Reporting on Carson talk with African reporters on Wikileaks–“husbands talking about in-laws”

Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson spoke from Washington with reporters gathered at embassy locations in Africa. The Saturday Monitor reports from Kampala on the message on the leaks:

. . . .

“They are a snapshot in time but do not reflect the totality of the interests we have.” Wikileaks yesterday dumped more dossiers on African leaders on its website, indicating for instance that Mr Jerry Lanier, the US ambassador in Kampala, notified his superiors in Washington last October, a month after taking his posting here, that President Museveni has “autocratic tendencies”.

Asked during yesterday’s teleconference if he felt embarrassed by the disclosures, Ambassador Carson who spoke from Washington D.C., without offering direct apology described Uganda’s relations with his country as “deep and complex”.

He said: “It is a relationship which we value and we are working to strengthen. We will continue to carry on our relationship with Uganda in the manner which is designed to promote our mutual interest and advance our policy objectives.”

He, however, said the leaks were akin to a husband’s secret, uncharitable remarks about an in-law being made public.
Mr Lanier did not attend the teleconference held at the US Kampala Mission in Nsambya, a city suburb.

Ambassador Carson demanded Uganda holds a “free, fair and open” ballot next year on a level playing field.
“The period for stealing African elections is over. Theft of elections should not be part of the democratic (practice).

This should be a lesson to the whole of Africa,” he said, referring to the hung situation in Ivory Coast where both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Allasane Ouattara claim to have won the presidential re-run.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Carson yesterday flagged strengthening democracy, supporting economic growth, addressing public health, conflict prevention and tackling transnational threats such as terrorism, human and drug-trafficking as priority areas of engagement with Africa.

* Another interesting link today: new discussion from CFR on “Smarter Measures in Fight Against Piracy”

Tanzania on the lookout for Wikileaker Assange, who has lived in Tanzania and Kenya

From the Citizen, “Tanzania’s connection in leaked US secrets”:

Dar es Salaam. The Australian man at the centre of the worldwide storm over leaked top secret United States’ diplomatic cables posted on the Internet has stayed in Tanzania in the past.Government authorities said yesterday that they were on the alert over an International Police (Interpol) arrest warrant issued against Mr Julian Assange, as his return to the country could not be ruled out. Mr Assange is the brains behind the whistle blowing website ‘WikiLeaks’, which has lately put the US in an awkward position by publishing top-secret information.
. . . .
The unfolding saga is being watched closely in Tanzania and Kenya, but with little information about the former having come out in the documents that detail what US diplomats felt or said about their hosts during the period when they compiled the information.

World leaders who have so far been exposed by WikiLeaks, include former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, the French leader, Mr Nicholas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Balusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

With the US’s image bloodied by the revelations, Mr Assange, who is now being viewed both as a hero and villain, has a formidable potential foe, and analysts said he could be looking for a hiding place.

According to his profile on the search engine, Wikipedia, the Australian computer expert developed a liking for and briefly lived in Tanzania and Kenya, and visited a few other countries. No further information was available on when he last visited Tanzania, where he stayed and what he did during his stay. He has, however, lived most of his time in the UK.

Mr Assange claims to have influenced the Kenyan presidential election of 2007, by exposing corruption at the highest levels. Three years ago, Wikileaks disclosed a report by the international risk assessment group Kroll, alleging massive corruption on the part of relatives and associates of former President Daniel arap Moi.
The government of President Mwai Kibaki had commissioned the Kroll analysis soon after it came to power following the 2002 elections. It was completed in 2004 and published by Wikileaks in 2007.
Wikileaks founder Assange subsequently claimed that the website’s action influenced the 2007 election results. He said in a commentary published last year that none of the politicians named in the Kroll report were re-elected.

Yesterday in Dar es Salaam, the deputy minister for Home Affairs, Mr Khamis Kagasheki, said: “We are part of the international community and once an alert is issued we must comply.”
He was alluding to the possibility of Tanzania arresting Mr Assange should he decide to return to the country the moment.

