Is Uhuru on his way to being the next East African authoritarian American darling? [originally I asked in April 2013; we are moving that much more quickly along the path with Secretary Kerry’s current visit ahead of Obama in July, as further allegedly necessitated by the Uhuruto administration’s conspicuous incompetence on “security”]
Let me be clear that I have always supported the pursuit of the ICC cases for the 2007-08 post election killings in Kenya. Not because the ICC was necessarily a good option but because it was that or nothing. My country, the United States, officially as a matter of foreign policy articulated by the State Department, always supported prosecution of the post election violence by a “local tribunal” in Kenya. Which is quite exactly like being in favor of Santa Claus bringing a cure for Ebola in Sierra Leone. In no way am I against either, but there are obviously more challenging questions begged by the devastating facts presented in these situations. (See “Christmas Shopping–For Sale: Brooklyn Bridge, Ocean Front Property in Arizona, Local Tribunal in Kenya”)
In the context of the “don’t be vague, go to The Hague” vote by Kenya’s Parliament, our U.S. position has been inevitably opaque. We are not and have never been a member state of the International Criminal Court. As a general proposition under U.S. law our officials are not to be involved in supporting ICC prosecutions, subject to certain potential exceptions. Nonetheless, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council the diplomatic strategy of the Kenyan government in the second Kibaki administration put us to a decision as to whether or not to support Security Council intervention to interrupt the ICC prosecutions in the two Kenyan cases. We declined to do so, to our credit in my opinion.
How to understand what has happened with the pre-trial decisions by Prosecutor Bensouda to drop the charges against the two defendants in the Government/PNU case, Muthaura (on 11 March 2013) and Kenyatta (on 5 December 2014), while the trial in the Opposition/ODM case proceeds?
Almost seven years after the post election violence we are left with complete impunity on the side of those who initiated the conflict by stealing the election and employed two of the three types of large scale killings at issue in the charges of “crimes against humanity”. ICC Prosecutor Ocampo’s Government/PNU case originally included Kibaki’s Commissioner of Police, Major General Hussein Ali, but the Pre-Trial Chamber declined to confirm the charges against Ali, as it declined to confirm the charges against Henry Kosgey on the Opposition/ODM side. The greatest cause of death as identified by the Waki Commission report was gunshot wound – understood to be primarily administered by the General Service Unit, Administrative Police and Kenya Police Service forces under Ali’s command. The “body count” of those who were identifiable by tribe as reported by the Waki Commission was greatest among the Luo–those targeted primarily by the Government side rather than by the militias associated with the Opposition.
So whatever happens with the Ruto and Sang case, the winners of the post election conflict–those on the side of those who stole the election in the first place and who killed to keep and enforce power–remain comfortably immune from any negative consequences, as well as with the benefit of what they have “eaten”. No more than two individuals face any charges of the many people involved in raising and facilitating the ethnic militias in the Rift Valley that killed innocent Kikuyu in revenge for Kibaki’s election theft and to some extent for leverage in a post election political dispensation, as well as to remove future Kikuyu votes and occupy land as in 1992 and 1997 (when Kenyatta and Ruto were partnered in KANU as now in Jubilee).
I do not necessarily blame Ocampo for having tried and failed. He took on what was perhaps inevitably a nearly impossible task given his lack of actual power. I do very much fault him for raising expectations and seeming to believe as well as play to his own press, and then quitting before the end. I am inclined to think that he simply had no realistic understanding of what he was getting into in going after Kibaki’s closest lieutenants on their own turf and was tone deaf to learning. He seems to have believed that the perceived global stature of the International Criminal Court and his office meant a lot more than it actually did in the warrens of power in Nairobi, no matter how many painted his face on the side of a matatu or a duka. It is hard to imagine how he could have failed to seriously pursue Kenyatta’s telephone and bank records before he left the prosecutor’s office in July 2012. Or how he could have seriously convinced himself that he or his successor would somehow get the records through some notion of “cooperation” from the second Kibaki Administration in which Kenyatta was a key Minister throughout, from his initial appointment during the post election violence on January 8, 2008, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister from April 2008. Did he pursue evidentiary assistance formally from the United States under those potential legal exceptions I mentioned?
For details on the cases, as I wrote in a post in October ahead of the ICC Status Conference, “Susanne Mueller’s article from the Journal of East African Studies earlier this year, “Kenya and the International Criminal Court (ICC): politics, the election and the law”, perhaps gives the clearest account of how the game has been played so far.”
