It is pollyannish not to appreciate that in a society as violent as Kenya’s, where violent crime and violent vigilanteism, along with police brutality, are features of everday life to be navigated by most Kenyans, the public reaction against or in favor of extra-legal violence by the police very much divides along political lines in accordance with who is delivering and who is receiving the violence.
It is the sort of thing that can be seen in the context of the height of the “civil rights movement” in the early 1960s in the American Deep South where I live. Photographic and videographic images that shocked the rest of the United States and some of the rest of the world reflected police brutality under the command and for the purposes of political leaders who in some substantial part were playing for popular support among their own constituencies. Not to argue that most white voters were necessarily in favor of particularly bad behavior by the police, but to note that popular support feeding political opportunism was part of the dynamic of repressive violence.
In this respect it has particularly saddened me to see Kenya led now by politicians who elevated themselves in the political ranks on the basis of their perceived reputations as champions of tribally organized violent politics after the failure of the 2007 vote count.
From: Nairobi, US Embassy Press Office
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 4:59 PM
Heads of Mission on Recent Violent Demonstrations in Kenya
May 24, 2016
We are deeply concerned by the escalation of violence during the demonstrations in Kenyan cities on 23 May around the future of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The deaths and injuries of Kenyan citizens were tragic and unnecessary. We urge the Government of Kenya to investigate the actions of the security services and to hold accountable anyone responsible for the use of excessive force. We call on all demonstrators to act peacefully.
Violence will not resolve the issues regarding the future of the IEBC or ensure the 2017 elections are free and credible. We strongly urge all Kenyans to come together to de-escalate the situation and to resolve their differences, taking every opportunity for inclusive dialogue. Kenyans should talk, and any compromise must be implemented in accord with Kenya’s Constitution and the rule of law. As partners, we stand ready to support such a dialogue in any way that is useful.
# # #
This statement has been issued by the following Heads of Mission in Kenya:
Robert F. Godec
Ambassador of the United States
High Commissioner for the United Kingdom
The pre-election killings in Kenya in 2013 were “only” 500 or so as reported at the time. The various branches of the Kenya Police Service were more restrained than they seem to be this cycle. In the pre-election period the IEBC was well respected and trusted, having not experienced overlapping scandals and problems that materialized later and remain outstanding.
I think it is well worth remembering that in the especially violent and destabilizing election campaign of 2007, it was the deployment of the Administrative Police (the “AP”) to the western provinces on behalf of the Kibaki re-election effort just before the vote that first openly “militarized” the campaign. I should have been more alarmed by the “physical” rather than simply electoral implications of that move at the time.
It seems to me that the open use of armed force for political advantage by an incumbent puts the opposition in an unavoidable “fight or flight” bind to the great risk of public safety and stability, affecting the majority who are ardently supportive of neither “side” in the actual campaign.
As Americans we naturally prefer to see Africans choose the “flight” option rather than the “fight” option in most cases. There are a variety of reasons for this, some that are morally well grounded and some that are morally questionable. Some of it is compassion; some of it is geopolitical self interest; part of it may be unique to more individualized interests and relationships. In European countries especially, for instance Ukraine, and in other parts of the world, we often weigh these choices differently.
In Kenya, it would be most convenient for us, of course, if the opposition stood down, kept quiet, and trusted their government and the donors to handle election administration like in 2007 and 2013. We know that we cannot ask that explicitly and we see that the IEBC has lost wide confidence from the public but we seem to be unwilling to directly engage in support of reform now.
I would not want to see any of my Kenyan friends or acquaintences sacrifice bodily harm for any of the Kenyan politicians I knew personally from the 2007 campaign. In 2007 I thought that Kalonzo, Kibaki and Odinga were all three reasonably plausible and well experienced, well known choices; the election itself ought not to have been seen as particularly high risk or high reward, one way or the other, for the vast majority of Kenyans.
However, as I am deeply grateful that my ancestors made the sacrifices required for me to inherit the benefits of a democratic system here in the United States, I would be embarrased to suggest–and am always disappointed to see my government imply–that Kenyans should simply knuckle under and accept that they do not have the freedom-in-fact that their constitution says on paper, under the law, that they have achieved.
