Odinga in Washington; U.S. in Libya; “Kinetic Action” v. MCC

Here is the link to a multimedia page for Raila Odinga’s speech and Q & A last week at CSIS in Washington.  Nothing newsmaking in itself that I saw, but a good speech of interest to those following governance and democratization issues in Africa and especially Kenya and Ivory Coast.

In the meantime, one of the most telling things I have read about how our actions in participating in the Libyan mission are viewed by others is from Bruce Reidel at Brookings:

The Indians are puzzled that some in the West who had embraced Qaddafi less than a hundred days ago are now so shocked by his cruelty. Qaddafi did not change in 2011. Some former Indian diplomats are quick to suggest that the Libyan war shows America’s “unreliability” and a tendency to over react to the last news broadcast. Who are the rebels in Benghazi, they ask, that are now your allies? Why do you rush to help them, and not the shia protesters in Manama?

As one Indian observer put it, “the U.S. is both promiscuous and flighty” with its relationships.

“A Letter from Agra:  How India Views U.S. Actions in Libya”

These observations on the Indian view were published almost a month ago.  If the NATO effort in Libya bogs down, we may find ourselves asking more rigorously, “why exactly did we decide to do this?” and “what specifically were we trying to accomplish originally and what specifically are we trying to accomplish now?”.  Those same questions that eventually became “known unknowns” in Iraq.

In the meantime, The Hill caries a piece by Paul O’Brian of OxFam America on potentially critical budget cuts for the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  No one at the MCC could afford to make the comparison politically I am sure, but let me make it for them:  look at the cost of the Libya action versus the cost of the MCC.  The MCC would seem to have bipartisan support if any area of development can.  A George W. Bush initiative originally, but very compatible with Democratic “soft power” thinking and led by Obama appointees now.   A relatively small staff and bureaucratic footprint.

In geopolitics, and in longer term development, we need to pay some real attention to states, but if this is a humanitarian effort don’t we need to look also at the numbers of people involved: is this worth the cost relative to the cost of other “kinetic” or “non-kinetic” endeavors?  Ivory Coast, for instance, is a much more populous country.

Until we get M-PESA in the United States . . .

Western Union formally announced today its link-up with M-PESA to allow those of us in less developed countries, from an ICT standpoint, to make money transfers to M-PESA accounts.    From the Denver Business Journal:

People in Kenya have a new high-tech way to receive money, thanks to Englewood-based Western Union (NYSE: WU).

The money transfer giant on Thursday announced that consumers now can send money directly to mobile “wallets” in Kenya from 45 countries and territories — the first service of its kind in the world, the company said.

The service will use Western Union’s worldwide network for processing cross-border remittances, as well as M-PESA, a domestic mobile money-transfer service in Kenya that has attracted more than 13.5 million customers since its launch in 2007.

“This service between Western Union and M-PESA shows a huge advancement for money transfer,” said Rebecca Loevenguth, director of strategic alliances for Western Union. “We recognized high mobile penetration in these markets, and a low number of people who used banks. We are adapting to meet customers’ needs through a new channel.”

.  .  .  .

“We’ve been able to reach consumers who lived near our agent locations, but we may have been missing a huge segment that had an M-PESA account but weren’t using Western Union,” she said.

Kenyans use so-called mobile wallets, or money-transfer services, for cellphones, to shop, pay bills, save money and make person-to-person payments, Loevenguth said.

The consumer sends a payment request via an SMS text message and a charge is applied to their online wallet.

The Central Bank of Kenya reports that Kenyans living outside their home country sent $642 million home in 2010 — up from the $609 million in 2009.

I wonder how the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission is coming toward recovery of the share of Safaricom that was diverted to Mobiltelea Ventures Limited?

Nestle Chairman Says U.S. Biofuel Policy Causes Starvation at Time of Food Crisis

Interestingly, the head of Nestlé lashed out at U.S. ethanol policy yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations as reported in The Independent:

Today, 35 per cent of US corn goes into biofuel,” the Nestlé chairman told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York yesterday. “From an environmental point of view this is a nonsense, but more so when we are running out of food in the rest of the world.
“It is absolutely immoral to push hundreds of millions of people into hunger and into extreme poverty because of such a policy, so I think – I insist – no food for fuel.”