“I have been in touch with our Immigration people to inquire about this matter and they are alert just in case something like that happens. We will not want to be caught off guard,” said Mr Kagasheki, who served as a diplomat for a long time before venturing into politics.

Unlike the US embassy in Nairobi, which has issued an apology to the Kenya government after some of the leaked documents, which described the country as “a swamp of corruption”, its Dar es Salaam counterpart has been silent.

However, the Dar embassy was yesterday said to be preparing to host selected journalists in a telephone conference with top US State Department officials next week to discuss the saga. Tanzania will thus be among 20 other African countries to take part in the conference call.

Kenyatta reports frustration with US on aid, but new reports show more corruption problems

From an AP report today, in the Boston Globe:

Kenya’s deputy prime minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, said he also would like to see more cooperation from the United States on stabilizing Somalia and fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Kenyatta said U.S. officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, had said that Kenya could expect more aid through an agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corp. after it pushed through a new constitution.

The constitution was signed in August, but Kenyatta says U.S. development agencies are insisting on evidence of progress in taming corruption.

Kenyatta asked, in his words, “Why do they keep changing the goal posts?”

At the same time, however, the Daily Nation ran a story headlined “Revealed: Fraud and waste of tax billions”:

The government lost billions of shillings from the tax kitty during the 2008/2009, according to the latest Controller and Auditor-General’s report.

Discipline was so poor that ministries spent fortunes and then pushed the bills to the following financial year in the so-called pending bills.

But the biggest scandal is in imprests where government officials are given money for travel, accommodation and other official expenses, which they fail to account for. In the period under review, public officials failed to provide proof of how they spent Sh3.4 billion in imprests.

Paid to fake IDPs

In some cases, the officers could not explain how they spent public money. Some of it was paid to fake internally displaced persons (IDPs) in apparent widespread fraud.

A total of Sh7 billion was poured into funny imprests or nobody can explain how the money was spent.

So prevalent is the imprest abuse and fraud that some of the civil servants have left the service holding the money, meaning that it will never be recovered. The auditor questions why officials were allowed to pile up unaccounted for imprests, even though there were rules on accounting for such funds.

I attended a discussion at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) back in the summer of 2009 with key Kenyan parliamentary leaders–this was the key theme then when I asked a panel what message they would have to Americans interested in being helpful to Kenya: more aid dollars, through the Millennium Challenge Corporation particularly. It seems to me that good governance and limiting corruption have always been understood to be key MCC criteria. Kenya has a lot going for it–a lot of advantages over other poor countries–so why the special pleading? As long as new scandals continue to accrue while the old ones fester unaddressed, it does not seem to me that Kenyan politicians are entitled to be frustrated with the US for not ramping up government-to-government aid expenditures.

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Secretary of State Clinton noted this week to the African Chiefs of Mission the Africa Bureau’s efforts on wrangling votes for Iran sanctions:

The bureau was enormously helpful in rounding up votes for the sanctions resolution on Iran – Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, thank you, because it wasn’t easy. I think I talked to President Museveni three times and Johnnie visited him several times. But – end result was we got strong African support for the international sanctions regime. We are building, and in some – many cases, rebuilding collaboration not only along bilateral lines, but multilateral alliances, most especially in our collaboration and engagement with the African Union, because it’s very important that we do more to build up the African Union and other regional entities like the East African Community, which has a real potential for being an engine of economic prosperity. [emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at African Chiefs of Mission Conference

Tensions continue building over Uganda’s February 2011 elections–see yesterday’s news about opposition plans for a parallel electronic vote count and the Ugandan government’s strident reaction.

Carl LeVan has an excellent discussion of "Democratization and Securitization in Uganda" that I would highly recommend.

The ruling NRM has cleverly adopted the Global War on Terrorism as a political resource. Even before the terrorist bombing in the capital in July 2010, the government began closing political space in the name of national security while it successfully obtained aid commitments from the United States to fight counter-insurgency wars, one of which is against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north.

. . . .

