Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Catching Up With Kenya

A few updates on what's been going on in Kenya during my last week of downtime:

Kenya's parliament elected a new speaker yesterday, with ODM's Kenneth Marende beating out PNU's preferred candidate, Francis Ole Kaparo, who had served as the speaker of the national assembly since the 1990s. Kaparo's story is worth dwelling on for a second, because it says some interesting things about the dynamics of partisan and ethnic alliances in Kenya.

Kaparo is from Il Digiri, a small Maasai sub-community in Laikipia North District (my main study area). He was elected to parliament in 1987, at the apex Daniel arap Moi's single party rule through KANU. His election was noteworthy because he was the first Maa speaking MP from Laikipia East constituency (of which a majority is Kikuyu). When multiparty elections were reintroduced in 1992, Kaparo lost his seat to a Kikuyu member of the Democratic Party (the party for which Kibaki ran for president in that election). Although Kaparo lost his seat, KANU and Moi stayed in power (by means that have been long recognized as dubious), and he was rewarded for his loyalty by being made a nominated Member of Parliament, shortly after which he was elected to be the speaker of the national assembly. He managed to hold on to his seat through the party shakeups involved in both the transition to Kibaki's NARC government in 2002 and the breaking away of the Orange Democratic Movement during the failed constitutional referendum of 2005, in both cases claiming to be "above politics". However in the course of 2007, he showed himself to be a bit more of a government loyalist, working to bring Kibaki to Dol Dol (the main village in the Maasai area of Laikipia) in June. Although this was an official state visit, it amounted to little more than outright campaigning-Kibaki donated millions of shillings to the girls secondary school in Dol Dol, and a few months later gave the Maasai communities of Laikipia their own administrative district, both of which were tremendously popular in the extremely poor and remote communities surrounding Dol Dol. I read these actions as Kaparo trying to help Kibaki win over supporters in Laikipia north, which had been solidly in support of the opposition since 2005. Like many other members of "Old Guard" KANU (such as Moi and Uhuru Kenyatta), he threw his lot in with Kibaki's PNU- and thus became part of the political coalition that had gradually swept them out of power starting in 1992. This became even more clear in yesterday's polarized voting for the speaker of the 10th assembly in which Kaparo was clearly the "PNU candidate", in which he lost his seat by a slim margin to ODM's preferred candidate.

More Violence?
ODM is going forward with mass protests across Kenya today... this is likely to lead to more confrontations between protesters and police. It seems to me that both the government and opposition are playing a game of chicken- careening towards each other at full speed, with hopes that the other side will lose its nerve and back down. Unfortunately both sides also seem to have done the equivalent of "throwing the steering wheel out the window", with the government sticking firmly to its ban on public demonstrations and the opposition insisting that it will keep holding regular demonstrations. These upper level decisions, combined with a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality on the part of the police and dubious control by the ODM over its supporters seem to indicate that more violence will be quite likely unless one of the major leaders makes a significant concession. As of 10:30 AM Kenyan time, Al Jazeera english is reporting that no crowds have yet amassed in Uhuru park, but that 200-300 individuals have started to gather in Kisumu, but that things there are still calm. They are also reporting that ODM will be giving a press conference in about one hour, which should influence the direction that the next few days take.

At the Columbia Political Economy blog, Cyrus has continued his discussion on the role of perceptions of injustice in shaping participation in violence in Kenya , pointing out a nice article by IRIN about how much of the "tribal" cleavages that have been described by the western press actually map on to broader social and economic inequalities. I generally agree with his analysis that both objective grievances and the manipulation of those grievances by entrepreneurs are crucial to understanding the onset of political violence. I also think he's right that many students of political violence are too quick to say that a lot of violence is caused simply by individuals taking advantage of a political vacuum to pursue apolitical ends. At the same time, I think so-called "opportunistic violence" does play an important role- even if it may take perceived injustices to motivate high risk collective action (as Libby Wood's work in El Salvador has shown), the extent to which organizations are able (or willing) to limit other kinds of violence may ultimately shape the ability of rebel groups to address the injustices that caused them to mobilize in the first place (this is the subject of recent work by my colleague Amelia, as well as Jeremy Weinstein at Stanford).