Corn prices almost doubled in the year to February, though they have fallen from their peak in the past few weeks. Anger at rising food prices contributed to protests across the Middle East, and rising commodities costs were among the factors pushing UK inflation to 4.4 per cent in February, according to figures out yesterday.

US exports account for about 60 per cent of the world’s corn supply. Demand has surged as more people join the middle classes in emerging economies such as China and India, not just because these new consumers demand more food made from corn, but also because demand for meat has increased and livestock farmers need to buy more feed.

Nestlé, the company behind Shredded Wheat, Nescafé and Aero chocolate bars, has been lobbying European regulators and governments around the world against setting high targets for biofuel use, even though many countries see the production of ethanol as a means of meeting obligations to cut carbon fuel emissions.

The lobbying has fallen on deaf ears in the US, however. Ethanol production from corn is heavily subsidised, with output running at more than 13.5 billion gallons annually. Policies to promote its production are “absurd”, Mr Brabeck-Letmathe claimed yesterday, and meeting a mooted global target of having 20 per cent of fuel demand with biofuels would involve increasing production by one third.

“What is the result? Prices are going up. It’s not very complicated,” he said. “This question is now the number one priority for the G20 meeting in Nice, and the main thing we are going to do is fight against speculation. We are concentrating on the irrelevant.”

Speaking to farmers earlier this month, the Obama administration’s agriculture secretary said he found arguments from the like of Nestlé “irritating”. Mr Vilsack said: “The folks advancing this argument either do not understand or do not accept the notion that our farmers are as productive and smart and innovative and creative enough to meet the needs of food and fuel and feed and export.” . . . .

There are a number of recent biofuel projects at various stages in Kenya. Obviously this is controversial, but without the subsidies so far as I know these projects involve non-food crops,  UPDATE:  Here is a story this week in AFP about opposition to plans to grow jatropha on 50,000 hectares near Malindi on the Kenyan coast for the European ethanol market.

 

 

 

 

 

A Closer Look at Journalism and NGOs

Karen Rothmyer has a “terrific and necessary” piece in the Columbia Journalism Review headlined “Hiding the Real Africa; why NGOs prefer bad news” about stereotyped images of Africans in poverty in the U.S. media and the influence of NGOs working on aid projects on this coverage (with comments from Jina Moore and I so far).  Linked is the full research paper for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.

Also at CJR is a review of Rebecca Hamilton’s Fighting for DarfurPublic Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide.

In The Star Andrea Bohnstedt explains that “Kibera Slum is Now the face of Kenya Abroad.”

In “Good News is No News, and that’s Bad News”, Terrance Wood writes at the Development Policy Blog that the media cover aid failures and problems, rather than success stories, and that this gives a misleadingly negative impression about the effectiveness of aid.

“Social media and the Uganda election 2011”

Somalia Policy Update

At The Sahel Blog, Alex Thurston discusses Assistant Secretary Carson’s recent comments on Somalia in an interview with allAfrica.com.  In summary:

Stepping back, Washington is clearly happy to see AMISOM make headway against al Shabab, but it seems that Washington’s disappointment with the TFG outweighs that happiness. The parliament’s reach for more time alienated the US, and it appears that going forward Washington will decentralize its political contacts in Somalia even more. What that says for the TFG’s future I can’t say, but August is not far off, and from the TFG’s standpoint it’s a bad time to have run afoul of Washington.

I’ve added a link to a good site from the “Movement for an Independent Somaliland” to the Organization roll at right.  As Washington’s “two track” policy seems to be becoming more established and bearing at least some fruit, perhaps the next evolution is a “three track” policy that moves closer to “the facts of the ground” in acknowledging Somaliland’s functional independence.  At some point, it seems to me there needs to be some type of grand bargain among Somaliland and Puntland and the local groups to establish a relatively understood and stable border between Somaliland and Puntland.

In the meantime, Burundi is sending 1000 more troops to the AMISOM mission.

For an interesting look at a policy challenge in Somaliland, an article from IRIN discusses a recent run-up in the price of charcoal, which is the dominant fuel source for urban residents (and of course helps drive deforestation which impacts the rest of the population which is primarily pastoralist).

