World Bank boss under fire – By Albert Muriuki

January 13th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

A World Bank internal memorandum endorsing the controversial re-election of President Kibaki has stirred a major diplomatic controversy over the polls outcome. (more…)

A World Bank internal memorandum endorsing the controversial re-election of President Kibaki has stirred a major diplomatic controversy over the polls outcome.

The memo has also put Mr Colin Bruce, World Bank’s Kenya country director, on a collision path with the Orange Democratic Movement, whose presidential candidate Raila Odinga is contesting Mr Kibaki’s re-election and has opened internationally mediated talks, demanding his removal from office.

The talks, led by Ghana’s President John Kufuor, were yesterday wavering with Reuters news agency claiming that former UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan would take over as the mediator.

The international community’s attention was, however, focused on the leaked memo and the subsequent exchanges within the World Bank, the European Union and the UK.

It reveals the behind-the-scene battles that ensued as the international community struggled to deal with the poll outcome and the political fallout that has claimed nearly 500 lives and destroyed Sh60 billion worth of property. Analysts said the memo also unravelled the various diplomatic interests that are shaping debates on Kenya in Western capitals – mostly driven by foreign policies of the participating governments.

The battles will also help shed light on the underlying positions that the various international organisations have taken and the great powers that support them. This could influence the outcome of the political settlement reached by the mediation process.

Email correspondence between senior World Bank officials in Washington and Nairobi show that two leading international bodies, the UN and the World Bank — which offer the most development aid to Kenya — consider the re-election of President Kibaki to have been proper.

The UNDP office in Kenya however denied having agreed with the World Bank on anything in relation to the Kenyan elections. The UNDP office in Kenya told the Business Daily that the World Bank “had misquoted them”.

While the US has dispatched Jendayi Frazer, its Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and asked her to stay in the region — as long as it takes — the Kenyan problem now appears to be tied to the future of the war on terror.

Endorsement by the World Bank was also being understood to explain President Kibaki’s confidence in announcing the date of the opening of the 10th Parliament and his naming of a Cabinet, even as President Kufuor, the preferred mediator of both President Kibaki and Mr Odinga, tried to arbitrate.

On January 7, a statement from White House “condemned the use of violence as a political tool and appealed to both sides to engage in peaceful dialogue.” A day later Mr Odinga called off the protest rallies he had planned for the next day as Mr Kibaki went on to name a Cabinet and announce the opening of Parliament.

“The endorsement could of course have contributed to the confidence the president had in announcing a date for the opening of Parliament and naming the Cabinet,” said Dr Kithure Kindiki, the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Law, at the University of Nairobi.

In a clear departure from the stand taken by international observers, and in particular the European Union the Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) in Kenya, the World Bank memo indicates that Mr Bruce, who is in charge of Kenya, Comoros, Eritrea, Rwanda, Seychelles and Somalia, together with the UN, had initially broken ranks with the EU-EOM about the results of the presidential elections.

“The considered view of the UN is that the ECK announcement of a Kibaki win is correct,” reads the internal memo between Mr Bruce and Hartwig Schafer, the Director of Operations Africa Region based in Washington DC.

Mr Graham Elson, the Deputy Chief Observer of the EU-EOM, however told the Business Daily, that the EU-EOM still stands by the contents of the preliminary statement they issued.

“We will release a full statement in February which will give more details,” he said.

The email, obtained by the Business Daily on Monday concludes that upon receiving complaints from the opposition about irregularities, the ECK spent 24 hours, in the presence of observers, reviewing each concern.

“On balance, they determined that there were more irregularities of consequence on Mr Odinga’s side than on the Kibaki side. For example, ECK considered reported turnout above 90 per cent to be a red-flag for irregularities. Data available so far indicates that the highest reported turnout in a Kibaki stronghold was 90 percent; in Mr Odinga’s strongholds, there were six heavily populated areas with a reported turnout of between 102 to 116 per cent,” reads the email, which however does not name the six areas.

The memo states that the draft EU-EOM report cites two constituencies (Kieni and Molo) in which Kibaki’s margin was inflated, but does not say whether that invalidates the overall results.

“The reader is left to determine that the inflation could not have been higher than 48,000 votes against the ECK declared margin of victory of 230, 000,” reads the email.