Finally, a number of prominent Kenyan bloggers have started, Ushahidi, an initiative to map incidents of violence in Kenya using reports from Kenyans on the ground. Although I agree with Chris Blattman's initial skepticism, I think this could wind up being a useful tool for Kenyans on the ground, humanitarian agencies looking to target relief efforts, and researchers analyzing political violence. More thoughts as this project continues to develop.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Trash Talk-Naples

Waste at a trash dump in Naples- Image from USAToday

Today, the Guardian has an excellent short article on the public waste crisis in Naples, which has reached such an extreme level that the Italian army was called in to bulldoze the "festering piles of rubbish". Because the city's dumps are full, refuse has just started to pile up over the last few years, leading residents to simply burn refuse in an effort to try to clear clogged sidewalks and alleyways.

In addition to being a major public health and environmental problem, Naples's trash problem represents a massive failure of municipal government. The article points out that organized crime has played a significant role in blocking action by the local government to address the problem:
The problem has been compounded by the city's mafia, the camorra, which is said to make millions of euros from the transport and illegal dumping of waste. It is accused of sabotaging plans for new incinerators.

Anti-mafia investigators say the camorra even processes waste from factories across Italy at cut-price rates.

Camorra-controlled waste disposal - by burial or burning - has poisoned the environment so badly that people in some parts of the Campania region are three times more likely to get liver cancer than in the rest of the country, Italy's National Research Council told Reuters news agency.

Reading this article strongly reminded me of the description of differences in government performance between Northern and Southern Italy in Robert Putnam's Making Democracy Work. In this book, Putnam argues that the reason that government works well in northern Italy but struggles to provide basic services in the South is that Southern Italy lacks the civic networks that are present in the North of the country. The general ark of this article fits that story- local and regional government in Naples are clogged by corruption, and ordinary citizens are unable to engage in effective collective action to overcome these blockages. I'm interested to go back to Putnam's book to see if he explicitly looks at waste removal, or if there are other studies of community and municipal public goods provision in Italy.

Although Making Democracy Work is one of the books used by certain Yale professors to help first year poli sci grad students learn how to tear empirical research apart (see also this excellent critique by Princeton's Carles Boix and UCLA's Dan Posner), things like this Naples article will keep me coming back to it for a long time.

Brief Hiatus

I knew the pace of Kenya blogging that I started last week couldn't be maintained- I'm taking a few days off to do some organizational work and make some decisions about what this blog is going to be like in the longer-term. I'll still try to post Kenya updates as they come through, and I have a few longer analysis pieces that I'm working on.

I'm the meantime, I've added my Google Reader feed to the sidebar at right to highlight some interesting news and analysis pieces specifically on Kenya as the political situation continues to develop.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Rift Valley, From Above

Satellite imagery of fires in Kenya's Rift Valley Province, from the United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT). Story at IRIN. Click image for high resolution pdf.

Kenya-Quick Updates

Al Jazeera English and the BBC are both reporting that today's rescheduled opposition protest march in Nairobi has failed to materialize. Both sources focus on the substantial police presence as the reason that turnout for the rally was much lower than yesterday- no coverage yet from any of the noteworthy Kenyan blogs and no comment from opposition leadership.

The BBC and the Guardian both report that earlier today, the ODM started stepping up demands for new elections within three months. No response yet from the government, other than holding the line that they are only interested in pursuing political solutions after violence decreases, which somehow seems to miss the point.

In diplomatic news, both a senior State Department Official and Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda are on their way to Kenya to talk to both sides.

More Opinion and Analysis from Kenyans

Image of GSU policemen clearing out Nairobi's central business district prior to yesterday's cancelled ODM protest march, from mentalacrobatics

Tonight I've come across a number of excellent pieces written by Kenyans (and one Ugandan), both in Kenya and in the US, about how numerous nonviolent options are still viable but vulnerable:

Kenyaimagine presents one of the most thoughtful discussions of the various political options that I've seen, written by a collection of Kenyan professors of law and social sciences who teach in the United States.

Tavia Nyong'o, a professor of performance studies at NYU, writes in the Nation (the American magazine, not the Kenyan newspaper) about how the situation in Kenya is currently closer to Ukraine 2004 than Rwanda 1994. In the Kenyan Nation, Okello Oculi instead draws comparisons to Algeria 1992 and Nigeria 1993.

