Kyrgyzstan–lessons for the U.S. in East Africa?

Certainly the stature and image–and influence–of the United States in Kyrgyzstan seems to be badly damaged by the degree to which the U.S. got itself intertwined with the corrupt Bakiev regime. Bakiev played his leverage from granting the U.S. continued use of the Manas airbase at the Bishkek airport–increasingly important to the U.S. as the war on Afghanistan ramped up.

The needs of warfighting trump support for democracy, anti-corruption efforts and such. That’s reality. Thus, the question: in a war of choice for nation building in one country, what is the collateral damage to good governance and democracy elsewhere?

How far are we willing to go to support the TFG in Somalia? What compromises will we face in dealing with the leaders of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Burundi?

One immediate issue is whether and how the U.S. will use its influence with the Kenyan military in regard to cooperation with the International Criminal Court in its current investigations.

I was an IRI election observer in Kyrgyzstan when Bakiev was elected to a full term in July 2005 following the March 2005 Tulip Revolution. I observed voting in small cities and towns in the Ferghana Valley region in the southwest. This was near the site of the Andijan massacre across the border in Uzbekistan and the region was tense–nonetheless, the atmosphere was hopeful with the new government. Voting was anti-climactic in that Bakiev cut a deal with his most prominent opponent shortly before the election, so the outcome was not really in doubt.

In that heavily Islamic part of the country the economy had been in decline since the fall of the Soviet Union. No one had taken down the statues of Lenin, or even a large portrait of Marx in the auditorium of one of the schools where we observed voting. The Soviet Union, I was told locally, had simply ended without much warning. Since then the roads were gradually crumbling, the machinery was wearing out, the stores had closed–and locals with a profession had gone to Russia for work. The country was much in need of the rent the U.S. was paying for use of Manas, but a main reason for getting rid of Akiev was the perception that he was running the government to the benefit of his family rather than the people as a whole. Apparently Bakiev was not the change in the this respect.

“Fuel Sales to US at Issue in Kyrgyzstan” NY Times

“How Not to Run an Empire” FP

“Blood in the Streets of Bishkek” FP

“When Patience Runs Out”–IHT, Paul Quinn-Judge of International Crisis Group


“Sudan’s capital sways to hip hop”

On Safari in Chanute, Kansas

Ethiopia’s Zenawi says he will authorize jamming of Voice of America Amharic broadcasts, comparing VOA to Radio Mille Collines

Dysfunctional governance in Kampala–“‘The Bastard Child of Nobody?’–Anti-Planning and the Institutional Crisis in Contemporary Kampala”

Feingold’s Strong Statement on Uganda getting international coverage

Senator Russ Feingold, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Africa Subcommittee issued a statement last week expressing concern about the fragile state of democracy in a number of African countries, with strong words about the state of affairs in Uganda looking ahead to the February 2011 presidential elections.

On Sunday, The Observer in Kampala ran the statement in full, under the headline “Uganda remains a one-party state, U.S. Senator tells Obama”. Yesterday, The Guardian covered it in Uganda news.

From the statement:

Uganda, like Rwanda, is a close friend of the United States, and we have worked together on many joint initiatives over recent years. President Museveni deserves credit for his leadership on many issues both within the country and the wider region. However, at the same time, Museveni’s legacy has been tainted by his failure to allow democracy to take hold in Uganda. Uganda’s most recent elections have been hurt by reports of fraud, intimidation and politically motivated prosecutions of opposition candidates. The Director of National Intelligence stated in his testimony that Uganda remains essentially a “one-party state” and said the government “is not undertaking democratic reforms in advance of the elections scheduled for 2011.”

Uganda’s elections next year could be a defining moment for the country and will have ramifications for the country’s long-term stability. The riots in Buganda last September showed that regional and ethnic tensions remain strong in many parts of the country. Therefore, it is important that the United States and other friends of Uganda work with that country’s leaders to ensure critical electoral reforms are enacted. In the consolidated appropriations act that passed in December, Congress provided significant assistance for Uganda, but also specifically directed the Secretary of State “to closely monitor preparations for the 2011 elections in Uganda and to actively promote…the independence of the election commission; the need for an accurate and verifiable voter registry; the announcement and posting of results at the polling stations; the freedom of movement and assembly and a process free of intimidation; freedom of the media; and the security and protection of candidates.”

Uganda: “Angry Donors Threaten Aid Cut”

From The Observer in Kampala: “Angry Donors Threaten Aid Cut”.

The World Bank Country Director, speaking “on behalf of the donors” funding 30 percent of Uganda’s budget, spoke to key government ministers at an event at which Museveni was expected to attend, after the media was asked to leave. While praising economic progress, she said that the donor group was upset by the failure to make serious progress against corruption to the point of evaluating punitive measures. She also noted the threat posed by high population growth, at 3.2% leading to propulation projections of 100 million by 2050.

Related story at The Standard from Nairobi and The Guardian.

In 2005 The New Vision reported on a confidential World Bank report coauthored by Dr. Joel Barkan, Senior African Governance Advisor.

The reports adds, “Since the Bank cannot weight in explicitly on Uganda’s political process, this is the only mechanism at its disposal [lowering aid levels] to signal its concern. Conversely, the continued provision of high levels of budget support, especially when such support can be diverted into classified budgets and used for political purposes, indirectly involves the Bank in the political process”.

“To continue budgetary support at present levels risks embarrassment to the Bank, especially after it has been warned, not only by this report, but in what is common knowledge and discourse among leading members of the diplomatic community in Kampala,” the report says.

Sec. Clinton Keynote at National Prayer Breakfast and Museveni

I like the speech.  Interesting that she has gotten to know Museveni through this event. I hope that this somehow means she could be a positive influence, rather than meaning that he is more likely to get away with more in Uganda. Certainly having Moi campaigning for him is not encouraging.

