A Guest Post on the State of Kenya@50: “Where Did The Time Go and What Do We Have to Show For It?”

Following is a “guest post” from Andrew J. Franklin, an American now leaving Kenya after more than thirty years of Kenya’s fifty year independent history. This was originally written back in May, after the election failures but months before the Westgate fiasco, about which we learned more damning information with the report this week from the review by the NYPD:
Kenya Map at Nairobi School

It’s mid-May, do you know where your election results are?

Good question! As Kenya prepares to celebrate 50 years of Independence – and, remarkably for Africa, largely free of tribal massacres, wars, natural and/or manmade disasters, successive failed or successful military coups d’etat, vicious secret police operations or state sponsored “disappearances – this steadily failing state is increasingly unable to conduct normal run of the mill governmental functions.

The GOK was able to carry out a national census until the late 1990s, deliver mail and inland cables, find the owners of automobiles allegedly involved in traffic offenses, pay pensions, etc. The more international assistance and support for the GOK and its myriad associated agencies, parastatals, universities and authorities the faster state operations have deteriorated.

The incredible investment in “IT” prior to the 2013 General Elections was not only supposed to prevent or mitigate electoral fraud but was also a belated recognition of just how bad government administration had become.

The IEBC was unable to organize or conduct “voter education” prior to the March 4th polls and is probably unable to find all 120,000 (?) temporary workers hired for these elections; media reports indicate that election- related pay owed to the police, NYS recruits and prison warders has still not been paid.

In essence it is an amazingly foolish leap of faith to expect the IEBC to release any election results for President, Governors and members of the National Assembly and Senate. The longer these results are kept from the public the greater will be arguments that these elections were stolen; 50% of the country is already on a slow boil and the new administration is clearly not able to handle long simmering insecurity in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir Counties or in Western Kenya where criminal gangs are terrorizing the populace.

Reports of a resurgence of Mungiki in and around Nairobi as well as continuing MRC related activity in the “Coast Province” counties – including Lamu – show that the state of national insecurity is more serious than anyone will publicly admit. The heavy handed response on Tuesday, 14/05/2013, by some 400 “security personnel” drawn from the disparate forces within the “National” Police Service to only 250 noisy demonstrators – and 15 or so pigs and piglets – outside Parliament showed an usual lack of any police command and control.

Meanwhile the Obama Administration seems blissfully unaware or unconcerned of the situation in Kenya; our bureaucrats just seem to be hunkering down and covering their asses.

Reports that the police fired live ammunition to “break up the crowd of peaceful demonstrators” after tear gas and water cannon proved “ineffective” indicates a lack of discipline or concern for innocent bystanders or onlookers in offices, shops or even the carparks in the vicinity of Parliament right smack in the CBD!

The use of live ammunition to quell demonstrations in Kisumu in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on March 30th elicited little comment in the domestic media and certainly no public protests from the US Embassy. Apparently the rubber bullets procured by the NPS prior to the elections are still in their original packing?

The bottom line is that “Something’s happening here. What it is, is very clear…” To Some!

Andrew J. Franklin, J.D.
Former U.S. Marine, resident of Nairobi since March, 1981

“Do not be afraid. The government will protect you.” KANU Revivalists offer alternative to democratic values in Kenya

Shortly after I arrived in Kenya in mid-2007, Kenya’s parliament passed a media regulation bill which faced a storm of international diplomatic criticism as well as domestic protest.

President Kibaki at the time backed down and sent the bill back to Parliament where it was ultimately somewhat watered down. New legislation passed last week goes much further than what was dared under the first Kibaki Administration, in spite of the new constitution. This time there doesn’t seem to be much reaction from international governments–we give our aid money quietly and tiptoe so as not to step on important toes since we have been aggressively accused of imperialism and racism for not intervening to stop the ICC prosecutions of The Now Elected for the mayhem after the 2007 election–but the international media is much more aware of these issues than they were in 2007.

And if the media bill has been put in some limbo, it has been followed by the introduction of the Jubilee bill to assert more state control over civil society and restrict and channel foreign funding to non-governmental organizations. The Uhuruto team had not shown its cards on attacking the media during the election campaign, but civil society was always a known target. See Attacks on Kenyan Civil Society prefigured in Jubilee Manifesto, my post from March this year.  More freedom for the media and for civil society means more restraints on politicians in control of government.  Restricting civil society can help maximize the opportunity to control the media, and vice versa.

Kenyans are confronted once again by the hard choice of whether they are willing to challenge their “leaders” in governmental power to maintain their individual freedoms as citizens.

