Viewing cable 07NAIROBI4246, KENYA – DOING BUSINESS THE CHINESE WAY
- US Government worried about growing Chinese influence in Kenya
- Lucrative contract for wirless Network construction awarded to Chinese company without tendering
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 004246
STATE PASS USTR – BILL JACKSON
STATE FOR AF/E, AF/EPS AND EB/CIP
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ECPS EFIN KCOR CH KE
SUBJECT: KENYA – DOING BUSINESS THE CHINESE WAY
REF: NAIROBI 4202
NAIROBI 00004246 001.2 OF 002
Sensitive-but-unclassified. This cable is not for release outside USG channels.
¶1. (SBU) Summary: Chinese firms selling into Kenya’s information and communications technologies (ICT) sector are throwing a lot of money around, according to industry contacts. Indeed, Chinese influence may be so great that it is distorting important investment decisions in the country. Putting aside corruption, Chinese ICT vendors are difficult to beat on price and quality, and therefore often win government procurement tenders. However, companies that buy Chinese equipment often find that they end up paying the piper later due to poor after-sales service. End summary.
¶2. (U) In the course of gathering information for reftel report on developments in Kenya’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector, interesting anecdotes emerged about the way Chinese firms do business in Kenya.
China “Re-Colonizing Africa”
¶3. (SBU) “The Chinese are re-colonizing Africa for natural resources,” according to Michael Joseph, the Amcit CEO of Safaricom, Kenya’s largest and most successful mobile phone company, speaking to U.S. Mission staff on October 18. Joseph diverged from his brief on Kenyan efforts to build FONN, a new terrestrial national fiber optic network (reftel), to say the project is an example of how “the Chinese are driving the ICT agenda in Kenya.” FONN, he said, was poorly planned – consciously so, in his view, so that Chinese companies could get fatter contracts. As noted reftel, FONN will extend all the way to the borders of Kenya’s neighbors, which means it will traverse vast tracts of virtually empty land in Kenya’s northern and western reaches. Two Chinese firms and one French firm have been awarded contracts to construct the network. According to Joseph: “We don’t need fiber to Garissa (in sparsely populated Northeast Province), we need it in Nyeri” (a bustling market town just north of Nairobi).
Chinese Stuff: Good and Cheap, But Service Stinks
¶4. (SBU) Joseph went on to describe the use by Chinese ICT vendors of concessional credits from the Chinese government to lock up contracts – nothing new there. Echoing the views of many industry contacts, he said the quality of the ICT equipment provided by companies like Huawai and ZTE is pretty good, and their prices are low. But he used a monosyllabic expletive beginning with “S” to describe after-sales service. When there are equipment problems later, he said, the Chinese run for the door, and matters are made worse by the language barrier. Safaricom purchased equipment last year from Huawei, but the deal was too good to be true. Huawei effectively reneged and only delivered half the equipment promised in the contract. Joseph went to China personally, eventually got the Huawai CEO to admit that the company had lied, and then forced it to cancel the contract.
Chinese Buying Politicians and Influence
¶5. (SBU) More insidious, said Joseph, is that “the Chinese” (by this we believe he meant Chinese firms, not the government) are “funding the political agenda” of Kenyan politicians and ministers. When he returned from China after cancelling the Huawei contract, he was summoned to the office of Mutahi Kagwe, the Minister of Information and Communication, and told the cancellation put all Chinese foreign assistance to Kenya at risk. He also received phone calls from different ministers with no responsibility for ICT who insisted that he reconsider the cancellation. One was the Minister of Immigration, who hinted that Joseph, a foreigner, might have work permit problems if he cancelled the contract. He held his ground. Joseph said that whenever he meets with a Chinese firm, “within 20 minutes” he receives calls from various Kenyan ministers or members of parliament lobbying on behalf of the company.
¶6. (SBU) Another likely manifestation of the undue influence and unfair play by the Chinese, said Joseph, was the recent Phase II expansion of the CDMA fixed wireless service being rolled out by Kenya’s monopoly fixed line phone company, Telkom Kenya (see reftel). Because of Telkom Kenya’s state-owned status, the project by law should have been put out for public tender. But instead, the Kenyan government quietly and unilaterally awarded the contract to Huawei, the Chinese company that did Phase I. Separately in August, the CEO of one of the country’s largest internet service providers confirmed the details of the deal, which he said raised eyebrows throughout the industry.
