A few links to set the scene as we approach 30 days to Kenya’s vote . . .

Jay Naidoo of The Daily Maverick writes from “the Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum, one of the largest in Nairobi” with an unknown population size: “I have a right to a toilet–it’s human dignity”.

An update on the preparation for Kenya’s citizen digital “crowdsourced” monitoring/mapping effort, using the Ushahidi software: “Uchagazi Community Next Steps”.

H/t to the UN Dispatch blog for noting another official pre-election delegation in Nairobi: “Kenya: UN official stresses need for peaceful and transparent elections”:

“Kenya’s elections will be watched closely around the world,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said during a visit to Nairobi, the capital.

“Let me take this opportunity to appeal to all Kenyans to exercise their democratic right and participate actively – but peacefully – in the elections,” he said. “Let me also underscore the responsibility shared by leaders at all levels to abide by legal mechanisms and to send a clear message to supporters that violence of any kind would be unacceptable.”

Mr. Feltman, who oversees UN support to elections globally in his capacity as Focal Point for UN Electoral Assistance, commended the electoral authorities for their preparations and underscored the readiness of the UN to continue providing financial and technical assistance to the electoral process.

In the category of “open government initiatives,” and “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” the Project on Government Oversight (US) is asking citizens to push the White House to finally fill the vacancy for the the Inspector General for the State Department:

Inspectors general are independent watchdogs within federal agencies that are essential to a well-functioning government. They conduct audits and investigations that identify wasteful government practices, fraud by individuals and government contractors, and other sorts of government misconduct. Congress and the public rely on their reports to hold agencies and individuals accountable for wrongdoing, identify a need for legislation, and evaluate the effectiveness of government programs and policies.

Unfortunately, President Obama went his entire first term without nominating an inspector general for the State Department. At over five years, the State Department opening is the longest running vacancy among federal agencies.


Wycliffe Muga in The Star on “Why we should not dismiss foreigners”, with an example from his own experience in Kenya, but perhaps a universal lesson.

In the category of “it could be worse”: “Is a military coup Museveni’s last line of defense against NRM rebels?” asks Gaaki Kigambo in The East African.


What does this “Brave New World” of information and communication, openness and secrecy, theft and exposure mean for the future of East Africa?

*Certainly there is much that is tremendously exciting and encouraging in what is going on with “ICT” in Kenya, especially. The exponential worldwide spread of the Ushahidi platform for voluntary citizen action in all sorts of areas–as Foreign Policy’s recognized in naming Ory Okolloh to its Top 100 Global Thinkers list–is an example. Likewise, the M-Pesa money transfer system and its various competitors has created a double “generation skipping technology” for Kenyans, the majority of whom never had a either a landline phone or reasonable access to a bank.

*From Memeburn.com, “20 Kenyan web and tech innovations worth watching”.

*Kenyans all over the world can read the Kenyan papers, watch Kenyan television and listen to Kenyan radio, participate in the Kenyan dialogue and communicate affordably and in “real time’ and with some presumable degree of privacy beyond what would have been feasible in times past–as can citizens of other countries in the region.

*Tools like Mazalendo and the websites of activists like the Mars Group have hugely expanded public access to information about government in Kenya. Recently, the Kenyan Parliament has allowed broadcasting and published documents on-line itself, as have other organizations.

*At the same time, we see with that Wikileaks tools that can be used to promote openness and democracy within states, can be used on a globalized basis by individuals and groups operating outside the rule of law within states and outside democratic accountability. No one elected Assange or the people around him. The underlying documents appear to have been essentially stolen en masse, as opposed to “leaked”. The documents were property of the U.S. government and were created by U.S. public employees doing their jobs. One one hand they were official public records and not private communications, and should have been written with that understanding. At the same time, American law provided in some cases for these to be specifically classified for periods of 10 to 25 years. While many of us get frustrated at the way it can work in practice, the U.S. does have an extremely broad and open “Freedom of Information Act” for review and release of requested information.

*We see in the arts that theft undermines the ability of artists to get paid for their work when they make it available digitally, or even when they don’t willingly do so. A generation has come of age in which vast numbers who wouldn’t steal a CD in a record store will download huge numbers of copyrighted music files without paying.

*I noted long ago the Wikileaks release of the Kroll Report on corruption in the Kenyan government. I have felt that was a public service–it was a specific document that should have been finished and released in the first place, and it would have been dangerous for anyone to publish it in Kenya because of the legitimate fear of unlawful repression. Amnesty International gave an award last year to Wikileaks for its work making available information on Kenya’s extrajudicial killings. Does that mean that it would be appropriate for someone to steal and publish all or most of Kenya’s diplomatic correspondence? Uganda’s? China’s? India’s? What about central bank records? All private bank records? All police records? All records of a civil society organization or a political party? All communications among members of parliament? Who decides?

*Technology is opening vast new possibilities but our moral judgment and the means by which we evaluate and make decisions about what is appropriate may not be well prepared.

*When I was contacted by the New York Times when they were working on their story about the withheld IRI Kenya exit poll (initially in July 2008 after it was released by UCSD at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, but before IRI retracted its previous statement that it was invalid), I agreed to be interviewed and tell the reporter what I knew. I related a comment the Ambassador made to me personally about one Kenyan politician, but told them that I was not comfortable with that being published because it was in fairness a private conversation, and that the Ambassador was entitled to his opinion, as opposed to specific actions that involved my job and that I was concerned about. These things are a difficult judgment.