An Ode to Stalin (Did Nothing Wrong)
| July 27, 2017 | 7:32 pm | J. Stalin | No comments

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 2
| July 26, 2017 | 8:32 pm | Africa | No comments

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 2

AfricaFocus Bulletin July 24, 2017 (170724) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women candidates. … The agitation for a greater political role for women led to progressive legal frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that would enshrine the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated House.” – Beatrice Akala

While most commentary on the August 8 Kenyan general elections focus on the familiar themes of the presidential contenders and the potential for violence in a close and disputed outcome, as in 2007, the election will also be notable for what it reveals about the impact of political “devolution” and the still contested role of women in politics.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains three short commentaries highlighting the continued obstacles facing the participation of Kenyan women in politics, as well as one focusing on the impact of “devolution” in expanding the levels of political contestation to six: “a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.”

Another AfricaFocus sent out today (and available on the web http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1707a.php) contains two commentaries focused on the election more generally, and one highlighting the devastating East African drought, the inescapable background to the August 8 election despite the lack of international attention to this massive humanitarian crisis.

For detailed news coverage, AfricaFocus suggests a custom google search of Kenya-based web sites using the words “Kenya elections 2017 site:.ke” as well as two other news sites aggregating content from different sources: http://allafrica.com/kenya and http://www.tuko.co.ke

The Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is on-line, with increased computer capacity and availability to check registration and other details, at https://www.iebc.or.ke/.

And there is an extensive analysis of the demographics of the expanded voter roll for the current elections, from DataScience LTD, available at http://tinyurl.com/yamygvsj

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/kenya.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++]

Election season offers a reminder that Kenya remains deeply sexist

By Beatrice Akala, Post Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Johannesburg

The Conversation, May 21, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/y86rtwwp

Kenyan folk stories celebrate women as strong, fierce heroines of the distant past. Women in some communities in western and central Kenya are said to have enjoyed considerable power directly or indirectly as chiefs, queens, queen mothers and advisors.

One of these communities even started off as being matrilineal. Women led and fought fearlessly to extend their territory. Although this community has since become patrilineal, its nine clans are still named after the daughters of its legendary descendants.

In more recent times, women endured the same hardships as their male counterparts in the political struggle to free the country from Britain’s colonial grip. They risked life and limb to ensure armed freedom fighters got food. They were also an important source of intelligence for the armed fighters as they came under less suspicion.

But, in the 50-odd years since independence, Kenya’s women have had a rough time of it in politics. The first post-independence parliament in 1963 did not have a single woman representative. Only nine had contested for a seat in the 158-member house.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the first woman was elected to parliament. In a chamber of 169 members, there were only two women – one elected and one nominated. At the end of 1992, 30 years after independence, the count was just two women in a chamber of 198.

Kenya’s progressive 2010 Constitution brought a sea of change in the last elections held in 2013. Not only were there seats reserved for women, but more candidates than ever threw their hats in the ring. The new parliament had a whopping 88 both elected and nominated. More encouraging was the number willing to contest House at 449.

But the change went only so far. None of the 19 women candidates seeking senate and gubernatorial positions were elected. Of the 1,450 elected to county assemblies there were 88 women (or 6%). In Parliament, the increase in numbers amounted to 19%. All were well below the constitutional minimum entitlement of at least a third.

Lazy, idlers and busy bodies

As the election draws closer, Kenyans are reminded how sexist and patriarchal their society has remained. Choosing to run is a particularly difficult decision for a woman and her family. Campaigning is often marked by violence directed at women candidates.

Women candidates in cross ethnic marriages are often easy targets. Some are taunted to go seek elective seats where they were born. The naming and shaming of the single, divorced and married as people who should be taking care of their husband is the order of the day in campaign rallies.

The agitation for a greater political role for women led to progressive legal frameworks. But historical prejudices have ensured that a bill that would enshrine the law has twice failed to get the numbers in a male-dominated House.

The Affirmative Action Bill is better known as the two thirds gender rule. Under an article of the constitution Parliament is required to pass laws to ensure that no gender holds more than two thirds of elective posts and public appointments.

Sadly, the 2013 Parliament has struggled to give to life the requirements of this rule. The failure further demonstrates the complexities of negotiating and upholding democratic principles, people’s wishes and constitutional imperatives.

Those against the implementation of the rule argue that women should not be handed free positions. They ought to go to the people and campaign for support. They have been branded as being lazy, idlers and busy bodies who don’t deserve to be in Parliament.

In addition, it has been argued that increasing women representation in parliament will hurt the economy due to the ballooning budget. One reads negativity and selfishness in the reasons being advanced. Those who hold leadership positions don’t want to let go.

Political parties can do more

Fundamentally excluding women from leadership means that the aspirations of half of the population are ignored. It should therefore be appreciated that if the playing ground was level, there would be no need to include the two thirds gender rule in the Constitution.

