The AFRICOMMONS niche: leveraging the freedom of amateurism to “monitor and evaluate” democracy and American defense/diplomacy/development in East Africa

Raila Odinga Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya International Republican Institute

From campaign brochure of Raila Odinga seeking nomination of Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya for President, received June 2007

–Why “AFRICOMMONS”? When I started this blog in late 2009 AFRICOM had just been “stood up” in Germany and taken over the American military operations in East Africa from CENTCOM.

–The notion of AFRICOM as “a new kind of Combatant Command” still seemed meaningful in 2009. The Obama Administration was still new and had not yet lost control of the Senate, passed the Affordable Care Act, gone along with calling it “Obamacare”, and in the wake lost both the House and Senate to the Tea Party. There was still, dare I say it, some hint of “hope and change” in the air. AFRICOM had taken over the war against al-Shabaab in Somalia but had not yet been tasked with its first major new “kinetic” effort against Gaddafi in Libya (in 2009 we were still getting closer to and cooperating more with the Libyan dictator).

–Even though Kenya had experienced the democracy meltdown and “near civil war” during my time with the International Republican Institute in East Africa with the stolen 2007 election and ensuing violence, as of late 2009 three of the four main pillars of the February 2008 “peace deal” between Kibaki and Odinga as manifested in the National Accord and Reconciliation Act still looked viable.

–The area of the National Accord that had already failed to fully materialize–the investigation into the December 27, 2007 Presidential Election–was a key part of what I wanted to write about from my own experience and to research through the Freedom of Information Act and people who were involved and willing to talk. The report of President Kibaki’s Commission (colloquially “The Kreigler Commission”) provided quite a bit of overall background on the larger deficiencies of the work of the Electoral Commission of Kenya and I knew a lot of people involved so I had a lot to work with.

–Not many of us would have anticipated then the ability of nearly everyone involved in the Post Election Violence (whether we label it “ethnic cleansing” or not) to completely escape any form of justice, while a number of witnesses ended up dead. Likewise, I was not nearly so cynical as to have guessed that the report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission would end up getting excised by a new President who was elected in part on the basis of his perceived role as an ethnic champion on one side of the PEV and as the scion of the family of the hugely acquisitive first President of Kenya and protege of the hugely acquisitive second President.

–So when I started out, the idea of rebuilding some real commonality between American democracy assistance and the rest of the American “3Ds” defense, diplomacy and development engagement and Kenyan voters–based on a fair minded and truthful assessment of what had gone wrong in 2007-08–did not seem daunting.

–For the first several years of the blog, I continued to work in my professional career as a lawyer for one of America’s largest (and world’s largest for that matter) defense contractors. While I was not personally involved in my company’s business with the State Department in Kenya (and whatever other business they had there that I might not have known about) I wanted the blog to have identity as a hobby or avocation discrete from my professional work. During the years I continued with my company, working primarily in Navy shipbuilding, I wrote sparingly about defense and military related matters. I have now been working in contracting relating to healthcare programs for some years, so I am feeling a little freer as an amateur now on “all three Ds” to range a bit wider. Having learned a great deal about healthcare programs, I may do more with that area as it has come to the forefront of US-Kenya relations while my work and clients’ business is domestic.

–In such a niche area (for Americans) as democratization and politics in East Africa, almost everyone seriously engaged is doing it for a living, or for part of a living, or at least has some real career stake or aspiration involved. Most who are not in academia or the military live in metro Washington, DC. For people in this situation, the cost of independence and especially the cost of candor can be high so there is not much appetite for examination of the “Success Stories” that constitute most communication to the public from the government agencies, NGOs and for-profit or not-for-profit businesses involved.

I have written that democracy assistance writ large is seriously in need of a “friendly watchdog” that is not representative of an attempt to discredit or harm democratization but is truly independent rather than “captive” of potentially competing interests.

It is clear to me that the values behind “open government” would be most compelling in the area of democracy assistance itself. Donor taxpayers and intended beneficiaries of democracy assistance ought to see what they are paying for, and intended to receive respectively. The practice of informal secrecy creates opportunities for incumbent host governments to manipulate and divert programming. Informal secrecy also creates opportunities to avoid scrutiny of irregular interference in democracy programming by donor diplomats or others who may have competing objectives. [The essence of my experience as I summarized in “The Debacle of 2007″ for The Elephant.]

See also: “President Trump’s new Assistant Secretary of State for Africa candidly explained why election observation and technical assistance have to be firewalled from diplomacy to have integrity“.

Meanwhile donor funds are available to tell positive, promotional stories as part of the donors’ general public diplomacy efforts even if the stories may gloss over the grittier realities that would need to be dealt with to actually improve an aspiring democracy– whether just to burnish images or to serve “stability” by avoiding angering voters who might be upset to know more about how their leaders are conducting themselves.

There is some good work done by the Inspectors General at State and USAID as well as by the GAO, but part of the impetuous for me to do this blog was an unwillingness by the Inspectors General to publicly release anything in response to my submitted complaints about interference in my IRI program work for USAID in Kenya and related matters. IRI since my time there has added an internal compliance function and has built its own Monitoring & Evaluation group and a separate polling center so they should be at least better equipped to avoid the kind of situation that led them to throw me under the bus on the Kenya USAID part of my work with them (things were fine on the NED program for Kenya and the USAID program for Somaliland, both of which were much larger than the Kenya polling and Election Observation Mission programs).