Mentalacrobatics has two excellent posts, one examining the roles that Kenyan civil society has been playing in providing humanitarian relief and dialogue and another providing an excellent photoessay documenting the state of affairs in downtown Nairobi and one of its suburbs prior to the aborted ODM rally yesterday.

A Kenyan who works in the financial sector analyzes the past week's violence, focusing on causes, effects, and ways forward (Bankelele, via kenyanpundit),

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kenya news updates

The big news from Kenya today is that ODM has postponed the million person protest/march in Uhuru Park after violence started to break out en route. The Nation has reported that almost every major road into Nairobi was blocked by security forces. The Nation, as well as - the BBC and wanjuguna all report that the protest will be rescheduled for tomorrow, but it is unclear how the situation will be different.

Stalemate At The Top

At the top, more and more officials inside and outside of Kenya are calling for probes into the vote tallying process, including various foreign diplomats,senior opposition leaders, and most interestingly the Kenyan Attorney general Amos Wako. However, as I argued yesterday, such a retally could be problematic due to problems reported with the official Form 16 (the vote reporting sheet) in a number of constituencies. Kenyanjurist points out the deeper problem with this kind of independent review is that it is unclear what the next step would necessarily be:

The problem with [tally by an independent body] is that it begs the question to what end. If he has already concluded that the court process is the only one that can reverse the decision of the ECK in declaring the election result then what is the need for having an independent verification without a remedy. What would happen it if found that the tallies and election material have been tampered with to the extent that it sould be difficult to know the winner of the election. Would the body declare a fresh election? What would happen if the independent verification revealed that the ODM candidate actually won the election. Would such an body declare the person president? Independent verification of the tallies and indeed the audit of the entire election process must be part of a larger political settlement.

The Standard reports that Raila has revised his conditions for a political settlement, saying now that he will take part in an interim unity government, with the understanding that the main role of such a government would be to prepare for a new presidential election, to be held in three months. While this is one of the more innovative political solutions that I've heard so far, it leaves a lot of questions wide open, such as how would further rigging claims and violence be prevented in a rerun of the election?

Perspectives from the Ground

The BBC has a running update of events in Kenya from its correspondents throughout the country, focusing on Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, and areas along the Ugandan border.

Kenya Imagine compiles the "conventional wisdom" currently held by many PNU supporters- while not terribly systematic, I imagine that if you did survey interviews of PNU supporters throughout the country, you would indeed find a lot of convergence. This offers amazing insight into how polarization can become self-reinforcing and create belief traps- I would imagine you would find a similar amount of homogeneity in how ODM supporters describe the situation.

The Guardian has a harrowing set of interviews with both survivors and perpetrators from the church burning in Eldoret. A must read.

IRIN looks at the flipside of the violence in Eldoret, with a story cooperation and solidarity across ethnic lines.

Finally, White African has a comprehensive list of bloggers covering events in Kenya (many of whom I have been drawing on in my daily updates)-especially important now that Kenyanpundit has headed back to South Africa, where she currently lives.


A response to recent comments from Ameila and Cyrus can be found here.

Kenya: Ways Forward

Following on yesterday's press conference, The EU Observer Mission’s 15 page preliminary report emphasizes that the most serious irregularities occurred in the tallying of the votes. Excerpts:

In a large number, almost a third, of polling stations visited, party agents were not given a copy of the result sheets, either because the form was not available or they did not request a copy. Furthermore, in more than a third of polling stations visited, the results were not posted at the polling station level fundamentally undermining transparency measures in the process. The aggregation of results in the tally centres was delayed and also lacked transparency in many constituencies. EU observers noted variations in the procedures used in some of these centres, depending largely on time and logistical constraints. The combination of the lack of transparency and variations in procedures meant that the observation role played by local party agents and observers was restricted in this part of the election process.

In Central Province, the majority of EU EOM observer teams experienced difficulties in obtaining the results for each polling station from Returning Officers during the tally process. In several constituencies including Mathioya, Kaloleni, Mvita, Kisauni, Changamwe, Likoni and Central/North Imenti, the Returning Officers refused to provide constituency results to EU EOM observers before these results were confirmed in Nairobi. The constituency results form in Kangema showed to EU EOM observers was only signed by a party agent of PNU. A number of party agents reported that they were refused copies of result forms. Furthermore, according to the ECK Chairman, some Returning Officers were reported to have disappeared after completion of the tallying process in their constituencies.