What will it take to bring the rule to life? Political parties can do more by making their leadership structures fair and inclusive. Their nominations should not be gender skewed and women who express interest should be given a fair chance to compete. And they could do more to shield women from acts of violence and thuggery.

Women are known to opt out of politics because of fear of violence because the impact on them goes beyond the physical harm. When they do, they lose their right to participate in politics as equal partners. And the country loses the opportunity to experience their aspirations, skills and the ability to lead and articulate the needs and voices of their people.

Having more women in leadership positions will also motivate young girls to strive for leadership positions when they grow up. The younger generation will grow confident that society is fair and doesn’t impose limitations on the basis of gender.

“I am a leader, but I was forced to quit”

Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2017

https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/kenya-elections-2017

In a country where women are routinely denied the ability to own and control their own finances, running for political office in Kenya is tough. And money isn’t a guarantee a woman candidate will be able to win over a patriarchal society. At the start of a painful drought in Kenya last year, Rosemary (name changed to protect her privacy), a young community organizer, decided to run for Member of the County Assembly (MCA). Human Rights Watch spoke to her in Mombasa about the challenges she faced as a young, unmarried woman, and about the threats and resource constraints that forced her to end her campaign. Rosemary’s account is edited for clarity:

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission       https://www.iebc.or.ke/       

I am a leader. I was the head girl in primary school and I was the music captain. In secondary school, I was games captain. I was the chairlady in Christian union group. I am also bright – I was number one in class. Now, I help school dropouts, when girls get pregnant I help them keep their partners accountable. I also work with 90 young mothers and do advocacy to help girls protect themselves from underage pregnancy.

Our area is inland. We only have small trees and it’s very dry and dusty. People are living in poverty, farming and cutting trees for charcoal which makes it hotter.

Last year, we had a bad drought. People had no water. I have my own tap on my compound so I would fill jerry cans and give water to others. I would wait for a car heading to areas without water and then I would send it along with some water. It was a lot of work.

Eventually, I called the county government, asking them to provide water for the people. The County Commissioner wouldn’t speak to me. He asked: “Who are you?” and I said, “I am Rosemary, a community activist.” He wouldn’t talk to me. He said that the local MCA needed to call him and that I had no right to call him directly, then he hung up.

But I wouldn’t give up. I kept calling – borrowing other people’s phones – until eventually he gave up and sent us a tanker of water.

That was when I decided to run for office. I launched my manifesto in April 2016. The priorities in my manifesto were water, education, health and participation for all. People really liked the idea of participation. I promised that I would invite everyone to community meetings so that everyone would have a say. Over 1,500 people came to my first rally even though I had only planned on 200. We ran out of food. I paid for the rally myself.

You can’t campaign without money. Even a grassroots campaign is expensive.

At the end of meetings, I would say goodbye, and the people would ask, “How are you leaving us? “They mean that I should give them a “sitting allowance” – money for coming to the meeting. Without that, they say: “just go, your words are empty.”

Transport by boda boda (motorcycle taxi) is 1,000 KES (USD 10) for the day. Then for each meeting you have to leave 4,000 or 5,000 KES (USD 40 to 50) minimum. Even if I use 10,000 KES (USD 100) a week would use up my money fast. I began to wonder how I would manage my life after the election, especially if I didn’t win.

Money is especially a big problem for women candidates. We have no networks, no big business. There were three women in the race when we started – only one is still running – she is not campaigning because she has no money. She is just registered and hoping for miracle. One woman candidate was running against the incumbent in the primaries, but she could not get money to transport her supporters. She lost in the primaries because she couldn’t get enough of her supporters to the polling station. There was a bus all the candidates in the primary were supposed to share, but they would ask everyone who they were voting for before allowing them on the bus. If you said you were going to vote for her, they would kick you off the bus. If you said you were going to vote for the incumbent, they allowed you on and gave you 200 KES (USD 2).

Security is also a problem – for example as a woman I don’t want to walk around at night. I got threats on the phone and on my Facebook account. “OK, Rosemary, drop this thing or else you know who we are,” they said, and “watch out for your life.” They also threatened me because I am a single woman with a baby. One said: “Go and get married and then come and ask for votes.” I reported to the police but they did nothing. You have to pay them to investigate in my town.

One day, someone dug up the waterpipe to my house, cutting off our water. I thought to myself: I don’t have to lose my life because I love my community. I started to think I could still help the community without winning an election.

When my boyfriend realized I was serious about politics, he dumped me. That was a big blow for me, I lost him and my money, I was emotionally down. That is when I decided to quit.

Still, in 2022, whether I am married or not, I will run again. I am going to start a business and get money to run; friends will support me. I have everything to be a leader.

