East Africa rising: but China eclipses West

East_Africa_mapThe defeat of the Soviet Union had a positive effect on Africa, but it has not been Western liberalism that has succeeded in Africa so much as pragmatism, according to two prominent analysts.

For it is the institution of the ruling party that affirms political continuity across much of the East Africa region, even as countries in East Africa have achieved consistent and strong economic growth, according to Stratfor’s Robert D. Kaplan and Mark Schroeder:

After all, Ethiopia’s government is by no means a democratic regime; neither is Rwanda’s. Yet Ethiopia has averaged a 10 percent annual growth in GDP and Rwanda 8 percent over the past decade or so. Thus, to say that Western-style democracy has succeeded in Africa is a narrow version of the truth. More truthful is the fact that what is transpiring constitutes Asian-like pragmatism with African characteristics. Further encouraging this is the large-scale presence of the Chinese nearly everywhere in Africa, scouring for minerals, metals and hydrocarbons, and building transportation infrastructure as a consequence. For the Africans, the Chinese are, in part, symbols of economic dynamism without the stern moral lectures about democracy that they get from the West.

“Examples of Asian-like pragmatism are in evidence throughout the continent. Banished are political leaders in countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania, willing to oppose the development of vast reaches of their countries — and the economic potential therein — for the sake of internal political control,” Kaplan and Schroeder contend. “Others, such as the political leadership of Uganda and Rwanda, will embrace economic liberalism, as long as political freedoms do not challenge the ruler’s interests..”

HT: RealClearWorld.


Victims still seek justice for Kenya’s post-election violence


The Kenyan government’s continued failure to properly investigate crimes committed during the 2007-2008 post-election violence and to provide justice and reparation for its victims is having a devastating impact on their lives and livelihoods, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

Crying for justice: Victims’ perspectives on justice for the post-election violence in Kenya, provides powerful evidence of the ongoing suffering of Kenyans caught up in the violence which claimed 1,100 lives, displaced 660,000 and left thousands with long term injuries.

The Kenyan government’s continued failure to properly investigate crimes committed during the 2007-2008 post-election violence and to provide justice and reparation for its victims is having a devastating impact on their lives and livelihoods, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

“Six years after post-election violence rocked Kenya, the victims are still awaiting justice. It is vital that their voices are heard and urgent action is taken,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in Nairobi to launch the report.

“Many of the displaced have yet to be resettled or compensated, many of the injured or the families of those killed have yet to receive reparation to help rebuild their shattered lives and most of the perpetrators have yet to face justice.”

In Western Kenya’s Nyamira province, thousands of ‘invisible’ people demonstrated (above) to demand recognition and compensation. They were violently displaced by the 2007-8 political crisis, but successive governments have denied their existence.


Kenya government declares human rights ‘subversive’

On March 12th, 2014, the Kenyan government produced documents in the High Court declaring the presence of human rights defender Lucy Hannan “contrary to the national interest.”  The only reason given for making her persona non grata, after 18 years of residency and investment in Kenya, was that “confidential security reports indicate that (she) has been engaged in subversive activities against the Kenyan Government.” 

This is the first time accusations of “subversion” have been used in Kenya since the end of the one-party state era in 1992, when the charge was widely used to silence and subdue critics. It follows hard on the heels of the recent branding of civil society as “evil society”; and the proposal of new legislation designed to further close down Kenya’s once vibrant civic space. The vague and unsubstantiated charges are seen as a dangerous threat to all those involved in human rights, social justice and alternative information forums.

British journalist Lucy Hannan, co-director of the human rights organization InformAction, makes social justice films which are screened all over the country to highlight the crisis of impunity and governance in Kenya. She set up the not-for-profit organization in 2010 with prominent human rights activist Maina Kiai, now UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association.  With seven field teams and more than 40 employees, some fifteen different films and video features are screened every week in rural areas, followed up by community discussions on justice, impunity, governance and insecurity issues. The organization has also leafleted tens of thousands of DVDs of the films in areas without Internet and television.

