# happy independence day to all kenyans

This blog takes this chance to wish all the Kenyan readers out there a happy 47th independence day. Special shout outs go to all the Kenyan independence heroes.

Hongera!!

Long live Kenya.

# countdown to wednesday begins

On Wednesday a few Kenyan cabinet ministers, wealthy businessmen and security chiefs – mostly from central Kenya and the Rift Valley – will be exposed as suspects behing the post election violence in 2007-08 that killed 1333 Kenyans and displaced hundreds of thousands. Needless to say, this will have significant political consequences.

The expected political realignments following the initiation of this phase of the ICC process will shed some light on what Kenyans should expect come 2012. It will also be a litmus test on how much the Kenyan political elite is committed to reforms and fighting impunity. Kibaki and Odinga will either have to defend or cut loose some of their most trusted lieutenants.

In other news Laurent Gbagbo is still refusing to relinquish power in the Ivory Coast. Moreno Ocampo should warn him that if any more people die as a result of his refusal to obey the electoral outcome he will be held responsible.

Elections have consequences.

# exactly when did the rain start beating africa?

HDI divergence

The new HDI rankings are out. Some in the blogosphere have beef with the new geometric (as opposed to additive) method of calculating final scores. I don’t.

Aid Watch’s beef is that:

The biggest change in method was that the new HDI is a geometric average rather than a normal (additive) average. Geometric average means you multiply the separate indices (each ranging between 0 and 1) for income, life expectancy, and education together and then take the cube root (I know your pulse starts to race here…)

Now, students, please notice the following: if one of these indices is zero, then the new HDI will be zero, regardless of how great the other indices are. The same mostly applies if one of the indices is close to zero. The new HDI has a “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” property, and in practice the weakest link turns out to be very low income (and guess which region has very low income).

My two cents on this discussion is that the Continent looks bad irrespective of how we arrive at its HDI scores. It’s best performers are tiny Botswana and Mauritius. It’s biggest countries and potential engines for growth are the DRC, Ethiopia and Nigeria, need I say more? And per capita income has not changed in most places in half a century.

I rarely disagree with Easterly but on this count I do. Let’s not shift posts for Africa. The idea of “African Standards” is condescending and demeaning to Africans. Norway and Chad look like they are eons apart. If the numbers reflect that fact so be it.

I hope this year’s report embarrasses the African ruling elite enough to wake them up from their stupor (come on, I am allowed one wishful thought per post).

More on this here and here. For a summary of this see Blattman.

# more from wikileaks

The Guardian reports:

The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians’ every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

Nice. Friedman was right. Firm’s only social responsibility should be to make profits. Forget about the population and the destroyed lives.

Also,

US diplomats fear that Kenya could erupt in violence worse than that experienced after the election in 2008 unless rampant government corruption is tackled.

America asked Uganda to let it know if its army intended to commit war crimes based on US intelligence – but did not try to prevent war crimes taking place.

Washington’s ambassador to the troubled African state of Eritrea described its president, Isaias Afwerki, as a cruel “unhinged dictator” whose regime was “one bullet away from implosion”.

Still (im)patiently waiting for the stuff on the Kenyan elections in 2007.

And lastly,

Apparently based on a conversation with Johnnie Carson, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, it said: “China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. China is in Africa for China primarily.”

Yeah right. Because the US involvement in Africa since the 1960s has been any different. At least the Chinese do not bother to be janus-faced about it [ok, that is a little too harsh, but you get my point].

# The evolution of parliamentary sovereignty in kenya

It is an interesting time as far as the institutions of governance in Kenya are concerned. The country is seeing the entrenchment of parliamentary sovereignty. Real power in the country is slowing but surely shifting from the executive to the legislature. Kudos to KBC and the parliamentary authorities for allow this to happen.

I am of the humble opinion that democracy is meaningless without credible de facto (as opposed to de jure) mechanisms for horizontal accountability. Elections (vertical accountability) take place only every five years, and even then votes, in most places, are oftentimes easily bought with bags of maize and sugar. The real game remains restricted among the political elite.

Democracy is only stable and productive to the extent that elites can check each other and agree to a modus vivendi. That is how democracy emerged in post civil war England. That is how it has been sustained in most of the West (even during periods of limited suffrage). And that is how it will take hold in Africa.