–Going beyond this blog, and my published pieces so far in The Star in 2013 and The Elephant in recent years, I do aspire to write a book about the Kenyan 2007 election and the demise of the reform agenda into the disputed Uhuruto election of 2013, but this will probably be for retirement given the magnitude of FOIA work involved. Of course the stability/vitality of FOIA in the United States will be determined in our political process in the meantime, as well as any move by the Government of Kenya toward complying with their own public records laws. (If someone else writes a more complete account of that election first I will be pleasantly relieved. I remain available to anyone with a serious interest, as always.)

Retired Admiral Stavridis publishes op-ed demonstrating American “National Security Establishment” view of “Africa’s Security and the Power Struggle”

I highly commend to my friends who are Africanists or African, or Americans who have not been directly involved in the “national security” professions, a short op-ed piece today from Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.):

Africa’s Security and the Power Struggle“:

Karen Blixen’s evocative 1937 memoir “Out of Africa” was about the British Empire’s experience in Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century, when European powers were scrambling to consolidate colonies across the massive landmass of Africa. Over the ensuing century, Africa has gone through massive decolonization, a population expansion, and enormous turmoil. Recently, US involvement, while episodic at best, has at least helped contain the rise of violent extremism. But the US is now considering withdrawing much of its military and intelligence capabilities in a shift designed to free up resources for a renewal of “great power competition.” This potential move out of Africa is a mistake, and we should examine the reasons for a sensible level of US security involvement on the continent.

The size and scale of Africa are important to understand, as are its economic and demographic growth. The continent is huge — you could fit China, India, the US (minus Alaska) and western Europe into it comfortably. It is a continent rich in diamonds, gold, rare earths, excellent farmland, and other natural resources including oil and vast, flowing rivers. Economically, the continent is the second-fastest-growing in the world and may hit 4% annual growth (despite many challenges, especially in the larger economies). Sudan, Senegal, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Kenya are all pushing 8% growth. And from a population perspective, it already represents 16% of the world at 1.3 billion people, projected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050 and perhaps 4.5 billion by the century’s end. Demographically, it is exploding. Nigeria, with a massive population spurt and a youthful populace, has been called the “Black China.”

But Africa’s future — despite its manifest advantages — is dependent on creating stable systems of governance and overcoming pockets of violent extremism that are dangerous and spreading. In west Africa, the ultraviolent group Boko Haram maintains a stronghold on much of northeast Nigeria; in east Africa, the al-Shabab group conducts constant terror attacks up and down the coast of the continent; piracy is still at work both in the Gulf of Guinea and the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean; and the entire Sahel — the region separating the northern Arab states from sub-Saharan Africa — has a strong and violent strain of al-Qaeda at work. And of course in the northern tier, ISIS is still attempting to recruit and conduct operations along the Mediterranean Sea.

With the creation of US Africa Command in 2007, the US military began to focus with great seriousness on working toward a more secure environment throughout the continent. At the time, I was a four-star combatant command in Miami at US Southern Command; I had my hands full in Latin America and the Caribbean with a virulent insurgency in Colombia, massive narcotics smuggling throughout the region, Cuban influence rising, Hezbollah in many spots, and an increasing level of Chinese political, intelligence, and military activity. In some ways, the challenges were similar in Africa, and I reached out to my new counterpart, General Kip Ward. He wisely decided to use a blend of hard and soft power to counter the security challenges, much as we were doing in Latin America. He had both a military deputy (a three-star officer) and a civilian deputy (an ambassador), the latter in charge of merging diplomacy, development, and defense, as well as coordinating efforts across agencies (State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, Drug Enforcement Administration, National Security Agency, etc.). I saw the command stand up and create a wave of momentum, eventually deploying around combat 7,000 troops but also working medical diplomacy, humanitarian operations, counternarcotics, disaster relief, rule of law, and other soft-power initiatives.

All of that has had a real effect in combating terrorism — both indigenous and the even more concerning export variety — against the groups noted above. One notable effort has been against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, which operates on the borders of Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. . . .

. . . .

Stavridis thus provides an extremely “high altitude” look at the Continent and its past and future in support of his argument that keeping AFRICOM at its present relatively very small size is both inexpensive and strategically smart in the global sense, and also just in reference to China specifically. (Let me be clear that part of my point here is to flag but let readers draw their own conclusion about Stavridis leading with Karen Blixen and “Out of Africa” and the other stereotypical elements of his presentation.)

Adm. Stavridis retired from the Navy in 2013 after an extremely accomplished career. He served as Commander of the U.S. Southern Command from 2006 to 2009, then served as Commander of the European Command and Supreme Allied Commander. The perspective of a recent former SOUTHCOM and EUCOM Commander on AFRICOM is clearly invaluable to understanding that way of seeing the world.

Stavridis graduated from the Naval Academy in 1976 and climbed the ladder as a distinguished Surface Warfare Officer, along with UN/NATO deployments to Bosnia and Haiti in the 1990s. He ultimately commanded the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group “conducting combat operations in the Arabian Gulf in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom”.

Along the way, he did his PhD in International Relations at Tufts, along with other graduate degrees from Tufts, and the National and Naval War College. After retirement he served as the Dean of Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. So he is simply put a superstar by background and experience.

Today he is the Operating Executive for The Carlyle Group, the famous global defense-focused equity fund [NASDAQ: CG] and the Chair of the “Board of Counselors” of McClarty Associates, the famous Washington-based global consulting firm [“We know diplomacy; We provide diplomatic solutions”].