Djibouti Suspends USAID-funded Election Observation (with update)

UPDATE Mar 16: Following the reports here, the election observation team was ordered out of the country, reports the Financial Times.

With Djibouti’s presidential election scheduled for April 8, and opposition parties announcing plans to boycott and continue protests, the government has come out against an election observation mission that has been working since last fall.  The Financial Times story is here:

Djibouti has told the United States that an independent election observer mission is “illegal” and suspended its partnership with the US-funded mission.

The news came amid reports that the north-east African coastal state had arrested two opposition leaders on Friday.

Democracy International (DI), which has a $2.2m, eight-man team in the tiny strategic state, provides the only international technical assistance and observation group in the country, which has been ruled by the same dynasty since independence.

The increasing visibility of the Djibouti’s anti-democratic leanings is awkward for the US, which relies on the country for its only military base on the continent and last year doubled aid to the country, funding DI’s Djibouti operation. Many of its 3,000 troops are dedicated to fighting piracy and terrorism in neighbouring Somalia.

.  .  .  .

Sources say efforts to resolve the dispute with DI continue. “We have not closed up our operations, (but) we are not undertaking any active programming,” DI co-founder Glenn Cowan told the Financial Times, adding that the group still plans to observe the elections.

Today’s Bloomberg report is here The Washington Post reported on the mission in February, noting that no foreign journalists were working in the country. The story includes relatively positive comments by the mission head on the government’s approach to allowing protests and the political climate.

Five Years After the Kenyan Government’s Raid on the Standard and Two Years After the Oscar Foundation Murders, Impunity Reigns and a “Local Tribunal” for Post Election Violence Remains a Pipe Dream

As I have previously written, I have to miss the frenzy of reading the Wikileaks diplomatic correspondence, but the Kenyan newspapers are full of articles related to a few of the cables newly leaked.  Much of this is Kenyan politicians dishing on each other to curry favor at the U.S. Embassy, and probably in some cases news to Kenyan voters who don’t have the same access to their leaders as Americans do.

One of the main impacts of the leaks in Kenya, that I would not necessarily have realized, is the degree to which the well-publicized cables give the Kenyan media cover to report facts that are quite well known but that they would not otherwise dare print for fear of libel suits and official displeasure.  Certainly much of what Kenyan politicos tell the Embassy they will have told reporters, or reporters will have learned independently, but couldn’t report until the State Department’s internal “news bureau” was stolen and partially put out on the internet.

Some of the material dates back to the Government’s raid on the Standard media house on March 2, 2006.  Enough of this outrageous incident (really series of incidents) has long been well known that in any country with leadership at all serious about press freedom and the rule of law there would be some people in jail.  Nonetheless, total impunity for each and every player in all of the multiple criminal acts remains the status quo.  While U.S. Ambassador Bellamy was sharply critical at the time, there is no indication that this has been on the public diplomacy agenda since.

It is in this context that observers of the Kenyan scene have to realize that the notion of a Kenyan “Local Tribunal” that would try the kingpins of the Post Election Violence identified by the Waki Commission report was always a pipe dream.

We have a recent report on the killing of former Foreign Minister Ouko, said to have taken place at State House in Nakuru–no action.  We have the circumstances crying out for investigation in the murders of civil rights activists Oscar Kingara and J.P. Oulo–two years have gone by today with no action.

While I agree completely with the notion that as a wholly conceptual matter, a Kenyan tribunal rather than the International Criminal Court would be the best place to try the suspects for the Post Election Violence, it is also quite clear that that was never going to happen.  The will is simply not there–the Government of Kenya has a well established policy of impunity which has served the interests at stake very successfully for many years.  It will not change of its own accord, or through simple persuasion or jawboning.  A “Local Tribunal” in Kenya, if there ever were such a thing, would be a platform for deal making to preserve impunity, not a court of law.  Because the United States is not a member of the ICC, it may well be that we are not so credible as leading advocates of the ICC as the appropriate venue for the election-related trials–nonetheless, I think we should stop indulging political frivolity in the context of these grave crimes.

Related Post on local tribunal.