Uhuru Kenyatta stayed with KANU throughout his life through the formation of TNA as a vehicle for his presidential campaign in this year’s race.  Other than running in elections himself, he has not given much indication over the years that I am aware of being concerned for opening the democratic space and by running as “Moi’s Project” as the KANU nominee in 2002 he chose the old banner.  Of course when you are one of the richest men in Africa, and your mother is one of the richest women, because of what your father took for himself and his family when he was the one-party ruler, you find yourself with plenty of freedom of speech and freedom to politically organize regardless of the details of the system that confront the small people.

In the wake of the Westgate attack, and the desire of the government to avoid scrutiny or challenge, I am reminded poignantly of what Kibaki said when he first ventured out thirteen days after he had himself sworn in for his second term:

January 9, 2008–13 days after the 2007 election (NBC News):

Kibaki made his first trip to a trouble spot, addressing more than 1,000 refugees in western Kenya, many of whom had fled blazing homes, pursued by rock-throwing mobs wielding machetes and bows and arrows.
“Do not be afraid. The government will protect you. Nobody is going to be chased from where they live,” Kibaki said at a school transformed into a camp for the displaced in the corn-farming community of Burnt Forest. “Those who have been inciting people and brought this mayhem will be brought to justice.”
He indicated he would not consider demands for a new election or vote recount.
The election “is finished, and anybody who thinks they can turn it around should know that it’s not possible and it will never be possible,” he said.

Perhaps for those Kenyans that feel sure that the government will always protect them, there is no need for these things of a free media, civil society, the questioning of elections.  Kenya could just go back to the Chinese model of the one party state.  Kenyans who prefer a freer, more empowered citizenship as a matter of values, or who don’t feel they can count on the government to always protect them will have to decide to engage to protect those rights which are of course expressed in law in the new constitution.  See “CIC (Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution) says new media law unconstitutional”, Daily Nation.

Kenyan Media

Kenyan Media

Listening . . .

Image

Waterbuck

Please excuse my lack of posting. I am taking extra time to read and listen.

In case you missed it, here is Joel Barkan’s list from Foreign Affairs, “What to Read on Kenyan Politics”.

And from AfriCOG: “Why Westgate Is About Governance But Not Security Or The ICC”.

Kenya’s persistent national security corruption continues to burden Somali endeavors

In the wake of the incomprehensible looting at Westgate, Ben Rawlence, Open Society fellow and former Human Rights Watch researcher has published a candid look at the context in “Kenya’s Somali Contradiction” at Project Syndicate:

. . . if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure . . . In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative, a plan to protect Kenya’s security and economic interests by carving out a semi-autonomous client state . . .

. . . the United Nations monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that Kenya’s Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab.  .  .  . [T]he Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals.  Indeed in Kismayu, Kenya’s officials have reverted to their default occupation — the pursuit of private profit. . . .

Read the full piece.

if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure. But there is much more to the story. In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

Going back to my time in Kenya during the 2007 presidential campaign, it is well to remember that the multimillion dollar Anglo Leasing scandal that was subject to John Githongo’s whistleblowing involved corrupt contracts that were to have provided for the purchase of passport security technology, a forensic lab, security vehicles and a Navy vessel, among more than a dozen national security procurements.

Ultimately the exposure of the scandal proved to be a huge missed opportunity for the U.S. and the international community as a whole to address a pervasively corrupt security apparatus that we have continued to help underwrite.  While everyone was grateful for Githongo’s courage, we didn’t match it with courage of our own to take risks for reform and we ended up letting the Kenyan people rather than the Kibaki administration bear the burden.  See my post “Part Five–Lessons from the Kenyan 2007 election and new FOIA cables”.

Unfortunately corruption does not fix itself.

Uganda Debt Network

Leaders

Furthermore, contrary to claims that securing Kismayo put al-Shabaab at a disadvantage, the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported in July that the Kenyan Defense Forces have actually gone into business with al-Shabaab. The group’s profits from illicit charcoal (and possibly ivory) exported from Kismayo have grown since Kenya took control.

CommentsView/Create comment on this paragraphThis highlights a fundamental problem: the Kenyan state’s endemic corruption constantly undermines its policymakers’ goals. Indeed, in Kismayo, Kenyan officials have reverted to their default occupation – the pursuit of private profit. Instead of working to achieve the diplomatic objective of defeating al-Shabaab, Kenya’s military, politicians, and well-connected businessmen have been lining their own pockets.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

if the Kenyan government’s aim was, as it claimed, to destroy al-Shabaab, the intervention has been a spectacular failure. But there is much more to the story. In fact, retaliation against the militant group was little more than a convenient excuse to launch the so-called Jubaland Initiative,
Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/kenya-s-contradictory-strategy-in-somalia-by-ben-rawlence#rC0Jau4qyOYbHqeO.99

While mourning, and One_dering . . .