The deteriorating situation in Somalia will likely give him that much more standing with those in Washington who value his troops in AMISOM to the point that they are willing to overlook other issues.

Somaliland/Somalia, Moi, Uganda, Corruption, Deep South

*”Somaliland: The Invisible Country” from Virginia Quarterly Review via The Somaliland Times.

*Nick Wadhams on “a really stupid idea” for Somalia.

*Interesting to see Moi in Uganda campaigning for Museveni’s re-election. What’s the message? “We shouldn’t have to bother with this voting stuff, but turn out for your President and The Party”? Things do seem to be gearing up among Kenyan politicos for Uganda’s election. See this Op/Ed: “Only Moi, Mugabe Could Have Come for ‘NRM Day’“.

*Negative report eariler this month disclosing unfavorable terms for previously secret Ugandan oil contracts with Tullow has helped keep the ball in the air perhaps.

*”US-Uganda Arms May Be Aiding Al-Shabaab says NGO“. From the Daily Monitor: “TFG lacks the capacity to prevent the diversion of substantial quantities of its own weaponry and military equipment to other armed groups and to Somalia’s domestic arms markets”. Full Amnesty International report.

*On the corruption front, the US is seeking extradition of a UK lawyer for allegedly trying to induce a colleague to give false evidence in the prosecution of the case that led to the $579M fine against Halliburton for bribes to Nigerian officials. In the meantime, the UK Serious Fraud Office seems to be moving forward in matters involving BAE which could include the alleged Tanzanian bribery.

*From the Deep South: The Los Angeles Times covers two interesting assistance/development efforts in the Mississippi Delta and Lower Alabama.


Working on(or over?) the Railroad–“What is emerging as one of Kenya’s most infamous privatisation scandals” and “the new scramble for Africa”

In the category of: Now They Tell Us—

The Daily Nation is replete with stories and commentary on the Mombasa-Kampala railroad and the various claims and disputes among the parties to the Rift Valley Railroad concession, granted in 2005 for a term of 25 years and reporting about the original “wheeling and dealing” that set up the current failure of the operation.

Today’s installment asserts “Future of Rail Firm to be Decided Wednesday” at a meeting between the Kenyan and Ugandan governments and feuding shareholders.

When Kibera slum dwellers uprooted the railroad tracks during the 2008 post-election violence, it seemed to be taken by some from the West as confirmation of a violent and uncontrollable nature of the Opposition, as well as perhaps by some as consistent with certain ethnic stereotypes–and was said to be be a major international incident due to reduced supplies to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Unfortunately, it would appear that even greater property damage has been done–albeit more genteelly and more discretely, by better dressed people with a lot more money–over a period of years in the privatization. I say nothing in defense of vandalism here, but just simply point out that some forms of property destruction get condemned while others get financed.

How plan to privatize railways became Kenya’s public sector reform nightmare; Desire to save face traunched the reality that Kenya and Uganda were handing over a national asset in a fundamentally flawed deal

The World Bank extended a Sh6 billion loan to pay off the sacked workers. But, despite all these concessions, Mr Puffet turned up with an empty pocket on November 1.

According to experts who have been involved in such deals, it would have been possible to detect that Mr Puffet did not have money right from the start if the due diligence conducted was thorough and if the Treasury had demanded for guarantees that the money is available.

To save the situation, the governments and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is owned by the World Bank, hastily amended the contracts by introducing two legal devices that would enable Mr Puffet to raise the money required in 30 days before he could be handed over the railway.

Mr Puffet and his financial adviser from PWC, Mr Vishal Agarwal, started by knocking on the usual doors looking for the cash at firms such as major private equity shops and investment houses, but many could not touch the deal — despite the world then being awash with excess money — because either the window to close the deal was too short, or they were put off by the political risk and the shareholding squabbles that plagued Rift Valley Railways (RVR).

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Bits to Start the Week–Coffee, Al Shabaab, EA Common Market, CIA

More on Kenyan coffee branding from the Business Daily. Kenya’s coffee sector makes up 3.5% of GDP–annual production is currently 50,000, having peaked at 130,000 tonnes in 1989/89, with the decline attributed to “mismanagement, indebtedness and bad returns”
“Al-Faisal’s gone, questions linger” from Muthoni Wanyeki’s column in the East African.
Also from the East African, Charles Onyango-Obbo on the East African Common Market: “Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Kenya?”

One commonly hears statements like the “Kenyan economy is bigger than Tanzania’s and Uganda’s combined.” Yes, but that was 20 years ago.

Kenya’s gross domestic product in 1990 was $11 billion. Tanzania’s was $5.4 billion, and Uganda’s $4.03 billion. Kenya’s economy then was bigger than Tanzania and Uganda combined; twice that of Tanzania, and nearly three times Uganda’s.

By 2008, Kenya’s GDP was $31 billion. However Tanzania’s was $21 billion, and Uganda’s $15.8 billion. It’s no longer bigger than Tanzania’s and Uganda’s combined; it is not double that of Tanzania; nor is it three times bigger than Uganda’s. Indeed, depending on the GDP figures you look at in three or so years, Tanzania could be East Africa’s largest economy.

The story of the past 20 years in East Africa, therefore, is not how large Kenya’s economy is compared with those of its neighbours, but rather how much the others have closed the gap.

“Row Clouds Process to Pick New KAA Boss to Replace Muhoho” from the Sunday Nation is a “must read” as for anyone that wants to assess how locked down or open opportunities in Kenya are now in the second Kibaki administration and how public business gets done.
Last for now, but not necessarily least, the Standard on CIA Director Leon Panetta’s visit to Nairobi.