Kenya held its presidential election on March 4th. Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as president on April 8. A number of candidates were competing. The winner, with 50.07% of the vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, is son of the first president, Jomo Kenyatta.  Uhuru is the richest man in Kenya according to Forbes .  His victory was challenged in court by the nearest runner up, Raila Odinga, but the Kenya Supreme Court upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga probably won the previous election in 2007, but the counting was shut down and the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, encouraged by the US ambassador, made an electoral coup.

Uhuru Kenyatta is under indictment by the Internation Criminal Court for crimes against humanity following Kenya’s 2007 election. Since the election the witnesses against him and his Deputy President William Ruto, a long time associate of former President Moi, have been recanting their testimony and otherwise withdrawing. There are strong rumors of threats and intimidation of the witnesses.

Regarding the 2007 election, b real writes this comment on March 11 2013:

my read of events in 2007 was that kibaki lost fairly but the u.s., alone at first among external handlers, refused to let odinga win — [US ambassador] rannenberger even spoke openly of this –and managed to get odinga to allow himself to concede w/ the shared post and idea that he would be groomed to win in the next eletion, once he had proven his competence at running this anchor nation approvingly. he believed the u.s. But now rannenberger is gone and things are a little different.

There are those that say the US now needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the US.

In addition to a variety of businesses, Uhuru is:

. . . heir to some of the largest land holdings in Kenya. He owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country. The land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices.

Forbes called Uhuru the richest man in Kenya, but that position is probably held by Daniel arap Moi, president of Kenya 1978-2002. However, most of Moi’s holdings and business dealings are not publicly available information.  Moi is widely perceived as Uhuru’s mentor.

All Kenya's presidents in one room more that 30 yrs Ago. Thanks to Digital Records Tech.

All Kenya’s presidents in one room more that 30 yrs Ago, left to right: Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki, Daniel arap Moi. Thanks to Digital Records Tech. Looks more like oligarchy than democracy.

The immediate concern of ordinary Kenyans will be how the incoming government implements a new Constitution designed to devolve power and money to the counties. The document is seen as the key safeguard against a return to the “winner-takes-all” system of old. But historians warn that when Kenya tried devolved governance before, at independence in 1963, the experiment was swiftly sabotaged by Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenya's fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, receiving the IEBC certificate

Kenya’s fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, receiving the IEBC certificate

Celebrations in Nairobi following the 2013 election

Celebrations in Nairobi following the 2013 election

Looking back over recent electoral history:

December 29th, 2002

Moi. Is. Going. There was a time you didn’t dare speak the words.

My father’s voice exults over static from Nairobi to San Francisco.

Kenya’s election results are rolling in. Mwai Kibaki, the presidential candidate fielded by the rainbow coalition of opposition parties, has won 65% of the vote. Titans of single party rule have lost their seats. An unprecedented eleven women have been elected to parliament. The era of Daniel Arap Moi, and the ruling party KANU, who have plundered Kenya at will for 24 years, is over.

For Kenyans, this is the Berlin Wall coming down. This is a Florida recount where the truth prevails. Kenyans were killed for this. People were tortured, exiled, imprisoned, for resisting single-party rule. I never believed I would see it end in my lifetime.

I’m glued to my monitor, shooting jubilant emails to other Kenyans in Boston, London, New York. We are sitting up all night watching results come in. Tears of hope and renewed pride rolling down our faces.

December 27th, 2007

A record eight million Kenyans rise as early as four a.m. to vote. We queue for up to ten hours, in the sun, without food, drink, toilets. I know a woman who gets out of her hospital bed, pulls the drip out of her neck, crosses the city on matatu and foot with bloodstained bandages visible – to vote. The country speaks through the ballot. Against greed. Against corruption. Against neo-colonialism. Against feudalism. It is the largest, best organized non-violent mass protest in our history.

Opposition observer. Says the tally just announced is different from the one he confirmed in the constituency.…..

The anchor is reporting from outside the conference center. There has been a power blackout at Kenyatta International Conference Center. The media have been ejected by paramilitary police who are arriving in trucks…..

Then, all the channels go dead, except for the government mouthpiece KBC.

There are only three tribes in Kenya. The haves. The wanna-haves. The have-them-removed.

