Nairobi’s Star publishes extraordinary story using SECRET 2009 Cable about Amos Wako corruption issues published by Wikileaks in 2010 to explain U.S. visa ban and designation

Read here from The Star: “What Ranneberger told Washington about Wako on corruption”.

Update Nov. 19, see the follow-up: “10 big names join Wako on US travel ban“.

When Wikileaks first published the mass of stolen State Department cables in late 2010 while Michael Ranneberger was Ambassador to Kenya The Star to my recollection did not write any stories from them–including about this 2009 cable, classified SECRET, on the Amos Wako issues. Of course it was more timely then and Wako was still serving as Attorney General.

The Star and The Standard both stayed away from direct coverage of material from the leaked cables, while The Nation did a small number of Kenya stories–not including this Wako subject matter–before quickly backing off.

The most topical of those for me back in 2011 was a Nation story revealing that in early 2008 the US had issued undisclosed (and unknown to me) visa bans against three members of the Electoral Commission of Kenya based on substantial evidence of bribery. The State Department has never to this day acknowledged knowing about the bribery at the ECK in the 2007 election and the publication of such stories in the Nation quickly dried up. (I was told of ECK bribery by another diplomatic source in January 2008.)

Back in the States in my job in the defense industry (with my security clearance) I was told by a friend in the Kenyan media that I had been “sweetly vindicated” on my public contradictions with the Ambassador in the New York Times and otherwise about the 2007 election but the “Wikileaked” cables were not available to me due to the obligations of my security clearance. Readers of this blog will know that I started the process of requesting related information through the Freedom of Information Act in 2009, more than a year before Wikileaks hit, and that I have received released versions of some of the same Cables that Wikileaks published unredacted.

I learned in real time that Ranneberger expressed active displeasure with The Star for publishing a story in February 2008 on the leaked USAID/International Republican Institute exit poll showing an opposition (Odinga) win in the December 2007 election, so I always assumed that it was likely that the Kenyan newspapers received diplomatic encouragement not to publish independently from the stolen cables.

Clearly the Trump Administration has had quite a very different approach with Wikileaks than the Obama Administration did back in 2010 and Ranneberger is now retired from Government himself and working as a consultant and lobbyist looking, among other things, to influence the Trump Administration. So lots of things have changed aside from Wako moving to the Senate from the Attorney General’s office and having a leading role in the current Building Bridges Initiative.

[I will add links to my previous posts, but wanted to go ahead and get this up.]

See “Part Seven — one last FOIA Cable on the 2007 exit poll“:

. . . .

The quest for accountability to Kenyan voters has remained unanswered sadly.  A news story in the Daily Nation in 2011, in the final item on my chronology of links to coverage of the Kenyan election, reports from an alleged leaked cable that ten days before this February 18, 2008 meeting at the Ambassador’s residence, the State Department issued “visa bans” against ECK members based on evidence regarding bribery–but did not disclose this circumstance, or the evidence, at this [Feb 18] meeting (I checked with a participant).  We, the United States, made clear that we were willing to step up financial and rhetorical support for reforms in Kenya–such as the new constitution–under a deal in which the new Kibaki administration shared power with the opposition under an Kofi Annan-brokered bargain–but we brushed aside the issue of the fraud in the election.

Kenya election vote counting Westlands Nairobi

Kenya Senator Amos Wako, former longtime Attorney General under Moi and Kibaki, gets US “public designation” for involvement in corruption and a second US “visa ban”

Secretary of State Pompeo released a press statement today announcing a “public designation” by the United States of former Attorney General Amos Wako, along with his wife and son, for evidence of involvement in significant corruption, seemingly from his time as Attorney General. Wako served during both the Goldenburg and Anglo Leasing corruption scandals.

Recent news finds the successful Goldenburg scam architect Kamlish Pattni obtaining a court judgement for additional funds from the Government relating to incompetent prosecution endeavors against him. Also we read this week that more than Switzerland has been holding frozen funds related to the Anglo Leasing scandal which have not

The previous visa ban on Wako under U.S. Presidential Proclamation 7750 of 2004, was legally confidential, but was announced by then-Ambassador Michael Ranneberger in a Tweet in November 2009. Wako publicly acknowledged the ban for alleged failure to cooperate with reforms in the wake of the Post Election Violance following the 2007 election and announced he would sue to have it lifted. It is unclear when that ban was lifted, although it must have been a some point. As of December 2015 then-Ambassador Robert Godec told The Standard that there were several Kenyans barred from the US under Presidential Proclamation 7750.