Telkom Kenya Looking for Non-Chinese Tech Partner
¶7. (SBU) Asked about China’s influence in the ICT sector on October 18, the more restrained CEO of Telkom Kenya, Sammy Kirui, insisted that the Chinese “can’t throw their weight around too much.” He echoed Joseph’s assessment that Chinese equipment is decent quality and low price. But like Joseph, he complained that “you pay down the line” in terms of poor after-sales service. As a state-owned entity, he said, Telkom has to follow government procurement procedures, and “the Chinese always do well on government tenders.” After Telkom is privatized (reftel), however, it will have more flexibility to procure equipment on the basis of factors beyond price, such as network compatibility. The company already counts Huawei as a “strategic technical partner”, but has issued an expression of interest for a second such partner. Huawei rival ZTE, also a Chinese company, is pressing hard, but Kirui insists that the company’s second strategic tech partner must be non-Chinese.
Finding Ways Around the Chinese Juggernaut
¶8. (SBU) More emphatic is the Permanent Secretary of Information and Communications, Dr. Bitange Ndemo. Ndemo, a talented former U.S.-resident business executive, has repeatedly lamented the inability of U.S. firms to win Kenyan government tenders. A strong proponent of U.S. technology, he is resorting to creative ways to circumvent a tender process which he sees as handcuffing the country by virtually guaranteeing that it is forced to buy low-cost Chinese equipment, without heed to other important factors, such as after-sales service and network compatibility. Ndemo recently signed a memorandum of agreement for a public-private partnership with a Saudi firm that for the most part sells and services U.S.-made equipment. The deal calls for the construction of at least one $30 million data center that will complement the roll-out of the national fiber network. By structuring the relationship in this way, Ndemo believes he can legally buy the equipment and technology most appropriate for Kenya, without having to pander only to the lowest price seller.
¶9. (SBU) More generally, Ndemo regularly expresses concern about the influence of China in the ICT sector. Without providing details, he has told Econ/C many times that he and other senior technocrats are under constant pressure from their own ministers and the country’s senior political leadership to buy Chinese.
¶10. (SBU) The views and anecdotes conveyed by people like Joseph and Ndemo put a bit flesh on the bones of the oft-repeated (but seldom proven) contention that Chinese companies play dirty. Most disturbing in this case is the idea that Chinese influence is so great that it’s actually distorting critical investment decisions in Kenya’s all-important ICT sector. For further investigation is the role of the Chinese government. We wonder if it simply turns a blind eye to the dirty work of Chinese firms, or if it actively contributes to the problem.
Viewing cable 08NAIROBI199, KENYA: DID KIBAKI REALLY STEAL THE ELECTION?
- Results were doctored enroute to, or after arriving in Nairobi
- ECK became a victim of partisan political interests during the election
- Embassy analysis not the last word. Additional data could emerge that would alter the bottom lines
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DEPT FOR AF/E
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS
TAGS: PGOV KCOR PREL KE
SUBJECT: KENYA: DID KIBAKI REALLY STEAL THE ELECTION?
REF: A. Doherty-AF/E e-mail of 09 Jan 08
¶B. Nairobi 0013
Sensitive-but-Unclassified. Please handle accordingly.
¶1. (SBU) Summary: Kenya’s hotly contested December 27 presidential election has been controversial on a number of levels, and many observers still question who actually won. When we looked at any and all available data to try to answer that question, we found evidence of rigging on both sides and confirmation that some of the rigging took place inside ECK headquarters itself. By analyzing various datasets (available on request), we developed scenarios that could point to either a Kibaki or a Raila victory. We do not think it will ever be possible to tell definitively who actually won the election. This is due in part to the compromise of election officials and election-related ballots and forms, but also because our estimated number of “ghost votes” (i.e., stuffed ballots) from both sides easily exceeded President Kibaki’s margin of victory. End summary.
PNU Steals Votes for Kibaki at 11th Hour at KICC…
¶2. (SBU) Ref B provides the context for the disputed results of Kenya’s December 27 presidential election, in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was announced the winner by the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) late in the afternoon of December 31, and then immediately sworn in as president. Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) continues to insist that he in fact won the election. Specifically, he claims that he was cheated out of the presidency when a politicized and/or compromised ECK leadership altered constituency-level vote tally sheets in the tense days between the closure of polls late on December 27 and the controversial announcement of results in Kibaki’s favor on December 30. Right or wrong, the perception of an election brazenly stolen by the incumbent administration was the initial spark for tribally-based attacks and mass demonstrations that have since left over 600 Kenyans dead and the country embroiled in a major, unresolved political crisis.
