Calestous Juma: How tribalism stunts African democracy
Africa’s democratic transition is back in the spotlight. The concern is no longer the stranglehold of autocrats, but the hijacking of the democratic process by tribal politics. (27 November 2012)
Global Leadership Foundation Case Study One: Kenya (2011-13)
Against the background of the violence and political turmoil that followed the elections of 2007-8 and the radically new Constitution which had since been approved by referendum, GLF’s project in Kenya was focussed on the 2013 elections and offered private support and advice to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
At the invitation of the then Minister for Law and Constitutional Affairs, exploratory visits were made to Nairobi in December 2011, to attend the AU/Kofi Annan Foundation Conference, and again in June 2012. The project was designed in consultation with the Chairman of the IEBC.
Recycling e-waste is becoming lucrative business in Kenya
Electronic waste is becoming a moneymaking business in Kenya, helping to reduce poverty. A network of e-waste collection centers is being developed that will recycle materials responsibly and will connect e-waste collectors with the global market for recycled materials. Reuters (3/25)
“We need to educate the population that this so called electronic waste is actually a resource. It becomes a resource when it is recycled in the correct way.” But the waste can be dangerous too – releasing harmful toxins when burnt the wrong way. This plant in Nairobi is educating collectors like Leonard on how to handle it properly. It’s also promising jobs – Claiming to be Kenya’s first sustainable e-waste recycling centre, it plans to create a network of collection points across the country that’ll process the waste and sell it back to the companies it came from.
Report: Laws fail to ensure women’s inclusion in Kenyan government
Kenya has passed laws to boost the number of women in government, but recent elections showed the laws had little influence over the results and were often not implemented, says a report by the Federation of Women Lawyers. “We have good laws that we are not using,” said Mariam Kamunyu, the report’s lead author. Thomson Reuters Foundation (12/5), Thomson Reuters Foundation (12/6), Thomson Reuters Foundation (12/6)
African Union urges ICC to defer Uhuru Kenyatta case
(BBC) The African Union summit in Ethiopia has demanded a deferral of The Hague trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, due to start in November.
The Guardian: Kenyan authorities had been warned about threat to buildings ‘day before attacks’
Intelligence agents are said to have been in Westgate mall just hours before killings, as criticism over government grows
The Guardian: Kenya official says military caused collapse of Westgate mall floors
Top-ranking official’s comments raise possibility that military may have killed hostages in their rescue attempt
Terrorists rented shop, set up Al-Shabab base in Kenyan mall before slaughtering dozens: report
Two weeks before slaughtering dozens at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, terrorists rented a shop at the upscale centre to store weapons and gain access to service elevators, a new report claims.
The shop also let them set up a defensible positions and allow them to resupply easily, the BBC reports, citing senior security sources.
Officials had previously said they stored belt-fed machine guns in the mall with the help of a colluding employee.
The BBC suggests that the only way the terrorists could have rented the shop was with fake IDs obtained from corrupt officials.
American girl saved by Somali Muslim hero of Kenya Westgate mall massacre
Kenyan mall shooting: ‘They threw grenades like maize to chickens’
(The Guardian) Nairobi’s most upmarket retail centre became a scene of carnage as terrorist gangs armed with AK-47s and grenades singled out victims.
The entrepreneurs of Africa’s Silicon Savannah
Kenya’s fast-growing IT sector, dubbed the Silicon Savannah, already accounts for 5 per cent of the country’s GDP. The Kenyan government is aiming to boost that share to 35 per cent. Its technology exports have soared from $16-million to $360-million in the past decade. Much of these exports are born in tech hubs and incubators such as the iHub – one of six such hubs in Kenya and more than 50 that now exist in at least 20 countries across Africa.
As the tech boom gains strength, multinational companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia and IBM have flocked to Kenya to set up research labs or to support incubators such as iHub, where more than 50 startup companies have emerged since the hub’s launch in 2010. The iHub has become an icon of African geekdom, attracting more than 11,000 techie members to work and brainstorm ideas over endless cups of what its website boasts is “the best coffee in Nairobi.”
Fire guts Kenya’s main airport, chokes regional gateway
(Reuters) – A fire engulfed Kenya’s main airport on Wednesday, forcing the suspension of international passenger flights and choking a vital travel gateway to east Africa.
