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Cablegate: Kenya's Mayoral Elections Show Odm Strength,

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DE RUEHNR #0598/01 0591359
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281359Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4894
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 5829
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 1916
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 9933
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2658
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 5139

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 NAIROBI 000598

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E
LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM KE
SUBJECT: Kenya's Mayoral Elections Show ODM Strength,
Need for Reform

Reftel: NAIROBI 384

1. Summary: On February 25, Kenyan city councils
nationwide held mayoral elections. Comporting with the
sordid tradition of such elections in Kenya, tales of
blatant vote-buying and graft abounded on all sides. The
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) won a plurality of
council seats nationwide during December's general
elections and dominates the councils in Kenya's five
largest cities. It easily won mayoral seats in three of
them -- Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret -- while the Nakuru
municipal council remains locked in a stalemate over
procedural disputes. In a protested move, Minister of
Local Government Uhuru Kenyatta used his office to
unilaterally alter the list of councilors nominated to
the Nairobi City Council in favor of President Kibaki's
Party of National Unity (PNU). This maneuver led to a
tied election and a power-sharing deal between ODM
(mayor) and PNU (deputy mayor). Kenya's history of weak
local government shows that citizens are unlikely to see
improved accountability or service delivery until major
institutional reforms in local governance are made. End
Summary.


-------------------------------
Local Leadership Elections: Not
A Model of Democracy
-------------------------------

2. As noted in reftel, on February 7, Minister of Local
Government Uhuru Kenyatta announced that February 25
would be the day for local city and county councilors to
elect their leaderships. On February 25, there were 45
mayoral elections (for city and municipal councils) and
129 elections for chairmen (for town and county
councils).

3. Kenya's ad hoc and marginally democratic local
government structure reflects its history as a tool of
political patronage. Unlike presidential elections,
mayors and council chairmen are elected to their
positions by fellow councilors rather than the general
public. As in Parliament, not all councilors are
elected, and often, winning mayors and chairmen come into
the councils via the party nomination -- rather than the
electoral -- process.

4. Comporting with the sordid tradition of such
elections in Kenya, tales of blatant vote-buying and
graft abounded on all sides in the run-up to and during
the elections. Every day local media and contacts
reported one council-person after another selling their
vote while enjoying an all-expense paid vacation in some
swanky, 5-star regional resort.

--------------------------------
ODM Mayors in Kenya's Key Cities
--------------------------------

5. The Orange Democratic Movement dominated civic
elections in December, winning 1,053 of 2,498 local
council seats nationwide. The Party of National Unity
(PNU) came in a distant second, with 437 seats. The
other 928 seats were won by a mixture of other party
candidates. (Note: Like many of the electoral results
announced by the disgraced Electoral Commission of Kenya,
the numbers do not add up. In this case, results from
the remaining 90 wards were either invalidated or simply
not posted. End note.)

6. ODM's domination of civic elections translated to a
large number of mayoral victories on February 25. Four
of Kenya's five largest cities -- Mombasa, Kisumu,
Eldoret, and Nairobi -- have new ODM mayors and the
fifth, Nakuru, should go ODM in the near future as well.
In Mombasa, nominated councilor Abubakar Mondhar (who was
seen as representing Mombasa's indigenous Swahili and
black population) beat Tawfiq Balala (who had the support
of the affluent, ethnic 'white' Arab business community).
Businessman and nominated councilor Sam Okello, the new
mayor for Kisumu, ran unopposed after ODM intra-party
wrangling muscled out other candidates. In a rare battle

NAIROBI 00000598 002 OF 003


between two elected councilors, Samuel Ruto beat Eusilah
Ngeny to become the new mayor of Eldoret.

7. In Nakuru, Kenya's fourth largest city, civic leaders
reportedly engaged in brawls after PNU representatives
objected to the legitimacy of the (Ministry of Local
Government-appointed) town clerk and refused to
participate in the elections. The elections were
postponed. (Note: With 11 ODM councilors to PNU's eight,
ODM seems poised to win the election thus should control
the office of mayor in all five of Kenya's largest
cities. End Note.)

---------------------------------------------
Nairobi's Mayoral Election Brings Controversy
---------------------------------------------

8. In Nairobi, the contest was expected to be between
elected ODM Councilor Godfrey Majiwa and Esther Passaris,
who quit her job at the Adopt-a-Light program in
anticipation of an ODM nomination for one of the
council's appointed seats. Passaris was reportedly
favored by ODM leadership, but Majiwa had the backing of
other elected councilors.

9. In the run-up to the race, however, Minister of Local
Government Uhuru Kenyatta demonstrated the strong control
he retains over local council appointments. In a
surprise move late on February 22, he omitted Passaris'
name from the list of nominated councilors to be gazetted
and replaced a number of other ODM nominees with PNU
nominees. Kenyatta provided no explanation for the nine
extra PNU names on the list of nominated councilors, but
said that there was a conflict of interest in Passaris'
nomination to the City Council, as her Adopt-A-Light
program and the Nairobi City Council are embroiled in a
number of legal disputes over a cancelled contract to
provide street light services in Nairobi.

10. The last-minute changes to the terms of the contest
led to a tied vote on election day: 42 votes for Majiwa
and 42 votes for PNU candidate John Njoroge Chege.
Rather than participate in the tie-breaking mechanism
provided in the Local Government Act -- the drawing of
lots to determine the winner -- Majiwa teamed up with
Passaris to file a court case challenging the elections.
The dispute ended on February 27 in an ODM-PNU power-
sharing deal: ODM's Majiwa will be Nairobi's new mayor,
and PNU's Chege the new deputy mayor.

11. (Note: The Local Government Act gives the Minister
of Local Government the authority to nominate up to one
third of the total number of local council seats 'to
represent the government or special interests.' While
there is a sense among the opposition that the government
should honor the spirit of a 1997 inter-party agreement
calling for proportional allocation of nominated seats
according to each party's strength in individual
councils, the agreement was never formalized into law.
End Note.)

----------------------------------------
Traditionally Weak Local Government
Unlikely to Deliver Without Major Reform
----------------------------------------

12. Whenever local councils have been given more
responsibility to deliver services, they have failed
miserably. While the corruption and greed of councilors
themselves explains part of the story, it is also because
local councils are never provided sufficient training or
resources to perform well. Regardless of the reason,
poor performance has always been used as an excuse to
entrench power at the national level. The position of
council clerk, nominated by the Minister of Local
Government, is routinely used to ensure that local
councils do not stray too far from the central government
on key issues.

13. As a result, average Kenyans have little faith in
the ability of their local councils to deliver. During a
recent call-in radio show in Kisumu, one listener
lamented, "We want mayors elected directly by the people,

NAIROBI 00000598 003 OF 003


the way we do in general elections. It is the only way to
make councilors accountable to the people." Another
listener grumbled, "The mayors are controlled by
businessmen who finance their campaigns. These
businessmen are the ones reaping from the councils
through scandalous tenders. As a result, the common man
cannot get proper services from the council."

14. Comment: Although the ODM dominated local and
parliamentary elections with its message of change, the
change needed to improve service delivery from local
councils will have to be the institutional kind. A
national power-sharing deal between PNU and ODM is meant
to set the stage for more fundamental reforms that will
improve Kenya's governance structure and address
longstanding social grievances. Empowering local
councils (and making them more accountable to the people)
is one on a long list of priorities that await
parliament's attention. Until then, Kenyans should
expect more of the same, regardless of who won on
February 25. End Comment.

RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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