11 January 2008

Kenya: World Bank Boss Under Fire

"World Bank Boss' Leaked Memo Stirs Controversy"

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.
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"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.Click on the title above entire article at www.allafrica.com

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