What to do now in Kenya?

Old Party Office in Kibera

Solo 7–Kibera

Kenya’s election rerun could be a major setback for African democracy” a new Washington Post editorial was published Monday evening in the United States.  I suspect The Post here has fairly well reflected the general view of the Kenyan situation in Washington.

What to do?  I think the International Crisis Group has a long track record of assessing conflict in Kenya and offering helpful suggestions.  They did good work that I relied on in the 2008 crisis.  The Daily Nation picked up their latest recommendation here:

 

At the same time, a conflict prevention organisation, International Crisis Group, asked the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to go back to the Supreme Court and seek a limited extension of timeline by 30-45 days to allow all parties to take part in the election and avert a crisis.

The group said Kenya’s political leaders should support such an extension and commit to participate.

SUPREME COURT

According to ICG, the precedent for such a delay exists.

“The High Court in 2012 delayed elections by six months, which helped ensure a credible and peaceful vote,” the group said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court should favourably consider such an extension, given the IEBC chairman’s own acknowledgement that the commission cannot guarantee a credible vote within the allotted timeline.”

The ICG said that should it grant a delay, the court ought to state clearly that President Kenyatta would remain in office pending the fresh vote and that Nasa leader Raila Odinga should take part in a delayed poll without additional conditions.

“He should renew the welcome public pledge against violence that he made on October 20.

“He also should rein in and hold accountable supporters who have attacked election officials, made inflammatory threats to disrupt election or otherwise broken the Kenyan law,” the group said.

See my post discussing the International Crisis Group’s March report on “Avoiding another electoral crisis in Kenya”.

And see “World papers and magazines to postpone repeat poll” in the Daily Nation.

Podesta Group lobbies Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, Roll Call, Foreign Policy, Guardian, Financial Times, Reuters, Washington Diplomat for Kenyatta Gov’t

Kenyan taxpayers paid The Podesta Group of Washington, DC for public relations/lobbying contacts with these media outlets on behalf of their Government in the first half of 2015.  The Podesta Group provided similar or related lobbying services at the same time for the governments of Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Iraq, India, and Vietnam, among various others, aside from their nongovernmental clients.

I’m certainly not suggesting that there is anything wrong with the Government of Kenya spending tax dollars on working media contacts when it isn’t paying teacher’s salaries or meeting basic human needs in health care, for instance.  After all, the United States and various multinational and other foreign donors can be counted on to spend their taxpayer dollars to help ameliorate the consequences of this choice by the Government of Kenya.

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Is Washington, DC a logical place from which to fight global poverty? (Updated)

I thank those of you who have been reading some of my older posts while I have been primarily away from the blog the past few weeks.

Let me take time now to throw out a couple of “macro” observations as an observer of “development” practice in recent years and a life long observer and frequent past participant in American politics.  The first is just how strange it is from one perspective that organizations like USAID and especially the Millennium Challenge Corporation are located “inside the beltway” in Washington, DC.

Don’t get me wrong, Washington certainly has its share of poverty, but in general the Washington inhabited by agencies like USAID, the MCC and the World Bank operates in the thrall of the micro-economy generated by the brokering of the American federal government’s expenditures on the order of $4 Trillion annually.  It is a sui generis antiseptic boomtown quite disconnected from the economy of the rest of the cities and towns even of the United States, much less the rest of the world. Especially that of those facing the extreme poverty that the Millennium Development Goals were intended to overcome.

It just seems to me that we might, say, move one of our agencies like the MCC to West Virginia, for instance.

West Virginia is one of our poorer states, and one where we have this terrible problem of conflict between the need for jobs and the immediate and long term environmental harm done by strip mining and “mountain top removal” for coal.  West Virginia has an economy rooted in natural resources and agriculture, like most of the world, and unlike the District of Columbia–but it is close by, just a short drive.  Long serving Senator Robert Byrd was for many years famous especially for bringing federal agencies outside Washington to his state of West Virginia.  While this was widely derided as “pork barrel politics” by people from other states, those federal agency jobs go somewhere.  Putting a poverty fighting agency there might directly fight poverty as well as help us learn more about how to be most helpful elsewhere.

Update: On the topic of US aid transparency, here is great piece from Jennifer Lentner (@intldogooder) on Oxfam America’s “The Politics of Poverty” Blog: “More U.S. international aid data released–now what? A user’s perspective”.  Jennifer interviews Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah a former minister in the Ghanaian government and former chair of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.  He finds the current data important but “pretty scanty” toward meeting the needs of public officials and of civil society watchdogs.