Kenyans see gains in gender equality, but support for women’s empowerment still uneven, Afrobarometer survey finds

Afrobarometer News release

Institute of Development Studies, University of Nairobi, Kenya

8 March 2017

http://www.afrobarometer.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9rwzytb (press release) and http://tinyurl.com/y8sj9hex (presentation)

[Excerpts. For full press release and presentation with figures, see links above]

A majority of Kenyans say the country has made progress toward gender equality, but below-average support among men and lagging political engagement among women point toward remaining challenges, according to new Afrobarometer findings released on International Women’s Day.

Popular perceptions that girls and women have a fair chance at education and jobs, that gender violence is never justifiable, and that women should be accorded a fair shot at being elected are in line with perceived progress toward gender equality, the new survey data show.

But much work remains to be done among men, who trail significantly on most of these indicators. Moreover, key pillars of women’s progress continue to require strengthening, including an equal chance to own and inherit land and women’s political engagement. The findings are being released on International Women’s Day, during a period of tense political competition pitting female candidates against their male counterparts in August general elections. The release also comes at a time when the country is beginning to assess the effects of its new gender empowerment laws, including equal rights for men and women to inherit land and other property.

Key findings

* A majority (56%) of Kenyans say that women’s equality has improved in recent years. The best-educated women and men are twice as likely as their uneducated compatriots to see progress on gender equality (Figure 1).

* About one in seven women (15%) say they personally suffered discrimination or harassment based on gender in the past year.

* More than three-fourths (78%) of Kenyans say wife-beating is “never” justifiable.

* More than six in 10 Kenyans (63%) do not agree that men should be given priority in hiring if jobs are scarce.

* Nine out of 10 Kenyans say that girls now have the same educational opportunities as boys, but perceptions of gender equality drop to seven out of 10 with regard to earning an income and less than six out of 10 with regard to the right to own or inherit land (Figure 2).

* While 57% say women currently have equal rights to own and inherit land, more (64%) say they should have those rights. Men are almost twice as likely as women to reject equal rights for women when it comes to owning and inheriting land (39% vs. 21%).

* About two-thirds of Kenyan women (63%) and men (68%) say the government has performed well in promoting opportunities and equality for women.

* Three-fourths (73%) of Kenyans say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to political office (Figure 3). But men (66%) are less likely than women (81%) to hold this view. Support for women’s political leadership has remained steady since 2011.

* Women are significantly less likely than men to discuss politics, to contact political leaders, to join others to raise an issue, and to attend community meetings.

* More than half (54%) of Kenyans say they fear political violence and intimidation “somewhat” or “a lot.” Women and men are equally likely to express this fear.

Afrobarometer

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in Africa. Six rounds of surveys were conducted in up to 37 African countries between 1999 and 2016, and Round 7 surveys (2016/2017) are currently underway. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.

The Afrobarometer team in Kenya, led by the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, interviewed 1,599 adult Kenyans in September-October 2016. A sample of this size yields country-level results with a margin of error of +/-3% at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys have been conducted in Kenya in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2014.

Kenya’s 2017 elections will be like none before. Here’s why.

By Nanjala Nyabola

African Arguments, July 10, 2017

http://africanarguments.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yamra4mw

[Nanjala Nyabola is a Kenyan writer, humanitarian advocate and political analyst, currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow her on twitter at @Nanjala1]

Devolution has demystified local power and emboldened voters to assert themselves, leading to shocks all the way up the political pyramid.

Kenya’s 2017 elections are set to be the country’s most interesting yet. The political landscape has shifted, and whatever else these elections turn out to be – violent, peaceful, confusing – they are going to a different kettle of fish to previous polls.

The most obvious reason for this is devolution. After the 2010 constitution was passed, Kenya restructured its political and legislative units, breaking 8 massive provinces into 47 counties made up of various wards. The national legislature was broken into two branches, establishing the roles of senator and governor. And the position of women’s representatives was created in each county to help achieve the new constitution’s gender quotas.

These changes also affected how elections work. In 2007, Kenyans voted at three levels: for a councillor, a member of parliament (MP), and a president. On 8 August 2017, the electorate will vote at six: a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.

This was also the case in 2013, but since then, it has become much clearer how the different levels of government operate in relation to one another. This means that some positions have become far more attractive and therefore competitive. And this increased contestation at the local level has undermined some of the typical tropes of Kenyan politics such as tribalism and regionalism. Things have changed.

Kenya’s political pyramid

One can think of Kenya’s system of political operatives as operating in a pyramid formation. At the bottom are local elders. One step up are county assembly members, followed by members of parliament, senators, and county governors. Above them are the ethnic kingpins. These are powerful individuals that come together to at the highest level to form national political alliances or coalitions that then contest the elections. In the case of 2017, we have President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto on one side as the incumbents, with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others on the opposing side.

Typically, the role of local elders at the bottom rung has been to marshal voters to back the right kingpin at the top. Much of campaign spending goes towards cementing this local loyalty. Although politicians themselves sometimes hand out cash at rallies, the really important network has been low-level leaders giving out goodies in less intense environments. It’s the chief calling a village meeting and distributing bags of maize flour, or the women’s group leader dishing out t-shirts at the chama meeting.