I do not doubt that Ocampo showed personal courage in the prosecutions of Argentina’s ex-generals and compatriots in establishing the credential that led to his appointment as the ICC’s first prosecutor. Nonetheless, the key distinction in that case was a change in government that made such prosecutions feasible. That did not happen in Kenya because the stolen election was allowed to stand, with an eventual settlement that if anything made the situation harder by adding the perpetrators on the Opposition side into that Government as more junior parties, helping to maintain unity for impunity.
As for my country, we tried to have it both ways by supporting impunity for the theft of the election–having at the very best “actively looked the other way” while it was happening– then notionally supporting “justice” for the killings that followed. Not an idea that was ever likely to fit down a real chimney in Kenya.
And yes, I do have more stories for “the war for history” series. For instance, yes, the State Department did know before the vote in 2007 that the Kibaki Administration had dispatched the Administrative Police to opposition strongholds in support of the Kibaki re-election effort. Of course if the “AP” hadn’t gotten caught by those Kenyan television journalists it wouldn’t have been such a problem; certainly we Americans did not say anything publicly. Now that Kenyatta’s grasp on power is that much firmer with the ICC case over, I don’t doubt that he will further ramp up his efforts to formally and informally undermine the new Constitution and shift power back to the Presidency and away from the media, civil society and the citizenry at large to avoid such inconveniences going forward.
This week I got an email from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor with a Request for Proposals for “Countering Closing Civic Space in Kenya and Uganda”. It’s a nice idea to support those trying to hold on to the freedoms they have won, and the amount of money–as much as $841,000.00 for a regional program for the two countries–would not have been trivial if it weren’t for the many millions we spent on the Kenyan IEBC during its 2012-13 “#Chickengate” binge, and on helping to sell its incomplete at best results to the public in the last election, for instance, among many other examples of the things we keep doing to contradict ourselves on support for rights, reform and democracy. And of course our much deeper overall long term “partnerships” with the Museveni and Kenyatta governments.
I may be the one showing naivete now, but I do actually believe that by and large most people in my government, as with the other Donors, do wish for better for Kenyans in terms of justice versus impunity, and for the protection of rights and the establishment of a meaningful democracy where voters have agency. All other things being equal, they would like Kenya to be a country in which powerful killers go to jail and votes count. It’s just that they can’t bring themselves to make the hard choices or take the risks required.
Africa Confidential‘s free article this month gives the best overall summary of the state of the Kenya government a year after Uhuru and Ruto took office, “A Year of Living Precariously”
Crime, inflation and grand corruption have risen sharply in the last year. Expectations of an economic take-off have dimmed since the cheers that greeted Kenyatta’s disputed election victory. The government has incurred new debt and inflated the public wage bill against a background of falling tourism revenue – the result of the Westgate terrorist attack and Islamist activity on the coast. Beside concern about loans from China and elsewhere, mostly for infrastructure expansion, there are worries about the growing cost of the new, devolved counties.
As for the environment in which to address these challenges, AC says “the politics of sycophancy reminiscent of President Daniel arap Moi’s era [are] now in full flow”.
Of course the most immediate critical issue on the referenced infrastructure projects involving Chinese loans is the construction of a new, “from scratch”, Standard Gauge Railroad. Renowned Kenyan economist David Ndii here explains why the project is far too expensive to make economic sense in lieu of renovating the existing railroad:
Part of the other side of corruption and maladministration in Kenya’s fiscal crisis is exposed in a gutsy report from The Standard this week, “Revealed: How Karuturi got away with denying Kenya millions in taxes“.
And from the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Digest: “Kenya Declares Human Rights ‘Subversive'”.
The great puzzle for those of us who have worked on “democracy promotion” or “democracy support” in Kenya has been whether there is something that can be done to assist Kenyans in building meaningful, coherent political parties that are more than amorphous vehicles for individual ambitions and a “tribal” spoils system. The record in this regard has been discouraging. When I was with IRI in 2007-08, one of my European counterparts of long experience explained that his organization had concluded that the effort was simply not fruitful and resources were better spent in other areas.