The country’s anti-terror police boss said he did not believe that there was a terror link to the fire even though it coincided with the 15th anniversary of a twin attack by Islamist militants on the United States embassy in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of neighboring Tanzania.
Kenya seeks to help end DRC strife
(Daily Nation, Kenya) Kenya has asked to be part of a new United Nations initiative to end an outbreak of fresh violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Leaders of member states of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region accepted Kenya’s formal request to be part of the peace agreement at a special summit in Nairobi on Wednesday.
President Uhuru Kenyatta had said Kenya was also affected by the violence in Eastern Congo and that the region’s security required the participation of all countries, including Kenya. The President said the conflict had affected the economies of stable countries such as Kenya.
‘Big Mama’ and the Massacre: ICC’s Reputation at Risk in Kenya
(Spiegel) Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, is doing all she can to put Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta behind bars. But the hurdles are high, and failure could spell doom for the dream of global justice.
Fatou Bensouda, 52, and her team have taken the bold step of indicting 51-year-old Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. But in this case, there is a stark contrast between their aspirations and reality. At the moment, Kenyatta’s attorneys seem to have the upper hand. They have demanded that the case be dropped, arguing that there is no evidence to prove that their client is guilty. In mid-June, they managed to postpone the planned court date a second time, this time for four months, on the grounds that the prosecutor’s office had not produced evidence on time.
Throughout Africa, as well as in the West, doubts are growing as to whether the case has a future at all. Daily Nation, Kenya’s leading newspaper, called the case “a farce,” while a TV commentator in Nairobi referred to it as “suicide on the part of the world court.”
Kenyan Spring Failing to Blossom
(IPS) – Kenyan police are said to be investigating the rise of a group dubbed the March 4th Movement (M4M), which aims to make Kenya ungovernable by recruiting youths to take part in protests, similar to those that saw Egyptians overthrow their president. But politicians and analysts here say they do not foresee the movement capable of creating an East African Spring.
According to reports by local newspapers, M4M aims to exploit the discontent among Kenyans, many of whom are upset about rising food prices, to overthrow President Uhuru Kenyatta. They had allegedly planned massive nationwide protests similar to those seen this July in Egypt that led to Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, being overthrown by the army. In 2011 mass nationwide protests by Egyptians led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak as the country’s president.
In Kenyatta’s first 100 days of power, from Apr. 9 to Jul. 19, there have been a series of street protests and labour strike threats in the public sector, but none to the scale of what was seen in Egypt. From Jun. 25 to Jul. 17, 280,000 teachers from the Kenya National Union of Teachers went on strike. But the strike ended primarily because the government threatened to freeze their salaries.
Uhuru Kenyatta: ICC trial witnesses withdraw
(BBC) Two witnesses due to testify in Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial have withdrawn over security concerns, the International Criminal Court has said.
A third witness’s evidence is no longer considered necessary and has been dropped by the prosecution.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor has previously accused Kenya’s government of not protecting witnesses.
Mr Kenyatta is accused of orchestrating deadly violence after the 2007 election, an allegation he denies.
In March this year he was elected president and his trial at The Hague is due to start on 12 November.
Kenya hopes Ethiopian electricity will power development
Kenya’s power-buying agreement with Ethiopia is intended to speed development. Critics of the project say it will harm the area’s ecology and reduce tourism. TrustLaw (6/12)
… In one of Africa’s biggest cross-border power deals, Kenya is undertaking an ambitious project to import 400 megawatts (MWs) of power from its northern neighbor Ethiopia.
The goal is to bring electricity to 870,000 homes and thousands of businesses in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, where only 25 percent of the 2.5 million households currently have power.
Expected to begin in September and be completed by 2018, the project will involve building 1,068 km of high-voltage power lines between southern Ethiopia and the Rift Valley. Two converter stations will also be built, one in Wolaita Sodo, a town in south Ethiopia, and another in Suswa township in Narok.
Kenya swears in president, West faces balancing act
(Reuters) – Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as Kenyan president on Tuesday, presenting Western states with the challenge of how to deal with a leader indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Cheered by tens of thousands of people at the ceremony, Uganda’s president praised Kenyans for rejecting what he called the court’s bid to sway the vote by “blackmail”, a reflection of the distrust or resentment of the court felt by many Africans.