New bi-partisan legislation—the Foreign Aid Transparency Act of 2013—would open the books on US foreign aid. More transparency will enable people like Hon. Albert Kan-Dapaah to hold their governments accountable for how they invest US resources. Learn more and contact your representatives here.

And stay tuned to Politics of Poverty to get more user perspectives on aid transparency data!

Warnings to Take Seriously for Kenya’s March Election . . . and something to enjoy

The Council on Foreign Relations has just published a “Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 17” regarding “Electoral Violence in Kenya” by Joel Barkan, of CSIS and professor emeritus from the University of Iowa.

Well worth a careful review. Joel Barkan is a dean among the community of American scholars of Kenyan and East African politics who has also worked on the democracy and governance assistance side with USAID in Kenya during the birth pangs of 1992 and made the transition to the policy world in Washington through his post at the CSIS Africa Program and activities such as helping to spearhead the “Kenya Working Group” to put together a broad range of people in Washington working on Kenya issues to generate necessary focus within the U.S. government. Joel was our “resident expert” among the Election Observation delegates for the International Republican Institute observation for the 2007 Kenyan election and had the singular position of being independently identified as someone we wanted as a delegate by both IRI staff and as a “suggestion” to me from Ambassador Ranneberger.

Someday, when a careful history is written of the last Kenyan election and its aftermath, Joel will be noted as one of those who helped the United States get its diplomatic response turned around in part so that we were then able to assist in addressing the crisis presented by the failed election. He spoke out from Kenya and immediately afterwards back in Washington about the obvious failure of the ECK central tally in Nairobi–and raised in Washington the failure to release and use the IRI/USAID exit poll data as a clear indicator that the ECK’s announced numbers did not justify the intransigence being shown by Kibaki and his networks of “hardliners”. Thus, Joel is an obvious person to pay attention to in preparing for the 2013 election.

Let me also flag the comment to my last post entitled “Countdown to Chaos” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American former Marine who has lived in Kenya since the 1970s. I don’t know Mr. Franklin personally yet outside the blog, but this is a warning “straight from the ground” in Kenya, from someone with involvement in the security business. It is a lot easier for expats in Kenya to keep their heads down and say nothing, so I take his cautions with extra gravity.

In closing, let me refer you to a video from bloggingheadstv.com with Mark Leon Goldberg of UN Dispatch and Wycliffe Muga of Nairobi’s The Star. Regular readers will have noticed that I cite Wycliffe Muga’s Star columns frequently as having noteworthy insight. I didn’t get to meet nearly as many Kenyan journalists as I would have liked while working the last election, in part because I wasn’t wanting to be in the media myself and in part because I was just too busy with the immediate demands of the job with the programs I was responsible for. Nonetheless, I did get to meet Wycliffe in person early on and got tutored in some important intricacies of Kenyan politics, both historically and in terms of the current situation in Mombasa at that time where he was living then. I will call Wycliffe a friend, like Joel, in the interest of disclosure and because I like them both–but please don’t assume that either of them necessarily ever agree with me on anything I write here!

I think it might be fair to call Wycliffe something of an “Ameriphile”, which of course I appreciate as an American myself. In this bloggingheadstv discussion, Wycliffe perhaps provides a “shot in the arm” for those of us who might get discouraged by some of our more feckless foreign policy moments and expresses appreciation for what the United States did ultimately do in applying muscle to leverage a mediated settlement of the Kenyan 2007-08 election crisis, as well as, in particular, health assistance in the form of PEPFAR.

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Statement of “Kenya Working Group” on Appointment of Gration Replacement

From Carl LeVan’s Development4Security Blog, here is the statement released in Washington by a nonpartisan group of Washington Africa policy players that has been assembling in recent months to try to focus official attention on the challenges in Kenya:

STATEMENT ON THE RESIGNATION OF U.S. AMBASSADOR TO KENYA, SCOTT GRATION
“In light of the potential for violence in Kenya during the run-up to the 2013 national elections, and the challenges of sustaining full implementation of constitutional reform, we urge President Obama to immediately nominate a senior individual with deep conflict prevention expertise to replace Ambassador Scott Gration. The President’s nominee should understand Kenya’s complex history and the current political landscape – as well as that of the surrounding region. Given the crucial but delicate transition underway in Kenya, the nominee must also understand the critical role the U.S. government can play supporting Kenyan efforts to realize a successful democratic transition, and have the ability to work productively with all U.S. agencies and key international partners present in Kenya. It is essential that the Senate proceed rapidly with the confirmation process so the new appointee can get out to Nairobi as soon as possible and begin the vital work that must be done.”