Obama Taps Gration

As widely expected throughout the administration’s term, the President has named Gen. Scott Gration, current envoy to Sudan as nominee to be the next U.S. Ambassor to Kenya. As discussed here previously, Gration was the military officer assigned to then-Senator Obama on his 2006 trip to Kenya and defended him from smears during the Presidential campaign.

Here is Africa Review story.

Africommons:  “Discussion about Gration as Ranneberger replacement hits media” August 16, 2010

Africommons:  “Gration spoke out on Obama/Odinga ‘smears’ in 2008 campaign” August 16, 2010

Plenty of Reason to be Concerned About Uganda Election

Steinberg and Carson received the Ugandan opposition leaders

LISTENED: Mr Steinberg (L) and Mr Carson received the Ugandan opposition leaders. PHOTO BY EMMANUEL GYEZAHO, Daily Monitor

The front page of Monday’s Daily Monitor:  “Museveni will rig, opposition tell US officials”:

Three opposition presidential candidates on Friday told two US secretaries that they strongly believe that the February 18 general elections will not be held in a free and fair atmosphere. The short but intense meeting was held at the US embassy between the US Deputy Secretary James Steinberg, Ass. Secretary Johnnie Carson, Dr Kizza Besigye of Inter-Party CooperationPC, Mr Olara Otunnu of Uganda Peoples Congress and Democratic Party’s Norbert Mao among other officials.

The meeting was primarily to brief Mr Steinberg and his team on what the opposition has seen as challenges in the coming elections.

The three leaders openly expressed disappointment over, among other things, what they called an organised rigging machinery that has been set in motion.

.  .  .  .

The US mission in Kampala kept the arrival of the two US secretaries a secret. The Public Affairs Officer at the US embassy, Ms Joann Lockard, on Thursday declined to comment on their visit. “I can only say that a very high profile visitor will be coming into the country soon,” Ms Lockard said.

In his message, Dr Besigye asked the army not to dishonour the memory of 300,000 people who died in the liberation war that brought the NRA into power. “Thirty years today, the ideals which huge risks were taken, have been forgotten by the NRM government. Uganda is still be-deviled with the same ills that sparked the actions of Tarehe Sita,” Dr Besigye said.

“Soldiers welfare is almost non-existent and promotions are made without proper guidelines. This is why many soldiers are demoralised,” he said. “Retired generals and politicians are using the UPDF as an outfit for business to enrich themselves at the expense of junior officers and this nation.”

Fear of Upraising
Dr Besigye added that the situation in Uganda was ripe for anything. “Anything can happen in Uganda now. It could be the same situation that took the NRA to the bush or a popular uprising. Trying to stop me from saying it will not solve this problem.” “Dictators cannot be removed by free and fair elections,” Dr Besigye added.

He declared that if the February 18 elections were rigged, they would be the last elections of the kind Uganda will ever see. “The struggle for change is not mine alone. I will not go to the court of law if these elections are rigged. It is useless. I will seek the court of public opinion,” Dr Besigye said.

He said Uganda has never had free and fair elections and that he will move with the will of the people. “I will support a popular protest against an illegitimate decision of the election.” He added that the Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, has never had a day’s training as a police officer “He is just like a militia man. I wish the police well in their preparations. I do not think Kayihura has tools that could prevent a protest like the ones in Tunisia and Egypt.”

.  .  .  .

Relations between Washington and Kampala have been smooth in the recent past. Uganda is a key strategic partner to the US in its role in maintaining regional stability. This relationship suffered a slight setback in 2009 when the US Congress, as part of its foreign appropriations Act, issued a directive to US Secretary of State Clinton to monitor Uganda in its preparation for the 2011 general election, the voting process and the eventual outcome.

Government criticised
In her first report, Ms Clinton heavily criticised the government on its handling of the opposition, the heavy handedness on the media and the continued restriction on journalists, Uganda’s deteriorating human rights record and the restrictions in freedom of expression among other key issues.

It was also highly critical of the independence and the composition of the Electoral Commission of Uganda and the method its commissioners are selected, an issue that has concerned the opposition time and again. Reacting to the report, the government dismissed it saying it was biased, had not been made in good taste, and was not representative of the views of the majority in Uganda. In her response to the Clinton report the NRM party spokesperson Mary Karooro Okurut said the report lack legitimacy.