In early 2008, according to a Daily Nation report said to be from Wikileaks, the US banned three Kenyan member of the Electoral Commission of Kenya based on evidence of bribery, but the US has never made any type of disclosure of that action or the underlying Election Commission bribery issue although I was told separately of ECK bribery by non-US diplomatic sources in the course of my work for the International Republican Institute during the Post Election Violence.

Reviewing the 1992 Election Observation Report from the International Republican Institute for my last post I noted that Attorney General Wako was accused by IRI of being “responsible for egregious pre-election irregularities related to the election framework” along with many of the District Commissioners.

Five Years After the Kenyan Government’s Raid on the Standard and Two Years After the Oscar Foundation Murders, Impunity Reigns and a “Local Tribunal” for Post Election Violence Remains a Pipe Dream

As I have previously written, I have to miss the frenzy of reading the Wikileaks diplomatic correspondence, but the Kenyan newspapers are full of articles related to a few of the cables newly leaked.  Much of this is Kenyan politicians dishing on each other to curry favor at the U.S. Embassy, and probably in some cases news to Kenyan voters who don’t have the same access to their leaders as Americans do.

One of the main impacts of the leaks in Kenya, that I would not necessarily have realized, is the degree to which the well-publicized cables give the Kenyan media cover to report facts that are quite well known but that they would not otherwise dare print for fear of libel suits and official displeasure.  Certainly much of what Kenyan politicos tell the Embassy they will have told reporters, or reporters will have learned independently, but couldn’t report until the State Department’s internal “news bureau” was stolen and partially put out on the internet.

Some of the material dates back to the Government’s raid on the Standard media house on March 2, 2006.  Enough of this outrageous incident (really series of incidents) has long been well known that in any country with leadership at all serious about press freedom and the rule of law there would be some people in jail.  Nonetheless, total impunity for each and every player in all of the multiple criminal acts remains the status quo.  While U.S. Ambassador Bellamy was sharply critical at the time, there is no indication that this has been on the public diplomacy agenda since.

It is in this context that observers of the Kenyan scene have to realize that the notion of a Kenyan “Local Tribunal” that would try the kingpins of the Post Election Violence identified by the Waki Commission report was always a pipe dream.

We have a recent report on the killing of former Foreign Minister Ouko, said to have taken place at State House in Nakuru–no action.  We have the circumstances crying out for investigation in the murders of civil rights activists Oscar Kingara and J.P. Oulo–two years have gone by today with no action.

While I agree completely with the notion that as a wholly conceptual matter, a Kenyan tribunal rather than the International Criminal Court would be the best place to try the suspects for the Post Election Violence, it is also quite clear that that was never going to happen.  The will is simply not there–the Government of Kenya has a well established policy of impunity which has served the interests at stake very successfully for many years.  It will not change of its own accord, or through simple persuasion or jawboning.  A “Local Tribunal” in Kenya, if there ever were such a thing, would be a platform for deal making to preserve impunity, not a court of law.  Because the United States is not a member of the ICC, it may well be that we are not so credible as leading advocates of the ICC as the appropriate venue for the election-related trials–nonetheless, I think we should stop indulging political frivolity in the context of these grave crimes.

Related Post on local tribunal.

Reporting on Carson talk with African reporters on Wikileaks–“husbands talking about in-laws”

Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson spoke from Washington with reporters gathered at embassy locations in Africa. The Saturday Monitor reports from Kampala on the message on the leaks:

. . . .

“They are a snapshot in time but do not reflect the totality of the interests we have.” Wikileaks yesterday dumped more dossiers on African leaders on its website, indicating for instance that Mr Jerry Lanier, the US ambassador in Kampala, notified his superiors in Washington last October, a month after taking his posting here, that President Museveni has “autocratic tendencies”.

Asked during yesterday’s teleconference if he felt embarrassed by the disclosures, Ambassador Carson who spoke from Washington D.C., without offering direct apology described Uganda’s relations with his country as “deep and complex”.

He said: “It is a relationship which we value and we are working to strengthen. We will continue to carry on our relationship with Uganda in the manner which is designed to promote our mutual interest and advance our policy objectives.”

He, however, said the leaks were akin to a husband’s secret, uncharitable remarks about an in-law being made public.
Mr Lanier did not attend the teleconference held at the US Kampala Mission in Nsambya, a city suburb.

Ambassador Carson demanded Uganda holds a “free, fair and open” ballot next year on a level playing field.
“The period for stealing African elections is over. Theft of elections should not be part of the democratic (practice).

