Freedom of Information Series (Part Eleven): Better to Learn More Lessons from Kenya’s Last Election After the Next One?

Back last May I had checked in with the State Department’s Freedom of Information Office about the status of outstanding documents from my 2009 FOIA requests regarding the 2007 Kenya elections.

At that time the FOIA Office wrote me that State Department documents about the IRI and USAID Exit Poll had finally been received from the Africa Bureau, presumably including the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, in addition to just the Central Records in Washington. (From what I had been told by the FOIA Office previously, the Africa Bureau did not respond for well more than two years following my original FOIA submission.) The estimated additional time to review and release documents was six months, to November 30, 2012.

November 30 came and went with no documents. i wrote to request release on an expedited basis due to the new elections upcoming but got no response. Checking back I was eventually given a new date of May 2013, after the new Kenyan elections.

A lot of people in a variety of capacities in the U.S. government, or otherwise funded by U.S. taxpayers, are working on matters involving the March Kenya elections. Likewise, from other donor governments and international organizations. And of course Kenyans who bore the actual effects of the disaster in the last elections have the most at stake in the new elections. Why further delay disclosing and addressing the documentary record from 2007?

Impunity for election fraud in 2007 makes the 2013 Kenya elections riskier. Even though there will be no accountability now, Americans and Kenyans should at least know as much as possible about what happened.

Election Observation as “Diplomacy or Assistance” continued–how I spent my pre-election Christmas in Kenya

In my Freedom of Information Act Series I have described how then-Ambassador Ranneberger got his predecessor, Ambassador Mark Bellamy removed from the International Republican Institute’s Election Observation Mission shortly before the last Kenyan election, implying an objection to Bellamy from the Kibaki government. While IRI capitulated in removing Bellamy, I was told to accept “no more b.s.” from Ranneberger in interfering with the IRI Election Observation.  As problems continued to arise, this is a letter I wrote to my USAID officer on December 22, 2007, five days before the voting:

I think that you and I have had a good working relationship over a period of months until just recently, reflecting efforts and intentions on both our parts.  The problem now is that we are in a position of working in part at cross purposes, regardless of how much effort we continue to put into trying to be cooperative.

Previously I thought that you had some real level of agreement with my basic position regarding IRI’s independence, in spite of the contradictory viewpoint of the Ambassador.  At this point, it seems clear that we just do not have a meeting of the minds about this.

As far as IRI is concerned a major line was crossed last week and we expected that there would be as a result of Lorne Craner’s intervention a recognition that IRI’s independence would be respected going forward.  Unfortunately, the only substantive change seems to be that we have one less delegate–one of the best qualified members of the team that we had selected.  And of course people in the State Dept. did know what our own plan was before the Ambassador intervened.  I find the whole situation embarrassing personally.

I have tried to move us to a situation where we agreed to document at least by e-mail the specific things we were doing in terms of direct involvement of the USG with the IRI EO.  I think this is the least we should do and was intended to move us forward in terms of making sure we all understood each other, both personally and contractually.  I am tired of suggestions, directions, demands, “markers”, etc. to do things that people are not comfortable putting in writing.  If it should not be put in writing, maybe it should not be part of how we conduct ourselves here.

There are a variety of basic things that USAID can do that would in fact help IRI do the best it can.  One easy and obvious one would be to add IRI to the distribution list for ECK events, recognizing that the ECK is not at the point of providing IRI with timely notice, or in many cases, any notice, of its activities.  The other would be to provide us security information to assist us in protecting the safety of our teams.  Certainly having ——– come over and brief the teams is a big help.

 As far as I am concerned, if IRI is not substantively independent, rather than just offering an appearance or representation of independence, then all of our work here is at best a waste of time in terms of actually providing assistance to the Kenyan people as per the MOU between USAID and the GOK.  At worst, we could undermine the ability of IRI to accomplish anything substantive in Kenya in the future and taint our election work elsewhere.  IRI adds value if we are independent; we do not add value if we are not independent. (emphasis added)

Please give consideration to this and let me know what you suggest.

At the end of the day IRI’s final report on the Election Observation found strong evidence of fraud, when it was released more than six months later in July, and IRI released the Exit Poll indicating an opposition win one more month later, in August 2008. By that time the election was long over and the President along with his initial appointees stayed in office. The next chance for Kenyans to vote will not be until  March 2013.

Election Observation–Diplomacy or Assistance?

Djibouti–what’s next in French Somaliland?