At this point I am afraid that we see some history repeating itself. TNA is having difficulties with the inattention of its titular leader, President Kenyatta. It is not hard to see TNA now as simply a vessel for Uhuru’s campaign, a means that he created to line up his core Kikuyu support when, supposedly, there was significant sentiment among the elites to find alternatives due to the difficulties of the ICC charges, and even the notion that it might be safer to chose Mudavadi or someone else who was an amenable insider but a member of another tribe. Certainly Uhuru’s record as a party builder is not encouraging. After being tapped as KANU leader by Moi in 2002 and losing to Kibaki he kept leadership of the party (with Ruto as a Secretary General) and was one of the leading figures in the formation of the Orange Democratic Movement as leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, campaigning against the “Wako Draft” constitution in Central Province during the November 2005 referendum.
Nonetheless, as things were shaking out to nominate a presidential candidate for the ODM side in the second half of 2007, Uhuru made the unprecedented move as leader of the parliamentary opposition to cross over to support Kibaki’s re-election. Moi also announced his support for Kibaki in this time frame. Uhuru kept formal control of KANU but the party was gutted as most of the potential KANU voters in the Rift Valley went with Raila, along with Ruto who formally joined ODM, contested for the nomination there and served as a key figure in the “Pentagon”. Then Uhuru himself struck out to form TNA for the 2012-13 race.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Kenya’s government is led by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who barely left KANU in form, and not at all in substance. Not surprisingly, as in the past, protests against the government are in general not allowed and protesters are normally teargassed, beaten and arrested. The fact that this is unlawful behavior by the government does not change the facts on the ground, whether under the 2010 “reform” constitution backed by the United States and the Kenyan voters, or under the old Lancaster House constitution as amended. This was the case during the Kibaki interlude when I lived in Kenya in 2007-08, and it has most certainly been the case during the original Kanu regimes and the current Jubilee revival.
The most recent conspicuous episode was on Thursday, February 13.
For people protesting against the Kenyan government to get the attention of the media they need to engage in something especially catchy beyond the usual shedding tears and blood and getting arrested. Last year, for instance, protesters made international news by releasing pigs in front of parliament to protest the extra-legal raises that the MPs, or “MPigs” were giving themselves. Of course the protesters were teargassed, beaten and arrested, but at least they made the news.
Unfortunately, after the fact the use of the pigs became something of a distraction to the issue of the financial avarice in parliament. Nairobi is a cosmopolitan capital in its own way, and for many, naturally, there is a right way to get teargassed, beaten and arrested, and a wrong way to get teargassed beaten and arrested. Everyone is a lot more used to greedy politicians than to real pigs turned loose in front of parliament. So this time organizers of the February 13 protest assured that they would not use any such animal stunts. (This time they had foam dolls to depict an infantile “diaper mentality”.)
With the build up of publicity and momentum for the announced and pre-cleared protest, the police blinked and announced to the media at the last minute that the protest was purportedly “cancelled” because of unspecified alleged terrorism concerns. Overlapping with this some Kenyan media outlets carried what the Standard headlined: “National Security Advisory Committee Statement on plans to destabilize government”:
four five recent columns from the Kenyan papers on different aspects of the current malaise in public affairs. Each makes a general point which I think is of undoubtedly valid, but adds some perspective, analogy or point of fact that struck me as unique and particularly worthy of your attention if you missed it at the time:
“Media bang! NGOs pow! Who’s next?” from Muthoni Wanyeki in The East African.
“We expected better from ‘Defence Force'” from Wycliffe Muga in The Star.
“The Jubilee government’s ‘infantry thinking’ is leading it to intolerance” from Matuma Mathiu in the Daily Nation.
“Religious leaders are letting Kenyans down” from Fr. Gabriel Dolan in the Daily Nation.
“Protect media freedom for development” from Apollo Mboya in the Standard.
“Why Uhuru and Ruto must attend trials in The Netherlands” by George Kegoro in the Daily Nation.
. . . .
I have found possible answers to this question in the record of the first presidential debate that was organised by the Kenyan media in the run-up to the March elections. The moderator, NTV’s Linus Kaikai, explored the question of the trials with Mr Kenyatta against the fact that he was seeking to become president of Kenya. Specifically Mr Kaikai wanted to know how Mr Kenyatta would juggle between attending his trial and the duties of presidency if he was elected to office.
On the night, Mr Kenyatta provided well-considered answers to questions surrounding their cases and the presidential bid. Referring to himself and his running mate Mr Ruto, Mr Kenyatta indicated that “it is our intention to follow through [the cases] and ensure that we clear our names”. He added that he considered accountability before the ICC as a necessary step towards ensuring that the kind of problems that Kenya faced in 2007 would not recur.
