Africa’s budding narco-states?

UPDATE:

The Kenyan Prime Minister just admitted to the presence of drug money in Kenyan politics. Huge. Also, check the UNODC’s drug trafficking patterns for East Africa.

Also, does anyone out there have a copy of the report on drug trafficking in Kenya? Care to share?

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I have written before about the growing problem of drug-trafficking that is creating new problems for already fragile African states.

Of note is the fact that the problem is not just limited to the usual suspects – weak or failing states – but also extends to countries that most would consider to have it together, like Ghana, South Africa and Kenya.

According to Reuters, “cocaine moves through West Africa” while “heroin transits through the eastern part of the continent.”

The most alarming thing about this new trend is that in most of these African countries drug-trafficking happens with the consent of those in government.

For instance, in Guinea the son of former president Conte was for a long time a leading drug kingpin. In Guinea-Bissau President Vieira’s and Gen. Na Waie’s deaths in March of last year were a result of drug-related feuds. In Ghana President Atta Mills has lamented that the drug lords are too powerful to rein in. In Kenya, a woman (rumored to be) close to the president and other elites have been linked to the drug trade. Indeed on June 1st President Obama listed a sitting Kenyan Member of Parliament (Harun Mwau) as a global drug kingpin.

In South Africa former Chief of Police, Jackie Selebi, was jailed for 10 years in 2010 on drug charges. More recently the wife of the South African Intelligence Minister (Sheryl Cwele) was found guilty of having connections to the illicit trade. In 2009 a Boeing 727 crashed and was later set ablaze by suspected drug traffickers in Mali. The plane is believed to have been a drug cargo plane from Latin America destined for Europe. Other African states whose drug connections have also come to light include The Gambia (where rumors abound that President Jammeh is himself involved in the trade in drugs and arms in collusion with the Bissauian army) and Mozambique (H/T kmmonroe). You can find related news stories here and here.

Clearly, this is a real problem that if not nipped in the bud has the potential of growing to Mexican proportions, especially considering the already low levels of state capacity in most of Africa.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy also addresses this issue in their newly released report:

In just a few years, West Africa has become a major transit and re-packaging hub for cocaine following a strategic shift of Latin American drug syndicates toward the European market. Profiting from weak governance, endemic poverty, instability and ill-equipped police and judicial institutions, and bolstered by the enormous value of the drug trade, criminal networks have infiltrated governments, state institutions and the military. Corruption and money laundering, driven by the drug trade, pervert local politics and skew local economies.

A dangerous scenario is emerging as narco-traffic threatens to metastasize into broader political and security challenges. Initial international responses to support regional and national action have not been able to reverse this trend. New evidence suggests that criminal networks are expanding operations and strengthening their positions through new alliances, notably with armed groups. Current responses need to be urgently scaled up and coordinated under West African leadership, with international financial and technical support. Responses should integrate
law enforcement and judicial approaches with social, development and conflict prevention policies – and they should involve governments and civil society alike.

kenya’s ocampo six at the hague; kenyan politics will never be the same

The denouement of the saga is still uncertain. Two Kenyan political supremos, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, are appearing at the ICC in the Hague to answer to charges of crimes against humanity. The two are among six Kenyans accused by Moreno Ocampo for being the brains behind the violence in 2007-08 in Kenya that killed over 1300 and displaced close to half a million people.

The ICC trial of the six is likely to bring to light the hypocrisy of Kenya’s ruling class. For far too long the political elite have used violence as a political tool. Former president Moi perfected the craft and got away with it in 1992 and 1997 (more people died then than in 2007-08). If all goes well, it appears that this time around things will be different.

My hope is that the six accused will bring all to light so that Kenyans can know their leaders for who they really are.

There is no doubt that ethnicity will continue to cloud Kenyan politics. But it is also true that Kenyans will, from now on, know what is at stake when their leaders incite them to violence. They will know that this crop of people do not give a rat’s behind about their (the people’s) plight. They will fully understand why the government of Kenya can spend millions of dollars in defense of a few men while hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens (and victims of crimes committed by the very few men) continue to subsist in limbo. They will understand why millions get spent every year to build offices, buy expensive cars and pay for the lavish lives of the ruling elite while ordinary Kenyans starve.

They will know that their tribal leaders do not have their interests at heart.