In prior elections, knowing which way local leaders were leaning gave a good indication of how the overall vote in a specific region would go. For politicians, spending enough money on these low-level actors could usually guarantee a positive return at the ballot box.

Dismantling the pyramid

Not anymore it seems. Devolution has made local politics much more intimately connected with voters’ day-to-day lives. Power has become demystified, and this has inspired more people to challenge local leadership when it has been deemed to fail. A record 14,525 candidates are running for office in 2017, and low-level chiefs and elders can no longer guarantee voters’ support for a particular party through the traditional means.

In 2013, it was enough for a candidate who wanted to be elected to buy a nomination certificate from their party and then hand out money at a rally, safe in the knowledge that their “person on the ground” would distribute campaign goodies to people to secure their votes. But with a more discerning electorate who, through devolution, more closely see how local power works, or doesn’t, these tactics are no longer as effective.

This can also be seen in the way Kenyan voters have been rejecting the notion of “six-piece voting”. This was a strategy employed by national politicians in 2013 whereby they encouraged supporters to vote for the same party across all six levels of government. This was most beneficial to those candidates in the middle levels of the pyramid. Rather than establishing independent political identities, candidates for MCAs, MPs and senators could just provide money downwards to foster low-level loyalty for the party, while trading off the popularity of the national-level politicians above them.

When Odinga and Kenyatta have proposed six-piece voting in 2017, however, they have been heckled and booed at their own rallies. People don’t want to just vote blindly for the same party in all the boxes; they want more say in what happens at the various levels.

We saw these new dynamics play out in the party primaries this April. Despite significant attempts at mobilisation, voters rejected incumbent MCAs, MPs and even governors who they believe have failed to deliver. Several key allies of national politicians failed to win their party’s nomination.

Many of these figures are now running instead as independents, meaning that many ethnic groups have two or more powerful figures contesting key constituencies. This divides these ethnic kingdoms and presents a dilemma for political parties. On one hand, they need to appease loyalists by putting the force of the party behind each of their candidates; on the other, they need to court voters that support those popular independents that have left the party.

To date, leaders have responded to this conundrum by inviting some independent hopefuls to participate in party events, but this has led to public, and sometimes violent, clashes between supporters of the different candidates.

A new politics?

In 2017, voters are not just rejecting six-piece voting and exercising their judgements over local candidates beyond party loyalty. They are also being vocal and visible about it.

This is the first time in recent memory that we’re seeing national political figures appear uncertain before their own supporters during their own rallies. The sight of Kenyatta, a sitting president, being heckled – not once, but fairly consistently during the election period – is novel. That people at a Odinga rally would shout anything that wasn’t a synonym for ndio baba (“yes father”) is unprecedented.

Of course, more things have changed in Kenyan politics since 2013 than those examined here. But these changes, amongst others, have thrown a significant measure of unpredictability into the landscape. Political punditry in Kenya has always been fixated on the ethnic question, but this time around, it’s not going to be that simple. Ethnic loyalty is still important, but it is no longer absolute. Voters have changed, politicians are adapting, and everything is getting a lot more interesting.

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 1
| July 26, 2017 | 8:31 pm | Africa | No comments

Kenya: Pre-election Commentaries, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin July 24, 2017 (170724) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“Like Nairobi’s infamous matatus, the election is barreling along, many times on the wrong side of the law, the noise and vitriol of the campaigns drowning out common sense. For the terrified passengers, whether they — and Kenya — arrive at the other side in one piece seems to be coming down to a wing and a prayer.” – Patrick Gathara

Major global media will likely not pay much attention to the August 8 election until a few days before. But coverage and speculation is intense in the Kenyan press and social media, as well as among other observers of African politics who recognize its critical importance not only for Kenya but for the East African region and for democracy on the African continent.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two commentaries focused on the election more generally, and one highlighting the devastating East African drought, the inescapable background to the August 8 election despite the lack of international attention to this massive humanitarian crisis.

Another AfricaFocus sent out today (and available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/ken1707b.php) contains three short commentaries highlighting the continued obstacles facing the participation of Kenyan women in politics, as well as one focusing on the impact of “devolution” in expanding the levels of political contestation to six: “a member of the county assembly (MCA), a women’s representative, an MP, a senator, a governor, and a president.”

For detailed news coverage, AfricaFocus suggests a custom google search of Kenya-based web sites using the words “Kenya elections 2017 site:.ke” as well as two other news sites aggregating content from different sources: http://allafrica.com/kenya and http://www.tuko.co.ke

Another recent article of interest is: “Kenya is set to hold one of the most expensive elections in Africa,” by Abdi Latif Dahir, Quartz Africa, July 18, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y8s6dysb

The Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is on-line, with increased computer capacity and availability to check registration and other details, at https://www.iebc.or.ke/.

