Thursday, January 10, 2008

Leaked UN Memo "Accepts Kibaki's Election" and deepens Kenya crisis

A leaked January 1 briefing note from Colin Bruce, the World Bank’s country director in Kenya, lays out the case for accepting Mwai Kibaki’s victory in the recent presidential election on the basis of “oral briefings and documents from senior [United Nations Development Programme] officials” who “monitored the overall electoral process,” The Financial Times reported on January 9.

The memo claims “the considered view of the UN is that the Electoral Commission of Kenya announcement of a Kibaki win is correct.” Michele Montas, a spokeswoman for the UN secretary-general, denied that the UN had adopted that position. UNDP officials said they neither monitored the elections nor provided any assessment suggesting a Kibaki victory. The memo claims that “the considered view of the UN is that the Electoral Commission of Kenya announcement of a Kibaki win is correct”.

Given the widespread irregularities reported in last month’s elections, the leaked briefing note is likely to trigger accusations that the institution, which lends heavily to Kenya, has lost its political objectivity. It is obvious that the World Bank's assessment of Kenya, and in particular the Kibaki Administration, may now be compromised by too close a relationship between Kibaki and Bruce. It is common knowledge that Bruce rents a house owned by Kibaki, bringing to the fore the issue of conflict of interest. European Union election observers, whom Mr Bruce criticised, on Wednesday stood by their conclusion that the election was impossible to call.

The World Bank has been criticised for maintaining its large development programme in Kenya in spite of evidence of high-level corruption in Kibaki’s government. The bank says its projects are vital for the country’s poor. Mr Bruce told the Financial Times the bank had no position on the result of the elections and he “was simply reporting the information that was available to me to headquarters”. Marwan Muasher, head of external relations at the bank, said: “The bank does not take political positions. Neither Colin Bruce nor the bank has a position on Kibaki or [opposition leader Raila] Odinga.”

Separately, Kenya’s opposition ODM on Wednesday called for the withdrawal of Mr Bruce.

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