Obama’s Kenya ghosts,” (Commentary, Sunday), was a disgraceful smear on Sen. Barack Obama. Because I accompanied Mr. Obama on his trip to Kenya, I can say unequivocally that Mr. Hyman’s piece was filled with lies and innuendo.

• Mr. Obama’s 2006 trip to Kenya was authorized by the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who congratulated Mr. Obama on a successful trip when he returned.

• Mr. Obama did not “campaign” on behalf of Raila Odinga, has never endorsed him, and was not “nearly inseparable” from Mr. Odinga during his time in Kenya. Mr. Obama met with a wide range of Kenyan and American officials, including a Nobel Prize winner, human-rights defenders, and President Mwai Kibaki. He did not have a single scheduled meeting with Mr. Odinga.

• Mr. Obama was accompanied throughout his trip by myself and two other active-duty U.S. military officers; and the U.S. ambassador attended meetings and events throughout the trip. The Obama staffer – Mark Lippert – that Mr. Hynes names is a naval reservist and Iraq War veteran whose deployment began several months before the Kenyan elections and continued well past it.

• The Obama speech that Mr. Hyman references was a widely praised effort that condemned corruption and tribalism while urging the promotion of private enterprise and accountable, transparent government.

• Mr. Obama and Mr. Odinga are not cousins, and efforts to assert otherwise have been described as “stretched to the point of ridiculousness” by an independent fact checker.

Mr. Hyman references telephone contacts that Mr. Obama had with Mr. Odinga in January. He fails to mention that those contacts were encouraged by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and were accompanied by public statements that Mr. Obama made on Voice of America, Kenyan radio, and in a Kenyan newspaper, calling for calm and a peaceful resolution of Kenya’s political crisis. Repeatedly, Mr. Obama asserted, “the opposition (led by Mr. Odinga) must turn away from the path of mass protest and violence in seeking participation in government.”

Mr. Hyman’s piece concludes with an astonishing attempt to tie Mr. Odinga, the sitting prime minister of Kenya, and, by absurd association, Mr. Obama to acts of terrorism committed against the United States of America. This false and outrageous charge says a lot more about Mark Hyman than it says about Barack Obama.

Given the partisan crossfire from Washington and elsewhere in the U.S. on the Kenyan constitutional referendum, and the partisan crossfire over the 2007-08 Kenyan election crisis, it is hard to imagine that there will not be the same type of attacks on both Obama and Odinga from from the U.S. in the 2012 campaigns.

Security and Corruption

The Business Daily has it right:

It may be passing off as an ordinary security problem in which the police are taking a whacking for sleeping on the job.

But the repeat discovery of a large stock of arms in a private residence in Narok is a reflection of the grim realities of our economy.

Kenyans should be deeply worried that someone has been able to move such large amounts of dangerous weapons without detection by the country’s rather elaborate security machinery or with its tacit participation.

If indeed it is true that the arms moved without the knowledge of the police, it is largely because our security apparatus has not moved with the times.

The truth is that lucrative but illicit trade in illegal substances such as arms, counterfeits and drugs has to be oiled by large sums of money.

Unless and until the Kenyan government is less corrupt, Kenya will be a place to do business for terrorists and international criminals of other types, and for illicit weapons trade and money laundering. There is a great opportunity in that the interests of Western donors and of Kenyan citizens converge here, as ordinary Kenyans are both victims of criminality and bear the costs of inflation associated with the illicit funds. The change necessary is for the donors to take the long view and get serious about consistent action over a period of years to fight the criminality instead of swinging back and forth among alternative competing priorities.

In the meantime, a new Senate report indicates that funds representing the fruit of corruption in Africa, as well as other parts of the world, continue to enter the US in spite of the post-9/11 crackdown on money laundering.
__________
With its own issues would Kenya really send troops to Somalia as suggested by Foreign Minister Wetangula?

Corruption and Terrorism/Security

Timely and interesting post here from the FCPA Blog, noting an article in the December issue of Foreign Affairs which discusses investigative reporting showing the ease of obtaining a new US biometric passport using a false identity, and tying this to the Anglo Leasing scandal in Kenya where “most of the tainted contracts related to Kenya’s security apparatus — passport controls, forensic labs, security vehicles and satellite services, among others”.

We have seen lots of examples where Kenya’s lauded security co-operation with the United States and other countries in the region is undermined by corruption.

The fact remains that the United States, from 9/11 to the would-be Nigerian bomber in Detroit on Christmas Day, makes itself vulnerable by allowing people subject to know terrorism concerns to enter the country legally. Presumably our first priority in fighting terrorism would be to do more to get our own house in order. Beyond that, we should be leery of investing in and relying on “partners” that prove themselves unreliable due to known propensities for corruption.

Stepping back from the Abyss, a talk by John G...

Stepping back from the Abyss, a talk by John Githongo. At a function organized by the Kenya Society at the Victory Services Club, London W2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Global Graft Report highlights a Deutsche Welle feature on Wikileaks which suggests that the greatest “wikileak” to date has been the publication of John Githongo’s materials on Anglo Leasing and related corruption in Kenya.