…But Did it Provide the Margin of Victory?
¶3. (SBU) There is little doubt that there were major irregularities in the way constituency vote tallies were received, verified and reported by the ECK in Nairobi between December 28 and December 30, and there appears little doubt that the cheating that took place at this level was done so exclusively by Party of National Unity (PNU) partisans in Kibaki’s favor. There was cheating at the constituency level by the ODM and PNU. An interesting question arises: Numerically, did this unprecedented form of central-level, 11th hour cheating in fact make the difference in who won and who lost? In other words, in taking into account all the data available, was the cheating that occurred at KICC significant enough numerically to provide the margin of victory for Kibaki? The answer has important implications for how the current crisis might be resolved.
A Major Caveat About Local-Level Cheating
¶4. (SBU) An important caveat hangs over the analysis below, and over the election results more generally. This is that despite praise from all quarters that election day voting was generally free and fair, in fact there is strong circumstantial evidence indicating that more traditional forms of cheating, such as ballot stuffing at polling stations and/or constituency-level tallying centers, probably played an important role in determining the final results of the 2007 presidential election. This was possible because despite the extensive monitoring, there were no party agents or international observers at many polling stations and vote tallying centers (and domestic observation that was more widespread was of mixed reliability). In Kenya, it is very unlikely that a voter would cast a presidential ballot and not a parliamentary one. Yet there were significant discrepancies in six of Kenya’s eight provinces between votes cast for parliament vs. those cast for president.
¶5. (SBU) These discrepancies total 459,100 votes, or 4.6 percent of all votes cast, dwarfing Kibaki’s margin of victory (230,478 votes, or 2.3 percent of all votes cast). It is impossible to conclude definitely how many of these “ghost votes” went to each candidate, but the margin of uncertainty these extra votes create easily exceeds Kibaki’s margin of victory.
¶6. (SBU) But in moving back to trying to determine how many votes were “stolen” at the central level after polls closed and the results were being returned to Nairobi, it is critical to find credible discrepancies between the presidential vote tallies unofficially disclosed at the constituency-level tallying centers the night of December 27, and the official results announced by the ECK in Nairobi in the days thereafter. Significant discrepancies would indicate that the results were doctored enroute to, or after arriving in Nairobi, as per the claims of ODM and others. To try to quantify these discrepancies, Post gathered polling data from a variety of sources and ran the numbers in several different ways, each discussed below.
The Official Results: Kibaki Wins
¶7. (SBU) The official ECK documentary results show Kibaki winning 4,583,358 votes to Raila’s 4,352,880, for a margin of victory of 230,478. (Note: This dataset comes from hardcopy tally sheets for all constituencies obtained from ECK sources on January 4. These results vary from the ECK results verbally announced December 28-30, but the difference is insignificant – a victory for Kibaki that is 1,363 votes narrower. End note.) This dataset forms the baseline against which others below are compared for signs of discrepancies.
The Standard Newspaper: Kibaki Wins, But by Less
¶8. (SBU) A spreadsheet obtained January 4 from the Standard Newspaper (which was considered pro-Odinga) reports unofficial results gathered by Standard journalists at the constituency tallying centers on the night of December 27. The Standard dataset has results for all but 12 of 210 constituencies, and in 117 constituencies, the results match those of the ECK. Comparison against official ECK results shows significant discrepancies (500 or more added votes) in 35 constituencies in Kibaki’s favor totalling 191,894. But these gains are counterbalanced to a large extent by the 149,579 votes inexplicably gained by Raila, indicating there was vote rigging by ECK Returning Officers on both sides. The net result: Kibaki still wins with 4,391,464 to Odinga’s 4,203,301. Margin of victory: 188,163.
Other Allegations: Raila Wins Narrowly
¶9. (SBU) In another scenario, Post subtracted from the official ECK results discrepancies reported from the constituency level by a number of observers, monitors, and other sources, including two ECK contacts who provided documentary evidence to us of vote padding in favor of Kibaki in six constituencies by Nairobi-based ECK officials. Other sources include the European Union election monitoring group, which documented anomalies in six constituencies, domestic observers, ODM party agents and partisan blogs. The latter two sources would have to be considered less reliable, but we threw them into the mix to see what would happen. All together, the dataset included alleged discrepancies in 28 constituencies. Numbers from the Standard database were not included in this dataset. With these important caveats in mind, we ran the numbers, and found that Raila comes out on top with 4,375,539 votes to Kibaki’s 4,349,001. Margin of victory: A slender 26,538.