Father Jomo Kenyatta and son Uhuru Kenyatta

Father Jomo Kenyatta and son Uhuru Kenyatta

Patrick Gathara is a talented artist, cartoonist, and fan of biting political cartoons, see KenyaToons or Scarycature. He also writes a blog that is particularly useful for understanding the recent election in Kenya, Gathara’s World, which also features some of his artwork. He is a keen and profound observer. Here are some of his observations, please visit the links for more information and more context.

We had already normalized the abnormal, making it seem perfectly acceptable to have two ICC-indicted politicians on the ballot. At the first presidential debate, moderator Linus Kaikai had been more concerned with how Uhuru Kenyatta would “govern if elected president and at the same time attend trial as a crimes against humanity subject” and not whether he should be running at all. Any suggestion of consequences for Uhuru’s and William Ruto’s candidature had been rebuffed with allegations of neo-colonialism, interference and an implied racism. People who had spent their adult lives fighting for Kenyans’ justice and human rights were vilified as stooges for the imperialistic West for suggesting that the duo should first clear their names before running for the highest office in the land.
March 10,2013

 

Those who oppose impunity, who take a stand against corruption and electoral malpractice, who demand the freedom to speak their thoughts or dress as they wish – these are today’s enemies.

I can’t help wondering whether we have just struck a grand bargain with our murderous elite. Whether we have not traded in justice for peace and values for prosperity. A laptop for our kids and superhighways, virtual and real –these are today’s struggles. Notions of equality and accountability are so yesterday. The imperialist West with its flaky notions of freedom and human rights and its flailing economies no longer holds any attraction for us. We prefer the hard pragmatists in the East. Our new political model is China. What does it matter if you break a few eggs to bake the national cake? Liberal democracy may sound nice but it won’t put food on the table.
April 5, 2013

 

National security has always been the excuse of choice for repressive governments seeking to clamp down on dissent. It is such an attractive ploy because the definition of what constitutes national security, let alone a threat to it, is not only extremely vague but very much dependent on what shadowy figures with “intelligence” declare it to be.

In 2007, so we are told, historical grievances, sparked by the refusal to accept a stolen election, led to a spontaneous orgy of killing and destruction. This, I think, is largely a work of fiction. Or at best, it is a selective retelling. It seems pretty much everyone who has looked into it has concluded that most of the violence was premeditated and prearranged. Meetings had been held and targets pre-selected; pre-outraged thugs had been paid, prepped, armed and ferried about. Politicians and radio stations incited, homes and churches were burnt and people died.

Today, it is not the fact of pre-ordained violence that we are constantly reminded of. Rather, it is the refusal to accept the official version of events, what many saw as a plainly fraudulent outcome, that is portrayed as the casus belli. The narrative of our sojourn into hell has been spun as a consequence of defying our betters, of demanding to see the intelligence and make up our own minds.

To extricate ourselves from this pernicious ideology, we need to go back to the beginning. To recognise that we have been gullible and begin to reconstruct narratives that more accurately reflect the truth.
April 3, 2013

 

The idea of Kenya that had blossomed in 2002 thus proved to be nothing more than a transient phenomenon, a moon flower. Perhaps it was the irrational exuberance of youth that led us to believe that a different Kenya was possible; perhaps it was our sheltered upbringing as privileged members of an aspirational middle class nurtured on a diet of false patriotism, fantastical promises of development, western sitcoms and CNN. Perhaps we wanted to see in ourselves something that wasn’t really there.

For Kenya had not been founded as a community of Kenyans but as a playground for the privileged. The uplifting of the living standards of the majority of the people has never seemed to be the goal of our politics and our politicians. As I have written before, it has always been about the wenyenchi, not the wananchi. Democracy, human rights and all other fashionable slogans have been for them little more than a pathway to power and riches.

Any who thought otherwise were quickly shunted aside. Today we glorify their courage as we trample underfoot everything they stood for.
March 19,2013
[Note: Wananchi literally means "people of the nation." However, it is not to be confused with wenyenchi, for which the closest English translation is "citizens" or "owners of the nation." Within the political discourse, these two terms are opposites; they suggest class distinction, between the majorities who live and work at local levels, and the elites who control the upper echelons of the nation.]

 

The richest man in Kenya is now its leader and in his first address has indicated that he is viewing our problems from a distinctly economic and technological angle. Throughout the inauguration ceremony, we heard promises of double digit economic growth, free laptops, free maternity health, a fund for women and youth.