By way of disclosure, I retired from 12+ years as a defense industry lawyer working primarily in Navy shipbuilding around the time Stavridis retired from the Navy. I was on unpaid “public service leave” from this position for my East Africa democracy assistance work at the International Republican Institute. So Stavridis’ “high altitude” and military-centric perspective is very much something I was used to being around but will not be intuitive to those from other places (such those living in the various countries in Africa) or backgrounds.

I had already been a democracy assistance volunteer trainer for IRI before I started my career in the defense contracting world. So the notion of working at a “micro level” to assist the development of “democracy in one country” at a time–as opposed to focusing on the “ionospheric” overview of global strategy subdivided on the military side among the regional combatant commands (which did not yet include Africa as a separate region until the fall of 2008) was much of the reason I decided to take my temporary duty assistance job with IRI in 2007.

By law, promoting democracy is one of our defined American foreign policy priorities as established by Congress so there is no reason that funds should not be appropriated to USAID to then fund bona fide independent “International Election Observation Missions” and even independent polling programs that are not subject to interference from diplomats acting on normal short term preferences (such as “building capital” with an incumbent president who has previously disappointed us for indulging corruption).

From a macro geopolitical level our success in building our system around free and fair elections is an area of comparative advantage relative to the PRC. Thus spending a small amount of money in a way that it is not subject to “reach back” or diplomatic meddling to help citizens of African countries secure their votes and build durable democratic systems makes good strategic sense in a “great power competition” with China as well as more globally.

As for McClarty Associates, longtime readers or those who otherwise follow Kenyan elections closely might remember that McClarty Associates Vice Chairman John Negroponte was Deputy Secretary of State during the 2007-08 election crisis in Kenya. Negroponte met with representatives of the ODM opposition seeking release of the embargoed USAID-funded International Republican Institute exit poll done with the University of California, San Diego, showing an Odinga win. I learned through FOIA that Kalonzoo Musyoka met with Negroponte the same day:

The War for History” part nine: from FOIA, a new readout of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka’s February 2008 meeting with John Negroponte:

The Kalonzo-Negroponte meeting was the same day as U.S. Senate hearings on the Kenyan election, lobbying by ODM with IRI and Negroponte for release of the USAID/IRI exit poll and that evening’s announcement that IRI found the poll “invalid”. (My FOIA did not result in any documents regarding the ODM-Negroponte meeting.)

From my e-mail to Joel Barkan in 2012:

Kalonzo meeting with Negroponte was in Washington on Feb 7, 08–also included [Kenyan Ambassador] Ogego and a staffer from Kenyan embassy. He said power sharing would be a set back for democracy as Kibaki win was “evident” from review at ECK. Would be willing to step aside as VP for Raila, but the Kenyan people would not support it as it would be “undemocratic”. Kalonzo assured that the violence was now under control, but that the U.S. should continue to call it “ethnic cleansing”. According to Salim Lone interview in Standard back in December ’08 he and ODM delegation met with Negroponte that day to push for release of exit poll before meeting with IRI.

Uhuru and Raila have their reconciliation celebrated in conjunction with the National Prayer Breakfast, and Uhuru meets Trump, but Moi’s legacy teaches the cost of “strongman theology” for Christians

[Editorial Note: I wrote a draft of this post before Daniel arap Moi’s death last week.  I have revised the last portion to reflect the news of Moi’s passing.]

[Update: See “How Not to Run a Country; Further Reflections on Moi’s Presidency” by Kwamchetsi Makokha in The Elephant and “Moi and the Simplification of the Kenyan Mind” by Wandia Njoya.]

During the years of the Moi dictatorship in Kenya many of the brave voices for decency and freedom came from church leaders–including several of the “unsolved” assassinations and “accidental deaths”.

For the United States at a governmental level, however, in the years of the Cold War American foreign policy in Africa was primarily focused on the perceived “geopolitics” of “great power competition” with the Soviet Union. Moi, like Kenyatta before him, was a convenient ally and there was little appetite for going too much beyond that. I have written here over the years about how we came to send F-5 fighters requested by Jomo Kenyatta under President Ford and start training his Kenya Police Service in 1977 under President Carter, and then under Moi acquire Navy basing rights at Mombasa later in the Carter years.

Jimmy Carter was and is a conspicuously evangelical “born again” Christian who cared about a lot of things beyond the Cold War, including an explicit start of formal incorporation of “human rights” in our foreign policy and State Department organization, but he was also a Cold Warrior president, politician and former officer in the nuclear Navy. Moi sought protection from Somalia’s Siad Barre as Carter sought to maintain the alliance with Moi’s Kenya. Carter sought to counter the Soviets and Cubans in Ethiopia under Mengistu and build a “substitute” relationship with Somalia, while also restraining Barre in his attempt to take the Ogaden from Ethiopia and any other expansionist endeavors in Kenya or Djibouti.

And so on through the Reagan years and early George H.W. Bush years, as Americans concerned with democratization in Kenya specifically, and with Moi’s repression and use of torture, and his egregious corruption and looting from the poor, had a limited place at the high tables of foreign policy. After the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy in 1983 some media programs were started and the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute started doing some seminars and broad regional training, but we also continued backing and arming Savimbi’s UNITA in Angola, in particular, which influenced our relationship with the apartheid regime in South Africa, and with Mobutu in Zaire, and also shaped our relationships with nondemocratic Nigeria and Kenya as well.