In his own words: “At the same time, we are offering ourselves for leadership in this country, a position that we believe and want to pass on to Kenyans, an agenda that will first and foremost ensure that the kind of problems of 2007 are put to an end.”
Asked whether the cases would affect his capacity to run the country, he said, “many Kenyans are faced with personal challenges and I consider this as a personal challenge”.
He said he considered that since personal challenges did not affect the capacity of other people to continue with their day-to-day jobs, they should not prevent him from doing so as well.
On that night, Mr Kenyatta concluded: “I will be able to deal with the issue of clearing my name while at the same time ensuring the business of government is implemented”.
Earlier, during the same debate, in answer to a question about his understanding of the problem of tribalism and how he would be different from Kenya’s first three presidents, Mr Kenyatta answered that “we have a new Constitution now” and added that “my job as president is to ensure that the Constitution is implemented”.
. . . .
“The Eagle Has Landed: Kenya and the ICC” by John Githongo in The Star.
. . . .
. . . History is being made.
The ICC has redefined Kenya’s foreign policy totally and turned domestic politics inside out. Immediately after the post-election violence in 2008, Kenyans were clamouring for the ICC to intervene given the horrors that had just taken place.
Accountability, justice, impunity, reconciliation and other such words were the primary fodder of political discourse as we headed into the referendum on the constitution in 2010. Indeed, it can be argued that even among those most strongly opposed to the new constitutional dispensation, the dark looming cloud of the ICC and all its implications, especially the public mood that accompanied it through 2008 into 2010, all served to soften them up to demonstrate their pro-change, reformist credentials at a time when the country’s leadership and the messy albeit negotiated coalition arrangement was particularly unsatisfactory to the population.
If it hadn’t been for the ICC, perhaps more of the so-called ‘watermelons’ who pretended to support the new constitution while secretly being opposed to it, would have come out into the open with their true position.
. . . .
. . . Parts of the Kenyan population are in just such a trap: caught between our preaching about and, yes, belief in, good governance and accountability; and its realities when brought to bear in our tribalised, politicised and fragmented political economy. Grimly put – ‘it hurts like hell when it is my tribesman who is being held accountable’. It hurts so much it leads to some of the most gibbering rationalisations of absurdity possible.
The Kenyan government, after years of lack of success in its various diplomatic efforts to block the ICC prosecutions of key figures in the political killings involved with the 2007-08 elections, achieved a potential breakthrough at the most recent AU meeting in Addis. By getting a section of African strongmen and politicians to agree that the ICC shoe that they had promised to wear was pinching too tightly when it was not deferring to them as Heads of State as opposed to only pursuing lessor suspects out of power, the Government of Kenya raised the stakes for those nations that advocate a law-based international order and for the ICC as the only institution that remains with any potential to substantively express any tangible disapproval of the post-election murder and mayhem in Kenya in 2007-08.
It is in this context that the ICC will have to decide whether or not to accept a panel recommendation to move the trials from The Hague to Kenya or Tanzania.
Let me say that I am no fan of the decision to locate the ICC in The Hague in the first place. Nothing against the Dutch and I do understand that The Hague has symbolism as a seat of the international law of nations. Of course the criminal trials of individuals is something quite different and if anything in some ways undercut by the association. We are confronted now with a situation in which the indictees have taken power in a member state–in a campaign initiated in the context of their defense to the ICC charges–and wish to avoid trial by mutating the individual criminal charges into a matter of the international relations of sovereign states.
So by all means move the Court to Botswana or Belize or some other more suitable location when it becomes logistically rational to do so, but these trials are supposed to be about the loss of life and limb in the “extra-electoral” context of the Kenyan fight for political power and it makes no sense to physically conduct the trial in such a way as to put more lives in the same type of jeopardy.
First, as a general proposition, witnesses against the President and Deputy President will never be able to live in safety in Kenya for any time in the foreseeable future after being identified and choosing to testify (they may wish to accept the danger of living in Kenya after testifying but this should not be asked or expected of them); this is the cold reality that should be readily evident to anyone who has paid attention to politics in Kenya over the years. If it is understood that witnesses cannot testify in Kenya then why split up the trials over more than one location? This process has already taken too long to no one’s benefit and supposedly the ICC has problems with resources and funding and a big backlog of cases already.
