An appreciation for church leaders and diplomats pushing dialogue in Kenya; next steps?

Someday, my hope remains, administration of elections in Kenya can be a straightforward and transparent affair that is not the stuff of secrets, drama and death.  However, that is not an option on today’s menu.  Church leaders by first speaking out earlier on the need for reform of the IEBC, followed by a call for dialogue now with escalating tensions and killings by police, have served the needs of the mwananchi; the foreign envoys who have spoken collectively both publicly and presumably privately during the recent opposition demonstrations and crackdown have added muscle toward an a needed de-escalation.

Next steps: let’s lance the boil of secrecy in the administration of elections; I firmly believe that Kenyans can be trusted to know how they voted and that counting votes in Kenya does not really have to be harder than in other countries.  

Without the secrecy, the opportunity opens for the more patriotic and more humane voices within the policitical process, both within parties and in civil society, to come to the fore.

Tanzania Decides: EU, Commonwealth, AU and SADC observers issue joint statement regarding election and Zanzibar annulment; call for transparency

October 29 Statement
internationalobservermissionsjointstatement_en.pdf

LSE’s Africa blog asks: Is Tanzania’s National Election Commission credible? 

Hillary Clinton, Scott Gration and “public private” e-mail at the State Department

The news in today’s New York Times that Secretary of State Clinton did not use a government e-mail account during her service in office, but rather handled her official e-mail communication through one or more “private” accounts is a disappointment. Cabinet level officials are not entitled to simply exempt themselves from the full demands of government records and freedom of information laws.

This is one of those areas where we need to “walk the talk” if we are going to provide effective leadership on open governance and rule of law.

One of the things that makes this especially disappointing is that this problem came up prominently in the Bush Administration where a large number of officials in the White House were using a non-government system through the Republican Natiional Committee. The company I worked for at the time was involved in dealing with the mess of trying to recover public records involved in White House e-mail over a period of years. It appears likely that Mrs. Clinton will be the only candidate for president next year with much actual foreign policy experience, which many voters might consider to have quite a lot of weight in light of our experiences with inexperienced presidents over the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, this public records situation seems to be a case where readily available learning from past problems was not applied.

A couple of other points: first, it seems quite striking that Ambassador Scott Gration was severely criticized by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General, in the lead up to his resignation, under Secretary Clinton, for his use of insecure private e-mail accounts; second, if the Secretary of State was during her four years in office not using an official e-mail account at all, it seems to strain credibility to think that this mode of operation was not understood and effectively acquiesced in by a whole lot of other people in government.

Based on the reporting it appears that the records have been identified and preserved and will be available. I also recognize that the way that most of us use e-mail is a difficult match with the requirements of government records and freedom of information laws and that there will inevitably be issues, challenges and disputes in certain areas. Nonetheless, if we are to have a system based on the rule of law and a government “of laws, not of men”, the highest federal officials are no more entitled to simply opt out of the system than are, say, the members of a local school board.

OIG Inspection Embassy Nairobi Kenya August 2012:

He has willfully disregarded Department regulations for the use of commercial email for official government business, including front channel from the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security against such practice, which he asserted to the OIG team he had not seen. (This topic is addressed later in the report.)

In the looking glass: How USAID sees its democracy support in the 2013 Kenya Election

Thanks to a post this week from Government Executive magazine’s NextGov.com I saw that USAID has published on the web its December 2013 “Rapid Assessment Review” of USAID support for Kenya’s 2013 elections.

The post from NextGov’s Emerging Tech by Joseph Marks, “How Technology Failed to Fix Kenya’s Election”:

It’s perhaps the most common story in all of government technology: A challenge arises; new technology seems to offer the perfect solution; but something happens between concept and execution that makes that technology seem more like a culprit than a savior and that leads people to complain the old analog solution might have worked better.

That interference could come from a delayed procurement, miscommunication between different vendors, a lack of testing or training before launch or a host of other factors.

This December 2013 report from the U.S. Agency for International Development describes more than a dozen such interferences that foiled the international community’s attempts to use technology to improve outcomes in Kenya’s March 2013 elections.

.  .  .  .

Kudos to USAID for publishing this.  Although there is one major “glitch” that I will explain, the report is generally quite useful.  In particular for Kenyans who want to understand the process by which their leaders are chosen, there is much here that is not otherwise readily available to those outside the Government of Kenya itself.  Thus, Kenyans active in political parties and civil society, the media and others that are especially interested in elections will want to take time to read the whole report carefully.  Likewise for interested foreign “friends of Kenya” who hope for better elections in the future, especially those of us who are U.S. taxpayers.