It had escaped my attention at the time, when I was a College Republican state leader during the Reagan-Bush years when National Chairman Jack Abramoff and others were internationally promoting Savimbi as a “freedom fighter” against the Cubans and the Soviet-supported MPLA which naturally involved the issue of suppression of religious practice under a Communist regime, but apparently some involved in supporting Savimbi in the Christian Right in Washington also posited Savimbi as a Christian leader himself in some fashion in spite of his brutality. This surprised me when I learned of it recently and it is something I would be interested to learn more about.

It was only later when the Berlin Wall came down and the United States wanted to focus on facilitating on a cooperative basis the Russian withdrawal from ideology-driven engagements in Africa that then Asst. State Herman Cohen sought and received permission from George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker to more generally promote African democratization as an element of our foreign policy.  And thus we were willing to push Moi to legalize opposition to KANU and gave some support to those who needed to flee the country to avoid detention and torture for political reasons. Politically appointed Ambassador Smith Hempstone “pushed the envelope” to step on Moi’s toes to give some real aid and comfort to “the Second Liberation“.

Moi like any good politician made good friends, and some of my friends in recent years were his friends. Some of them are fellow Christians who were close enough to him to see personal human qualities that are not accessible to me since I know him only as a figure in history.  Some of them were hurt badly by Moi. For me, I was not interested in Moi as a Christian in particular because Kenya is a predominantly Christian country with no shortage of Christians in politics and Moi seemed much more singular and noteworthy for his use of repression than for matters of faith, and it has always been a limit on my own imagination to understand how a purposeful Christian could really steal massively from the poor as I have understood Moi to have in effect done.

I did meet President Moi briefly to shake hands at the Embassy 4th of July party at the Ambassador’s residence shortly after my arrival in 2007.  I was told Moi was not part of the official receiving line with Interior Minister John Michuki who was representing President Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta, the “leader of the Official Opposition” (in other words on paper Moi’s party boss as Secretary General of KANU). Nonetheless, he positioned himself as an experienced and opportunistic politician might be expected to anchor the end of the line.  He was a little like the embarrassing uncle at the family reunion—everyone wanted to treat him correctly and get along, but the fact that he maybe did some things for a living that no one wanted to talk about made you want to keep your distance and certainly not let him “chat up” the kids.

Shortly thereafter, Moi was appointed by Kibaki as his envoy for Southern Sudan for the talks regarding the implementation of the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement” from 2005.  He also crossed over to endorse Kibaki’s re-election also, and brought with him KANU as a whole and Uhuru himself.  This abandonment of the opposition role proved to be a hugely debilitating blow to KANU as a political party with, at the time, still the largest numbers in Parliament of any one party, but it let Uhuru get re-elected to his own Kikuyu-dominated Central Province constituency.

In a casual dinner conversation later with someone who was not involved with our government to the best of my knowledge I was told that Ambassador Ranneberger had brokered getting Kibaki’s Southern Sudan appointment for Moi “to get him out of politics” for the upcoming election.  While I knew that Ranneberger was most favorable to Kibaki in the election and had expected him to win as late as that October when we discussed the latest IRI polling results, I did not know until many years later, (2018) through the Freedom of Information Act, that Ranneberger had by April 2007 described to Washington in a cable a policy of “building capital with Kibaki” (as opposed to what I had understood from USAID program documents from 2005 when we were pushing reforms in the context of Anglo Leasing corruption and reacting to the Artur Brothers and the Michuki’s Standard raid from early 2006).  So I cannot help but wonder if getting Moi and Uhuru on board for Kibaki’s re-election was part of the agreement for the Sudan diplomatic appointment and whether such helped induce Ranneberger and perhaps others in my government to be initially complacent about Kibaki’s political standing during the campaign.

The thing that struck me in spending a little time with Rift Valley politics and candidates in mid-2007 is that Moi just did not seem to be that popular, and people then did not seem to have much nostalgia for his era, and in fact were quite relieved to be so much freer in general even if there was not something specific for them in the latest political alignment of the day.  If people were looking to Moi for an endorsement of guidance on “the way ahead” they were not open about it.  So Moi endorsing Kibaki did not seem to me to be something that would move a lot of votes from the “ODM wave” in the Rift Valley. (Although the Moi’s could provide huge sums of money if they chose.)

Now that Moi has passed another dozen years later, I can understand the desire of many Kenyans to find things to celebrate out of a 24-year block of the young nation’s history, and of his friends and family to mourn him as a real person in the way that we do, remembering now the good and not the bad. And that is all well and good, but it is anther part of his legacy of Nyayo, and his continuing to tread in the path of tribe and fear and presidential accumulation of property and resources of the Jomo Kenyatta year, that in Kenya of today as before, funerals are always used by politicians for political purposes. And apparently this is now “traditional” because during the years of single party repression a funeral was one of the only places one might get away with a bit of political “free speech”.

So condolences to the friends and family of “retired” President Daniel arap Moi, but also to so many Kenyans who have had less, and who have suffered, because their leaders were not better.

Kenya Rift Valley Rural Women Empowerment Network

Kenya Public/Private Equity Healthcare Market faces another setback with management displaced at Nairobi Women’s Hospital Group in wake of Owaahh reporting

Update: Feb. 12, Jaindi Kisero column in Daily Nation recommends, “To ward off greedy investors, fund locals to put up private hospitals“.