Whatever the outcome of the ICC trial, the mystic around Kenya’s ethnic leaders is gone. These little venal and inept men and women who like parading around as gods will no longer have the final word on everything.

new eu policy on food aid commendable

For many years experts have pointed out the negative impact of international food aid. The practice of tying food aid to farm subsidies to western farmers resulted in unfair competition that drove many an African farmer out of business.

The EU intends to change this. New policy will now require the purchase of food aid in or near the needy countries.

Speaking of agriculture, we are yet to see any tangible results from Kofi Annan’s Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. Mr. Annan seems to have been sidetracked by his peacekeeping duties as a Continental elder statesman. Perhaps the Alliance could get a less sought after individual – like Prof. Wangari Maathai, for instance – in order to increase its stature in public and highlight its importance in the quest for development on the Continent.

the waki report, political expediency and the denial of justice

The Kenyan Premier, Raila Odinga, has bowed to pressure from within his party and made a hasty retreat with regard to the implementation of the Waki Report. (This report was compiled by a commission set up to investigate the post-election violence that nearly plunged Kenya into civil war early this year). This is a huge disappointment and a blow to the pursuit of justice in Kenya. About 1500 died. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, many of whom still live in IDP camps. Don’t we owe these people a public acknowledgment that they were wronged?

Members of both the ODM and PNU have been implicated in the report. Predictably, a cohort of PNU parliamentarians already roundly rejected the report. Now ODM, for the sake of unity (its members from the Rift Valley province threatened a mutiny), has decided to do the same. This means that the Waki Commission will probably join the list of the myriad useless commissions the country has set up since independence to investigate all manner of wrongs and provide recommendations – recommendations which were then rubbished and never implemented. What a waste of time and money!

But there is still hope. And it lies within the Kenyan civil society. The law society of Kenya, among other such civic organisations, should pressure the international court in the Hague, through Kofi Annan, to prosecute those named in the report, unless the government agrees to set up a Kenyan tribunal. The culture of impunity has to be stopped. This report could have been used as a tool for national reconciliation and regeneration. It is sad that political expediency has once again come before justice. It is doubly sad that ODM, a party that has claimed to be for the people, is the same party denying justice to the people.

odm calls off protests, kibaki reiterates his commitment to PM post

The Orange Democratic Movement leader Hon. Raila Odinga on Wednesday called off street protests scheduled for Thursday in an effort to give a conciliatory cue to the Party of National Unity. Hon. Raila said that in order to express their commitment to the talks which appear headed for the doldrums his party had called off mass protests in major cities until further notice. The ODM is in talks with the ruling PNU to try and hammer out a power sharing agreement after an election that many believe was too flawed to determine a winner and which ODM maintains it won.

Over 1500 people have since died in election-related violence since the electoral commission chairman, one Samuel Kivuitu, announced the results amid protests of foul play by the opposition and international observers. Hundreds of thousands remain displaced both within Kenya and in neighbouring countries like Uganda and Tanzania.

Meanwhile, President Mwai Kibaki has reiterated his commitment to the creation of a Prime Minister’s post and two deputy slots in an attempt to accommodate the ODM in a power-sharing arrangement. Kibaki also reminded Kenyans that he is committed to the speedy resolution of the talks in order to give Kenyans a chance to return to normalcy. The president’s statement gave signs that may be the PNU is willing to bend backwards and concede some ground to the ODM with regard to demands for an executive premier with some clout.

Kibaki however remained adamant that the creation of a premier must be done withing the current constitution but promised to deliver comprehensive constitutional amendments in the next one year. ODM wants the premier’s post to be entrenched in the constitution to guarantee it security of tenure and insulate it against possible challenges in court.

Mr. Annan, the leader of the talks between the two feuding parties, met with both Hon. Raila and President Kibaki to try and talk them into agreeing to cede more ground to allow the talks to move forward. The talks are a make or break for Kenya, a country that for forty years had the image of a peaceful oasis in a desert of conflicts but which now hangs on the edge of the cliff and is threatened with total collapse.

If the talks do not succeed, many analysts predict a return to violence and chaos throughout the Rift Valley province and in major cities and towns, especially in the west of the country which is an opposition stronghold.

kenyan talks suspended

A statement from Kofi Annan, the mediator in Kenya’s post election negotiations, has said that the talks have been suspended for the moment so that he can meet with the two principals – President Kibaki and Hon. Raila Odinga – to try and find a quicker way to arrive at a solution to the main contentious issue of duties and powers of the proposed Premier.