“Developing Djibouti: An American Imperative” by Saleem Ali of the University of Queensland at NationalGeographic.com:

A nominal democracy, the country has been relatively peaceful yet still desperately poor. I had an opportunity to visit Djibouti recently after a visit to Ethiopia for the United Nations African Development Forum. My curiosity to visit this country was sparked by an article I had read in The Washington Post regarding the expansion of US military presence in the region. Landing at Djibouti International airport, one is alarmed to find one side of the air strip almost completely populated by US Airforce presence. The country is also among the few places in the world where drone aircraft can be seen on a civilian air strip, often overwhelming civilian traffic. The presence of these prized new airforce stealth weapons in Djibouti comes from its proximity to the Arabian state of Yemen which has become an increasingly significant hotbed for Al-Qaeda.

Talking to locals, there was little resentment towards American presence but also not much to show for their positive impact on the country. Occasionally one would hear stories of US soldiers volunteering for community service or building some unusual desert residence for local villagers, but the overall development impact of US presence here of over 3000 personnel has been minimal. Unemployment is still over 40% and much of the money that comes in from foreign investment is funnelled back to the foreign-owned businesses in the city. The US government pays only $38 million per year to lease the airfield for the drone operations and the African command base here which is under further expansion.

The lack of US investment in Djibouti is a tremendous missed opportunity to develop a country which could be a low-hanging fruit for citizen diplomacy with the Muslim world. With only 900,000 people and a relatively small land-base and a highly urbanized population, developing Djibouti with aid investment would be very easy to do. . . .

While “easy” may be an exaggeration, I agree with Ali’s point that Djibouti is a place where the United States ought to be committed to “showing our stuff” in terms of development capability.  And of course, as I have written before, a key place where delivering on democracy assistance in advance of, rather than behind, a crisis, ought to be feasible.

h/t John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review

 

Watch USAID’s “Frontiers in Development” Monday – Wednesday from Washington

USAID’s “Frontiers in Development” Conference in Washington Live Video Feed

On Twitter:  #Frontiers #DevelopmentIs

Speakers relating to East Africa specifically include Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza:

Twaweza is an independent East African initiative that was established in 2009 by Rakesh Rajani, a Tanzanian civil society leader who founded HakiElimu and served as its first executive director until the end of 2007. Twaweza’s approach and theory of change is built on the lessons from the HakiElimu experience, as well as wide ranging conversations across East Africa conducted through 2008 and a review of the literature. Hivos provided the incubation space for Twaweza’s development, and currently houses the initiative before it becomes fully independent by 2013. Hivos is registered in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as a non-profit company (company limited by guarantee with no share capital).

Twaweza’s approach and its policies, systems and procedures reflect a set of values around effective and transparent governance. Five key values and principles guide our work: effectiveness and accountability; transparency and communication; ethical integrity; reflection and learning; and responsibility and initiative.

Video from yesterday’s CSIS program on USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program–James Long discusses election monitoring work

Featuring:

Maura O’ Neil, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator, USAID

Thomas A. Khalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation, National Economic Council

James Long, PhD candidate in Political Science, University of California San Diego (UCSD), and from September 2012 Academy Scholar at Harvard University and an Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Washington

Moderated by

Daniel F. Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development and Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Economist’s Boabob Blog features UCSD work on “smart” election monitoring

More great work to fight election fraud from my former colleagues on the USAID/UCSD/IRI Kenya exit poll, Clark Gibson and James Long:

“African elections:  How to save votes”

COULD smartphones help reduce electoral fraud in Africa and in other regions? At a recent forum hosted by the Brookings Institution on the ways that wireless technologies are affecting politics in various countries, Clark Gibson, a professor at the University of California, San Diego (USCD), presented findings from experiments in Afghanistan and Uganda which suggest that they can. Local researchers were deployed to polling stations armed with digital cameras and smartphones to take photographs of the publicly posted election tallies. The research found that this alone can cut electoral fraud by up to 60%.

The experiment was first developed during the 2010 Afghan elections by James Long and Michael Callen, then UCSD graduate students, with funding from the Development Innovation Ventures section at the United States Agency for International Development. . . . The research concluded that as a result electoral rigging was cut by 25% in the polling stations in the treatment group and the theft of ballot boxes and other election materials was reduced by 60%.

Mr Gibson replicated the experiment during the Ugandan presidential election last year, using a bigger sample of 1,000 polling stations scattered all around the country.  .  .  . using a special app developed by engineers at Qualcomm, a big technology company based in San Diego, the researchers this time were able immediately to send their data back to a server at UCSD. Academics there could then check to see if the voting numbers had been falsified by looking for give away number-patterns. They found again that vote tampering and ballot-box theft were much lower among polling stations that had received warning that a photo would be taken of their tally than among those that did not.

The technology is relatively cheap—smartphones cost around $250—and allows  more locals to get involved in monitoring elections. There is a great hunger for democracy in Africa and elsewhere, says, Mr Gibson, you can tell just by looking at the queues of voters who turn out on election day. Nothing is more dispiriting than to learn that their vote has been manipulated.