The opposition has generated an opening for reform through the aggressive and disturbing police brutality meted out against them by the government. There needs to be a pivot, however, to a more nuanced approach if meaningful reform is to be achieved that advances the causes of both non-violent politics and freedom.
The opposition pols seem to focus on the personalities and roles of the IEBC commissioners. Obviously someone like Hassan who has relished an extraneous public profile as the nemesis of one potential candidate has gone beyond the point of being a trusted neutral in the future, but the delay in the election date that seems to be in the offing from yet another round of procurement “issues” can cycle tainted individuals out of office. Reform and systemic trust is a much deeper problem than that however–and it is too important to all Kenyans and the country as a whole to be left to the competing camps of pols.
Kenyan democrats should call out the donors. If we say we are serious about supporting dialogue why not ask us to show a bit of leadership to go with our cash underwriting?
As for me, I am waiting on the first documents from months ago from a FOIA to USAID to understand more about our spending on the IEBC procurements last time. No sign yet that our advocacy of “open government” is penetrating our approach to democracy assistance in Kenya, but I certainly think transparency would be hugely helpful in supporting real problem solving and rebuilding trust.
The Elections Observation Group (ELOG) has published yesterday a lengthy report for the first time on its observation of the March 4 Kenyan election. Having criticized the lack of transparency of aspects of ELOG’s observation and Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) program in the immediate post-election period, and cited criticism of their public communications in characterizing the PVT I wanted to quickly recognize the level of their follow-up here in their first release since March 9.
I will need more time with the report before discussing it in detail here as it runs to 78 pages plus attachments (and in the meantime I have recently rejoined the corporate world so I am back to avocational status on Kenya projects) but this deserves real attention and goes far beyond what has been published by the other major observation groups.
In the meantime, here is ELOG’s conclusion:
This report has delved deep into the electoral process starting the journey from the troubled times of 2007/2008 when the country burnt. It has given an insight into the insidious political problems that Kenya has had to grapple with.
The report analyses the ills that the country must heal before it finally gets out of the political woods. From negative ethnicity fueled by the “tyranny of numbers” to weak or unreliable institutions, the country has major problems to fix to ensure free and fair elections that are beyond reproach.
The report also makes it clear that although the restored faith in the judiciary and the fear of the ICC may have averted the violence that engulfed the nation after the 2007 general elections, faith in the IEBC and the judiciary was eroded following the Supreme Court ruling on the presidential petition filed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
All stakeholders need to put in extra work and resources to help enhance the public understanding of their civil rights while enhancing the efficiency of all institutions charged with conducting elections in Kenya.
Dr. Stephanie Burchard has a piece in the current issue of the Institute for Defense Analyses’ Africa Watch entitled “After The Dust Has Settled: Kenya’s 2013 Elections”, noting the unexplained failure of the IEBC to release election results that were required in mid-March until mid-July. The key takeaway:
Unfortunately, after all that has happened since, it is unclear how much respect or trust Kenyans continue to have in their political institutions. Politicians seem wary of Kenya’s political institutions. Raila Odinga promised that he and CORD would boycott future elections until changes within the IEBC take place. Even more troubling, public trust in Kenya’s new institutions appears to be eroding. In early July a national survey conducted by Ipsos Synovate revealed that confidence in Kenya’s new political institutions, including the Supreme Court and the electoral commission, had fallen precipitously over the course of the past few months. In particular, confidence in the IEBC had fallen by 30 percentage points–from a high of 62 percent in February to 32 percent less than five months later.
Bonus reading on the American foreign assistance political and policy process: from the Lugar Center, “Lessons for the Next QDDR” by Diana Ohlbaum and Connie Veillette.
The electoral commission failed to furnish Parliament with the final results of the March 4 General Election Tuesday amid claims that some commissioners refused to sign the report.
The commission was expected to submit the final tally to the Justice and Legal Affairs committee at a meeting scheduled with the team at Parliament Buildings Tuesday. The committee was to relay the report to Parliament.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan and chief executive James Oswago appeared before the committee but were turned away after the chairman indicated that the tally was not ready for submission as per the request from Parliament. . . .