The two sides have agreed, in principle, to share power through the creation of the post of Prime Minister that will be occupied by the opposition leader Raila Odinga. However, both sides have bitterly disagreed as to what powers the proposed Premier would have. The opposition group, ODM, that claims it won last December’s election insist that the Premier should have executive authority and some autonomy from the president while the ruling PNU want the creation of a ceremonial Premier position with no more power than the secretary to the cabinet and who is directly answerable to the president.

Meanwhile, it emerged, as expected, that majority of those killed in the post election clashes in Western and Nyanza provinces of Kenya died of gun shot wounds. Throughout the violence the opposition had maintained that the police was using live rounds to quell violence and in the process was killing innocent civilians – including young school children. While I am averse to speculations, it is interesting to note that these two regions are perceived to be opposition strongholds. In the Rift Valley however, where most of the killings occurred, most of the dead died of machete and arrow wounds. It is puzzling why firearm force that was widely used in Western Kenya to stop mere looters was not used in the Rift Valley to stop real  murderers from both sides of the “tribal” divide.

I will not blame this on tribalism. I blame it purely on gross incompetence on the part of Gen. Hussein Ali and his men. He and his police force owe Kenya more than their erratic, uncoordinated and extremely amateur response to the violence that nearly tore the country apart.

So the talks remain suspended. Kenyans continue to live with heightened tension. Economic progress both in the country and in the region continues to be stalled. And all because of a few wealthy individuals who cannot decide which group among them will have the power, over the next five years, to steal from the Kenyan people. God have mercy on Kenyans.

annan threatens to leave Kenyan talks

Kofi Annan has threatened to leave the Kenyan talks if no progress is made soon. Mr. Annan has been leading talks aimed at finding a lasting solution to some of the problems that caused and/or were results of the flawed elections held in the country last December. According to an aide to Mr. Annan, the former UN boss lamented that he had put a lot of important things on hold to be a part of the talks and that if it emerged that the negotiating parties were not willing to reach a compromise soon he would leave.

The talks, according to recent media briefings, have reached a critical stage. Both the government and the opposition have agreed on the creation of a prime minister’s post that will be occupied by the opposition leader Raila Odinga. However, the problem has been whether the prime minister should have some executive powers or not. The government insists that the current constitution allows for the creation of a non-executive premier while the opposition wants an amendment to create the position of an executive premier and also for an equal share of cabinet positions and other appointments.

I hate to be pessimistic but things look really bad for this East African country. With the imminent collapse of the talks, the government will probably get marginalised by the international community, a situation that will make it even more autocratic and impervious to the wishes of ordinary Kenyans. Inevitably there will be more tribal bloodshed because the opposition remains adamant in its insistence that it won the elections held last December. Plus the post-election violence has divided the country on tribal lines so much that any national reconciliation will necessarily need ODM and PNU to come up with a political solution and possible a broad-based transitional government.

Kenya is steadily turning into the Ivory Coast. The latter, a former third biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, descended into civil strife soon after fraudulent elections were held following the death of long time strongman Houphouet Boigny. Kenya, like Boigny-Ivory Coast, was relatively stable during the iron fisted reign of Daniel Arap Moi for nearly a quarter of a century. However, after last year’s fraudulent elections that saw the return of the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, violence erupted that resulted in the death of more than 1000 people and destruction of property worth billions of shillings.

Both sides of the political divide seem not to have the interest of ordinary Kenyans at heart. The business community and the rest of the civil society seem to have taken a wait-and-see stance. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Kenyans remain displaced in IDP camps without enough food or medication.

Three months ago no one would have predicted that Kenya would become yet another African statistic to be mentioned in the same light with the likes of Ivory Coast, Somalia, Zimbabwe …….. and all the others.

There may still be time to save the situation. But as things stand, I think the country is still in the eye of the storm – with more trouble to come before sanity returns. I just hope that Kenya and Kenyans are strong enough to endure through all this and emerge as an even stronger country.

who is this person?

The law is an ass. If you disagree then what can you make of a Kenyan, in this time of deep crisis, filing a case in court to stop the ongoing Kofi Annan led negotiations on the grounds that they are unconstitutional and in gross violation of his rights – with regard to whom he voted for in Kenya’s December 27th elections?

A gentleman by the name Anthony Ndung’u Kirori wants the courts to stop the talks and instead ask the ODM to seek redress over last year’s flawed elections throught the courts. The case will be heard on Monday. My guess is that reason will prevail at the high courts and this case will be thrown out, or in typical Kenyan fashion, will be allowed to drag on without any ruling until the talks are concluded.