But the events of the last month have exposed have exposed deep rifts in the national psyche that cannot be papered over with money alone.

In a very real sense, if President Uhuru Kenyatta is to live up to his promise of working towards “a rich and abiding peace,” he will have to confront the very system that has put him where he is. He, perhaps even more than the rest of the country, would need to confront and expose painful realities about the conduct of his family and its old friends. He would have to live up to his name and free himself, and thus his countrymen, from the shackles of the past. If he found the courage to do so, he might just be the best thing that ever happened to Kenya. So, Godspeed to him.

But we all know that this is unlikely to happen.
April 9, 2013

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

The energetic continuation of Bush administration policies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are damaging the United States. Though far less well known, these policies are as mishandled and misbegotten as the Iraq war, the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the global financial meltdown.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger bears much responsibility for the disasterous handling and direction of these policies. He actively undermined democracy in the Kenya elections a year ago. As a result Kenya is less democratic, and less safe and secure. Extra judicial murders are on the rise.

The New York Times finally wrote some of this up in A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll. Much of this was reported at the time in a variety of places, you can read an account with links in this article, including the comment thread: The Coup in Kenya.

What the NYT article makes clear is that Ranneberger had determined Kibaki should win the election before the election occurred.

Heading the institute’s Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. … Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

“It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign,” Mr. Flottman said.

Many of us watched the polling in Kenya and felt the soaring optimism that democracy might really be working. It was quite clear to any observer that the trend was strongly in favor of Mr. Odinga, and the polling was reasonably orderly and peaceful. As the ballots were being counted, President Kibaki and his cronies made a coup, seized control, and declared Kibaki the winner. Ambassador Ranneberger was quick to congratulate Kibaki on his win, although in the face of international opinion he had to retract this later. Then the US through Ambassador Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer did its best to prevent completion of the vote count, and prevent a recount. Terrible violence followed the elections, and it was clear the security forces were responsible for a majority of the killings. Since it was clear and could not be denied that Odinga had won a lot of votes, the US pressed for a coalition government. That is not what Kenyans voted for. And now Kenyans say government failing them 1 year later.

During the Kenya election the IRI, was conducting an exit poll, which Mr. Flottman was supervising. Since the votes were not counted, Kenyans really wanted to see the results of the exit poll. but the results were supressed. From the NYT:

Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll’s technical quality and “other key diplomatic interests.”

Quality was not expected to be a concern. …

When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.

But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, … Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed “any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute’s polling program without written permission.

I think they were trying to shut me up,” he said. “I refused to sign it.”

In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it “now had confidence” in the poll and released the results.

When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.

After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.

Michael Ranneberger led an active fight against democracy in Kenya. But it is not just in Kenya. As his State Department bio says:

Michael E. Ranneberger is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and is also responsible for U.S. relations with Somalia.

He has been ambassador to Kenya since mid 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia. This brought the first functioning government Somalia had in 15 years. Under the ICU, piracy by Somalis stopped completely. Peace was restored, businesses sprang up, Somalis abroad returned home. But the US claimed that the Islamic government was allied with al Qaeda, even though many people knew, and a West Point study told them that:

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

At the end of 2006, the US supported an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, contrary to international law. The US helped install a (non) government by the hated Ethiopians allied with the hated Somali warlords, restoring civil war, exploitation, and insecurity to the Somali people. The US arranged with Kenya to rendition refugees of that disaster, who crossed the Kenya border, to be tortured in Ethiopia as “terrorists”. When asked about the US participation in the invasion, and killing Somalis, Ranneberger just ignores the truth and repeats lies:

Question [Dom]: Ever since the last attack by US to Somalia near Kenyan Border, which killed more than 20 innocent civilians. No word of apology has been spelled out yet. Was that not a mistake?

Answer [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I appreciate your question, because there has been a lot of rumors and misinformation, and I am happy to clarify what happened. No innocent civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks. U.S. efforts are solely directly against known terrorists.