The trick is to end the one-man-show syndrome that has characterized African politics for decades. Kenya is making that crucial transition as power sips from Ikulu to Bunge and from Harambee Avenue to Parliament Road (more on the causes soon).

Let’s not kid ourselves that horizontal accountability equals democracy. It is not. But my contention is that it is better simply because the tyranny of 210 is, to me, definitely more palatable than the tyranny of 1.

# Wikileaks: interesting stuff on Kenyan-Somali relations

The most interesting thing to come out of the wikileaks stuff, at least as far as eastern Africa is concerned, is the story on Kenya’s proposed strategy of dealing with the state collapse in neighboring Somalia. According to the leak, Kenyan security chiefs are considering the creation of an autonomous buffer region in Jubaland – the area of Somalia that borders Kenya – kind of like the ones in Somaliland and Puntland. The capital of the autonomous buffer region would be in Kismayu.

Kenya has a sizeable Muslim Somali population and is afraid of fundamentalist Islamism on its doorstep in a lawless Somalia. A stable buffer region in Jubaland would guard against radicalisation of Kenya’s Somali youth in the northeast, on top of checking the proliferation of small arms in the country.

Kenya also might be thinking long term. A divided Somalia guarantees less chances of success for a greater Somalia irredentist movement if peace ever descends upon the entire country.

Ethiopia is not a fun of the idea. The last thing Addis Ababa wants is an autonomous region that can fund Somali separatists in the Ogaden. The region would also have a demonstration effect on Ogadeni Ethiopians who for decades now have fought for real political and economic autonomy from Addis Ababa.

I don’t think this is a bad idea. At this point anything that would bring order to any region of Somalia is acceptable. I have argued before that the Union of Islamic Courts should have been allowed to establish order and then bought off with aid in exchange for a more sober interpretation and application of Sharia law. The whole debate about how bad they were for women’s rights was horse manure. The Saudis aren’t any better.

Regarding Ethiopia’s concerns, Meles and his men should not export their Ogadeni conflict just as much as they do not want Somali warlords to export their own civil war. The rebellions against Addis in Oromoland and the Ogaden are partly due to Zenawi’s stranglehold on power and the faux-ethnic federalism that currently exists in Ethiopia. More on this soon.

# bozize is bokassa incarnate

Francois Bozize is trying hard to rehabilitate the image of Central Africa Republic’s former dictator Emperor Bokassa. This is not the same as Chileans trying to rehabilitate Pinochet. It is a lot closer to Cambodians trying to rehabilitate Pol Pot. This latest development tells you a lot about what kind of president the Central Africans have in Francois Bozize.

# gbagbo declares himself winner

Update:

The BBC reports that both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo have sworn themselves in as president. It is becoming ever more apparent that Cote d’Ivoire is on the edge of plunging back into civil war.

Laurent Gbagbo, through Cote d’Ivoire’s constitutional council, has declared himself winner of the Sunday presidential runoff. Ivory Coast’s independent electoral commission and UN and other observers continue to maintain that Alassane Ouattara, the opposition candidate, won the election with 54% of the vote.

The ethnic arithmetic of the election disfavored the incumbent Mr. Gbagbo (a Bete, 6%) after the third place candidate, former president Konan Bedie (a Baoule, 23%) endorsed Mr. Ouattara (a Dioula, 1.4% but who also commands most (up to 90%) of the northern Muslim vote).

Gbagbo should not be allowed to get away with this. Cote d’Ivoire’s election was not a close call. Ouattara won, fair and square. If any unity government is formed Mr. Gbagbo can only be a junior partner in it.

Needless to say this outcome may plunge the country back into civil war, mostly along the same ethnic and regional contours as in 2002-04.

More on this on the BBC website.

# suspected grenade explosion kills AP officer in eastleigh

An Administration Police officer “attached to a senior government official” had died after someone apparently threw a grenade into the driver’s cabin of his vehicle.

More on this at the Daily Nation.

# alpha conde confirmed winner of Guinea’s presidential poll

Update:

The Daily Nation reports:

Guinea’s losing presidential poll candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo (left) on Friday accepted results of the election, saying he had no choice but to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision.