And there is an extensive analysis of the demographics of the expanded voter roll for the current elections, from DataScience LTD, available at http://tinyurl.com/yamygvsj

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/kenya.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++]

Why Kenya’s upcoming elections should worry the world

By Patrick Gathara

Washington Post Global Opinions, July 21, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/ycvy9cp5

[Patrick Gathara is a strategic communications consultant, writer and award-winning political cartoonist in Kenya.]

Driving in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, can be a nightmare. Not only is one prone to spending endless hours in traffic jams, but also the roads are menaced by brilliantly colored, insanely driven, hulking deathtraps that pass for the city’s public transport system. Terrifyingly oblivious to the dangers they pose to both their passengers and other road users, the matatus — as the beasts are called — are a perfect metaphor for Kenya as it hurtles toward elections next month.

With three weeks to go, domestic and international observers are concerned with whether the polls will be peaceful and fair. Kenya is still haunted by the the postelection violence of a decade ago, in which at least 1,300 people died and more than 600,000 were displaced from their homes. Many are fearful of a repeat of violence if the credibility of the election is in doubt, as it was in 2007.

There is good reason to worry. Just like in 2007, the campaigns of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, have deeply polarized Kenya along ethnic lines; the nation is split down the middle, with polls showing the race tightening as election day approaches. Across the country, there are reports of people moving their families away from ethnically mixed neighborhoods in areas anticipated to be flashpoints of violence, and into tribal enclaves where there is safety in numbers. David Ndii, one of the country’s top economists, says flights out of the country on dates surrounding the election are already fully booked.

More disconcerting has been the impugning of the impartiality of the judiciary. In 2007, the opposition refused to entrust the electoral dispute to the courts, providing the spark for the violence. Alongside its poor handling of the 2013 petition against Kenyatta’s election, the judiciary has had to endure continuing allegations of corruption. Public infighting has broken out within the Supreme Court, which was specifically established in the aftermath of the 2008 violence to deal with electoral disputes. Now, the opposition has already declared that if it suspects the election to be rigged, it would not be returning to the courts, as it did in 2013. Many fear that this is code for a resort to street protests that may potentially degenerate to violence.

The real fuel for the fire in 2007 was the unresolved legacy of the country’s colonial past, which manifests in the form of land conflicts and massive class and regional inequalities. By the time of independence from Britain in 1963, about 60,000 European settlers owned half of all agricultural land in Kenya. Since then, successive kleptocratic governments have preferred to concentrate these areas in the hands of a small elite, further exacerbating land hunger as the population has grown ninefold. This, in turn, has led to the huge wealth disparities with one report showing 62 percent of the country’s wealth being owned by just 0.02 percent of the population. The recommendations of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which was meant to help Kenya heal from history, have remained unimplemented; the report itself is gathering dust in Parliament.

The conduct of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has been a cause for serious concern. One study concluded that “preparations thus far have been plagued by several of the same problems that marred the last election cycle, suggesting a dearth of lessons learned.” Time and again, the IEBC has been chastised by the courts over its arrangements for the elections, most recently in cases concerning the finality of vote counts at the county level and its procurement of ballot papers (the latter case was recently overturned on appeal). Worse is the lack of transparency that has characterized the IEBC planning. IEBC finally agreed to provide public access to the registry of voters — after a questionable audit process. Even at this late stage, there remains little clarity on what “complementary mechanism” the IEBC plans to deploy if electronic and biometric systems — required for identifying voters and transmitting results from polling stations — fail as they did in 2013.

Perhaps most damaging to the IEBC’s credibility has been the perception that it is doing the incumbent’s bidding. This is reinforced by the near-identical positions the IEBC and the governing Jubilee Party have taken on almost every issue, sometimes resulting in party spokesmen purporting to speak for the elections body as well. As far as electoral abuses, the IEBC has been quiet on a series of TV commercials paid for by The President’s Delivery Unit, which clearly violate the legal prohibition against the government either advertising its achievements during the campaign period or using public resources to campaign for a particular candidate.

Like Nairobi’s infamous matatus, the election is barreling along, many times on the wrong side of the law, the noise and vitriol of the campaigns drowning out common sense. For the terrified passengers, whether they — and Kenya — arrive at the other side in one piece seems to be coming down to a wing and a prayer.

Kenyatta or Odinga? Why dynastic politics is alive and well in Kenya

by Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham

The Conversation, July 11, 2017

http://theconversation.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y8vadsw5

Kenya’s general election will be contested by a large number of hopefuls, but in reality it’s a two-horse race between Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance and Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party.

Unsurprisingly in a country in which the executive continues to wield a dominant influence, coverage of the campaign has focused on the personalities and records of Odinga and Kenyatta.

What does their candidacy tell us about Kenyan politics in 2017?

The first and most obvious lesson from the 2017 election campaign is that dynastic politics is alive and well in Kenya. Despite all of the contestation, efforts and plotting of rival leaders hoping to push their own ambitions, 2017 will be fought between a Kenyatta and an Odinga, just like the elections of 2013 and the Little General Election of 1966.