But Anthony Ndung’u Kirori is not crazy at all. Although his intentions may be suspect given Kenya’s unique situation, he is right when he says that election petitions should be handled by courts and not a former UN secretary general. However, this gentleman also ought to know that as much as Kenyans should remain subordinate to the law, the law was made to serve Kenyans and not the other way round. The law is not an end in itself.

The law was designed to grant Kenyans a safe environment to live and pursue their dreams. So going by this argument, if the implementation of a given law would result in the collapse of society; mayhem, killings and general disorder (like the cessation of the Annan talks would), then the particular law would be going against the overall objective of all laws and should therefore be suppressed.

A good sign, perhaps, is the fact that Martha Karua – the justice minister – did climb down from her obduracy about the need to follow the law to the letter. Her climb down means that the executive knows that right now the most important thing is to find a way out of Kenya’s mess and the law should be used to serve that purpose. The judiciary should take cue and throw this case out as soon as possible.

That said, you’ve got to wonder what exactly Mr. Anthony Ndung’u Kirori wants for his country. You know that Kenya is still divided when people like Anthony go to court to stop talks aimed at stopping killings, rape, looting and destruction of property.

ODM threat of more protests in bad taste

The latest threat by ODM that it will stage street protests if parliament does not meet in a week to enact into law proposals made at the Annan-led mediation talks could not have come at a worse time. The country still hangs on the edge following flawed elections last December that resulted in the killing of over 1000 innocent Kenyans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Taking hard-line positions like this is not good for the talks. ODM should find a better way of coercing PNU into an agreement than risking the lives of more Kenyans.

I think ODM and PNU should give the talks a chance and stop issuing ultimatums. The hard-line brinkmanship exhibited by the voluble foot soldiers on both sides of the aisle is bad for the country. The ODM leadership and PNU operatives like Hon. Martha Karua, Moses Wetangula and Amos Kimunya should realise that Kenya is bigger than any one individual. The country needs reconciliation and humility more than the chest thumping that we continue to see from these politicians.

The fact of the matter is that as things stand, neither PNU nor ODM can govern the country effectively on its own. That the December elections were seriously flawed is no longer a bone of contention. Juja, Maragua (PNU) and parts of Nyanza (ODM) are proof of the fact.

Right now what the country needs is a negotiated settlement with some power sharing, constitutional changes and then an election in a few years. This is the least that the Martha Karuas and Peter Nyong’os of Kenya can do for their country. We can’t afford to stall the process of economic growth and modernization because of tribal squabbles. Kenyans should not be denied a chance to realise their dreams and ambitions because of a few greedy, power hungry politicians.

So to ODM and PNU: Share power. Build roads. Make the markets more efficient. Provide education and healthcare. And while you are at it show some basic decency – less kleptocracy, tribalism and corruption. You owe this to Kenyans and to Africans. Kenyans cannot afford another dark decade like we did in the 80s under Moi obduracy and thievery.

The world is watching. Kenyans are watching too, some dying, some displaced and some apathetic.

Kenyan negotiations enter critical stage

The Annan led team trying to reestablish sanity in Kenya will from tomorrow start looking at the most contentious issues thus far – the issues of the alleged election fraud, land, economic disparity and constitutional reform to limit the powers of the president. This is expected to be the most critical stage of the negotiations because most of the violence that has visited Kenya over the last month was caused either directly or indirectly by one or a combination of the above factors.

The government side has indicated that it will not compromise on the matter of Kibaki having been elected even as the ODM continues to insist that the election was stolen by the Kibaki camp. Today (Wednesday, 5th) both sets of negotiators held meetings with their respective principals to brief them on the goings on in Serena. Annan, who has been joined by former Tanzanian president Mkapa and Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, expressed optimism over the talks. His sentiments were echoed by both Ruto and Kilonzo of ODM and PNU-ODM-Kenya respectively.

Meanwhile the central bank governor issued a statement saying that the Kenyan economy is expected to fail to meet the projected annual growth of 5% for the year 2008. This he attributed to the adverse effect the recent violence has had on production, consumption and investor confidence. The private sector estimates that more than 400,000 Kenyans will lose their jobs if the situation does not improve soon. This would be bad for a country with unemployment rate that is approaching the high forties.

Kenyan leaders ought to know that the last thing they need is even more angry, hungry and jobless young people in the streets.