The BBC reports that Alpha Conde has been confirmed the winner of Guinea’s (Conakry) presidential election. Mr. Conde got 52% of the vote. His opponent Mr. Cellou Diallo had gone to court challenging the results.

President-elect Alpha Conde

Mr. Conde won a mere 18% in the first round against Diallo’s 44% thus forcing the runoff. The standoff following the runoff threatened to plunge the country into chaos. If confirmed into office Mr. Conde will be Guinea’s first elected president since independence.

Guinea has been under an interim government led by Gen Sekouba Konate since the 2008 coup. The coup came after the death of Lansana Conte, dictator for 24 years. Mr. Conte himself rose to power in a coup following the death of Guinea’s founding president Sekou Toure.

# ouattara won, but gbagbo determined to latch on to power

The Ivorian electoral commission declared Alassane Ouattara, the northern candidate, as the winner of the presidential runoff held on Sunday. Ouattara got 54.1% of the vote. Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo disputed the results and had the country’s constitutional court reject the pronouncement. His supporters contend that there were significant irregularities in three regions in the north of the country.

Gbagbo (left) and Ouattara

UN and other mission observers declared that the election globally reflected the will of the people of Cote d’Ivoire. The BBC reports that the country’s military has sealed the borders amid rising tension and confusion over the political stalemate in the country. Mr. Gbagbo has been president since 2000.

For the sake of institutionalism the international community should not allow Mr. Gbagbo to remain in power. His 10-year tenure has not done much in terms of healing relations between the two halves of the country that fought the 2002-04 civil war. The fact that even his incumbency advantage could not help him beat Ouattara signals his general incompetence and the mass’s disaffection with his rule.

Cote d’Ivoire has a population of 21 million people, 49% of whom live in urban areas. Life expectancy in the country is a dismal 56 years. Only 48% of Ivorians  age 15 and over are literate. Ivorians’ per capita income is US \$1700 and 68% of them depend on agriculture for livelihood. 42% of Ivorians live below the international poverty line of \$2 a day.

Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a significant producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Because of the political risk in the country Cocoa for March delivery climbed \$110, or 4 percent, to \$2,868 in New York.

# kenyan banks (and financial sector) not as big as i thought

Bankelele has a ranking of the biggest banks in Kenya (2009 rankings). Barclays, KCB and Standard Chartered are the top dogs. Equity is the biggest upstart (the top three banks were around in 1968).

Banki Kuu (Central Bank of Kenya)

Certainly, more innovation and public regulation (by which I mean property rights protection and incentives for growth of contract intensive money) needs to be instituted in order to promote growth and diversification of financial services.

The prevailing interest spread in Kenya is ridiculous; the Central Bank rate is 6% while the commercial banks lending rate is 13.85%. (Njuguna Ndung’u, the governor of Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) should do something about this). The mortgage market needs a shot in the arm (the demand is high but financing is maddeningly expensive). And the country could do with a more robust household credit system. Even the middle class does not earn enough to buy all they need in cash. Borrowing against future prosperity (under a regulated system, of course) is not such a bad idea. More substantively, it is an implicit investment in the future.

# laurent Gbagbo might have lost to Ouattara

There are no prizes for guessing why the government of Ivory Coast is delaying the release of provisional results from Sunday’s presidential runoff. It is almost certain that the challenger, Alassane Ouattara, won against Laurent Gbagbo, who has been dictator president since 2000. Mr. Gbagbo, seeming desperate, has already indicated that he will challenge results from three regions in the north.

I will post the provisional results as soon as I get an inkling of what they look like.

Map of Cote d'Ivoire

The Ivorian civil war (2002-2004) split the country in two, with the rebels (New Forces) controlling the north. Mr. Ouattara is from the north while Mr. Gbagbo is from the south.

The BBC reports that the main election observer missions in the country had no problems with how the election was conducted in the north.

The information vacuum has fueled security uncertainty and speculation. The Daily Nation reports:

“People are going a bit crazy. There are hundreds of rumours of violence so the atmosphere is rather tense,” said Marcel Camara, 37, hunkered down with his aunt and two cousins at their home in the Abobo district of Abidjan, where a curfew has been in force since Saturday.