The “glitch” is that the report was released with a December 31, 2013 date, which is several weeks after publication of the Carter Center’s final USAID funded Election Observation Report,  but references only a non-published June “draft final” report and the April 4 Carter Center preliminary statement.  So it appears that the report was written without reference to the actual Carter Center final report, likely inadvertently through the fact that the authors were doing this study simultaneously with the Carter Center’s work.  See my post Carter Center quietly publishes strikingly critical final report from Kenya Election Observation.

On one hand this is a fundamental problem leading to a quite critical misunderstanding. The assessment presents a quote from the Carter Center’s April 4 statement that the failure of the USAID supported Electronic Results Transmission system still left a paper tally system that was sufficiently handled to provide “enough guarantees to preserve the expression of the will of the Kenyan voters” which is contradicted by the Final Report.

Nonetheless, this is in prefatory material and the point of the assessment is not to make conclusions about the election process itself, but to self assess USAID’s programming, and a bit of a “rosy tint” that allows the whole thing to be packaged as “lessons learned” for other missions in the context of an overall “success” with various subsidiary failings may have made the difference in getting this ultimately published on the internet, with a lot of pertinent information and a fair bit of candor for a “self assessment” overall.  I am still deep in the bowels of the Freedom of Information Act legal process seeking more modest bits of information about the election support effort for 2007 as an example of what can happen within the bureaucracy when no one can claim “success”.

Please take time to read the whole thing and I will be grateful for anyone who wishes to e-mail thoughts or comments, and of course any public comments here.  I will discuss some details in various upcoming posts.

IRI Poll Releae Press Conference

 

2013 Kenya Exit Poll — academic study published (updated)

Professors Clark Gibson, James Long and Karen Ferree have now published an article from their 2013 Kenyan election exit poll in The Journal of East African Studies.

The Star has an analysis in Wednesday’s edition. This is the front page, but the story is not yet up online. (Update: Here is The Star story, “Uhuru didn’t get 50% in 2013–U.S. academics“.)

See my May post with the video from an original presentation at Johns Hopkins SAIS here.

Should the U.S. State Department now release its evidence regarding bribery at the Kenyan election commission in 2007?

I have long been convinced that one of the reasons for the “tribal” tensions among Kenyans is the ability of Kenya’s political elite to manipulate access to information to manipulate public opinion.

Now that we have the Carter Center final report ultimately acknowledging that the 2013 election cannot be counted on to have fully reflected “the will of the Kenyan people”, and when we see how much more divided Kenyans are by “tribe” and politics than they were before the failed election of 2007, I want to revisit my past suggestion that the Kenyan wananchi need to be told the truth about what happened in the 2007 election.

Continuing obscurantism about the facts of the 2007 election debacle feeds continuing obscurantism about the post election violence and feeds impunity.  Everything is just a “controversy” and no one is accountable for anything.  And whoever holds governmental power in Kenya can largely define the narrative to their own ends–and now we see them acting aggressively to seek further control of the media and to shut down independent voices in Kenyan civil society (for latest, see “Win for NGOs as funds Bill rejected”).

Readers of this blog will know that I learned eventually through my FOIA requests that our Ambassador in 2007 himself witnessed the tally sheets being changed at the Electoral Commission of Kenya headquarters to give Kibaki the necessary numbers. (“Part Ten–FOIA Documents from Kenya’s 2007 Election–Ranneberger at the ECK: “[M]uch can happen between the casting of votes and final tabulation of ballots and it did”).

Readers of this blog will also remember, I hope, that we have learned from The Daily Nation that the State Department subsequently, in February 2008, issued “visa warning” letters to the Deputy Chairman and two other Commissioners of the Electoral Commission of Kenya “suspected of accepting bribes to fix election results tally at ECK Headquarters”.  Also, as I have noted, a senior third country diplomat told me in January 2008 that his country had learned separately of large bribes to ECK personnel and I cannot imagine that this evidence was not shared with the State Department.

Whatever the motivations of those involved in keeping the facts hidden at the time, they are no longer relevant now–better late than never in telling Kenyans what we know.

Is Washington, DC a logical place from which to fight global poverty? (Updated)

I thank those of you who have been reading some of my older posts while I have been primarily away from the blog the past few weeks.