Back in 2019 a private equity group from Ft. Worth, Texas and San Francisco, TPG, took over the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund from its interim manager Alix Partners, the U.S.- based restructuring/insolvency advisors. The Abraaj funds, run out of Dubai by original Pakistani investors, had been apparently fraudulently tapped by management, thus the restructuring under the auspices of a Limited Partner Advisory Committee, which hired Alix.

The Limited Partners included global healthcare giants Phillips and Medtronic, multilateral development lenders including the IFC as well as bilateral development finance agencies such as the US Government’s OPIC, the CDC and Proparco. Likewise the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invested.

TPG renamed the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund as the Evercare Health Fund, to be managed by TPG Growth. At the time of the TPG announcement, Evercare was identified as having a “portfolio which includes 26 hospitals, 18 clinics, 40 diagnostics centres and 2 brownfield and greenfield assets” in Africa and Asia. One of the asset groups in the newly renamed Health Fund was a Kenya for profit group of small hospitals called Nairobi Women’s.

See “US fund cleared to take over Avenue Park and Metropolitan” in The Business Daily.

Triggered by an explosive series by prominent Nairobi blogger Owaahh, “Have you ever been to a private hospital“, scrutiny has come down on the group for profiteering behavior toward patients without medical basis. Insurers pulled back and now the Fund has announced an interim management change with the entrepreneur/doctor who built and ran group stepping aside in favor of a three member team of Evercare representatives pending professional reviews.

Malawi 2019 Election – with Court annulment, a look back at USAID’s version of post election “Lessons Learned”

Update: the latest on the annulment of the election from Quartz Africa. And from The Guardian: “Malawi court annuls 2019 election results and calls for new vote.”

Here is what USAID has had to say as of June 27, 2019 on “Lessons From Malawi’s 2019 Elections”:

. . . .

In part due to considerable programmatic support – including USAID assistance – monitors observed commendable improvements in the MEC’s electoral preparation, voting process and results transmission system compared to previous elections.  Notably, as shown above, the MEC’s final result closely tracked with the USAID-supported non-partisan parallel vote tabulation, implemented by the Malawi Election Support Network (MESN) and National Democratic Institute (NDI).  

In addition, despite pre-electoral intimidation and violence against female candidates, 44 of Malawi’s 193 new parliamentarians are women, up from just 32 in 2014. 

Nevertheless, many voters have raised questions about the integrity of the process and Malawian opposition parties have petitioned to the courts to annul the results. While USAID/Malawi’s Democracy, Rights and Governance (DRG) team played a significant role in supporting the MEC to deliver a credible election, as well as civil society’s oversight of the process, more work remains to be done. USAID will continue to provide post election support, through NDI and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), to build confidence in Malawi’s political processes and improve citizen-state relations.

 

USAID Supported a Stronger Electoral Process…

 

In 2018, USAID joined DFID, European Union, Norway, Irish Aid, and UNDP by investing $1 million in the UNDP’s “Election Basket Fund,” which was established to pool international donor resources in support of the MEC’s election strategy, preparation, management, and tabulation. UNDP led the donor community in helping the MEC with critical institutional reforms and electoral preparations, registered 6.8 million voters through newly-issued biometric ID cards, engaged with political parties in preparation for the elections, supported women’s participation in the electoral process, strengthened the capacity of the Malawi Police Services to mitigate electoral violence, and supported election-day logistics and results transmission.

To complement the UNDP Basket Fund efforts, USAID and DFID jointly provided $4 million to the National Democratic Institute(link is external) (NDI) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems(link is external)(IFES) to improve civil society and political party oversight and engagement. NDI and its partner MESN coordinated with the MEC on civic and voter education initiatives and mobilized long term observers.  Working with with Democracy Works Foundation, MISA Malawi and broad group of local actors, NDI produced three televised presidential debates and trained political party monitors for election day oversight.

Given the highly competitive race for president, strengthening citizen confidence in the results management process was critical.  On election day, MESN and NDI deployed over 900 observers to monitor all day and conduct a parallel vote tabulation to try to give Malawians greater confidence that the tally of ballots was transparent and accurate. NDI’s partner Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi tracked and reported on media bias and established a fact-checker to combat fake news(link is external) on social media.

IFES helped the MEC to train judges on electoral dispute resolution, established an online election Early Warning/Early Response (EWER)(link is external) system to track and mitigate electoral violence, and  provided technical assistance on strategic communications in the lead-up to the elections, and throughout the voting and tabulation processes. 

In addition to these measures, USAID’s DRG team coordinated the US Government observer effort on election day. More than 80 observers from the US, UK, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Canada travelled together to visit polling and tabulation stations in 13 of Malawi’s 28 districts and submitted 240 observer reports.

But Challenges Remain …

. . . .

Through these and other efforts, the MEC and electoral stakeholders addressed many critical challenges from the 2014 election.  While observers noted a few logistical and organizational problems in some of the more than 5000 polling stations throughout Malawi, the consensus of the observer missions are reflected in the African Union’s Election Observer Mission preliminary statement, which concludes that:

 …the 2019 Tripartite Elections have provided Malawians with the opportunity to choose their leaders at various layers of government in accordance with the legal framework for elections in Malawi, and in accordance with the principles espoused in the various instruments of the AU. The elections took place in a peaceful environment and at the time of this statement, the mission had not notes any serious concerns with the process, either witnessed or observed.