Merging Allegations: A Mixed Bag
¶10. (SBU) Finally, we ran the numbers one more time, combining the numbers from the Standard’s database with the discrepancies reported by other observers. The Standard’s discrepancies sometimes matched reports from other sources, particularly with regard to disputed votes for President Kibaki (nine matches for Kibaki versus three for Raila). In other cases, however, ECK, the Standard, and other observers all reported different results for the same constituency (this occurred a total of ten times).
¶11. (SBU) The results of this final analysis were mixed. When giving Kibaki the benefit of the doubt over differing discrepancies, he beat Raila by 26,364 votes. When Raila gained the benefit of the doubt, however, he came out ahead by 57,425 votes.
Connecting Two Very Fuzzy Dots: Advantage Raila
¶12. (SBU) Finally, if we combine the four estimates of stolen votes at the central level (paras 7-11) with our estimate of stuffed ballots at the local level (paras 4-5) and then subtract these grand totals from the official ECK results, the scenarios change slightly. Either Raila or Kibaki wins, depending on how the votes are apportioned. Using a conservative assumption that apportions according to the percentage of votes won in each constituency by each candidate, the margins of victory are between 30,331 and 114,130 votes. All of these scenarios assume extensive cheating on both sides. In all cases, the margin of victory for either side is slim and ultimately unknowable.
Comment and Conclusions
¶13. (SBU) This analysis is not the last word. Additional data could emerge that would alter the bottom lines, which are heavily caveated to begin with. Thus, our conclusions are by definition very tentative. It is now clear that the ECK became a victim of partisan political interests during the election, and the ECK’s failure as an institution constitutes a dark spot on Kenya’s democratic evolution. (Note: After the results were announced and ECK officials were sent home, a “break-in” at the heavily guarded KICC building occurred. We do not know what was taken or altered, but since there was heavy police security around the ECK, we can only conclude that it was an inside job. End Note.)
¶14. (SBU) What the analysis does tell us is that it’s not at all clear who actually would have won the presidency had the election been truly transparent, free, and fair. The only thing we know for sure on the basis of our incomplete and possibly flawed data is that we don’t know for sure, and that whoever won likely did so by a very slim margin. This flies in the face of the position adopted by the ODM and others as mantra: That the election was brazenly stolen by Kibaki’s ECK insiders at the last moment and that Raila should have won by a wide margin. It also contradicts any perception or conviction within the Kibaki camp that the latter clearly won the race. The fact of the matter is, as ECK Chairman Kivuitu said publicly on January 1, “I do not know if Kibaki won the election.”
¶15. (SBU) One implication of our analysis is that a recount or an independent audit of the December 27 results as a practical matter would probably not be able to definitively determine the true winner, particularly since it appears the election’s paper trail has since been compromised. And even if an honest audit could be conducted, the results might be so close as to fuel further controversy and unrest. Another implication is that holding a run-off election might likewise result in a very close race. After what happened during this election, Kenya’s electoral institutions cannot credibly conduct a free, fair, and transparent election until fundamental reform has been carried out.
¶16. (SBU) Note: We have forwarded our datasets (see ref A) to AF/E and INR for further analysis. Please contact Rachael Doherty at DohertyRT@state.gov if you would also like to receive a copy. End Note.
Viewing cable 08NAIROBI311, KENYA ELECTORAL CRISIS: VIOLENCE FLARES IN KALENJIN/KIKUYU BOARDER TOWNS
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C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 000311
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2018
TAGS: PHUM ASEC PGOV KE
SUBJECT: KENYA ELECTORAL CRISIS: VIOLENCE FLARES IN
KALENJIN/KIKUYU BORDER TOWNS
REF: 07 NAIROBI 2215
Classified By: Political Counselor Larry Andre, reasons 1.4 (b,d)
¶1. (SBU) Late on January 24, a fresh round of violence erupted in Nakuru, Naivasha, and Tomboroa — all Rift Valley Province towns near the border of Kikuyu-dominated Central Province. The highest death toll was in Nakuru, where clashes between rival armed gangs armed with machetes, spears, bows and arrows killed over 60 people.