Rivals in the Kenya election Uhuru Kenyatta (left)      and Raila Odinga. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya     

The second is that ethnicity only gets you so far. In 2013, Odinga outperformed rival presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi within his own Luhya community. This was possible because while Odinga was seen to be a credible opposition leader, Mudavadi’s dalliance with Kenyatta – with whom he formed an extremely short-lived alliance – raised concerns that he was a State House puppet. Kenyatta’s recent rehabilitation as the dominant leader among the Kikuyu community following his electoral humiliation in 2002 also demonstrates this point well.

So who are the two leading contenders?

Odinga, the opposition stalwart

Raila Odinga is the son of Oginga Odinga, a prominent independence leader and Kenya’s first vice president who never realised his dream of occupying State House. Like his father, Raila has campaigned tirelessly against considerable odds, and has so far been unsuccessful. He narrowly lost elections in 2007 – when many believe he was rigged out – and in 2013.

Odinga’s great ability is to be able to mobilise well beyond his own Luo community, and to sustain his political party – the Orange Democratic Movement for a decade. Given that most Kenyan parties collapse within a few years, this is some achievement.

The breadth of Odinga’s support base is also impressive. In 2013 he performed well among Luhya voters in Western Kenya, Kamba voters in Eastern Kenya and also at the Coast.

Odinga’s capacity to mobilise support across ethnic lines has two sources. On the one hand, he receives some votes “second hand” as a result of the efforts of his allies from other regions and ethnic groups to direct rally their communities to his cause.

On the other hand, he’s built a strong reputation for representing historically economically and politically marginalised communities. Indeed, while he has never secured the presidency, he has contributed to political reform. Most notably, Odinga played an important role in bringing about constitutional reform in 2010 that introduced devolution and hence a degree of self-government for the groups in his coalition.

Kenyatta, born to power

In contrast to Odinga, Uhuru was born into power as the son of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and secured the presidency in the 2013 general election having previously failed to do so in 2002.

Kenyatta’s supporters like to say that he was born in State House, and hence born to power, although this is not actually true. But it is true that he has spent his life close to the machinery of government, and his family’s political influence and wealth give him a clear advantage in the elections. His gift is to be able to look and sound presidential when he has an important speech to make, despite his playboy lifestyle.

Although it’s tempting to see Kenyatta’s rise to power as inevitable, this is not the case. In 2002, he failed to mobilise support among his own community because he had been selected by the outgoing Kalenjin President Daniel arap Moi to be his successor. He was then widely seen to be a proxy for Moi’s interests. At that point, his political career appeared to be over.

It was not until Kenyatta developed a reputation for defending Kikuyu interests by allegedly funding and organising militias in the violence that engulfed the 2007 elections that he emerged as the dominant figure within the Central Province. It is for this alleged role that he faced charges (that were subsequently dropped) of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. This, and his electoral alliance with his co-accused – the influential Kalenjin leader William Ruto – were critical factors in his victory in 2013.

The 2017 race

During the campaign Kenyatta and Odinga have been a study in contrasts.

While Odinga stresses his intention to shake things up, Kenyatta presents himself as a safe pair of hands who will protect the status quo.

While Odinga plays up his image as the representative of the excluded, promising to deepen devolution and invest in poorer areas, Kenyatta emphasises building a national infrastructure and maintaining economic growth, arguing that the gains of the rich will trickle down to benefit all Kenyans in time.

These images are further entrenched by the criticisms that each leader makes of the other. Jubilee caricatures Odinga as an unprincipled thug who cannot be trusted with the fine art of government. For its part, the National Super Alliance charges that Kenyatta is out of touch and only interested in serving the interests of the wealthy within his own community.

Some complain that these differences are more rhetorical than real, one thing is clear. In fact Kenyans have a real choice to make at the ballot box.

Election outlook

The greater resources available to Kenyatta, along with the more professional team around him, mean that the opposition faces an uphill battle. Moreover, government interference with the media – which is regularly intimidated – means that while election reportage is vibrant some of the stories that would most hurt the government don’t make it on to the front pages.

It’s therefore not surprising that, at the time of writing, Kenyatta enjoys a small but significant lead in the polls. A series of surveys conducted by different companies using different samples have put him on around 48% of the vote, with Odinga on around 43%. These polls suggest that about 8% of Kenyans remain undecided. This suggests that Raila can still win, but to do so he will have to capture the vast majority of “floating voters” in the last month of campaigning.

However, if undecided voters divide equally between the two main candidates, Kenyatta looks set to end up on something like 52% – surpassing the 50%+1 threshold for a first round win – with Odinga on 47%.

Given this, the record of no sitting Kenyan president ever having lost an election may survive for a while yet, despite the momentum behind the opposition. Although the country has made real democratic strides with its new constitution, the advantages of incumbency remain formidable.