Despite these efforts and a generally well conducted election, the public reaction post-election has been largely negative highlighting remaining gaps as well as a concerning level of mistrust between the public towards its democratic institutions and political actors.  Neither improved electoral transparency and preparations, election-day operations nor an independent PVT has assuaged the public’s concerns over election rigging.  Since the results were announced, Malawi has seen continued protests – some marred by violence – calling for the annulment of the results and resignation of MEC Commissioners.  Once again Malawi’s electoral outcome is in the hands of the courts.  

Implications for Future

Clearly, we need to do additional work to support both Malawi’s election management and to increase the citizenry’s trust in democratic institutions.  The trust issue is critical.  Afrobarometer’s recent study(link is external) underscores these issues in its June 2019 paper that shows that in 2017 only 57% of Malawians “agree” or “agree very strongly” that leaders should be chosen through regular, open, and honest elections. This means out of 34 African countries surveyed, Malawi’s trust in democratic systems is 3rd from the bottom – a concerning position for a democracy that has just completed its sixth election.

 

I hope this can be an occasion for a deeper and more open discussion about the learning opportunities than has happened from the problems over the years in Kenya.

Like George W. Bush in 2007, Donald Trump is more popular in Kenya than he is at home

While Donald Trump is not as unpopular in the United States right now as George W. Bush was during the time of my service as East Africa Resident Director for the International Republican Institute in Nairobi, Trump is more popular in Kenya than at home, as Bush was then (Bush was conspicuously popular in the early aftermath of 9-11, won re-election in 2004 and was not highly unpopular until on into his second term; Trump is steadily, but not extremely unpopular in terms of raw approval numbers, per his apparent strategy tied to our Electoral College system, although a slight overall majority would like the Senate to remove him from office in the current impeachment trial).

See: Trump Ratings Remain Low Around Globe, While Views of US Stay Mostly Favorable; Trump foreign policies receive little support” from the Pew Center for Research.

Update: At the same time, we have to note a similar situation with China’s Xi Jinping:

Publics in most of the countries surveyed lack confidence in Xi Jinping. His highest ratings come mostly from countries in Africa and the Middle East, including 61% in Nigeria, 58% in Kenya, 52% in South Africa, 44% in Tunisia and 41% in Lebanon. Filipinos and Russians generally voice confidence in the Chinese president as well.

Some thoughts:

1) the United States has been generally popular in Kenya in part because we have kept closely linked in our policy positions at the Government to Government level while also getting credit for moral support for “the Second Liberation” once the Cold War ended. We have shown a level of diplomatic finesse at a “10,000 foot level” in achieving what we have wanted from the relationship. There are always issues and problems, such as overhang from the perception that we tried to sell a bad election in 2017 and have been too supportive of the Jubilee Administration in the context of bad economic performance, but we manage.

2) the bottom line. We spend a greatly disproportionate amount of foreign assistance dollars in Kenya relative to poorer, less advantaged countries within Africa in the context of poverty relief. We do a lot to help alleviate some of the worst consequences of extreme inequality, corruption and bad policy priorities from Kenya’s governments. Some of this is for obvious foreign policy reasons as part of our diplomacy, some of it is because people prefer to live in Nairobi to Blantyre, say. Some of it is because as a more developed country with a well educated albeit small middle class and some real infrastructure, along with a lot of poverty and other challenges, Kenya is one of the most logistically easy places to do a lot of things within the “assistance” field.

As a brutal example of the role of US assistance in providing for basic needs that Kenya’s government is unwilling to meet, see Max Bearak in the Washington Post: Kenya’s blood banks go dry after US ended aid.

3) Trump solves a couple of things that were tricky for President Obama during his time: because he has not visited Kenya himself and has no obvious personal connection to the region beyond the ubiquitous “friends trying to get rich” he is more generically “American” as opposed to the son of a “Luo tribesman” as propagandists in the US described Obama. Obama faced certain misunderstandings and disappointed expectations, and maybe overcompensated in certain areas. On the “culture war” issues, Trump has returned on abortion to the strong “no” position under Bush and then some, and seems to calibrate mixed messages on sexual minorities rights which was a particular area where my sense is that Obama unsuccessfully “spent” some personal political capital in Kenya in his second term. Trump has emphasized in his campaigns and general messaging his relationships with Americans who are involved with these issues in Kenya such as his impeachment defense counsel Jay Sekulow of the East African Centre for Law and Justice. See “American Center for Law and Justice opens Nairobi branch, campaigning against draft Constitution” from May 2010.

4) Trump has tried numerous times to make large, draconian cuts in foreign assistance, but he has failed in Congress (and Kenya has not experienced any extraordinary and arguably illegal blocks like Ukraine did earlier this year) but all this is “inside baseball”–as long as the money comes the President gets credit symbolically.

5) The Trump Administration has promoted a high degree of personal Trump-Kenyatta interaction both in Washington and at the G-7 and other non-African venues. Kenyatta is very wealthy and comes from family wealth like Trump, and similarly graduated from an private American Northeastern college. Kenyatta is no Zelensky, left to twist for a meeting. Kenyatta may not be exceptionally popular as an individual right now in Kenya, but the obvious benefits to Trump’s image in the minds of Kenyans are not dependent on that kind of specifics.