. . . In the longer term, such doubts could prompt a re-evaluation of foreign election monitoring missions in Africa. Some on the European Union mission, for example, had serious doubts about the integrity of the process, but it quickly endorsed Kenyatta’s election. By that stage, the EU had contributed more than 50 million euros (US$66 mn.) to the cost of the elections, reckoned to total over $400 mn. One diplomat in Nairobi joked that it was a case of ‘responsibility without power’, meaning that the EU would be blamed for a messy result due to its financial involvement but had no power to change anything.
The IEBC found that a million more votes were cast in the presidential election than in any other, Africa Confidential has learned, although all were held on the same day. Opposition and civil society activists have raised questions about such discrepancies for several months.
An unnamed electoral commissioner quoted in the Nairobi daily The Star appears to confirm their suspicions: ‘We are having sleepless nights reconciling the presidential results and those of the other positions. Over a million votes must be reconciled with the others and if the requirement is not changed, then it will cast the IEBC in a negative light.’
Kenyatta’s supporters reject the concerns, arguing that it is natural that voters were more worried about selecting the national president than candidates for other positions. Few neutrals see this as credible. In the past, dramatically higher turnouts in presidential elections than in others on the same day have been taken as a sign of ballot-box stuffing.
It seems far-fetched that over a million Kenyans would queue for several hours to vote and then ignore all of the ballots apart from the presidential one, especially since there was great excitement about the contests for new, powerful positions such as senator and governor. None of the many election observers we asked said they had seen significant numbers of voters putting a ballot paper in the presidential box but not the others.
Acting Registrar of Political Parties Lucy Ndung’u has been summoned by the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. The committee wants to find out why she is holding two offices, the management of party affairs and budget allocation.
As the acting registrar, Ndung’u is yet to take the oath of office because her term expired with the coming into force of the Political Parties Act in late 2011. . . .
. . . .
Chepkonga also wondered how the registrar will distribute parties’ funds when the IEBC had not computed the March 4 election results. In the financial year 2013/14, the office of registrar of political parties has been allocated Sh344,650,758 by the National Treasury. But the House will have the final say in approving the expenditure.
The Act provides that ninety five per cent of this fund be shared proportionately by reference to the total number of votes secured by each political party in the preceding general election. Five per cent is left for administration purposes.
In effecting the 95 percent, the total number of votes secured by a political party shall be computed by adding the total number of votes obtained in the preceding general election by a political party in the election for the President, MPs, County Governors and members of county assemblies.
“These are some of the things we will be seeking explanations a committee. The management of public finances must be open,” Chepkonga said. William Cheptumo (Baringo North), who is also a member of the legal committee, said parties want to know the number of votes they got.
“Am also wondering why they have taken too long to compile the number of votes per political party,” he said. Ndungu is also said to be interested in retaining her position as the registrar once a new process has been initiated.
Ndungu is also said to be interested in reapplying for the job once a new process has been initiated. However, a number of MPs vowed to ensure that she doesn’t get the job. “She has been the stumbling block to party discipline in the country. We will ensure the motion is defeated,” an MP who declined to be mentioned said.
The Star reported this week that the “IEBC wants political parties act amended“. From the headline one would expect to read perhaps an article on some type of reform arising out of the failed primary elections early this year, or the problem with “party hopping” . . .
But of course, it would be silly to think that the IEBC would concern itself with such things to improve accountability in the Kenyan electoral system.
No, the IEBC is faced with a problem. It doesn’t want to publish the election results. For the reason noted in my last post: the numbers of votes for the other offices don’t add up to the numbers of votes for president–according to the anonymous Commissioner quoted in the story, adding a direct confession to the clear circumstantial evidence that we have all seen for many weeks now.
The IEBC is attracting no visible pressure from Washington or London or the other “donors” who helped underwrite the IEBC. Whether this is because, as in 2007-08, the foreign policy mavens think it’s “better not to know” or whether because, as always, the foreign assistance mavens want a “success story” as much as a better democracy in Kenya in the future–or both–I don’t know.
So the immediate rub is the delay in providing public funding to Kenya’s political parties based on the election results. How to relieve pressure from pols who want the tax dollars doled out without publishing the election results that determine how the money is allocated? Change the law of course! So the money can be paid out without disclosing the results! An elegantly Kenyan solution.