This despite the fact that the US was:

running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

But Ambassador Ranneberger blithely continues to support the violent and corrupt TFG he helped install, and innacurately condemn the ICU government he helped overthrow:

Q [Abdalla]: … Somali people were able to say enough is enough and they established a government free from the warlords. The international community instead of forcing the warlords to accept the government it sided with the warlords and allowed the government to be dismantled and Ethiopia succeeded in establishing a client government led by warlords. Somali people again as usual and eager to have law and order they accepted the TFG with it is short comings and the past/present records of its members. The Warlords instead of working for their people they become dysfunctional and started harming the Somali people. Fortunately, in June 2006 the Somali people plus Islamic courts succeeded in getting rid the south-central part from the warlords. The only city they remained was in baidabo with the protection of their Ethiopian master. The international community blatantly ignored the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in a sovereign country. During the reign of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the Somali people were able to forget the clan mentality and corrupt clan elders. For the first time the minority and un-armed Somali communities felt that they are part of the Somali society. They had a voice thanks to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Dahir aways who was able to control former militias.

Also, we Somalis in the Diaspora were able to invest in the country in my case I built a house for my mum and planned to visit her in January 2007. Unfortunately, the American justice is with us and our old enemy plus the warlord government is back to Mogadishu. America rewarded the warlords and punished the ICU who brought peace and tranquility to their people. …

All of these good things are destroyed now and we are back to 1991.

A [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu. However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people. The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed, with the assistance of Kenya, as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people. With the ousting of the Courts, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility in order to become an effective, inclusive government. Our objective is to support this process.

I want to emphasize our commitment to an inclusive process that truly bring together all Somalis who reject violence and extremism. This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security. I believe that the Somali people are tired of the chaos and conflict that has plagued their country and want to participate in an inclusive political process. This will, in turn, lead to a smooth transition to an elected government in 2009.

You can not appeal to people who reject violence and extremism if you have just overthrown their government by violence and extremism. There is no path to “security and stability” that way. Overthrowing the Somili government with Ethiopian proxies meets no definition of the word inclusive. It works against any possibility for democracy.

Ranneberger is telling the Somalis that he knows better what is good for them than they do. Whatever else this is, it is NOT democracy. The TFG brought violence, exploitation, and insecurity. It has been beaten and discredited since then. The 2009 elections were held by a small group of Somalis in Djibouti, arranged by the US, and then called “representational”. They elected Sheikh Sharif, the handpicked choice of Ambassador Ranneberger. Sheikh Sharif has been “persuaded” by Ranneberger to become an ally of the United States. Sheikh Sharif is supposed to give a new face to the TFG, but so far, there is not much evidence he will be accepted, or that things will change for the better. Any solution to the governance or the piracy problems in Somalia must involve Somali communities. Ranneberger’s actions continue to actively harm any possibility for democratic processes or participation. Inviation only “elections” in Djibouti will not help Somalia.

As b real points out, Ranneberger:

… has had official capacity wrt sudan during the early part of this decade, possessing a cv that intertwines w/ a history of cia hotspots & covert arms transfers

  • country officer in angola (1981-84) while the u.s. was overtly supporting the “proto-terrorist” Unita
  • then constructively engaged as deputy chief of mission in mozambique from ’86-9 while the u.s. was covertly supporting the outright terrorist mvmt Renamo
  • then paraguay for the ’89 coup and on through 1992
  • then ’92-94 around el salvador & guatemala for who knows what
  • a brief stint as deputy chief of mission in mogadishu around ’94
  • then some work in haiti
  • then coordinator for cuban affairs (’95-99)
  • on to ambassador to mali from ’99-2002
  • in sudan from 2002-4 for a civil war while the u.s. supporting the south
  • then on to the african bureau
  • sudan again, as senior representative for sudan
  • and, since 2006, ambassador to kenya & responsibility for u.s. relations w/ somalia

One of the things that has distressed me for decades is how negative and counter productive US policy has been towards the developing world, particularly during the Cold War. This is not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America as well. Look at the ravages that military coups wrought on Latin America under the training and aegis of Southcom and US Cold War policy. Cheney, with Rumsfeld and Bush, has done his best to lock Cold War patterns and thinking into place, and to lock Bush’s successors into misguided and counter productive policies going forward, policies that ultimately hurt the United States. So far Obama has slipped right into that trap.

In an interview Mahmood Mamdani speaks about the:

way in which the Cold War almost seamlessly morphed into the war on terror.

We see that in action in the work of Ambassador Ranneberger. He opposed democracy when it was actually working. By doing so he hurt the United States by harming people in countries that would like to be our friends, by denying democracy, and by damaging trust, and the reputation and integrity of the United States.

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