¶2. (C) In response to the violence, two army platoons (approximately 60 troops) deployed to Nakuru to support the police on January 25. By January 26, the number had increased to four platoons (approximately 120 troops). The troops patrolled roads, cleared road blocks and protected displaced people. At one point (likely by accident) troops found themselves between two gangs preparing to clash. They were able to disperse the gangs with no shots fired.
¶3. (SBU) In Naivasha town, armed gangs (rumored to be from the Kikuyu Mungiki criminal organization – see reftel) launched attacks against non-Kikuyus. At least 19 people (Luo, Luhya, and Kalenjin) were reportedly burned in their homes or hacked to death.
¶4. (SBU) In Timboroa, a town north of Nakuru, police contacts reported that two groups of Kalenjin arsonists torched a settlement of 50 timber houses on the night of January 27. There were other reports that the attacks were more serious. The other reports described armed Kalenjin gangs, some of whom were dressed in police and army uniforms, who launched organized attacks against Timboroa residents (presumably Kikuyu). According to the Kenya Red Cross, approximately 10,000 people have been displaced as a result of the Timboroa attacks.
¶5. (C) Police contacts reported that ethnic violence has escalated to the point where their forces are becoming overstretched. “We are operating in crisis mode,” the contact said. On January 28, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was reported in the press to have called for Kenya’s armed forces to deploy to suppress the fighting.
¶6. (SBU) There are also credible reports that youth gangs are now manning roadblocks and providing security escorts in places like Kisumu (Western Province), Naivasha, and Nakuru.
¶7. (C) Comment: So far, Kenya’s military forces have tried to keep their involvement at a minimal level, but the pressure appears to be increasing for them to play a more active role. Neither the police nor the armed forces are well trained in riot control, and the rules of engagement for both forces are likely to be similar. If the military does begin to assume a greater role in trying to quell the violence, however, we believe that the stronger chain of command will lead to greater discipline and fewer incidents of excessive force.
Viewing cable 08NAIROBI378, KENYA: LINKING VISAS TO VIOLENCE
- Henry kosgey, Kabando wa Kabando and William ole Ntimama in the List
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C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 000378
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2028
TAGS: CVIS PGOV KCOR PREL KDEM KE
SUBJECT: KENYA: LINKING VISAS TO VIOLENCE
Classified by: Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
¶1. (C) To follow up on recent statements by Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer and the Ambassador indicating that the Department will review the visa eligibility of Kenyan politicians and businessmen suspected of supporting, inciting, or perpetrating violence in Kenya, Post delivered eight letters on February 5, signed by the Ambassador, to the following individuals:
– Richard Ngatia, businessman with PNU links suspected of funding Kikuyu youth groups engaged in violence.
– Njenga Karume, former minster with PNU ties suspected of having links to the Mungiki (Kikuyu mafia) and other related criminal organizations.
– John Mututho, PNU MP for Naivasha suspected of funding Kikuyu youth engaged in ethnic violence.
– Joshua Kullei, businessman with ODM ties suspected of financing Kalenjin youth groups engaged in ethnic violence.
– Henry Kosgei, ODM MP for Tinderet suspected of supporting Kalenjin youth groups engaged in violence.
– William ole Ntimana, ODM MP for Narok North, suspected of inciting inter-ethnic violence.
– Zakayo Cheruiyuot, ODM MP for Kuresoi, suspected of inciting inter-ethnic violence.
– Kabando wa Kabando, ODM MP for Mukurweini, suspectd of organizing and inciting inter-ethnic violence.
¶2. (C) Text of the letter to the above eight individuals follows below:
February 4, 2008
This is to notify you that indications you may be involved in supporting, inciting, and perpetrating inter-ethnic violence in Kenya are relevant to your and your family’s eligibility for U.S. visas.
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act provides for the denial of visas to individuals for a variety of reasons. The U.S. Department of State reserves the right to make such a determination and reserves the right to suspend action on a visa application until such time that a determination of an individual’s visa eligibility can be made.
We request any and all information from you in writing detailing your efforts to promote an end to violence and the achievement of political and ethnic reconciliation in Kenya.
Michael E. Ranneberger
¶3. (C) Post will convey identical letters to additional individuals in Kenya as warranted.
Viewing cable 08NAIROBI420, KENYA: MORE VISA WARNING LETTERS SENT
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2018
TAGS: CVIS PGOV KCOR PREL KDEM KE
SUBJECT: KENYA: MORE VISA WARNING LETTERS SENT
REF: NAIROBI 378
Classified By: A/DCM John F. Hoover for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
¶1. (C) Reftel reports on the February 5 conveyance of eight letters to Kenyan individuals warning the latter that indications they may be involved in supporting, inciting, and perpetrating inter-ethnic violence in Kenya are relevant to their eligibility for U.S. visas.