East Africa’s Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

By IPS World Desk

IPS News, July 19, 2017

http://tinyurl.com/y76xrtxq

Rome, Jul 19 2017 (IPS) – Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert.

The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, South-Eastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania and north-eastern and South-Western Uganda, according to a new alert by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The alert, issued on 14 July by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), warns that the third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required.

“We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.” – FAO chief

“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains – they are simply running out of ways to cope,” said FAO’s Director of Emergencies Dominique Burgeon. “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.”

Increasing Humanitarian Need

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30 per cent since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure, the UN specialised body reported.

Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season, it added.

The food security situation for pastoralists is of particular concern, in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where animal mortality rates are high and milk production from the surviving animals has declined sharply with negative consequences on food security and nutrition, FAO warned.

“When we know how critical milk is for the healthy development of children aged under five, and the irreversible damage its lack can create, it is evident that supporting pastoralists going through this drought is essential,” said Burgeon.

Poor Crop Prospects

On this, FAO provides the following detailed information:

In several cropping areas across the region, poor rains have caused sharp reductions in planting, and wilting of crops currently being harvested. Despite some late rainfall in May, damage to crops is irreversible.

In addition, fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200 000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.

In Somalia there are unfavourable prospects for this year’s main gu crops, after the gu rains were late with poor rainfall and erratic distribution over most areas of the country.

In Ethiopia, unfavourable belg rains in southern cropping areas are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls. Drought is also affecting yields in Kenya’s central, Southeastern and coastal areas.

In Tanzania, unfavourable rains are likely to result in localized cereal production shortfalls in northern and central areas; while in Uganda there are unfavourable production prospects are unfavourable for first season crops in the Southwestern and northern districts.

108 Million People Face Severe Acute Food Insecurity

Meanwhile, despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people living in 48 food-crisis countries were at high risk of or already facing severe acute food insecurity in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released on 31 March in Brussels.

The report, whose compilation required integrating several measurement methodologies, represents a new and politically innovative collaboration between the European Union (EU) and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions together with UN agencies including the FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets in affected countries and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño. ”

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the Global Report on Food Crises 2017.

By joining forces to deliver neutral analytical insights drawn from multiple institutions, the report – to be issued annually – enables better-informed planning decisions to respond to food crises in a more timely, global and coordinated way.

“This report highlights the critical need for prompt and targeted action to effectively respond to the food crises and to address their root causes. The EU has taken leadership in this response. In 2016, we allocated € 550 million already, followed by another € 165 million that we have just mobilized to assist the people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa,” said Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

“The report is the outcome of a joint effort and a concrete follow-up to the commitments the EU made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which identified the urgent need for transparent, independent but consensus-based analysis of crises,” added Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Most Critical Situations Worsening

This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and northeast Nigeria, the report warns.

“The cost in human and resource terms only increases if we let situations deteriorate,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure.”

“The numbers tell a deeply worrying story with more than 100 million people severely food-insecure, a level of suffering which is driven by conflict and climate change. Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever-greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow’s security challenge,” said Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

“It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation.”

The 108 million people reported to be facing severe food insecurity in 2016 represent those suffering from higher-than-usual acute malnutrition and a broad lack of minimally adequate food even with external assistance.

This includes households that can cope with their minimum food needs only by depleting seeds, livestock and agricultural assets needed to produce food in the future, the report adds.

“Without robust and sustained action, people struggling with severe food insecurity risk slipping into an even worse situation and eventual starvation.”

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

More on Energy Imperialism
| July 26, 2017 | 7:32 pm | Analysis, Economy, Russia | No comments

https://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/2017/07/more-on-energy-imperialism.html

More on Energy Imperialism

– from Zoltan Zigedy is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

Literally days after my last post on the changes in US energy policy and its influence on the trajectory of US imperialism, President Donald Trump and his energy secretary proclaimed those changes in their customary blunt and bombastic way. On June 29, Trump declared a US policy of “energy dominance” at a meeting at the Department of Energy. Reuters‘s headline on their coverage perfectly captured the meaning of this policy: “Trump Seeks to Project Global Power through Energy Exports.Bloomberg News’s Gennifer Dlouhy quotes Trump: “We are a top producer of petroleum and the No. 1 producer of natural gas. We have so much more than we ever thought possible. We are really in the driver’s seat.”