Second, estimates of the loss of life related to the most recent Kenyan elections with all priority on “peace” or stability over all else were still more than 500 people. The police made extra-legal pronouncements restricting lawful civic expression and assembly; the country was basically shut down, the military was deployed and people were shot for breaking no law. A trial in Kenya would be extremely expensive and quite dangerous by any informed reckoning. The suspects on trial would be in charge of the “security” forces. How many innocent lives will be lost for this? No one can know ahead of time but it is grossly irresponsible not to count on some people who have no role in the trials dying for holding them in Kenya.
The whole point of the ICC is that it is “international”. Thirty three other nations in Africa beside Kenya are members. The reason for these cases being at the ICC was the tactical decision to vote in the “duly elected” Kenyan Parliament to “don’t be vague, go to The Hague.” If “The Hague” no longer has the stomach for this, they should declare now that the task is too hard and walk away and make clear that Kenya, in spite of the work of the Waki Commission arising out of the AU-sponsored 2008 post-election settlement and the vote of its own parliament, is a zone of impunity, at least for suspects who arise above a political ceiling on potential accountability. Otherwise, these trials need to be brought to fruition and be heard and appealed and done with purposeful speed and as few diversions as feasible.
We all know that the crimes alleged happened. We saw them and heard them and see and feel their effects today. Those of us who lived through this time in Kenya heard various bits and pieces of the details as these things were happening. If the suspects or any of them are tried and acquitted then anyone who believes that they are in fact innocent of the roles alleged can celebrate that and all of us can finally mourn justice for these crimes along with the dead.
- Kenya Asks UN to Scrap Kenyatta, Ruto’s ICC Trials (voanews.com)
- Analysis: In protecting Kenyatta and Ruto, the AU betrays us all (dailymaverick.co.za)
- ICC grants Ruto’s wish to skip some hearings (businessdailyafrica.com)
- Famed photojournalist Mo Dhillon responds to AU on the ICC trials: “African Unity leading Africa towards disaster” (africommons.com)
The Star reports that:
President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to hold talks with UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron during his three day visit, the first to a western capital since his election.
Human rights activists in the UK are reportedly organising to hold demonstrations to protest what they say is a ‘hypocritical manner’ manner in which the British government has made a U-turn against in its stand towards the Kenyan government.
In the U.K., unlike in the U.S., the Kenyan election stirred a significant discussion in the national legislature, in this case the House of Commons. Here is the link to the Hansard or transcript from March 20.
The biggest difference in interests is that Kenya, a British colony within the lifetimes of current political leaders, is important to the British economy. Kenya is not very important to the U.S. economy. It might be someday, and the U.S. would notionally like to be more engaged economically in East Africa, and not only because the Chinese are; nonetheless, as of today the level of trade and investment is not a higher order immediate interest for the United States.
Further, in the global system that the U.S. has helped create, the U.S. does not really have the same relationships to even the largest companies that may be headquartered in the U.S. as the British and some other European nations still have with their business champions. Not to say that the State Department doesn’t want to sell Boeing v. Airbus, but there is no American equivalent of BAE, for example. Further, it is British rather than American companies that are the key players in Kenya in banking and finance, tea, horticulture, tobacco, printing, public relations consulting, etc.
As of the last few years, roughly 60% of the roughly 5,000 Americans living in Kenya, according to the State Department, were connected to missionary work. The British, not as much as far as I know. Moreover, there are perhaps five times as many British passport holders in Kenya as Americans.
The United States has a reported official established presence of more than two dozen federal agencies in Kenya, so we do have interests, but they are heavily weighted toward “global” security matters, along with international crime/drugs, etc., and what we might call diplomatic and security logistics. In other words, it is convenient for people to locate in and transit out of Nairobi to support a variety of functions that don’t relate uniquely to Kenya. Its an easier place to fly in and out of and has lifestyle appeal, along with being a locus of the same type of thing for people in other agencies, from other governments and international organizations. It is not that this geographic interest doesn’t matter, its just that it really is not of first order importance. A lot of the aid programs that we conduct in Kenya could easily be moved to other countries that are even more in need if less convenient, for instance.
When al Qaeda wanted to attack Americans and U.S. interests in East Africa, they bombed our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania–not some critical infrastructure or something or someplace else that the Embassies are there to protect.