Let me take time now to throw out a couple of “macro” observations as an observer of “development” practice in recent years and a life long observer and frequent past participant in American politics.  The first is just how strange it is from one perspective that organizations like USAID and especially the Millennium Challenge Corporation are located “inside the beltway” in Washington, DC.

Don’t get me wrong, Washington certainly has its share of poverty, but in general the Washington inhabited by agencies like USAID, the MCC and the World Bank operates in the thrall of the micro-economy generated by the brokering of the American federal government’s expenditures on the order of $4 Trillion annually.  It is a sui generis antiseptic boomtown quite disconnected from the economy of the rest of the cities and towns even of the United States, much less the rest of the world. Especially that of those facing the extreme poverty that the Millennium Development Goals were intended to overcome.

It just seems to me that we might, say, move one of our agencies like the MCC to West Virginia, for instance.

West Virginia is one of our poorer states, and one where we have this terrible problem of conflict between the need for jobs and the immediate and long term environmental harm done by strip mining and “mountain top removal” for coal.  West Virginia has an economy rooted in natural resources and agriculture, like most of the world, and unlike the District of Columbia–but it is close by, just a short drive.  Long serving Senator Robert Byrd was for many years famous especially for bringing federal agencies outside Washington to his state of West Virginia.  While this was widely derided as “pork barrel politics” by people from other states, those federal agency jobs go somewhere.  Putting a poverty fighting agency there might directly fight poverty as well as help us learn more about how to be most helpful elsewhere.

Update: On the topic of US aid transparency, here is great piece from Jennifer Lentner (@intldogooder) on Oxfam America’s “The Politics of Poverty” Blog: “More U.S. international aid data released–now what? A user’s perspective”.  Jennifer interviews Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah a former minister in the Ghanaian government and former chair of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.  He finds the current data important but “pretty scanty” toward meeting the needs of public officials and of civil society watchdogs.

New bi-partisan legislation—the Foreign Aid Transparency Act of 2013—would open the books on US foreign aid. More transparency will enable people like Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah to hold their governments accountable for how they invest US resources. Learn more and contact your representatives here.

And stay tuned to Politics of Poverty to get more user perspectives on aid transparency data!

134 days after election, Kenya’s IEBC fails to produce election results in Parliament

Daily Nation, July 16, “IEBC fails to submit final poll tally” :

The electoral commission failed to furnish Parliament with the final results of the March 4 General Election Tuesday amid claims that some commissioners refused to sign the report.

 

The commission was expected to submit the final tally to the Justice and Legal Affairs committee at a meeting scheduled with the team at Parliament Buildings Tuesday. The committee was to relay the report to Parliament.

 

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan and chief executive James Oswago appeared before the committee but were turned away after the chairman indicated that the tally was not ready for submission as per the request from Parliament. . . .

Here is the Standard story.

 

Kenya’s IEBC dangles “kitu kidogo” for political parties to avoid publishing election results

The Star reported this week that the “IEBC wants political parties act amended“. From the headline one would expect to read perhaps an article on some type of reform arising out of the failed primary elections early this year, or the problem with “party hopping” . . .

But of course, it would be silly to think that the IEBC would concern itself with such things to improve accountability in the Kenyan electoral system.

No, the IEBC is faced with a problem. It doesn’t want to publish the election results. For the reason noted in my last post: the numbers of votes for the other offices don’t add up to the numbers of votes for president–according to the anonymous Commissioner quoted in the story, adding a direct confession to the clear circumstantial evidence that we have all seen for many weeks now.

The IEBC is attracting no visible pressure from Washington or London or the other “donors” who helped underwrite the IEBC. Whether this is because, as in 2007-08, the foreign policy mavens think it’s “better not to know” or whether because, as always, the foreign assistance mavens want a “success story” as much as a better democracy in Kenya in the future–or both–I don’t know.

So the immediate rub is the delay in providing public funding to Kenya’s political parties based on the election results. How to relieve pressure from pols who want the tax dollars doled out without publishing the election results that determine how the money is allocated? Change the law of course! So the money can be paid out without disclosing the results! An elegantly Kenyan solution.

Was Kenya’s “Election Observation Group” or ELOG intended to be truly independent of IEBC? Or was it to “build confidence”? [Update 3-30 Further on “Overselling” ELOG and ELOG’s use by Counsel for the Gov’t in Court]

By appearances, ELOG certainly looks more like part of the effort to “build confidence” in the IEBC (to “promote peace”) rather than an independent watchdog.

