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Cablegate: Kenya Elections: Credible Vote Likely, but We're

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNR #4745/01 3480401
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140401Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3865
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 9732
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 5617
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 4951
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2443
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1724
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2494
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2418
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS NAIROBI 004745

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PREL KE
SUBJECT: KENYA ELECTIONS: CREDIBLE VOTE LIKELY, BUT WE'RE
MONITORING TRIP WIRES

REF: A. NAIROBI 4647 AND PREVIOUS

B. NAIROBI 3675

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Less than three weeks from the election,
we remain confident that the exercise will be generally free
and fair. This confidence is based on six pillars: an
independent and non-partisan electoral commission, free and
vibrant civil society organizations and media, responsible
behavior by police, vigilance on the part of political
rivals, a robust domestic and international observation
effort, and Kenya's free political climate. Political
violence, appeals to ethnic hatred, misuse of government
resources, subversion of ECK procedures, and partisan
behavior of provincial officials are our chief areas of
concern about Kenya's electoral process. For each, we have
specific trip wires that would lead to intervention, either
publicly or privately, as circumstances warrant. END SUMMARY.

Indicators Point to Fair, Transparent & Credible Election
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (SBU) We continue to closely monitor all aspects of
Kenya's election process, looking for opportunities to bring
USG influence to bear on behalf of our goal: a fair,
transparent and peaceful election. Less than three weeks
from the election, we remain confident that the election will
be generally free and fair. This confidence is based on six
pillars: an independent and non-partisan electoral
commission, free and vibrant civil society organizations and
media, responsible behavior by police, vigilance on the part
of political rivals, a robust domestic and international
observation effort, and Kenya's free political climate.

3. (SBU) The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK): The ECK
remains firmly under the control of its Chairman, Samuel
Kivuitu. This is a good thing. There were fears in some
quarters that newly appointed commissioners, many of whom are
presumed to be pro-Kibaki partisans, would overwhelm the
non-partisan Chairman and diminish his authority. This has
not happened. Kivuitu has skillfully managed the commission
and kept public opinion on his side. Kivuitu managed a
number of administrative reforms and compromises that augur
well for election day success. For example, realizing that
the voter register contains numerous erroneous entries,
Kivuitu pushed through a ruling, with political party
agreement, that double registered voters would retain their
franchise as long as they sign a binding agreement to vote
only once. Those registered more than twice would be purged
from the rolls. Kivuitu also managed to pass a similar
ruling concerning distribution to polling officials of the
commission's voter register, again with consent of the
political parties. He consistently prioritizes broad
participation and transparency over strict controls that
unfairly exclude voters, given the problematic state of the
voter rolls.

4. (SBU) Kivuitu has also won respect by striking out
publicly against senior politicians and government officials
who make unfounded accusations against his commission. The
Electoral Commission of Kenya's strong record in
administering elections in a non-partisan manner is our
principal reason for predicting a credible process.

5. (SBU) Civil Society & Media: Kenya's vibrant, free and
outspoken civil society groups and media also inspire
confidence in the process. Every few days a major civil
society group holds a well attended press conference to
highlight an aspect of the process and finger institutions
and individuals who they hold responsible for malfeasance.
The media is covering the process minutely, even reporting on
the arrival of freshly printed ballot papers and their
conditions of storage. Political advertising is robust and
unfettered. Debate on the editorial pages rages. The
electronic media has been equally engaged, although some
outlets are developing a reputation for biased coverage.
Still, in today's Kenya there is such a diversity of voices
available to voters that no candidate can credibly claim to
be shut out.

6. (SBU) The Kenya Police Service: The police force has so
far surprised its many critics by behaving in a professional
and politically neutral manner. Police have detained
political miscreants from both sides, including two Kenyan
Administrative Police officials caught distributing
anti-Raila hate literature. Police have also questioned an
Assistant Minister regarding his involvement in the transport
of weapons found in his official vehicle. Many lament the
long-standing law enforcement tradition in Kenya of pursuing
foot soldiers while sparing their well known and politically
connected generals. For the most part, this has not changed,
although we know some practitioners of political violence
have been directly warned to desist. Under civil society and
international community pressures (including the U.S.
Mission), the police commissioner publicly agreed to provide
security to women candidates, who suffer more than their male
colleagues from violent intimidation. We have heard from
numerous women candidates that implementation of the
commissioner's promise has been inconsistent so far. We are
advocating a more thorough and systematic treatment of this
serious problem.

7. (SBU) Mutual Vigilance: The fact that this election is so
competitive is in itself a cause for confidence. The two top
parties are watching one another's every move, and declaiming
from the rooftops any perceived malpractices of their
opponents. Opposition leader Odinga is especially prone to
launching pre-emptive strikes against his opponents and
(unfairly in our view) against the ECK. All sides have
senior bureaucrats in their camp ready to leak news of any
electoral skullduggery to the concerned parties.