A piece that you might have missed on the Westgate attack that touches more of the bases than most: The Real Reason al-Shabab Attacked a Mall in Kenya by Bronwyn Bruton at DefenseOne.com.
Also: “Terror Strikes Nairobi, Crossing Borders” from Lauren Hutton at the Netherlands Institute of International Affairs (Clingendael).

And if you missed a wise perspective on the human context, here is Karen Rothmyer in The Nation: “Reflections on the Kenya Terror Attack”

Other lessons so far: from Abdul Haji, son of the Garissa Senator and former Defense Minister, who drove from another shopping mall (Yaya Centre) and helped rescue many at Westgate after a cell call from his brother who was stranded by the attackers, we learn that real heroes drink Dormans (and pack a pistol), and leave notes for the owners of cars they back into while rushing to rescue their brothers.  The story of the Haji-on-the-spot collaboration with the Kenyan Red Cross, a handful of plainclothes police and a kitted out group of what we might call “neighborhood watchmen” is just so deeply “Kenyan”.

Ambassador David Shinn appropriately noted on his blog that his biggest surprise about the Westgate attack is that it hadn’t happened sooner.  People I touch base with expect more, and we have additional attacks in Mandera and Wajir.  In order to stay safe and protect each other, it seems to me that Kenyans need to calmly but firmly and persistently press to get as much truthful information as possible about what happened at Westgate and take responsibility for their neighborhoods and surroundings.

The #WeAreOne_dering hashtag on Twitter has brought people from all over the world into the conversation about what really has really happened with this attack.

The United States, in particular, has spent millions on an ongoing basis, through the State Department and the Defense Department directly and indirectly on  “capacity building”, training, etc. for Kenyan security.  Given the meager preparation for and response to an attack like Westgate, we need to quickly recalibrate to account for the present reality and the immediate threat.

Here is my post from 2009 “Corruption and Terrorism/Security”. And from 2010 “U.S.-Kenya Relations: A counterterrorism versus reform tradeoff?”

And to address the religious dimension, here is an important post from African Arguments via allAfrica.com: “Somalia: To Beat Al Shabaab Kenya Must Expel its Religious Leader “Sheikh Hassaan” From Nairobi”.  And the National Council of Churches of Kenya has posted this flyer from the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya announcing a “We Are One in Prayer” event on October 1.

KPTJ Statement

Sharing the statement released by KPTJ this morning:

At this time of grief, we, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, wish to express our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been lost or remain missing, and wish a swift recovery to all those who have been hurt. We applaud the contributions of our fellow Kenyans to support rescue and security work and medical care for victims, as well as the unity our nation has demonstrated throughout this crisis. We condemn this despicable attack and support all work to rescue those still trapped at Westgate, and to end the situation as soon as possible and without further loss of life.

Two things to read after the Westgate attack (updated)

Simon Allison in The Daily Maverick has a piece today entitled “Nairobi attack: Why Kenya and why now?”  that strikes me as solid and recommended priority reading.

As far as where things are in Somalia this is probably a good time to read, if you missed it, Matt Bryden’s report “Somalia Redux?: Assessing the new Somali federal government” for the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, which provides a sobering corrective to any notions that recent progress in Somalia is more than a set of limited early steps toward any long term formation of a stable state.

Add this on the Kenyan security situation: “Kenya mall al-shabaab attacks reveal security cracks” Africa Report.

Why Westgate? [updated 9-24]

I certainly claim no special insight into the minds of Al Shabaab, but by virtue of having been around long enough to have been marked in childhood by the memory of the “Black September” attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, it isn’t a surprise to read that “Westgate Shopping Mall is one of several Israeli-owned businesses in Kenya.” “Shopping mall in premier complex that is home to international brands”, Saturday Nation.

Likewise, Nairobi’s upscale malls are hubs for internationals and expats, as well as symbols of the prosperity and comfort that can be found by the affluent in Nairobi and a source of local pride. The psychological and economic impact from mass murder at such a place is entirely different than mass murder of a similar scale in some other town or village, or in the slums.

I have to say I don’t believe these people would be sated if they ruled all of Somalia without challenge.

[Update: This post was an early reaction to news of the attacks. With the crisis nearing an end after three days, we don’t seem to really know much yet about the attackers and the specifics of the operation. Variety of contradictory information and lots of opinions, some derived from some substantial amount of experience and knowledge, some from little.]