Looking beyond the Pentagon, Washington is clearly aware of Uganda’s governance drift. For example the US announced that will not renew 10 million dollars committed through Millennium Challenge Corporation to help Uganda move from “threshold” status to a full compact (ie, an agreement) for aid. USAID’s plans call for strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing political competition, and improving parliamentary capacity for oversight through partnerships with civil society. Unfortunately USAID faces an uphill battle, with no increases in the lines funding for either for civil society programs or for its good governance in Uganda, and cuts are planned for programs relating to “political competition and consensus building.” Even aid to fight transnational crime is slated for cuts.

In addition to all the regional security issues involving Somalia, Sudan, Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Iran sanctions issue adds another interesting twist. I noted back in May that Assistant Secretary Carson and AFRICOM Commander General Ward were seeking Museveni’s support on Iran sanctions during a visit to Kampala, as well as pushing for Museveni to relinquish unilateral control of the Electoral Commission. The U.S. succeeded in persuading Uganda to support sanctions, but did not secure action on the Electoral Commission. Both worthy goals, but is there a trade off?

It is also interesting to note a report that Uganda has now been working with Iran to create a joint bank as a mechanism to allow Uganda to obtain access to $46M in pledged Iranian credits that have impeded by the sanctions:

[A] memo prepared by the ministry for Parliament’s public accounts committee, in response to an audit query, said that sanctions had complicated the money transfer. "The ministry has followed up the implementation of this line of credit. However, it has faced challenges, especially following the imposition of sanctions on Iran," said the memo.

"In a bid to overcome the difficulty in transferring funds to and from Iran because of sanctions and to promote investment and trade, the two countries agreed on the establishment of a bank as a joint venture as the best way forward," it said.

U.S. Partisan Crossfire in Kenyan Politics Ratchets Up a Notch

Please read this lead story from the Standard: “US legislator claims Obama funding “Yes” campaigns”.

Kenyans deserve much better from their “friends” in the U.S. The least they deserve is to be left alone if we as Americans can’t behave in a more responsible manner.

Obama deserves criticism here for twice now extending the term of an Ambassador who has demonstrated that he is “constitutionally” incapable of neutrality and transparency on any issue of importance. The sad fact is that both the Democrats and the Republicans seem to be at least in part factually correct in their criticisms regarding funding going into both the “No” and “Yes” campaigns.

As I have written before, I think the criticisms from the U.S. Right of the draft constitution on the Khadi’s courts and abortion issue are grossly overblown and misleading and reflect a lack of understanding of the unique and specific situation in Kenya. Nonetheless, these are real issues that Kenyans need to weigh and balance and decide on for themselves. And it also should be recognized that there are two (and really more) sides playing “global culture war”–there are in fact a variety of groups from outside Kenya that conduct seminars and other programs that do seem to promote various cultural agendas involving issues that are well outside the mainstream of existing social norms in the United States and in some cases even in Europe, much less Kenya–so when Kenyan clergy hook up with rightwing activists in the U.S. there can be some grain of truth to the notion that they are playing on the same terms.

From my perspective, having recently lived in Kenya for a year and worked directly with a whole range of Kenyan politicians as well as Ranneberger, I do not believe that the controversial social or religious issues are at all the primary drivers for the “yes” versus “no” campaigns.

Saba Saba Day–twenty years later, how did U.S. lose the thread?–updated

7 July–Saba Saba Day

Democracy versus “realism” in support of other U.S. interests may have been an unavoidably difficult trade off during the Cold War. But it has been more than twenty years now since that excuse passed muster.

My recent post “A Blast From the Past” linked to a 1990 policy paper that seemed to attempt to justify support for Moi by the U.S. for tactical or “strategic” U.S. advantage in the region–post Cold War and pre 1998 embassy bombings and Global War on Terror. Fortunately, the U.S. Ambassador at the time, George H.W. Bush’s appointee, Smith Hempstone, was willing to stick his neck out to support those seeking liberty against Moi’s tyranny. And thus the U.S. is remembered and honored by Kenyans for that assistance as it celebrates its “Second Liberation”.