Which would explain the problem noted in my previous post that their Parallel Vote Tabulation results by their own numbers indicate that most likely there should be a runoff between Kenyatta and Odinga but they announced that their results “confirm” the IEBC which found otherwise.  It would also explain why they have announced “conclusions” in support of the IEBC but not released their data or even their methodology.  Ironically, USAID, which supported the Parallel Vote Tabulation, also spent a lot of money over a period of years promoting greater sophistication in the Kenyan media in expecting transparency regarding polling methodology.  Today, in Kenya, the media would not ordinarily publish polling results with the lack of transparency that has accompanied ELOG’s PVT, which is based on some sort of an undisclosed “sampling” methodology akin to that used in other polling.

“Must reads” follow:

Kenya’s Election Observation Group (ELOG) announces its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) program as monitoring tool. (Daily Nation, Feb. 18, 2013)

“This (information) will be important to help remove any uncertainties by providing validation to the results given by the IEBC,” he added. . . .

“PVT will measure the votes cast and indicate whether the data should be trusted, based on information about voting and counting of the votes,” said Elog Chairman Kennedy Masime.

“This information will be specific and can be actionable for improving the process next time” he added.

But Elog was quick to warn that it would not be announcing results, a task only IEBC is mandated to perform.

While they will be tabulating results from the polling stations, the Observers said they would be in constant consultation with the Commission before releasing their verdict.

“We foresee a situation where if the elections are well managed, then there will be no fundamental differences with IEBC. But in the event that there is, then we would consult with the Commission,” Elog said in a joint statement.

USAID/Kenya–Success Stories: “Giving Fresh Credibility to Kenya’s Electoral System” (Feb. 8, 2013)

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission registered 14.3 million voters using the biometric voter registration technology system. Biometric data captured during the registration is  is being  linked with electronic voter identifiers (electronic poll books)  while text data is being used  for real time electronic result transmission and display systems. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) invested over $ 6 million USD in the two systems, through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). According to analyses, two of the most significant factors attributed to the failure of the 2007 election were the inability of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to compile a credible voter register, and the lack of an efficient results reporting system.

USAID has partnered with Civil Society Organizations  to ensure the effective use of the biometric voter registration technology in the upcoming 2013 presidential elections, to prevent fraud and reduce the likelihood of violence. . . .

Too bad the voter register was not finalized and published as required by law and the technology tools never fully designed and for the most part not implemented “on the ground” in the actual election.  A robust independent monitoring organization would, one would think, have more to say about that but, if these efforts were already a “success story” before the voting for bringing “fresh credibility” it becomes awkward . . .

USAID/Kenya–Success Stories: Parallel Vote Tabulation Restores Confidence in Kenyan Voters (Dec. 14, 2010):

The PVT – as acknowledged by the IIEC Chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan – was crucial in verifying the legitimacy of the referendum process as a whole and in restoring public confidence in the electoral process in Kenya.

Again, the overriding goal, achieving “success story” status, is to give the Kenyan public “confidence”.

 UPDATE:

An example of how the PVT has been oversold is a quote from the CapitalFM story covering the ELOG announcement on Saturday March 9 under the headline “Yes, Uhuru won–parallel vote tally shows”:  
 

“Thus the PVT can confidently verify that the official results for each candidate are accurate,” the group’s chairman, Kennedy Masime, said on Saturday afternoon.”

 
This is the basic point–the PVT result of 49.7 cannot “confidently verify” that Uhuru got 50%+1 at all.
 
Such statements then got translated further into statements like this from Ken Opalo in an interview in The Atlantic:

I don’t think the system meltdown affected the eventual result – a Parallel Vote Tabulation done by Elections Observation Group confirmed IEBC’s findings – but it raised concerns over IEBC’s vulnerability to manipulation. (emphasis added)

If ELOG does not wish to be a party to this, they can dial it back and have had more than two three weeks to do so; and more than two three weeks to release the details of their methodology and how it was executed as reputable polling firms are expected to do these days in Kenya.
Ultimately, ELOG’s initial statement was cited by respondents in the Supreme Court as evidence to uphold the IEBC’s decision to avoid a runoff even though ELOG had declined to be transparent and neutral by withholding its methodology and data.  Given the nature of the proceedings, there was no time in Court for either AfriCOG or CORD to probe or rebut the purported evidence from the Goverment.