8. (SBU) Domestic & International Observation: ECK has
welcomed and encouraged election observer missions, both
domestic and international. Religious organizations and a
wide array of civil society groups, some of which have
considerable experience in election observation, are striving
to field at least one observer in each of the 27,000 polling
stations. Twenty-five resident diplomatic missions, the
European Union, the Commonwealth, and the African Union will
also field observation missions. The US Mission will field
over 150 observers and facilitate an official observer
delegation headed by former Assistant Secretary Constance
Newman.

9. (SBU) Civil Freedom: Finally, Kenya's five-year old
climate of civil freedom contributes to our confidence in the
process. As one elderly rural voter in a remote region told
PolCouns, "Under Moi and Kenyatta we did whatever the
District Commissioner and his men told us to do. No one
wanted to pay the price of refusing them. These days when
the District Officer and his chiefs tell us to support the
government, we tell them to their face that we are free to
vote for whoever we want."

Trip Wires: Looking Out for Danger Signs
----------------------------------------

10. (SBU) Political violence, appeals to ethnic hatred,
misuse of government resources, subversion of ECK procedures,
and partisan behavior of provincial officials are our chief
areas of concern about Kenya's electoral process. For each,
we have specific trip wires that would lead to intervention,
either publicly or privately as circumstances warrant.

11. (SBU) Political Violence: Political violence is being
practiced by some parliamentary candidates from all three
major political parties. We are not witnessing the
widescale, centrally organized political-ethnic violence that
characterized Kenya's first two multiparty elections in 1992
and 1997. When violence threatens to escalate from isolated
incidents to wholesale destruction, which is currently the
case in the Molo region of Rift Valley Province, public
outcry and protests from civil society, religious
organizations and political leadership is fierce. We have
added our voice to condemn both isolated incidents (the
attack on a woman candidate in Eastern Province, see ref B)
and more widescale violence. Our trip wire for changing our
positive view of the election process is widespread political
violence targeting specific communities so as to change
turnout (as occurred in '92 and '97). So far, this level of

violence has only occurred in parts of one constituency, and
so does not have ramifications for the national vote. The
Mount Elgon clashes (Western Province) are chronic and not
directly related to the election. We will continue to
implement specific programs to curb violence, about which we
are reporting septel.

12. (SBU) Appeals to Ethnic Hatred: We have seen extremely
offensive, hateful political statements and literature aimed
at encouraging ethnic hatred emanating from the two largest
parties (Kibaki's PNU and Odinga's ODM). The great majority
of such material is coming from the Kibaki camp, despite the
President's frequent admonitions for his supporters to avoid
such tactics. The media and civil society have vociferously
condemned hate propaganda. The police have arrested
distributors of this material, including those acting on
behalf of the Kibaki campaign. We have brought to the
attention of leaders in both camps specific examples of hate
speech we have heard and read. Our trip wire for hate speech
effecting the election is widescale use of vernacular radio
to spread extremist messages (a la Radio Mille Collines in
Rwanda).

13. (SBU) Misuse of Government Resources: Kenya's Human
Rights Commission and the ECK have both documented and
condemned misuse of official resources for campaign purposes.
The press and civil society have done the same. The police
have acted against officials using government vehicles for
campaign purposes. Still, the practice continues, but with
more restraint than was the case in past elections. Our trip
wire for misuse of government resources is massive, blatant
and unrestrained use of government funding and assets on
behalf of the president's campaign to the extent that it
threatens to seriously tilt the playing field in his favor.

14. (SBU) Subversion of ECK: Partisan ECK commissioners could
use their authority to influence ECK polling clerks,
presiding officers and returning officers to depress the vote
in certain areas and pad it in others. Conceivably, they
could also attempt to substitute pre-marked ballots or use
other rigging schemes. There are a number of controls in
place (such as vote counting at the polling station in full
public view) that would likely defeat most such plans. We
strongly expect that Chairman Kivuitu would keep his word to
resign in a publicly spectacular fashion if the commission
was subverted in this fashion. Our trip wire is ECK
permissiveness of fraud extensive enough to effect the
outcome.

15. (SBU) Partisan Officials: The provincial administration
answers directly to the Minister of Internal Security and
Provincial Administration, John Michuki. His father was a
provincial official under the British, as was he as a young
man. Michuki is definitely subscribes to the old school
"top-down" view of governance. We have sen indications that
Michuki has instructed his officials to support the
government. In some areas this indeed appears to be
happening, but to no great effect. In other areas provincial
officials appear to be mindful of the possibility that they
may be serving under a new government in a few weeks time,
and so are behaving in a reasonably neutral fashion. Our
trip wire is widespread, blatant and effective partisan
behavior on part of the administration to the extent that the
election outcome is or will be effected.


RANNEBERGER

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