Kenya is a tourist destination with direct flights of modest duration from the U.K., but still no U.S. direct flights. In the U.S., Kenya is on the tourism “map” along with other various other locations in Africa, but at a much lower relative level; the British are Kenya’s greatest source of tourists. The British newspapers cover Kenya in a completely different way, and to a much greater extent, than American papers.
I have referred to Kenya as Americans’ favorite African country, but this is within the context of the whole “Africa is a Country” perception problem. It was one of the British princes who had the bad form to be quoted to the effect that “Americans don’t do geography”. The British still know their way around their former empire and distinguish Kenya from its neighbors much more readily than do Americans.
Certainly the British MPs wax eloquent about the key importance of training the British military in Kenya, noting that this was said to have played a major role in allowing Britain to mount its Falklands Islands operations some thirty years ago. Of course, realistically, the UK military in this century is primarily derivative and it is hard to see that the world would be so much different if the British had to train in one of the other former colonies–the U.S. for instance–instead of in Kenya. Military training in Kenya is surely good for British political and military morale, but i think it is the economic issues that really make Kenya uniquely important for the UK, whereas for the U.S. the scales tip overwhelming to the “security” direction.
Obviously the International Criminal Court is another area of difference. The British are members, along with other Western European nations, whereas the U.S. is with the Chinese and Russians in standing outside (whether we are nominally favorable or nominally derogatory seems to depend on which of our parties is in power but we seem to have a fixed commitment to stay out). In this sense, the election of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto is in one particular respect inconvenient for the British in a way that is not as challenging for the United States, but given the ordinary primacy of the specific over the general, and the immediate dollar or pound over longer term security in democratic politics, it is not really surprising that the UK has been more aggressive and quicker in seeking publicly to “get right” with Uhuru Kenyatta following his elevation to the Kenyan Presidency than has the United States.
The United States looked the other way on a stolen 2007 election in Kenya.
Even though our Ambassador himself saw the changed tally forms at the Electoral Commission in Nairobi. We supported a “settlement” that created a temporary prime minister spot, without defined authority, for the apparent winner (not only did the exit poll done at the instance of the Ambassador and funded by USAID show a substantial win for the opposition candidate Odinga, but a separate State Department analysis in January concluded “advantage Raila.”). “We” nonetheless called on Kenyans to accept the “results”. While we withdrew our congratulations to Kibaki and later asserted that we did not know who won, we were not willing to be publicly honest about what “we” had seen at the ECK as well as what else we did know.
To help pressure for a settlement, we eventually issued “visa ban” letters to three members of the Electoral Commission on the basis of evidence of bribery–but we never revealed this fact or the evidence–it only came to light through stolen cables published in the Daily Nation years later.
We rejected accountability for election theft–thus supporting impunity in this regard. We supported, in concept, justice for the the post-election killings and mayhem. We had a hybrid position; let’s call it “limited, modified impunity”. Of course, the reality is that our supposed solution of “local tribunals” in Kenya for the post-election violence was always a complete pipe dream under the “power sharing” government we helped broker because that government was never going to implement any such thing.
Thus the role of the International Criminal Court as a last resort due to the initiative of the commission led by Justice Waki to provide the names to the ICC as a fallback. We should pat ourselves on the back, I suppose, for helping to pay for the commission at least. Likewise, we have over the subsequent years now declined to go along with the aggressive activities of the Government of Kenya in requesting action from the UN Security Council to squelch the ICC’s prosecution, so we have at least refused to stand in the way of the ICC. At the same time, we haven’t seemed to accomplish anything very noticeable on the protection of witnesses and the other core issues that enshrine impunity in Kenya.
Now, just like in 2007, we have helped pay for another flawed election, this time one which has ended up with a victory for the ticket of “Uhuruto” composed of the two leading politicians charged by the ICC for allegedly having key responsibility for the instrumental political killings of 2008. While it appears plausibly that Uhuruto on March 4 had a higher percentage of support than did Kibaki in 2007, it is also clear that there were substantial irregularities in the handling of the election, over a period of many months, by the “new and improved” IEBC–which was in fact caught even within the Kenya government itself, engaging in unlawful procurement corruption in regard to key technology–technology which was supposed to provide safeguards against the shambolic 2007 tallying process, but failed to be deployed or work.
So after an extraordinary sum of perhaps $240M was spent on an election with only somewhere around 14M registered voters (not sure exactly how many since the register was a series of 33,400 separate paper print outs which were reported by the IEBC to be unavailable for review in the Supreme Court)–we ended up with the same manual count fiasco as in 2007. More system purchases were more opportunities to “eat”, not more reliability.