A woman walks past a campaign poster for Ralia Odinga. (Siegfried Modola / Courtesy Reuters)
Kenyatta Is Declared the Victor in Kenya, but Opponent Plans to Appeal
(NYT) … it was not completely clear what the will of the people really was. The second-place finisher, Raila Odinga, Kenya’s prime minister, has refused to admit defeat and plans to appeal to Kenya’s Supreme Court to overturn the results, which some independent observers said were sloppy and suspicious.
(AP) That result is likely to bring controversy in Kenya and an almost certain legal challenge from Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Kenyatta needed to break the 50 percent barrier to avoid a run-off with Odinga, but he did so by only 4,099 votes out of more than 12.3 million cast.
The U.S. has warned of “consequences” if Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father, wins, as have several European countries. Britain, which ruled Kenya up until the early 1960s, has said they would have only essential contact with the Kenyan government if Kenyatta is president.
And the winner is… Things may get messier if the election goes to a second round
(The Economist) With nearly half the votes counted, Raila Odinga, the prime minister, was trailing by around ten percentage points. Trouble may come if the final tally, which may not be declared for a few days, puts the leading contenders a lot closer—or if neither candidate gets more than 50%, thus requiring a run-off. …
But before a second round goes ahead, lawyers from both sides will argue over how to count spoilt ballots. An unusually high proportion of votes—6%, at one point—were deemed invalid, largely because ballots were dropped in the wrong box, sometimes even by senior government officials. Voters were choosing representatives at six different levels of government, including parliament and newly demarcated county councils, all at the same time under a new electoral system. Not surprisingly, some were confused.
Slow Kenyan count puts technology on trial for African polls
(Reuters) – Kenya resorted to choppers to fly officials carrying results from this week’s presidential poll to the capital, let down by new technology aimed at avoiding the violent disputes that led to 1,200 deaths after the vote five years ago.
The snail-paced release of results, after the electronic system used to transmit numbers direct from polling stations to a central tallying center failed, has deepened voter anxiety and may undermine prospects for such systems in other African votes.
Kenyatta takes early lead as Kenya counts votes
(Reuters) – Kenyan presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta opened an early lead as ballots were counted on Tuesday in an election that brought out millions of voters despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.
CBC headlines Kenya election sees long lines and violence while the Guardian has a somewhat different perspective
Kenya sees huge election turnout but violence mostly limited to separatists
Uhuru Kenyatta leading rival Raila Odinga in early results but tight race could lead to runoff vote and rerun of 2007 clashes
Vote counting begins after largely peaceful election in Kenya
(CNN) — Vote counting began here Monday after largely peaceful elections in which millions of voters stood in line to choose their next president in a tightly contested general election.
The Elections Commission said some polling stations would remain open late to accommodate those still in line and to make up for having opened late.
Though some people waited in the sun for more than eight hours to cast their ballots, there was “no reporting at all” of intimidation, said John Stremlau, the Carter Center vice president for peace programs.
Handicapping the Kenyan Election — The Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios
Polling indicates that the contest is far too close to call. . … as Kenyan media and civil society groups have noted, the election of a person indicted by the ICC would inevitably dampen foreign investment, diminish the ability of donor nations to engage in security sector cooperation, hinder a range of foreign aid projects, and potentially subject the Kenyan public to rule by a distracted or pariah president. Moreover, it could bring U.S.-Kenyan relations to a dead end. That would be a shame: Kenya is a vital regional hub for foreign aid and commerce, and is an increasingly important partner in U.S. counterterrorism efforts, despite concerns that the U.S.-funded Kenyan troops in Somalia have not taken sufficient steps to protect civilians during military operations.
John Githongo: High stakes in Kenya’s critical election
(CNN) While much attention has focused on the close and potentially troublesome presidential election the real action may actually turn out to be at the county level that is totally new. Kenyans are coming to terms with the fact that what “normal” means is about to change forever.
All these factors, combined with reports of continuing ethnic balkanization in informal settlements, threats and arming for both defensive and offensive violence, have served to create an atmosphere of high anxiety preceding the polls.