Contacted by the Business Daily, Mr Bruce, through a spokesman, confirmed the authenticity of the correspondence.

Mr Schafer, the senior World Bank official to whom Mr Bruce wrote the memos, did not respond to emails sent to him, neither did he return calls.
Mr Bruce said the memo was a factual account of information available at the time to the World Bank from various sources.

“It is part of the normal reporting on Kenya that takes place between Nairobi and headquarters. It is not a position statement,” he said.

In public, the World Bank, through press releases is however more cautious on how it deals with the political situation in Kenya, though, unlike the EU-EOM, it does not out rightly deny Mr Kibaki’s re-election.

Instead, the Bank raises concerns about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate and warns that the current crisis may hinder recent economic growth.

A press release from the World Bank in Kenya, states that the GDP growth rate of seven per cent, rising business confidence, increasing tourism, measurable progress in firm level productivity, significant gains in democratic development, and the lifting of over two million Kenyans out of poverty would be put at risk if the crisis is not urgently dealt with.

Noting that the gains achieved by Kenya have been done with donor assistance of only about one percent of Kenya’s GDP compared to about 10 percent of GDP for Tanzania and Ghana, the Bank states that at stake also is the opportunity to begin addressing the serious challenges of insufficient employment creation, infrastructure deficits, inadequate health care, unequal access to productive services, and massively scaling up the campaign against corruption.

Mr Bruce told the Business Daily that while the internal memo’s were not the official stand of the World Bank, it was an analysis of the facts available to the Bank.

While the memo is not the Banks position, “it put facts on the table that were not being reported—namely, that there were irregularities on both sides,” said Mr Bruce.

“The full text of the European Union (EU) Observation Mission report contains such facts but its press release did not. This may have been an oversight given the time pressures of the moment. Similar facts about problems on both sides are contained in other reports like that of the Kenya Elections Domestic Observation Forum. But these details were missed in the euphoria of the moment,” he said.

The internal memos among senior staff of the World Bank could be a clear indication that the United States, the Banks biggest donor, actually does covertly support the current regime but for fear of seeming to endorse suspicious elections, is giving a behind the scenes support.

“I must say that the position of the US about this matter seems to be rather unclear,” said the President of the East African Law Society (EALS), Mr Tom Ojienda, “but it seems to be in favour of a re-run of the elections,” he said.

He however cautions on the importance of the memo, “the World Bank is a very important institution that cannot be ignored by any government,” said Ojienda.
Mr Bruce, who is currently in Washington, had through a spokesman urged the Business Daily to await a more detailed response from him and further information to shed more light on the issue. By the time of going to press however, he had not sent any information.

However, while the World Bank did not respond to the Business Daily’s inquiries, it sent the United Kingdom based Financial Times (FT) further clarifications on the issue including further internal correspondence.

UN officials in Kenya and New York denied they had provided an assessment, referred to in Mr Bruce’s report, endorsing a Kibaki win. EU officials also questioned his analysis.

“There were enough irregularities to call into question the veracity and credibility of the results and it was close enough that nobody can be certain as to who actually won,” Mr Elson, the deputy chief of the EU Observer Mission, told the FT.

In the internal memos, Mr Bruce notes that higher discrepancies were actually noted in his strong holds.

“The process of arriving at the result created a crisis of confidence due to missteps by (a) the ECK chair (who joked about possible rigging during a news conference), (b) the vocal EU observer who was not thorough and precise in analysing information provided to him—information that is now being repeatedly quoted by the world media, and (c) the lack of preparation by Kibaki’s party in dealing with a highly media-savvy opposition,” reads the memo.

Mr Salim Lone, the spokesman for the ODM, however rubbished Mr Bruce’s assessment calling him a biased mediator. ODM has already asked for Mr Bruce to be transferred.

Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua on his part concurred with Mr Bruce’s assessment stating that there had actually been no rigging by the President.

“It is very clear from the beginning that President Kibaki did not participate in any rigging. If you remove the votes from the so called contentious regions, President Kibaki still wins,” he told the Business Daily.