Now, however, we seemed to have changed. This is what Maina Kiai of the current generation of activists had to say in an interview with columnist Kwamchetsi Makokha last year about the most recent Kenyan election:

Kwamchetsi Makokha: The American ambassador endorsed the results at first. What do you think happened to change his view?

Maina Kiai: I think the way it blew up shocked a lot of people. For whatever reasons, not even the international human rights organisations had anticipated what came to happen. I think in a sense the country and the world had been lulled to sleep by the 2002 elections and the referendum in 2005. We did those fairly and peacefully but fell asleep and imagined that we would do the 2007 elections. But the signs were clear.

I was particularly pleased to see [American ambassador Michael] Ranneberger turning around because what he did was clearly unconscionable and wrong – more so because he was in possession of the exit poll results. He could at least have been equivocal, but in his case, he was very categorical. I am not sure if that was an agenda from him or from the US government. I think it still needs to be interrogated. The fact that as Kenyans we stood up to the American ambassador and said it does not matter – we will take you on – on principle, on what is right and wrong, that was very important.

How sad that where Kenya’s pro-democracy heroes found support from the U.S. through our Ambassador in the Saba Saba era, they are now in a position of speaking of having had to stand up to and “take on” the Ambassador on principle. We can do better.

Kiai, as a Kenyan democracy leader and Harvard-trained lawyer among many other credentials, was asking the same question in January 2009, that I was asking from December 2007 in my position as an American working as local leader for an “international NGO” being funded by USAID: was the agenda from the ambassador personally or from the U.S. government? I tend to think that it was some of both and something that was evolving in real time in the messy way that “foreign policy” gets “made” by our country–but ultimately I guess now one could conclude that by not “interrogating” these obvious questions that the Kenyan people as well as Americans have–and extending Ranneberger’s appointment once again–we have in a sense “ratified” or taken ownership of what went on before and made it “ours” now? I do still wonder what people in Washington knew in “real time” about what was going on on Nairobi.

*Worth noting: Larry Diamond, democracy scholar/advocate, speaks to AFRICOM headquarters on themes from his latest book.

Slovenia versus Truth, Justice and the American Way

That official was obviously part of “the blame America first crowd”.

Have you noticed that in every World Cup game since we elected Obama president the U.S. has tied? It’s Socialism, I say, Socialism!

*For World Cup fans let me commend to you “Africa United–How Football Explains Africa” on the blogroll (tied to the recent book of the same title) by Steve Bloomfield.

Biden arriving in Kenya–Obama does KBC interview from Washington

Biden arrives Monday in Nairobi. The Nation reports that the Kenyan gov’t wants to use the visit to make a case for greater U.S. engagement on Somalia, in particular boosting the U.N. role.

President Obama meanwhile did an interview from Washington with the KBC:

During the interview in Washington with KBC, President Obama spoke of his wish to see a more prosperous Kenya. He urged Kenyans to “seize the moment” offered by the referendum to put the post-election violence behind them.

The US President sent the strongest indication yet that he wanted to see Kenya’s constitution review process come to a successful conclusion and announced plans to visit the country before his term ends.

But he clarified that the US was not pushing for the Yes vote at the referendum, slated for August 4.

President Obama said the decision to vote Yes or No at the referendum was up to Kenyans themselves.

US Supreme Court rules unanimously in Samantar case, allows Somalis to sue ex-minister

BBC: US to allow Somalis to sue ex-PM
The US Supreme Court rules that a former Somali prime minister can be sued over claims of torture and extrajudicial killings. The Court found that the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not protect individual defendants as opposed to foreign governments.

For background of case, see:   Today-Supreme Court hears oral argument in Samantar v. Yousef–Somalia and Somaliland Torture Case

A Must Read on the U.S. Government in Africa: “Pack like its Arizona”

There is so much that could be said in regard to a blog post I read and saved last week, but my policy on things related to the U.S. military is not to editorialize but to stay in “I report, you decide” [wink] mode.

If you are interested in understanding AFRICOM, and perhaps more generally the U.S. government in Africa, I think you really do owe it to yourself to just take a moment to read this post, “Pack Like its Arizona” , from AFRICOM public affairs.