¶2. (C) On February 8, Post conveyed letters to an additional five individuals, as follow. Text of the letters sent was similar or identical to the text reproduced reftel.
– Kihara Muttu, Deputy Chairman, Electoral Commission of Kenya, suspected of accepting bribes to fix election results tally at ECK Headquarters.
– Jack Tumwa, Commissioner, Electoral Commission of Kenya, suspected of accepting bribes to fix election results tally at ECK Headquarters.
–Joseph Dena, Jack Tumwa, Commissioner, Electoral Commission of Kenya, suspected of accepting bribes to fix election results tally at ECK Headquarters.
–James Viscount Kimathi, former Member of Parliament with PNU ties, suspected of having links to Mungiki (Kikuyu mafia) and other related criminal organizations.
– Musa Cherutich Sirma, former Member of Parliament with ODM ties suspected of inciting and organizing inter-ethnic violence in Rift Valley Province.
Viewing cable 08NAIROBI574, KENYA: BEHIND A CALM FACADE, HARDLINERS PREPARE FOR MORE VIOLENCE
- Mungiki were Given G3 Rifles by retired General H.W Njoroge
- 200 Luo Policemen were transferred from Nyanza ahead of 2007 elections
- PPO promised to support police who killed in Nyanza
- Live ammunition to Kisumu were allegedly received from Israel
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DEPT FOR DS/IP/AF, DS/DSS/ITA, INR, AF/E, S, D, P, G, R,
E.O. 12958: DECL:02/27/2028
TAGS: ASEC PGOV KE
SUBJECT: KENYA: BEHIND A CALM FACADE, HARDLINERS PREPARE FOR MORE VIOLENCE
Ref: Nairobi 379
Classified by Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
¶1. (C) Summary: Kenya has been tense but remarkably calm since the end of January, thanks in large part to the progress being made in the Kofi Annan-mediated peace talks and the visit of the Secretary. Tensions remain very high, however, and behind this calm facade lurks the potential for more ferocious, ethnically-motivated violence. One sign is that ethnically-based forced evictions continue around Nairobi. More ominous are a steady stream of rumors that hardline elements from both sides of the political divide are organizing for more violence should the peace talks fail. The pivot will thus be the outcome of the peace talks. If a compromise is reached on power sharing that is seen as fair by all sides, support for organized violence is likely to ebb away. If not, however, then Kenya could see a wave of violence far worse than the unrest seen in January following the disputed election. End Summary.
A Deceptive Calm
¶2. (SBU) Kenya has remained tense but remarkably calm throughout the month of February. In late January, the country was shocked by violent, ethnically-motivated clashes in the tourist towns of Nakuru and Naivaisha, both not far from Nairobi. This was followed by the back-to-back murders of two opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) parliamentarians on January 29 and January 31 (reftel), which led to a brief spasm of unrest in Kericho in western Kenya. In short, at the end of January, the country appeared teetering on the edge of all-out anarchy and sustained civil unrest and disobedience.
¶3. (SBU) Since then, however, Kenya has generally enjoyed an interlude of relative calm, in large part due to the progress made each week in the Kofi Annan-mediated peace talks, which has led both political camps to call for an end to violence. U.S. support for the talks, including through the Secretary’s visit, has also helped reassure Kenyans. The current perception that the country’s politicians are taking steps towards an agreement on power sharing, which could pave the way for political reconciliation and a return to normalcy, has since continued to keep tensions and violence at bay.
Forced Evictions Keep Nairobi On Edge
¶4. (C) The current state of relative calm, however, should not be interpreted as a return to sustained peace and normalcy. In fact, the opposite may be true. Throughout February, there has been a stream of anecdotal evidence and reporting indicating that ethnically-motivated forced evictions continue to occur around the country, including parts of Nairobi. While it is often difficult to conclusively confirm what is happening, it appears that in Nairobi, Kikuyu youth gangs, probably incited and funded by hardline Kikuyu politicians and businessmen, are taking revenge for the violent “ethnic cleansing” of their Kikuyu breathren in January in western Kenya by rival Luo, Kalenjin, and other groups. In early February, there was a spate of media and first-hand reports, including from U.S. Mission staff members, that Kikuyu gangs were marking the doors of non-Kikuyu residents in the Kilimani, Eastlands, and Kibera areas of Nairob in an attempt to intimidate them into leaving. In the largely Kikuyu, rough-and-tumble area of Banana Hill on the city’s northwestern edge, leaflets were allegedly circulating threatening non-Kikuyus with beheading if they did not leave. There were also many reports of Kikuyu landlords being threatened with violence if they did not summarily evict their non-Kikuyu tenants.