“It is unfortunate that the media is being one sided in this whole affair, just as Mr Bruce notes, there where regions in Raila’s strongholds especially in Nyanza where no agents for President Kibaki nor any local or international observers were allowed in to monitor the elections, why has no one highlighted this?” he posed.

A preliminary statement from the EU-EOM in Kenya, states that candidate agents were present in nearly all polling stations visited, often in high numbers. However, EU observers reported a tendency of over-representation by both PNU and ODM agents.

According to the EU-EOM preliminary report, the EU-EOM observed a total of 752 polling stations on in Kenya on Election Day.

The UNDP, which is now part of the controversy raised by Mr Bruce’s memo, has, according to the EU-EOM, funded 13 civil society organisations and faith-based organisations, representative of the three main faiths of the country, with US$2 million (Sh130 million) in 2007.

The leaked email could also have major implications at the World Bank office here in Kenya, with the likelihood that Mr Bruce could be transferred.
But it has exposed the rift in donor circles over the outcome.

Colin Bruce memo that sparked diplomatic storm

Below is the body of the memorandum from Colin Bruce. The header has been removed to protect the sources.

SUBJECT: Third Brief on Kenya Elections

1. This update, prepared by Colin Bruce, the Country Director, covers reported violence and economic pressures; the related dispute over the presidential count; and on-going peace-making efforts. It draws on strictly confidential oral briefings and documents from senior UNDP officials who led donor engagement with the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and monitored the overall electoral process.

2. Violence is becoming more targeted and intense in some poor neighborhoods. Over 150 people are known to have died. In addition, just hours ago, an attack on a church in Eldoret, about 300 kilometres from Nairobi, killed about 40 women and children. As many as 20,000 people may have been displaced there as well.

Calm has returned to other troubled spots but the situation remains tense, including in Nairobi where an opposition rally is planned for Thursday. Meanwhile, shortages of food and fuel are emerging, especially in low Income areas, and pressures from the business community for an amicable solution are mounting. Bank staff are accounted for and remain ‘shelter-in-place’.

3. Presidential Result. The considered view of the UN is that the ECK announcement of a Kibaki win is correct. Upon receiving the complaints from the opposition about irregularities last Saturday, the ECK spent 24 hours,in the presence of observers, reviewing each concern. On balance, they determined that there were more irregularities of consequence on the Odinga side than on the Kibaki side. For example, ECK considered reported turnout above 90 percent to be a red-flag for irregularities.

Data available so far indicates that the highest reported turnout in a Kibaki stronghold was 90 percent; in the Odinga strongholds, there were 6 heavily populated areas with reported turnout Of between 102 to 116 per cent.

Also, a draft EU report released today cites two constituencies (Kieni and Molo) in which Kibaki’s margin was inflated but does not say whether that invalidates the overall results. The reader is left to determine that the inflation could not have been higher than 48,000 votes against the ECK-declared margin of victory of 230,000. (Reports from the Commonwealth and domestic observers are expected by next week).

4. Communication and Other Process Failures. The process of arriving at the result created a crisis of confidence due to missteps by (a) the ECK chair (who joked about possible rigging during a news conference), (b) the vocal EU observer who was not thorough and precise in analysing information provided tohim–information that is now being repeatedly quoted by the world media, and (c) the lack of preparation by Kibaki’s party in dealing with a highly media-savvy opposition.

For example, neither the ECK nor Kibaki’s party were effective in communicating that in Nyanza province (the home of Odinga’s ethnic group), they were unable to field ‘agents’ as required following the reported murder of one agent from Kibaki’s party. ECK and international media were not vigilant enough to establish that the person presented to the media as an ECK employee, who had witnessed rigging, was neither an ECK official nor a witness.

5. Moving forward. Several political and diplomatic initiatives are underway to try to restore calm. Central to these efforts is persuading Kibaki and Odinga to agree on a credible way forward, and to announce it together. One option being explored is getting them to agree to a recount which, by law, has to be done through a petition to Kenya’s High Court. Eminent persons from abroad would monitor this recount.

Meanwhile, Kibaki would proceed to form a Cabinet, possibly with some participation by Odinga supporters. It is unclear what would happen if the exercise arrived at a different result from the ECK decision. The gamble is that this would not happen and that even if it did, both sides would have a face-saving way to accept a change in course via-a-vis their supporters.

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