The second and third reports were expected in August 2010 and January 2011 respectively. “The next report has not been submitted yet,” Ms Lockard told Sunday Monitor on Thursday. “It is due later this month.” She added that a final report will be released 30 days after the elections.
Some members of the opposition are worried that the US was softening its stand on government and may have abandoned its initial efforts to monitor the country’s track record.

“Support for democracy in Uganda remains a top priority for the United States in our bilateral relationship,” Ms Lockard insisted. “We urge Uganda to ensure that the Feb. 18 elections are free, fair, and peaceful.”

The Daily Monitor also features an interview with Graham Elson, the deputy chief of the EU Election Observation Mission which has now set up shop with staff and long term observers. Graham was in the same role in Kenya in 2007 and I found him to be very professional and a pleasure to work with. The EU team provided us at IRI with information on security and other areas of common concern that we were not able to get from our own Embassy. Obviously there was a divergence of opinion between the EU, which called initially for a recount and remedial action on the Kenya vote and the US, which initially congratulated Kibaki, then withdrew it but called for “power sharing” instead of remediation of the election.

Don’t Turn Back on the ICC for Kenya [Updated]

The Kibaki administration has obviously made some headway in the diplomatic effort to “defer” the ICC cases against “the Ocampo 6” suspects.  The endorsement of the African Union, although it should come as no real surprise, may help give cover to others looking for an excuse to duck facing up to issues of accountability for Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence.

The the tenor of discussions by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinburg with Kenyan politicians last week was reported differently in different media outlets.  I will hope that The Nation, which is ordinarily pretty reliable on those things that it is willing and able to report, has it right:

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg while visiting Kenya said on Thursday that his government would not support the deferrals, especially if they were meant to protect the suspects.

“What is critical is to make sure accountability is achieved and impunity is avoided,” he said. Mr Steinberg said the UN Security Council had not communicated with the US as one of its permanent members on the AU’s deferrals request.

He added that because the ICC is the mechanism available and which Kenya submitted to, the US was in its full support.

“The US feels strongly that accountability is a critical element of making sure Kenya can move forward and deal with the past as well as build a strong future,” Mr Steinberg said in Nairobi.

News of the US position flies in the face of reports that the government is preparing for a second round of shuttle diplomacy that will take it to nations, some of which hold the key to the decision the country is seeking.

Let’s be clear  about the issue:  the point of this initiative by the Kenyan administration is to save the “Ocampo 6” from prosecution.  The decision to “go to the Hague” rather than institute a “local tribunal” was made long ago.  Only when Ocampo’s six suspects were named did the administration jump in and dispatch Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to other African leaders to court support at the AU to block the prosecution.

Likewise, let us be clear about the timing in regard to the implementation of the new Kenyan Constitution and the next Kenyan presidential election in 18 months.  The constitutional referendum went to the voters way behind the schedule anticipated in the 2008 “national accord” establishing the “Government of National Unity” and the “reform agenda”.  The establishment of a local tribunal to address the post-election violence was never dependent on or tied to the new constitution–bills to establish a local tribunal were submitted in Parliament and voted down, allegedly in favor of “going to the Hague”.  Now that the new Constitution has passed, the political establishment is dabbling with implementing it.  Nothing has happened yet that fundamentally changes the nature of the Kenyan justice system, and it will take months or years even if Kenya’s political leaders change their minds (or characters) and work at it seriously.  Look at the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which was also mooted as an alternative to prosecution for the post-election violence.

With the 2012 election 18 months away, it is simply too late for a new meaningful legal alternative to the ICC to try major players in crimes against humanity from the 2007 election.

The next step is apparently to lobby the UN Security Council to intervene to stop the ICC.

The current political elite in Kenya holds its status on a foundation of accumulated impunity.  Undermining this foundation involves change, inherently unpredictable, and risk.  A decision by the Security Council to politically interfere with the ICC process now to preserve that impunity for the Kenyan elite would strike me as a massive display of moral cowardice at a time when, if ever, we should all know better.

The polls have consistently shown that the great majority of the Kenyan people support the ICC process.  Most of Kenyan civil society is engaged to support justice.  This whole situation arose because members of the governing elite were not willing to trust the 2007 election to the people.  We need to stay the course on reform and the ICC now.