The solution that the EU Observer Mission is suggesting is an independent audit of the results- Again, as described in the preliminary report:

To enable doubts over the accuracy of the presidential results to be clarified, it is vital that an independent investigation is swiftly conducted and the ECK demonstrates maximum transparency in this period. As an essential step, the results of all polling stations must be swiftly published in newspapers and on the internet to enable an independent audit to be undertaken.

The problem with this solution is that part of the whole dispute that caused the final meltdown during the results meeting at the Kenyatta International Conference Center is that there is in fact disagreement over exactly which results sheets should really count towards the final national total. ODM leaders (and numerous ECK officials and observers) have pointed out that in numerous constituencies, result sheets used by the ECK differed substantially from those endorsed by returning officers.

Put differently, there are two possible points in the tallying process where results could have been inflated. The first kind of potentially dishonest tallying is with the actual constituency level results, where votes were being added to particular candidates tallies. With this kind of rigging (which could have either happened while counting at constituencies, or at the ECK headquarters), it should be the case that presidential voter turnout numbers should appear to be substantially higher than parliamentary turnout numbers, and there may be even multiple copies of vote record sheets. The second point at which tallying could have been done incorrectly is when the Electoral Commission of Kenya tallied all of the constituency level votes to get national level vote totals for each candidate. If this kind of malfeasance took place, then it would simply be the case that the total number of votes reported for each candidate nationally does not equal the sum of votes for each candidate received in each constituency.

According to Kenyanpundit (who quotes a journalist’s question from the EU EOM news conference), the audit being suggested by the EU mission would only really address the second kind tallying error:

I asked at the EU EOM press briefing this morning if a complete recount were at all possible, and they said no - a lot of the ballot boxes have been tampered with. The only thing that would be possible is a retally - i.e. take the documented constituency tally and count up again for the national figure. However, obviously this is not going to deal with issues like significant differences between presidential and parliamentary votes in individual constituencies, EU observers being turned away from different polling stations, and extremely high voter turnout.

Similarly, the above statement by the EU, which emphasizes publishing “the results of all polling stations” seemingly ignores the fact that the most contentious part of the election is in fact separating the “real” polling station results from those that were falsified either at the constituency or national level.

Given the shortcomings of solutions suggested by election monitoring missions, as well as the limited viability of turning to the courts, both Kenyanpundit and kenyanjurist are emphasizing that any solution must be political as well as legal. But what would such a political solution look like?

The Nation reports that the three major political candidates, Raila, Kibaki, and Kalonzo (of ODM-Kenya) are close to issuing a joint statement calling for calm in the country. However, it is a big leap from jointly calling for peace to actually forging a government of national unity. Although commentators from the Nation Columnists to Gordon Brown are suggesting such power-sharing arrangements as the way forward, Chris Blattman accurately points out that such suggestions are na├»ve at best. That said, I personally have no better suggestion for breaking the national-level deadlock- Raila seems unwilling to acknowledge the legitimacy of Kibaki’s claimed electoral victory or to cancel his mass protest scheduled for Thursday and Kibaki seems unwilling to name Raila president or take strong responsibility for the violence that has been going on since this past weekend.

Given that a national-level political solution may take months of negotiations between Raila, Kibaki, and various international actors, it is apparent to me that the immediate solutions to ongoing violence and insecurity are going to need to be local. The Nation’s coverage of the surprising lack of violence in Mlango Kubwa, a Nairobi neighborhood that has experienced a substantial number of clashes in the past, presents one kind of stable local order that might be able to emerge.

Since riots broke out in the city on Sunday, no major incidents have been reported in Mlango Kubwa.

“There are some hooligans who came from Mathare 4A area and started setting some kiosks on fire,” a trader said. He said the residents repulsed the gangsters. After that incident, elders resolved that the residents should not engage in the chaos.

“Here it is peaceful. Fighting is going on a few kilometres away from here, but we are keeping guard to make sure no one comes to incite people to fight one another,” said Mzee Juma Hussein. There were several groups on Juja Road who were keeping vigil to ensure no one entered the slum to cause unrest, as happened on Sunday when some shops were burnt.Mzee Hussein said residents of Mlango Kubwa want nothing to do with the chaos.

A survey by the Nation on Tuesday established that it was business as usual in Mlango Kubwa. Kiosk owners sold foodstuff and other wares.