The anxiety is in part because the country is trying to move so many big governance boulders at the same time informed by the violence that took place last time.
Kenya’s presidential candidates ‘failing to prioritise science’
(SciDev.net) According to scientists, neither of the two main political coalitions — the Coalition for Democracy and Reforms and the Jubilee Alliance, and their candidates, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta respectively — have prioritised the role of science, technology and innovation in solving developmental challenges facing the East African country.
While the political candidates have been talking about equipping the country’s youth — who comprise 60 per cent of the 40 million-plus population — with technical skills to create employment and reduce poverty, none of these suggestions mention the role of science and its links with national development.
Kenya’s new imperialists
On Monday Kenyans elect a new generation of leaders, forged not by the independence struggle but western corporate greed
(The Guardian) When Kenya goes to the polls on Monday, it will mark a generational change – no matter who wins. For the first time in its history, the country will be run by a leadership with hardly any direct experience of colonialism. There are risks to this development: the new leadership might trivialise what it means to be colonised, and the insidious ways in which imperialism is reproduced.
Memories of Violence Haunt Upcoming Presidential Election in Kenya
(PBS Newshour) After the disputed presidential election of December 2007, Kenya fell into chaos as neighbors from different tribal ethnic groups turned on each other in violence. Five years later, Kenyans are worried that history may repeat itself as they prepare for new elections. Special correspondent Kira Kay reports.
Vote M for Murder
In Kenya, politics is simply the continuation of war, by other means.
(Foreign Policy) On Monday, March 4, Kenya will elect a new president, its first in a decade. The last time it held a presidential election, five years ago, the country tore itself apart with an atavistic ferocity that still shocks and embarrasses people here. When discussing the episode with outsiders, Kenyans, normally unafraid to meet a gaze, will look off to the side. “Other countries in Africa act like that,” one hears a lot. “Not us.” They don’t try to deflect blame (no one mentions the CIA), but they do disagree about the causes of the violence. Tribalism is a given. Landlordism, too, some insist. Or corruption. Or inequality, alcoholism, and idleness (the local euphemism for unemployment, which has hovered stubbornly near 40 percent for years; nearly half the country lives at or below the poverty line).
in the half-decade since almost no one has been held to account. Of the 219 officials, politicians, police, businessmen, and others recommended by the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights for prosecution, only a handful have even been investigated. The Kenyan legislature couldn’t agree to set up a tribunal, so the International Criminal Court had to. It’s trying four people. That Kibaki and Odinga aren’t among them is, many feel, just another example of impunity at the highest levels. And if violence flares up again this year — and it will, on some scale — impunity will bear the gravest blame.
Safe Haven No More
Kenya targets its Somali refugee population
(CIC) With general elections scheduled for March 4, and al-Shabaab-linked terror incidents inspiring fear across the country, the Kenyan government is set to impose drastic measures aimed at both refugees legally registered with the UN and illegal migrants from Somalia. The directive, issued on Dec. 13, would see Somalis in Kenyan cities removed to the four Dadaab refugee camps in the country’s northeast.
The announcement of the new measures came after the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs moved to limit new registrations to designated camps while placing an immediate prohibition on aid activities by humanitarian groups to urban-based refugees.
Is Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah” financially viable?
Construction of a city being billed as “Africa’s Silicon Savannah” is under way in Kenya, which hopes to generate 200,000 jobs in information technology by 2030. The city is expected to cost about $14.5 billion to build. BBC (1/23)
Reversing spotty record of microfinance in Africa
A Kenyan bank is bucking the trend in Africa, where performance of microfinance institutions lags behind those in places such as Latin America and Central Asia. Equity Bank Group often relies on the potential for public shame — tying microloans to collateral such as matrimonial beds — to better ensure repayment from those who have not had bank accounts. The Wall Street Journal (7/22)
Biogas saves Kenyan school money, conserves nature
A school in the rural Rift Valley of central Kenya is a model for successful small-scale response to climate change, according to this article. The school cooks with biogas produced from latrines, eliminating fuel and sanitation costs while reducing harmful carbon emissions and sparing surrounding forests some 150 mature trees annually. AlertNet (5/31)
Oil and Isolation
(Project Syndicate) Kenya’s government recently announced that oil had been discovered in the Lake Turkana basin, an isolated region whose people have long been the butt of other Kenyans’ jokes.