Militias: Preparing for Battle?
¶5. (C) More ominous than forced evictions are daily rumors about the formation and arming of ethnic-based militias in different parts of the country. It remains very difficult to confirm rumors that militias are being organized, but where there is so much smoke, there is likely to be fire, and the logic behind this phenomenon is compelling: Should the Kofi Annan-mediated peace talks fail, all sides want to be ready for the violent aftermath. Perhaps one of the most difficult puzzles to solve is the extent to which such militias are truly militias, characterized by a discernable chain of command and requisite weaponry and training, versus mere youth gangs organized and bussed to a site on an ad hoc basis to engage in violence when it is in the interest of hardline leaders to have them do so. In either event, however, the results are violent and difficult to control.
Kalenjins: Arming to the Teeth?
¶6. (C) The most persistent stories about militias have the Kalenjin community in Rift Valley Province as the best organized and most war-like. Conventional wisdom explains this as due in part to the Kalenjins’ strong warrior/cattle rustling cultural tradition, but also to the fact that under the regime of Danial arap Moi, Kalenjins filled out the ranks of the Kenyan military in disproportionately high numbers, including in the officer corps. As many as 25-30 senior Kalenjin officers lost their positions after the 2002 election of Mwai Kibaki, adding fuel to broader, longstanding grievances among the Kalenjin over unfair land allocations and economic and political marginalization at the hands of the Kikuyu.
¶7. (S) The combination of these grievances and the fact that many Kalenjins have military training and experience has created a potential scenario: That of a highly motivated and highly effective para-military force that could make Rift Valley Province ungovernable if the peace talks fail. While the Embassy is unable to fully confirm these reports at this time, Kalenjin militias are purportedly organizing under the leadership of retired Kalenjin General John Koech, and are arming themselves to the teeth, according to some contacts. (Note: Another contact, however, indicates Kikuyu politicians are attempting to link Koech to Rift Valley violence, but that he is in fact clean. His role thus remains unclear. End note). A local contact reports that the Kalinjin forces are in firm alliance with the self proclaimed Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF), a clan-based militia in the Mt. Elgon region of western Kenya established to defend ethnic Sabaots in land disputes that pre-date the post-electoral unrest. Indeed, there has been an increase in attacks, including cattle rustling and rape, by the SLDF in the Mount Elgon and Trans Nzoia areas on the homes of Kikuyu settlers. The SLDF has historically been well armed, and is reportedly well-versed in obtaining weapons via Uganda.
Kikuyus Not Afraid to Strike Back
¶8. (C) On the other side, Kikuyu vigilantes are also organizing to defend against attacks or carry out revenge attacks on ethnic rivals. Many attribute Kikuyu-led violence to the Mungiki, a well-established Kikuyu criminal organization/religious sect with deep roots in Kenyan history. However, after engaging in a violent crime spree last year well before (and unrelated to) the elections, the Kenyan policy cracked down on the group, reportedly fracturing its leadership. It is thus unclear whether the Mungiki have in fact been re-energized and are behind some of the current tensions, or whether newer groups have formed and ordinary Kenyans simply can’t tell the difference. It’s likely both scenarios are playing out, as the current environment is providing the perfect context for the rejuvenation of the Mungiki, as well as for the formation of new groups catering to the large numbers of unemployed, disaffected Kikuyu youth in Nairobi and elsewhere.
¶9. (S) According to an Embassy source, elements of the Kikuyu-dominated Party of National Unity (PNU) are backing the so-called “Forest Guard” militia, which includes Mungiki members and is being organized and led by retired General H.W. Njoroge, former Commandant of the National Defense College. Njoroge has reportedly put pressure on current Kenya Army Commander, Lieutenant General Augustino Njoroge (no known relation) to release G3 rifles and provide helicopter support to the Forest Guard. H.W. Njoroge is allegedly being assisted by retired Brigadier General Peter Ikenya, who is acting as Chief of Staff for the effort. This movement is reportedly receiving funding from a number of Kikuyu businessmen, including a Solomon Karanja and Steven Mbugwa. Mbugwa is said to be running fund raising and other financial support operations out of his business Muthaiga, Nairobi.