6) Without getting too “deep in the weeds” I think Trump got a break and the US has benefited from having former Illinois State Senator Kyle McCarter as Trump’s political appointment for Ambassador. Having a career civil servant and experienced diplomat in the position would lead to Trump keeping his distance presumably, but McCarter has little in common with Trump in background, style or personality (nor are his politics as a former elected official from the “Tea Party” wing of the Republican Party all that much like Trump’s unless he has changed his mind about quite a few things). At the same time, his missionary background and status with Trump and the GOP and other organizations give him entre beyond conventional diplomacy. So arguably McCarter is in a unique role to broker between Washington and Kenya and not typical of the type of political appointments we have seen from Trump in other Embassies.

Kenya-USA Bilateral Trade Talks: Ambassador McCarter confirms “cat is out of the bag” on Bloomberg scoop on negotiations for Free Trade Agreement

U.S., Kenya to start trade talks seen as template for Africa

Key takeaway is that Bloomberg reports that trade talks have been underway between the United States and Kenya, with the Kenyan officials confirming progress and the US expecting to publicize status in conjunction with Uhuru Kenyatta visit to Washington next week.

The East African nation’s cabinet will probably approve discussions with the U.S. this week, Kamau [Permanent Secretary] said.

Kenya is America’s 11th largest trading partner on the continent and the sixth biggest in sub-Saharan Africa, with total trade between the two countries at $1.17 billion in 2018.

The U.S. currently has one free-trade agreement on the African continent — with Morocco. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said in August that the nation was pursuing a trade deal with an unidentified country in sub-Saharan Africa, adding that it would be used as a model for others when AGOA expires.

The Trump Administration wants to use an agreement with Kenya as a template for other bilateral agreements in region, as opposed to the African Union’s expressed preference for a multilateral pact in the context of the new African Continental Free Trade Area. It is also somewhat unclear as to how this would integrate with the longstanding US support for the federation process among the members of the East African Community.

Update:

Uganda: Retiring US Ambassador “stings Museveni for overstaying in power” but emphasizes support for Uganda’s role n regional stability

Outgoing US Ambassador Malec stings Museveni on overstaying in power as she bids farewell Nile Post, Jan 23:

The outgoing US Ambassador Deborah Malac, has aimed a dig at President Museveni and his NRM government for staying long in power saying it might lead to problems in the future.

Having served in Uganda for four years, Malac will late this month leave the country as US Ambassador but also retire to private work after spending 39 years doing US public service, mainly in Africa.

Speaking at her last press briefing on Thursday, Malac said the long stay in power and failure to have a peaceful transition will at one time lead to problems for the country.

. . . .

Speaking on Thursday, Malac however said because Uganda has never had a peaceful transition of power since independence people have a number of concerns over the same.

“I know it becomes difficult in countries like Uganda to talk about succession and transition and not sound political in the sense that you must be against or for a particular group but the issue is figuring out the other voices so they are heard and issues discussed,” she said.

The outgoing US Ambassador who has been in Uganda for four years, has been very vocal on issues of human rights and democracy and has on several occasions been accused of interfering in local politics after being viewed as being pro-opposition but speaking about the same, she said she does not care about what many think of her.

. . . .

Uganda remains a cornerstone of stability in the region says outgoing US Ambassador MalacNile Post, Jan 24:

. . . .

In 2007, Uganda was the first country to deploy troops in Somalia under the AMISOM and turned around what had for long been termed as a “mission dead on arrival.”

The Ugandan troops are deployed in Sector One in Benadir,(has 16 districts) Banadir, and Lower Shabelle regions having pushed Al Shabaab militants for over 200km away from Mogadishu city for normalcy to return to the capital where the militants roamed freely.

. . . .

She said that in her time, the US has supported the training, equipping and deployment of nearly 25000 Uganda military personnel to Somalia to help in improving regional security and stability.

Uganda has been at the forefront of fighting Allied Democratic Forces that have made life difficult in the volatile Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo where they roam freely and have killed thousands of locals.

Uganda has also played an important role in brokering peace in the continent’s newest country, South Sudan.

. . . .

The Kampala government has also been influential in ensuring peace in Burundi and Central African Republic.

The outgoing US Ambassador said her government will continue supporting Uganda’s efforts to ensure stability in the region.

. . . .

See also “US Ambassador bids Museveni farewell“, Daily Monitor, Jan 17.

Uganda campaign flyer on tree says vote NRM Yoweri Museveni for peace, unity and transformation for prosperity

Al-Shabaab Manda Bay attack investigation update from AFRICOM

AFRICOM public affairs has released today an update on the investigation of the January 5 al-Shabaab attack at Kenya’s Manda Bay and US air operations:

U.S. Africa Command continues to investigate the Jan. 5 attack on the Kenyan Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed U.S. Army Spc. Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and two U.S. contractors, Mr. Bruce Triplett and Mr. Dustin Harrison.

The tragic loss of these brave Americans and the damage and destruction to aircraft demonstrates the enemy achieved a degree of success in its attack. However, despite public reports, an initial assessment indicates that a timely and effective response to the attack reduced the number of casualties and eliminated the potential for further damage.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 5, al-Shabaab initiated mortar fire on the Kenyan Defense Force installation and Camp Simba, while simultaneously assaulting the airfield. U.S. forces are primarily located at Camp Simba, about one mile from the airfield. Shortly after the attack began, U.S. forces at Camp Simba quickly responded and actively counterattacked the enemy at the airfield.

U.S. forces and Kenyan Defense Forces repelled the attack, killing five al-Shabaab terrorists with no additional losses to U.S. or Kenyan personnel. While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled. Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure.