Although we know that local conflicts can shape violence through a process of alliance with national level ethnic divisions
, the challenge in Kenya will be to do the reverse-to rebuild national level political order from systems of community governance that have survived (and perhaps been transformed by) the polarizing national elections.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

so this is the new year?

Kibaki the lame duck. Political cartoon by Gado, found via Kumekucha.

President Kibaki's apparent refusal to directly address the violence that is continuing throughout the country is becoming untenable. The BBC and Australian news sources have just reported that over 30 people (at least 25 children) were been killed in Eldoret (a city in Western Rift Valley), when a church that they were taking refuge in was burned. Bloggers are reporting that elsewhere the situation remains dire, with paramilitary troops guarding the city morgue in Nairobi (possibly to prevent accurate death counts from being released), shortages of food, water, fuel, cellphone credit, and cash from ATMs (Kenyanpundit). Several reputable blogs have also reported sharp increases of sexual violence. From Thinker's Room:

Nairobi Women’s hospital reports sharply increased incidences of rape, gang rape and sodomy based purely on numbers of people that have accessed their services. Considering the public transport system has ground to a halt I shudder at the thought of the actual numbers on the ground.
(Also Reported by Kenyanpundit )

International pressure on kenya has continued to increase in the last day, with the EU observer mission stating that the election "lacked credibility" (BBC) and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown encouraging Kibaki and Raila to meet to work together for unity (also BBC). Kenyanpundit reports that the international community is pushing for Kibaki to allow a recount that is broadcast live by the media. She also reports that members of the international community are flying in the former president of Sierra Leone to talk with Kibaki (presumably to provide a cautionary tale about the path he is treading).

Also today, several Electoral Commission of Kenya commissioners have publicly joined the side of the opposition ODM party and international observers (The Standard, via All Africa), arguing that there were substantial irregularities in the counting and reporting of votes, and demanding a judicial review of the tallying process.

At the same time that more and more voices inside and outside of Kenya are demanding recount, other Kenyan commentators are also making arguments similar to my comments from yesterday in demanding stronger leadership from the opposition's Raila Odinga. Kenyaimagine, which has been providing some of the most balanced online commentary on the situation, today published an excellent editorial calling on Raila and other ODM leaders to start making available their evidence of rigging. As they argue:

One of the problems of Raila and the ODM's chest-thumping after they [SIC] election is that it only served to whip up emotions without producing any facts.

Writing in the Daily Nation, Macharia Gaitho also highlights the crucial role that Raila and other ODM leaders will play in the resolution of this situation:
Mr Raila Odinga may be rightfully aggrieved at the election outcome. He may be enjoying the paralysis facing the newly-installed president, and salivating at the prospect of an Orange Revolution that will run the president out of town and pave the way for his own triumphant entry into State House.

But this should be the time for statesmanship, not brinkmanship. Mr Odinga may well have been robbed of electoral victory, but this is the time to demonstrate leadership in the interest of the nation.

Nobody right now is better placed than Mr Odinga and his key ODM lieutenants, Mr William Ruto and Mr Musalia Mudavadi, to do what the Government is unable to do – save this country from total destruction, and President Kibaki’s people from the threat of genocide.

The ODM leaders must rise above the political fray and call off their people who have reacted with such anger against what they see as a stolen election. If their intervention can restore a peace the Government is unable to, that will be the real demonstration of who has the people’s mandate.

To respond to Laia's comment from yesterday, I do think that theoretically Kibaki could do a lot to change the situation, by publicly condemning the violence- but doing this would also come close to acknowledging that there might be real grievances behind the violence (as opposed to pure thuggery as government spokesmen are asserting) and that the vote might not be legitimate, both of which would start the movement towards possibly overturning the election results, which his regime doesn't seem anywhere close to doing just yet. As a result, it does seem like Raila is the one who has the strategic space necessary to try to control some of the violence- as actually taking action that reduces violence will only serve to bolster his claim to be the actual president. If his party is the coherent organization that it presents itself as being, they should be able to control militants as well as rank and file- this is the same argument that Stathis Kalyvas made in his article on religious parties in Belgium and Algeria. If the ODM is as incapable (or unwilling) as the Kibaki government in taking concrete actions towards curbing the violence, Kenya's future is dire indeed.