The IEBC was perceived as being corrupted on both sides instead of stacked completely only on one side like the ECK last time–but there was no one individual trusted like Kivuitu to let everyone down this time. In one respect that helped diffuse the prospect of violence because the voters this time were much more subdued and had lower expectations–and knew what could happen. And there were some other things different this time based on lower expectations from the “international community”–the observer groups spoke out early to bless the IEBC before it was anywhere close to completing its tally and gave it some cover for whatever it would chose to do. Last time, only IRI really did that–and it was rightly criticized for doing so as the count became problematic. This time, private conversation before the election about what to say hearkened back to what observers had said in the first full blown observations of Kenya’s first multi-party elections in 1992 under Moi–the terminology “reflects the will of the Kenyan people” as a way to say the process run by the Government of Kenya could not stand scrutiny but the official candidate had a plurality anyway. The difference being that this time Kenyans had passed a new Constitution that was supposed to end the old first-past-the-post system in favor of a runoff-to-majority that meant that the opposition did not have to unite behind one candidate ahead of time to have any chance against a minority candidate supported by the State.
The U.S. knew, and Kibaki and his supporters, including Uhuru Kenyatta, knew that in 2007 we gave the Government of Kenya a pass on election rigging. This time we didn’t step in and blow the whistle on procurement corruption or otherwise as the process moved towards its unsuccessful conclusion–and we gave the powers that be in Kenya no real reason so far as I know to believe that we had really changed the terms of the deal from 2007.
Now we have another incoherent vote count, but everyone is relieved that major violence did not erupt. The new Electoral Commission argued to the Supreme Court that the Court could not set aside the IEBC’s pronounced premature results on the basis of the irregularities that had been revealed so far, or the known uncertainties, because to do so would create a constitutional crisis–the only way to have another election would be to use the same flawed register and the same flawed Electoral Commission itself. In other words, the Court did not, according to the IEBC, really have the power to challenge its work and its decision which was now fait accompli. The Court announced its ruling–at the last allowable moment (a few hours later than the two weeks permitted if it were as strict with itself as it was with those before it)–yet could not muster any explanation or reasoning whatsoever. It declared itself to have the power, and to be exercising it, to ratify the IEBC’s result, but either couldn’t agree on why or was not comfortable saying until a future date–after the swearing in.
The bottom line here is that the United States has been helping to underwrite failure in Kenya for too long. We got taken for a ride–again. We ought to have more self respect.
The British government has groveled to “get right” with an incoming Uhuruto administration, but we simply do not need to do so.
We provide a disproportionate amount of aid to Kenya–officially roughly a Billion U.S. Dollars each year–unofficiallly I am sure there is more; not to mention extensive private aid that also helps alleviate the suffering of Kenyans left adrift by the corruption and bad priorities of their governments. As far as I can see, we spend a lot of money in Kenya for sentimental rather than legitimate programmatic reasons. And the restaurants and resorts are more upscale and Kenya is more oriented for tourism accompanying official travel and postings. But a lot of the tourist infrastructure is owned by the Kenyatta and Moi families themselves. We ought to grow up and take our responsibilities more seriously.
What has all this spending been adding up to aside from bad elections? Kenya’s Human Development Index score for 2000 was .513 for a “Medium Human Development” ranking of 134th among the scored countries. The 2012 score was .519, for a rank of 145th. Among the 45 “Low Human Development” countries Kenya stands out, along with Zimbabwe for having by far the highest “Mean Years of Schooling”. Yes, from 2000 to 2012 Kenya’s GDP per capita increased by roughly fifty percent–it just didn’t result in much relative overall human development progress for the country as a whole.
The Cold War has been over for almost 25 years. What we have been doing has not been working very well and we can do better.
- Initial thoughts on Kenya’s Supreme Court ruling (africommons.com)
- Kenya needs a better election review process next time . . . as respondents argue that IEBC has done “so much” that presidential election announcement should stand as good enough (africommons.com)
- Was Kenya’s “Election Observation Group” or ELOG intended to be truly independent of IEBC? Or was it to “build confidence”? (africommons.com)
- What does Kenya’s High Court ruling on the civil society challenge to Uhuru and Ruto eligibility for election say about the state of Kenya’s judiciary? (africommons.com)