Akwe Amosu, Director of Africa Advocacy, Open Society Foundations

Joel D. Barkan, Senior Associate, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies and co-chair of the Kenya Working Group

Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director, Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, The Atlantic Council

Jennifer Cooke, Director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Richard Downie, Deputy Director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Jeremy Konyndyk, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Mercy Corps

Tom Malinowski, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch

Sarah Margon, Associate Director, sustainable Security and Peace Building, Center for American Progress Action Fund and co-chair of the Kenya Working Group

Steve McDonald, Director, Africa Program, Woodrow International Center for Scholars

J. Peter Pham, Director, Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, The Atlantic Council

Sarah Pray, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations

Cassidy Regan, Kenya Program Associate, Friends Committee on National Legislation

David Throup, Senior Associate, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

The individuals listed above are members of the Kenya Working Group (KWG). Their institutional affiliations are listed for identification only, and do not represent any official position of these organizations.
THE KENYA WORKING GROUP

The Kenya Working Group, co-chaired by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), is a nonpartisan forum for policy experts who seek to encourage a robust U.S. policy towards Kenya in the run up to and after the 2013 national elections in order to prevent violence and help support a successful democratic transition. Kenya has made important progress addressing many of the issues that enabled the 2007 electoral violence but much work remains. Similarly, the U.S. government has a vital support role to play, particularly by working closely with Kenyans and other key actors. The Kenya Working Group meets regularly to share information, generate policy recommendations, and support a constructive and active U.S. policy towards Kenya.

One “silver lining” from the Gration resignation situation is that it helps put Kenyan politics in the U.S. news and on the plate of the U.S. Administration and Congress now.

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.

Just a few quick personal thoughts on a third year of blogging about Kenya from the U.S.

*The first two years of this blog have coincided with my wife’s graduate school program–she graduated in December (proud smile!) so I will need to be especially aware of evening and weekend time reading and writing about Africa.  As I have mentioned, this blog has been in significant part a tool of my own education, so there is a symmetry here.

*At the same time, 2012 is a huge year for Kenya, and the natural opportunity for the fulfillment of the hopes and aspirations of so many of us who were involved in some way in the 2007-08 election fiasco, so I will do my best to stay highly engaged.  Likewise, we once again have a simultaneous presidential campaign in the U.S., which will just makes things that much more interesting.

*Regardless, I do want to take advantage at present of my literal “distance” to observe and comment on larger themes and not get too sucked into the daily cycle of purported Kenyan campaign news.  I learned quickly during the last campaign that every day brings big announcements breathlessly covered by the competitive Kenyan media–and of course this is available to us globally through modern ICT (and a real aspect of the campaign since the votes and especially contributions of the diaspora will be important)–but most of them are of little lasting significance.

*My distance from Washington will also, I hope, let me have something of a “bird’s eye view” on what is similar and what is different in the approach of the U.S. government and U.S. politicians and other actors to the Kenyan campaign and other events.

Upcoming: Panel on challenges to independent media in East Africa

For readers in the Washington area, Tuesday morning from 10:00 – 11:30am, the Center for International Media Assistance, the National Endowment for Democracy Africa Program and the Solidarity Center will be hosting a roundtable discussion entitled “Independent Media in East Africa: Democratic Pillar in Peril?”  Looks like an interesting event with a distinguished panel:

New challenges to independent media are emerging in East Africa. Recently passed anti-terrorism and information laws allow governments to harass and imprison journalists with impunity. Under these new laws, six journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia since June 2011, and Somali journalists are facing tremendous threats covering conflict and famine in their country. How do local media react when their fellow journalists come under attack? How can an independent press play its crucial role as a pillar of democracy and overcome challenges in places such as Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya? The discussion will also examine the development of unions and media associations as well as the international donor community’s role in supporting independent media in East Africa.

Information and registration here.

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.

Millennium Challenge Corporation roundtable

The Millennium Challenge Corporation was kind enough to include me this morning in a roundtable discussion on the President’s new global development policy with around a dozen bloggers and Sheila Herrling, Vice President of Policy and Evaluation and Charles Cooper, Vice President of Congressional and Public Affairs.

It was fun for me as someone outside of Washington blogging as a matter of personal interest in the issues I write about to have a place at this table and I certainly learned a good bit about what the administration is getting at with their approach, as well as getting some insight into what some of the “thought leaders” and groups are interested in. Hopefully I contributed to the overall dialogue.

Well worth a vacation morning in Washington. I’ll hope to follow up with some of the other participants and read up a bit and have more on this event over the weekend, but in the meantime, I wanted to make sure to post a public thanks to everyone at MCC who made this available.