Unfortunately we didn’t have funding for separate electronic verification efforts in Kenya in 2007, but this should be that much cheaper and more readily feasible in Kenya for 2012/13. Knowing what happened last time there is no excuse not to have digital image verification this time.

State Department to Kabila on DRC Presidential Election: “Nevermind”?

The State Department issued a Valentines evening statement on the “ongoing” electoral “process” in the DRC.  Hard to know what the point of this is.  Perhaps it is simply an example of the maxim “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  Maybe it means:  “since we are looking the other way on the presidential election, we do expect that surely you can do a bit of something on some of these parliamentary races, please.”  I’ll have to defer to the “Congo Watchers” and be interested to hear more from the various election observations over time.

Ongoing Electoral Process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Press Statement

Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 14, 2012

The United States continues to closely monitor the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the hundreds of legal disputes against some legislative election results. We urge Congolese authorities to conduct a full, thorough, and transparent investigation into these disputes, and to release vote tabulation and other records related to the elections and their outcome.

We remain deeply concerned about multiple allegations of human rights abuses by security forces, including illegal and arbitrary detentions throughout the electoral process. The Congolese government should fully investigate such reports, hold anyone found responsible fully accountable, and take concrete steps to ensure that security forces exercise restraint and respect people’s rights of assembly and of peaceful protest. We call on all Congolese leaders and their supporters to act responsibly and to publicly renounce violence.

Despite these concerns, we encourage all political parties to participate fully when the National Assembly is seated in order to preserve and protect the basic democratic principle of representative government in the Congo. The United States remains steadfast in its support of the Congolese people as they work to build a brighter, more democratic future for the DRC.

PRN: 2012/220

 

Related:  U.S. and other Western donors support review of election irregularities in DRC–offer technical assistance

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

DRC: “We have to debunk the idea that it is peace versus transparent elections. The idea that lousy elections are going to bring peace is madness.”

 

Carter Center calls it as they see it in DRC

Release from Carter Center: DRC Presidential Election Results Lack Credibility

The Carter Center finds the provisional presidential election results announced by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) on Dec. 9 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lack credibility. CENI results point to the re-election of incumbent President Joseph Kabila with 49 percent of the vote followed by Etienne Tshisekedi with 32 percent and Vital Kamerhe with 7.7 percent.  Voter turnout was 58 percent.

Carter Center observers reported that the quality and integrity of the vote tabulation process has varied across the country, ranging from the proper application of procedures to serious irregularities, including the loss of nearly 2,000 polling station results in Kinshasa.  .  .  .

.  .  .  .  The Carter Center is therefore unable to provide independent verification of the accuracy of the overall results or the degree to which they reflect the will of the Congolese people.

“Tribute to Dr. Peter Oriare: Media Scholar of Great Repute” and a friend to me, to the International Republican Institute, and to Americans who believe in democracy

Dr. Peter Oriare

“Tribute to Dr. Peter Oriare, Media Scholar of Great Repute”

“University of Nairobi mourns committed teacher”

My friend, Dr. Peter Oriare, was in his own way one of those who got hurt because of the election misconduct in 2007. I was very sad to hear on my return from Washington that while I was at the African Studies Association meeting, Peter died back in Nairobi.  At 45 he was too young, the proud father of young children.  I would greatly encourage anyone interested in Kenyan democracy to read the tribute and story linked above.

I am thankful to have known and worked with Peter.  I certainly relied on him in Kenya.   Along with the local staff at the International Republican Institute in Nairobi he was one of the people that made my year working in Kenya an experience that I will always treasure.  When I arrived in Nairobi in June of 2007, we had funded only our baseline National Endowment for Democracy programming working with parliamentary candidates and our ongoing USAID polling program for which I was approved as Chief of Party the week before.  The current polling program had been in place since an exit poll for the 2005 constitutional referendum,and had most recently included a public opinion survey from that spring which we were just then briefing to prospective presidential candidates.  Peter worked with Strategic Public Relations and Research and was our primary point of contact with the firm as well as teaching and working to finish his doctorate at the University of Nairobi.

When I took over as the fourth American to lead the IRI office under that 2005 polling program, my ability to do my job depended on Peter’s expertise and continuity. Peter had worked with everyone in the IRI office and had been our primary local polling expert partner since 2000, before the IRI office opened in 2002.  The polling program was touted as a major success story for both USAID and for the International Republican Institute in Kenya and Peter was the single most consistent element.  Peter had a strong relationship not only with IRI and the USAID Democracy and Governance program locally but with others in the international democracy community.  He led important work in media monitoring for the 2007 election that was crucial to the international understanding of the situation in Kenya.