Hannan is a former BBC journalist, human rights advocate and authorof “Taking Liberties” for Human Rights Watch, 1991, and “Shadow Justice” for African Rights, 1996. Her award-nominated film Getting Justice: Kenya’s Deadly Game of Wait and See (2009), anchored by Maina Kiai, was shown on prime time local television and in international film festivals, but security forces in Kenya prevented it being shown locally in areas hard hit by the election violence (see above).

Her recent films include Unfinished Business: Power and Poverty in Kenya’s Central Region, launched in January 2013 at the Alliance Francais, Nairobi, which looks at Presidential Uhuru Kenyatta influence on his own Kikuyu community, and the crimes against humanity charges brought against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Other high impact films include Disputed
which looks at historical land conflict and expulsions in the Rift Valley; and No Man’s Land: Ni Yetu, a bold depiction of marginalization and insecurity in Northern Kenya.

InformAction also provided video evidence of electoral irregularities used in the Supreme Court, March 2013, when civil society challenged the presidential election process.

After the Supreme Court ruled in Uhuru Kenyatta’s favor, civil society was branded “evil society” and human rights defenders and organizations came under increasing pressure. New legislation threatened to restrict or abolish the activities of NGOs and further close down Kenya’s civic space. An onslaught on what was once overwhelming public support for the trials at the International Criminal Court, dramatically reduced when fellow-indictees, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were declared President and Deputy President. Witnesses and victims withdrew from the trials out of fear and intimidation, making it increasingly difficult to prosecute the cases.

The charge of “subversion” is seen as the latest attack on Kenya’s human rights community.  It is an affront to human rights defenders, and an assault on civic space, designed to instill fear and intimidation in one of the few sectors in Kenya still courageous enough to maintain independent thought and challenge power.

Lucy Hannan is challenging it in court through Constitutional lawyer, Kethi Kilonzo, who represented civil society in the Supreme Court last year, on the basis that it violates the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution—which domesticates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to Ms. Kilonzo, “the discretion to decide that a person is a threat to national security resides only with the Courts of law.”  There are fears that Kenya’s progressive new Constitution– voted in decisively in August 2010–is being whittled away and de facto revised by the new regime, which is also showing an increased willingness to ignore and undermine the judiciary.

The Declaration announcing Lucy Hannan as a Prohibited Immigrant and persona non grata was signed by Cabinet Secretary for Interior Affairs, Joseph Ole Lenku, October 30th 2013, but was only produced in court on March 12, 2014, after Hannan challenged the government’s refusal to respond or officially acknowledge her application for citizenship and a work permit renewal.


African State Legislatures & Democratic Development: Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia & South Africa

In the context of African political development, scholars, policy makers, and activists have primarily focused their attention on the national government and the executive branch. Less often have they explored the roles of subnational governing structures, particularly subnational legislative bodies, in shaping democracy. How do state legislatures affect relations between governors and national executives? How do they influence budget accountability and transparency? What factors influence the capacity and willingness of subnational legislatures to effectively represent their constituents?

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the American Political Science Association (APSA), and the American University’s Comparative and Regional Studies Program cordially invite you to a discussion on African State Legislatures & Democratic Development: Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia & South Africa


Prof. Carl LeVan American University

Prof. Joseph Fashagba Landmark University, Nigeria 

Discussant Prof. Shaheen Mozaffar Bridgewater University

Moderated by Ambassador Robin Sanders 

Prof. Carl LeVan and Prof. Joseph Fashagba will provide a comparative foundation for understanding subnational legislatures in Africa, with case studies on Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Their discussion will delve into how oil, revenue generation, political parties, the executive branch, and technology impact on democratic development at the subnational level. Furthermore, LeVan and Fashagba will suggest ways in which civil society and policy makers can foster democracy at the subnational level. Their presentation will draw on their collaborative research with academics from across the continent and the diaspora including; Rotimi Suberu of Bennington University (US), Oladejii Olaore of the World Bank (US), Olufunmbi Elemo of Michigan State University (US), Yahaya Baba of Usman Danofodiyo University (Nigeria), Westen Shlaho of Witwatersrand University (South Africa), Solomon Gofie of Addis Abab University (Ethiopia), and Majuta Judas Mamogale of the Limpopo Legislature (South Africa).

Wednesday, March 26 – 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. National Endowment for Democracy, 1025 F Street, NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC. RSVP