¶10. (SBU) Finally, in the Coast Province, as in Rift, there is a tradition of youth organizing “in defense” of their communities. The Provincial Security Committee in Coast, acting on information that youths in the South Coast were being armed and trained “in readiness for war”, held a meeting two weeks ago with the local elders in an attempt to dissuade the youth from continuing this preparation. Should other areas explode if current negotiations fail, the currently quiet province, popular with tourists, may see more turbulent times.
Police Transfers and Live Bullets
¶11. (C) In a related development, tensions are running high in the lakeside city of Kisumu in western Nyanza Province, around which much of the immediate post-electoral violence was centered. The Kenya Police Service (KPS) recently transferred 200 Luo and Luyhia officers from Nyanza Province, an ethnic Luo stronghold. KPS publicly stated that the transfers were routine, but police sources have since reported that the Provincial Police Officer (PPO) for Nyanza is on record as claiming that those being transferred were responsible for leaking police operational details to the opposition based on their Luo affiliation. The PPO also reportedly ordered his Officers in Charge to ensure the transfers took place no later than 22 February.
¶12. (C) On top of this came news last week from police sources that the PPO issued a stunning directive to his Station Commanders telling them that during any future political protests in the region, deadly force is immediately authorized. He further assured the officers that any query as to the nature of the death or injury resulting from this order should be directed to him personally and that he would support the “victimized” officers.
¶13. (C) Subsequently, an Embassy FSN Investigator based in Kisumu reported that a consignment of live ammunition, allegedly received from Israel, had recently been received in Kisumu, and that 30 Kenyan Army troops had arrived in the city on February 21, to be joined within days by an additional 100 KPS/General Service Unit (GSU) personnel. These movements could be seen as prudent reinforcement on the part of the Kenyan Government, as KPS was unable to control the violence that erupted after the elections in early January. On the other hand, it could be an indication that the government does not expect the peace talks to succeed and is readying for a violent crackdown in that event. In response to the order to use live ammunition, the Ambassador wrote February 22 to Police Commissioner Ali to express U.S. concern about any such change in the rules of engagement for police in dealing with unrest. Text of this letter follows below in para 16.
Crime: Waiting for an Uptick
¶14. (SBU) Finally, in light of the distraction and stress on the police caused by ongoing political tensions, there is a real risk that there will be an uptick in ordinary crime in Kenya in the coming weeks and months. Even if a political agreement is reached, those now ready to engage in political and ethnic violence may turn their weaponry and attention to common crime instead as a new livelihood. The armed carjacking on February 15 in broad daylight of a U.S. Mission employee a short distance from the Embassy (the employee was robbed but released unharmed) served to remind that Kenya is rated “critical” for crime for a good reason.
Comment: Peace Deal Holds theKey
¶15. (C) Behind the current quiet facade, there is trouble lurking in the shadows. Whether the genie of ethnic-based violence can be put back in the bottle or not clearly hinges on the outcome of the Kofi Annan-led peace talks, now at a pivotal moment. If a compromise is reached that is agreeable to the two sides and most of their followers, then we believe much of the impetus and support for organized violence will fade away. If not, however, then we should brace for a fresh round of violence that could dwarf January’s unrest in its scope and ferocity.
¶16. (SBU) Text of February 22 letter from the Ambassador to Police
Commissioner Ali follows below:
Dear Commissioner Ali:
I would like to take this opportunity to first commend you and the vast majority of police professionals in the Kenya Police Service (KPS) for your efforts over the past few months in maintaining law and order during this most trying time in Kenya’s history. I have been encouraged by the numerous reports received of KPS leadership effectively and peacefully engaging large gatherings, resulting in no injuries to the populace at the hands of authorities or the public. I also applaud all efforts to investigate and hold accountable all persons involved in inciting violence during this time, whether civilian or civil servant.
However, we have recently become aware that certain officers in charge have directed personnel under their command that “the immediate use of deadly force is authorized to quell any and all new political protests”. Obviously, reports of this nature are both alarming and contrary to established rules of engagement and, in the spirit of true cooperation, I feel compelled to bring this to your immediate attention, as we have enjoyed a tremendous partnership across an array of law enforcement and security issues. Consequently, we believe that the established rules of engagement and situation-specific circumstances should continue to dictate the minimal use of deadly force.
We trust that you will continue to address this issue with the urgency and importance it merits.