Clearly, Russia is a target of the emerging policy. The Administration’s Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry said that “… the entirety of the EU totally get it that if we can lay in American LNG [liquefied natural gas] … we can be able to have an alternative to Russia…” “The US will be able to clearly create a hell of a lot more friends by being able to deliver them energy and not being held hostage by some countries, Russia in particular.” (Reuters)
Lest anyone fail to get the message, Trump told cheering Polish people in Warsaw on July 6: “We are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.” (CNBC) Instead, they will be held hostage to the US.
Bloomberg’s Dlouhy notes that negotiations have begun to sell more LNG to the Republic of Korea. And Reuters’s Timothy Gardner comments that the US exports more petroleum products to Mexico than does any other country. In fact, according to Gardner, the US is already the world’s largest exporter of refined petroleum products.
Despite the near total neglect of the foreign policy implications of this emerging policy by US commentators and, especially, the left, they have not gone unnoticed in important circles internationally. Writing in the largest circulation UK paper, The Sunday Times, Irwin Stelzer stated on July 2: “LNG has created a new Great Game, with America’s ‘yuge’ reserves of natural gas giving Trump a weapon with which to offset Russia’s early lead.” Talk of “Great Games,” of course, invokes memories of the imperialist rivalries and clashes of the late 19th and early 20th century. While the “Russia-gate” controversies uncritically consume many US observers, even conservative Europeans are identifying the material interests, the imperialist interests standing behind the hysterical anti-Russia campaign.
Further, Stelzer sees the recent Gulf States’ aggression against Qatar for what it is: “… the Saudi royal family believe now is the time to wring a total surrender from Qatar… The implication for the global LNG market of a potential isolation of Qatar [the world’s largest exporter] could not be more consequential.” And it could not be more beneficial to the emerging US LNG shippers.
The recent Trump European trip was a sales trip for US LNG as much as it was participation in the G20 summit.
OPEC ‘Monopoly’ versus US Hegemony
It appears more and more likely that the era of OPEC dominance of energy markets is dwindling, broken by US energy production. Saudi Arabia attempted to reverse the expansion of US production by over producing and driving the price of oil below a level that would allow US shale producers to be profitable. Consequently, US operators lost $130 billion since 2015. But Wall Street has subsidized the shale industry by ploughing $57 billion back into the industry over the last 18 months, a move that shows both no fear of a price war and a determination to dominate the markets. The Wall Street Journal (7-8-2017) likened the investments to the tech boom of the past.
At the same time, the US is using political sanctions to hinder competitors. The recent Senate vote on Russian sanctions is one obvious example. But Iran is another competitor that the US hopes to discourage. The European sanctions are now lifted, but EXXON MOBIL and CHEVRON, as US companies, are still deterred from investing in Iran because of remaining US sanctions. BP is afraid of those sanctions and only French TOTAL has dared to invest, along with CHINA NPC. Where Iran is seeking $92 billion in energy investments, it has only secured $1 billion.
Worldwide, most energy investments have channeled to US shale oil.
The monopoly price-manipulation model enforced by OPEC discipline is eroding. Since competition is intensifying, pricing has become extremely volatile. With Chinese imports of crude oil up 13% this year, the Saudis have sharply cut the price of super light crude to Asia to garner a greater share of this burgeoning market.
The Future
Of course, it is impossible to spell out all of the foreign policy implications of the new energy imperialism. But it appears certain that the US drive toward energy dominance will reshape US imperialist designs and generate a strong international response.
The House of Representatives companion bill on sanctions passed 419-3, demonstrating again the ruling-class consensus on punishing oil and gas producers– Russia and Iran. The European Union wisely interprets this and its Senate companion as a challenge to existing energy relations. As The New York Times reported (July 25) immediately after the vote: “…the new sanctions have important implications for Europe because they target any company that contributes to the development, maintenance or modernization of Russia’s energy export pipelines.” It notes that: “Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s bureaucratic arm, has called for an urgent review of how the European Union should respond.”
Speaking to the “principles” behind the House bill, Russian “Alexey Pushkov, a legislator and frequent commentator on international relations, wrote on Twitter: ‘The exceptional nation wants to block Russian gas supplies to Europe and to sell expensive shale gas from the U.S. to its European servants. That’s the entire ‘morality’ of Congress,’” as reported by The New York Times (7-25-17)
And the price war between the US and OPEC along with its friends has left OPEC unity in danger and its policies in shambles. At the most recent meeting in St. Petersburg, disputes over production and exports have combined with frustration over the effectiveness of agreements. States are conflicted over protecting prices and earnings or fighting for market share.
Where unbridled competition arises, conflict is soon to follow. With economic interests joining with political maneuvering, as the US-contrived hysteria over Russia and Iran instantiates, the danger of aggression and war grows exponentially.
The new US imperialist “Game” is played to dominate energy markets, an even more perilous project that threatens friend and foe alike.
Zoltan Zigedy
Programa 1 – Escuela de cuadros – Manifesto Comunista, Parte I (Marx y Engels)
| July 26, 2017 | 7:20 pm | Frederick Engels, Karl Marx | No comments

Programa 116 – Escuela de cuadros – Miseria de la filosofía, Parte I (Marx)
| July 26, 2017 | 7:17 pm | Karl Marx | No comments

Programa 79 – Escuela de cuadros – Que Hacer (Lenin)
| July 26, 2017 | 7:15 pm | V.I. Lenin | No comments