… In addition to famine, the Turkana people have endured decades of raids by cattle rustlers from neighboring Ethiopia and Sudan (now South Sudan). Still, Kenya – which has been actively involved in peacekeeping operations in the Horn of Africa region and beyond – has not seen that as a good reason to protect Turkana.
The discovery of oil presents Kenya with a rare opportunity to end the Turkana community’s marginalization. Discussion of how the oil exploration and extraction will proceed needs to start now, and the health of the environment surrounding the Turkana people must be paramount.
“Pastoralists and indigenous people often rely heavily on their immediate environment for their livelihoods,” says Ikal Angelei, the director of Friends of Lake Turkana, which has been opposing the construction of Gibe III, an Ethiopian dam that threatens to reduce the amount of water flowing to the lake. Angelei says, “My fear is that if the oil exploration and drilling happens without community participation, and goes against the communities’ expectations, there is a great possibility of conflict.”
TV show gives makeover to Kenyan farmers
Farmers in Kenya are learning tips for boosting yields, as well as for obtaining financing, preventing disease and tapping into renewable energies, from an unlikely source: a reality TV program, “Shamba Shape-Up,” that reaches several million viewers and turns rural families into instant celebrities. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (5/15)
George Monbiot: Dark Hearts
A searing condemnation of British colonial atrocities in Kenya and recent cover-ups by the Foreign Office.
The story of benign imperialism, whose overriding purpose was not to seize land, labour and commodities but to teach the natives English, table manners and double-entry book-keeping, is a myth that has been carefully propagated by the right-wing press. But it draws its power from a remarkable national ability to airbrush and disregard our past.
Kenya: MPs Drag Feet Over Africa Treaty on Fair Elections
(All Africa) Kenya is unable to make use of an important charter on free and fair elections because MPs have not passed a law guiding the new process of approving treaties.
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance was approved by the government in 2007 before the new constitution was passed in 2010. In the old constitution, the executive arm of the government would sign and ratify a treaty on its own without parliamentary approval. But under the new constitution, only Parliament can ratify treaties. This means the treaty cannot be effective until it meets requirements of the new constitution.
Crucial Kenyan forest consumed by wildfire
The forests of Mount Kenya, a UNESCO World Heritage site described as the lifeline of the country, are burning. Wildlife are dying, the water-retaining green canopy is being lost, and rain is not expected until April. Al-Jazeera
Kenya PM wants polls in December 2012
Prime Minister Raila Odinga has now declared his stance over the next poll date saying a December 2012 election is the best option for Kenyans. … He argued that March polls would be grossly inconveniencing for the country’s academic systems as it would mean campaigning and voting in the midst of a school term.
“Since schools are routinely used as polling stations, this could be a cause of inconveniences and disruptions to learning. March campaigns and elections would also fall in the middle of a critical time in the calendar of most farmers in the country,” he argued.
The statement also revealed that the premier had already stated his position to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which later on Saturday declared polls would be held on March 4, 2013.
Kenya leads world in m-health projects
Students in Kenya are creating applications to use ubiquitous mobile technology — some 26 million of the nation’s 41 million people have cellphones — to track infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The app is just one of at least 45 m-health projects — more than in any other country, according to the mHealth Alliance — in cash-strapped Kenya. One issue with mHealth projects, according to mHealth Alliance Executive Director Patricia Mechael, is that there are lots of pilots but not necessarily a plan for funding projects once the initial funding is spent. MIT Technology Review (2/2012)
The sun powers hospitals in Kenya
Hospitals and medical clinics across Kenya are increasingly turning to solar power in a bid to counter rising energy prices and the effects of climate change. An increased reliance on solar power cuts operating costs for facilities and protects against surges or cuts associated with the country’s main electricity infrastructure. AlertNet (1/9)
Attacks to come in Kenya, Britain warns
(Globe & Mail) Britain believes militants are completing plans to attack Kenyan institutions as well as places frequented by expatriates and tourists, the British Foreign Office said on Saturday.