In Kenya, U.S. forces are primarily responsible for training Kenyan forces, sharing intelligence, and personnel recovery. There are fewer than 350 Department of Defense personnel in Kenya.

“The attack at Manda Bay demonstrates that al-Shabaab remains a dangerous and capable enemy,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, U.S. Africa Command commander. “They are a menace to the people of East Africa and U.S. national interests there and their sights are set on eventually attacking the U.S. homeland. It is important that we continue to pursue al-Shabaab and prevent their vision from becoming a reality.”

Since 2010, al-Shabaab has killed hundreds of innocent people outside the borders of Somalia.

Immediately following the Jan. 5 attack, U.S. Africa Command sent senior leaders to inspect the site and speak with on-scene leaders and troops to assess any immediate actions required. Simultaneously, the command launched a senior-leader-led Army 15-6 investigation. The investigation team is looking into the facts and circumstances surrounding the attack. The full findings of the investigation will be released following family and Department of Defense notification.

Increased force protection measures have been put into place and U.S. Africa Command will pursue the attackers until they are brought to justice.

###

This follows the New York Times report yesterday that got widespread attention and coverage in the Kenyan media: “Chaos as Militants Overran Kenyan Airfield, Killing Three Americans“.

The performance of the Kenyan security forces during and after the battle frustrated American officials. At one point, the Kenyans announced that they had captured six of the attackers, but they all turned out to be bystanders and were released.

There are about 200 American soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, as well as about 100 Pentagon civilian employees and contractors, in Kenya helping train and assist local forces. A large majority of them work at Manda Bay, according to military officials. But there were not enough Americans to stand perimeter security on the airfield, one Defense Department official said.

American forces have used Manda Bay for years. Special Operations units — including Green Berets, Navy SEALs and, more recently, Marine Raiders — have helped train and advise Kenyan Rangers there.

See “101st Airborne deployed to Manda Bay after al-Shabab attack” today from Military Times.

No time like the present for diplomatic resolution between Somaliland and Somalia, once elections are on track

James Swan, the retired American diplomat and subsequent Albright Stonebridge advisor in Nairobi, appointed last year as UN representative for Somalia, was in Hargeisa, Somaliland last week for the first time in six months. The UN maintains a full time office in Somaliland. Swan spoke to encourage implementation of agreement among the parties to hold long delayed parliamentary elections in 2020, and to “welcome initiatives aimed at mutual confidence and fostering dialogue between Hargeisa and Mogadishu“.

Somaliland Hargeisa independence democracy

Unfortunately it appears the new agreement to resolve the impasse among Somaliland’s three recognized political parties has not yet been implemented.

See Somaliland: President Yet to Solve Elections Impasse as Agreed (Somaliland Sun, 13 Jan 2020):

Somalilandsun -After agreements from two meetings between president Muse Bihi Abdi and Opposition parties Wadani and UCID leaders Abdirahman Irro and Eng. Feisal Ali respectively, the fate of parliamentary and local council elections remains in the dark.

The darkness emanates from the still in office new national elections commission NEC that has been disputed by the opposition parties leading to an agreement that the former NEC commissioners be returned to office thence elections sometimes in 2020 as pursued by the international community with a stake in the Somaliland democratization process.

Following the two meetings between the three principle politicians in the country it was agreed that president Bihi shall uphold the agreements to reinstate the former NEC as per elders mediation that had garnered support from the international community.

But despite all arrangements more the 10 January date in which the president promised to finalize the issue nothing has been done and the status remain the same notwithstanding numerous visits and meets with senior IC diplomats the latest being the UN SRSG to Somaliland and Somalia Amb James Swan.

While the commitment to 10 January was hailed as a conclusive decision failure to implement anything returns the country to the days of political tensions.

A statement released this week from the Minister of Information states that the Government concluded following the agreement among the parties that legal authority was lacking for either the President or Parliament to effect the negotiated agreement and replace the existing membership of the National Election Council. The Government argues the only way to proceed would be to call for voluntary resignations which is reportedly not acceptable to the other parties.

Somaliland receives support from “16 United Nations offices, agencies, funds and programmes active in Somaliland” according to Swan’s statement in addition to support and diplomatic interaction from the EU, the UK, the US and various other individual nations, including Kenya and the UAE–while still subject to the protracted “limbo” associated with a lack of formal recognition.

Somaliland has now been functionally independent almost as long as it was part of the independent Republic of Somalia following independence from the UK and joinder with the former Italian Somalia. I agree that once parliamentary elections are finally held it would be wise for the US and the UK to step up a concerted diplomatic effort to facilitate with the UN and AU a durable resolution of Somaliland’s status and relationship with the federal Somali government in Mogadishu and the regional government in Puntland. This will have to include resolution of the Suul and Sonaag borders and at least a mechanism to address mineral rights issues.

The venerable Edna Adan, world famous for her work in women’s health and her teaching Maternity Hospital, and previously Foreign Minister from 2003-06, has been designated as Somaliland’s lead representative for negotiations.

The diplomatic task will never be easy with the passions involved but I think the effort is timely now with a balance of progress in the South and the risk of some unexpected disruption to the status quo from waiting too long. The move of the Gulf Cooperation Council to establish a Red Sea security initiative without reference to Somaliland, while others have supported national maritime security efforts by Somaliland is an example highlighting the growing potential for international misunderstandings as the Horn region attracts growing outside interest.