Peter believed in transparency and he advocated internally for release of the presidential “horse race” figures from our September 2007 public opinion survey which showed Kibaki leading when most polls were showing Raila as having pulled ahead, and when our contract with USAID was amended to add the 2007 exit poll, he expected to release it as well.  The established policy reason that IRI did not release the “horse race” numbers comparing the presidential candidates in our pre-election public opinion surveys–that we wanted to support democracy by informing the public, policy makers and politicians with out having a direct impact on the race itself–obviously did not come into play on the exit poll when people would have already voted when it would be released.

I pushed Peter and Strategic hard in negotiating the contract for the exit poll in the fall of 2007.  We had a modest amount of additional funding from USAID, and some money from Dr. Clark Gibson at the University of California, San Diego–and we had overhead in Washington and Nairobi.  Because it was obviously a close race, we needed results that were methodologically sound and statistically valid at the provincial level and not just the national level, to be able to evaluate the presidential threshold of 25% of the vote in five provinces.   I needed substantially more work from Strategic than they had done in the 2002 and 2005 exit polls, which were universally accepted as successful, but in elections that were not as close.  Ultimately we agreed on the additional work for very little additional money given Kenya’s inflation, and the poll was well executed as millions of Kenyas voted peacefully.

The preliminary results called in by cellphone–which were  obtained by USAID and given to the Ambassador on election day–even though such reporting was entirely outside the scope of anything in the USAID agreement with IRI and I didn’t want anything to get out while the polls were still open–had Raila ahead by a margin of roughly 8 points.  When the actual surveys were obtained and coded and necessary adjustments made for situations such as the seizure of some questionnaires by police–some of which were recovered and some not–the final figure was roughly 6 points.  This was the number in Nairobi in mid-January, 2008 with all the surveys back and coded.  That  was the number on February 7 when someone “inside the Beltway” in Washington decided to throw Peter under the bus by publishing internationally a statement from IRI that poll was “invalid” after State Department and USAID officials were questioned about it by then Subcommittee Chairman Feingold at his hearing in the Senate.  That was the number when I turned over the original questionnaires to my successor in Nairobi in May 2008; the number when the results were released in July at CSIS in Washington by UCSD after IRI’s six month embargo; and the number soon thereafter when the New York Times called me working on their story and asked for an interview.   It was still the number when IRI released the results in August–reconfirmed by a firm in Oklahoma–the day before the UCSD testimony at the Kriegler Commission;  and it is still the number  today, when the poll has been used in published work from scholars in Asia and Europe, as well as in Africa and the United States.

Peter had every right to be proud of his work on this exit poll and it was rightly noted by Rosemary Okello in her tribute as a part of his positive legacy for Kenyan democracy, and for polling and scholarship everywhere.

This is what I wrote in recommending Peter on Linked-In in 2009:

Peter is a true professional, with a strong commitment to his work and high values. He is calm under pressure. He offers deep knowledge and experience and I would be very pleased to have the opportunity to work with him again in the future. July 6, 2009

Top qualities: Personable , Expert

Ken hired Peter in 2007, and hired him/her more than once.

_______________________________________________________________________

Happy Birthday to USAID and Walter Cronkite

USAID turned 50 today.  The agency began in the first year of the Kennedy Presidency and has been an important part of his legacy and a symbol perhaps of American optimism and hopeful leadership in development.  It was a product of those years between Sputnik and Vietnam when America felt challenged, but seems to have retained a certain expectation of effectiveness, and faith in the ability to set and achieve goals as a country.  1961 was the independence era in Africa, and the time of the  “airlift” of students including Wangari Maathai and President Obama’s father to the United States.  It was also in the rising time of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and its is clear in hindsight that we were not yet fully prepared psychologically for complete African sovereignty in the context of the Cold War–but at least it was a beginning.

Walter Cronkite, a worldly man of Middle America, turned 45 on USAID’s first day.  As part of a generation born during one World War and in his 20s in the next, Cronkite I expect would have approved.  The next year he became the anchor of the CBS Evening News and soon “The Most Trusted Man in America”.  (This was before the Rupert Murdoch era in the United States . . .)

In 2011, the Cold War is long over.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  Democracy is stirring in the most unlikely places and the world is far more prosperous than it was 50 years ago.  We have been learning a lot about development.  We are starting to feel challenged again by a rising China–perhaps this will provide the inspiration and motivation for a renewed ability to look hopefully beyond the next election cycle into a future in which we have helped to solve some of the world’s problems.

From the official history at the USAID website:

On September 4, 1961, the Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act, which reorganized the U.S. foreign assistance programs including separating military and non-military aid. The Act mandated the creation of an agency to administer economic assistance programs, and on November 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID became the first U.S. foreign assistance organization whose primary emphasis was on long-range economic and social development assistance efforts. Freed from political and military functions that plagued its predecessor organizations, USAID was able to offer direct support to the developing nations of the world.  (emphasis added)