This should be a lesson to the whole of Africa,” he said, referring to the hung situation in Ivory Coast where both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Allasane Ouattara claim to have won the presidential re-run.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Carson yesterday flagged strengthening democracy, supporting economic growth, addressing public health, conflict prevention and tackling transnational threats such as terrorism, human and drug-trafficking as priority areas of engagement with Africa.

* Another interesting link today: new discussion from CFR on “Smarter Measures in Fight Against Piracy”

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.

Tanzania on the lookout for Wikileaker Assange, who has lived in Tanzania and Kenya

From the Citizen, “Tanzania’s connection in leaked US secrets”:

Dar es Salaam. The Australian man at the centre of the worldwide storm over leaked top secret United States’ diplomatic cables posted on the Internet has stayed in Tanzania in the past.Government authorities said yesterday that they were on the alert over an International Police (Interpol) arrest warrant issued against Mr Julian Assange, as his return to the country could not be ruled out. Mr Assange is the brains behind the whistle blowing website ‘WikiLeaks’, which has lately put the US in an awkward position by publishing top-secret information.
. . . .
The unfolding saga is being watched closely in Tanzania and Kenya, but with little information about the former having come out in the documents that detail what US diplomats felt or said about their hosts during the period when they compiled the information.

World leaders who have so far been exposed by WikiLeaks, include former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, the French leader, Mr Nicholas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Balusconi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

With the US’s image bloodied by the revelations, Mr Assange, who is now being viewed both as a hero and villain, has a formidable potential foe, and analysts said he could be looking for a hiding place.

According to his profile on the search engine, Wikipedia, the Australian computer expert developed a liking for and briefly lived in Tanzania and Kenya, and visited a few other countries. No further information was available on when he last visited Tanzania, where he stayed and what he did during his stay. He has, however, lived most of his time in the UK.

Mr Assange claims to have influenced the Kenyan presidential election of 2007, by exposing corruption at the highest levels. Three years ago, Wikileaks disclosed a report by the international risk assessment group Kroll, alleging massive corruption on the part of relatives and associates of former President Daniel arap Moi.
The government of President Mwai Kibaki had commissioned the Kroll analysis soon after it came to power following the 2002 elections. It was completed in 2004 and published by Wikileaks in 2007.
Wikileaks founder Assange subsequently claimed that the website’s action influenced the 2007 election results. He said in a commentary published last year that none of the politicians named in the Kroll report were re-elected.

Yesterday in Dar es Salaam, the deputy minister for Home Affairs, Mr Khamis Kagasheki, said: “We are part of the international community and once an alert is issued we must comply.”
He was alluding to the possibility of Tanzania arresting Mr Assange should he decide to return to the country the moment.

“I have been in touch with our Immigration people to inquire about this matter and they are alert just in case something like that happens. We will not want to be caught off guard,” said Mr Kagasheki, who served as a diplomat for a long time before venturing into politics.

Unlike the US embassy in Nairobi, which has issued an apology to the Kenya government after some of the leaked documents, which described the country as “a swamp of corruption”, its Dar es Salaam counterpart has been silent.

However, the Dar embassy was yesterday said to be preparing to host selected journalists in a telephone conference with top US State Department officials next week to discuss the saga. Tanzania will thus be among 20 other African countries to take part in the conference call.

Published speculation on impact of release of Kenya cables . . .

In “World Politics Review“, Nairobi-based security/defense writer Lauren Gelfand suggests that the coming Wikileaks release may undermine efforts against corruption, due to Ranneberger’s recent outspokeness on that issue, but more generally asserts:  “But although the documents will be embarrassing, and possibly damaging to Ranneberger’s legacy, they are not likely to yield any revelatory information.”  No sourcing is presented for this conclusion, which is different than what I hear elsewhere.  Regardless, we shall see when we see.

If there is nothing “relevatory” but rather embarassing to Ranneberger specifically, then I don’t see why this should present a major setback to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission or other reform efforts as Gelfand suggests.  The next Ambassador can take the same positions and carry out the same policies, now, on corruption.  It will be up to the President and Secretary of State to see that this happens.  The point here is consistency.  It will take years to really turn around corruption, one way or the other. 

If bad things did happen in regard to the 2007 election, Obama and Clinton were not in the Executive Branch at that time, so it wouldn’t be their fault in the first instance.  Perhaps it is time to “lance the boil” so that the U.S. can be more effective in helping Kenya in the future, especially with a new election coming in less than two years. I wish that the State Department Inspector General would have looked at the matter long ago, but it is what it is.