Monday, February 20, 2012



By AfriCommons Blog

Source: FOIA Cables on Kenya's 2007 Elections

We are in full swing now in the 2012 presidential campaign in Kenya,
 but unfortunately there remains much confusion,
misunderstanding and simple lack of awareness
over what actually happened in the 2007 election.  
I have gotten a couple of additional partial releases
of a few documents from the State Department
in December and again this month from my 2009
Freedom of Information Act requests about
the State Department’s 2007 election observation
and the exit poll, and since we are running out of time
to get ready for the upcoming election, it seems time
to start introducing some more of this information.
New this month is the release of a grand total of
three documents purporting to be the entirety of
the releasable documentation from the Africa Bureau
 (as opposed to the cables in the Central State Department records)
related to and derived from the State Department led
observation of the Kenyan general election. 
One (undescribed) document was withheld
in full bringing the total Africa Bureau documentation to four items. 
In other words, in sprite of the fact that
“160 Embassy officials in 56 U.S.
Embassy observation teams successfully
deployed nationwide to monitor the elections”
according to the election day
Africa Bureau press guidance
(one of the documents released) they didn’t generate records.
The question could be raised then whether
the point of the State Department observation
 through the Embassy became not so much
to observe as to be observed observing. 
Being observed observing gives an extra patina
of gravity to whatever narrative you wish to
present about the election afterwards;
and who can question without an independent look at your data?
 [or an independent exit poll?]
Again, this highlights the difference
between the diplomatic function
with its command structure to carry out
foreign policy with its multiplicity of interests and objectives,
but clarity in who is being served,
on the one hand, and the function of
an independent international election observation mission,
funded as a matter of “democracy assistance”
intended to serve the very much narrower interest
of the internal democratic process in the host country
to advance values shared by the funding nations
and a broader international community
(and accepted in theory by the host country).
The one document released
that substantively describes observation of voting
by State Department personnel
is a November 20, 2007 e-mail
which is a headquarters “readout” of a video conference
held “with Post to discuss the experiences of Post’s
first-ever observation of the political primary process in Kenya.”: 
Here is the text:
The Observation Effort:
21 teams (total about 60 people) deployed to the field.
This is our first time observing the primaries.
We expect to deploy about 50 (100+ people)
teams to the general elections as part of the
larger international observer effort.
The EU plans to deploy 150 people.

These will be Kenya’s 4th multiparty elections
but only the second “free and fair”.
Negatives Observed:
The process was very poorly organized.
We would say the the parties embarrassed themselves,
except most of the party leaders have no shame
and are thus immune from embarrassment.
General feeling is that apparent total lack of organization
is not an accident, but reflects efforts
to rig/manipulate the outcomes.

There were obvious deals between the incumbents
and local party operatives.

The process was well-run and by the book
only in where parties had no hope of winning
in that area anyway.
Where there were real stakes,
 manipulation was rampant and obvious.

Ballots were delayed for many hours in many locations;
some politicians felt this was intentional
and especially disenfranchised women voters,
 who either couldn’t wait all day or had to go home
before dark for safety reasons.

Hate literature observed to date is
overwhelmingly generated by PNU supporters.
Positives Observed:
Turnout was surprisingly good.
People were very determined to vote.
Many waited from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
or later for ballots to arrive.
In some cases where ballots were delayed,
people agreed amongst themselves to vote
on whatever pieces of paper and honored the results.

Dozens of outgoing MPs
(including some we are very happy to see go,
i.e. [REDACTED] were eliminated at this stage,
which suggests that you can’t always manipulate the results.

Our sample was biased as we
purposely went to areas where trouble
was expected or stakes were high,
so we likely observed a disproportionate amount of rigging, etc.

With the recent passage of the Political Parties Bill,
this is the last time that the party nomination process
will be run by the parties themselves.
In the future, the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK)
will run it (at least, for all parties who want public money).
PNU contracted with the ECK to run their primary this time,
but it didn’t happen in practice–
party leaders took over and wouldn’t let ECK do its job.
After the Primaries:
We expect a lot of horse trading.
Some winners were DQed on appeal and even without an appeal.
There were also many “directed nominations,”
which led to the resuscitation and handpicking of
many old dinosaur incumbents notwithstanding voter opposition.

There may be blowback with an impact on turnout for Dec. 27.
There were widespread feelings of bitterness and disappointment,
especially among ODM supporters,
who expected to participate in a “new beginning.”
Many people complained that, populist image notwithstanding,
ODM is run like a dictatorship and
that the way of doing things is no different
than KANU used to do in the past.
The positive difference is that the electorate
is much more vocal and active
in demanding transparency and participation
in the electoral process.
The howls of protest regarding some of the directed
 nominations show the electorate’s increasing maturity
and lack of interest in this kind of politics.

Many unsuccessful candidates
have jumped to smaller parties.
There is a cottage industry of sorts selling nominations.
Possible Impact on Main Parties:
The disappointment and frustration
with the nominating process
was greatest among ODM supporters.
Will this experience sap the energy of ODM supporters,
or can ODM redeem itself?
Will people continue to be willing
to take a chance on an unknown quantity?

Fear and stability are powerful motivating factors
in Kibaki’s reelection prospects.
The contest between ODM and PNU
can be characterized as “hope vs. fear.”

PNU has much less internal discipline
and message consistency.
Virtually all PNU parties are fielding
their own candidates for Parliamentary seats,
so not much of a real coalition.
Political Violence
Two possible types.
One, aspirant or incumbent MPs use paid gangsters
and sometimes local police officials to intimidate
or disrupt the polling process by trashing polling stations,
threaten voters waiting in line and election officials.

Two, spontaneous voter uprisings,
where voters feel they are being disenfranchised
and attack the presiding officers.
If the ECK runs an efficient process as expected,
this should lessen the possibility of voter violence. 
For context, this November 20, 2007 summary
of what was observed during the primary election
was roughly a month after the Ambassador’s
intervention in the public opinion polling
as described in previous documents
and a month before the Ambassador’s public statement
 predicting a “free and fair” election
the week before the general election. 
Nairobi is the State Department’s biggest Sub-Saharan post; 
it was staffed with smart and observant people 
and obviously well funded–
the problem was not what the State Department didn’t know, 
rather it was what it wouldn’t say.