(Extensions of Remarks - April 17, 2013)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E483]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                       HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                       Wednesday, April 17, 2013

  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Subcommittee on 
Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International 
Organizations held a hearing that examined U.S. actions to support the 
March 2013 elections in Kenya, a critically important African ally. The 
United States has devoted more than $35 million since 2010 alone to 
prepare for and manage this year's election process.
   After the massive violence following the closely contested December 
2007 election, many precautions were taken to prevent a similar 
occurrence in 2013, and election-day and post-election violence have 
been greatly reduced. However, an effort to use new technology did not 
work as well as hoped. There were questions about the effectiveness of 
this election, which had promised to be a technological advancement. 
Given future important African elections, this hearing will look at 
what a responsible U.S. policy toward African elections should look 
like in an era of constrained development aid budgets.
   The tragic election day deaths of 19 people, although attributed 
mostly to Islamic separatist elements and not to specifically election-
related causes, cannot be overlooked and the perpetrators must be held 
to account. It is unacceptable that in the violence that followed the 
2007 elections, an estimated 1,200 Kenyans were killed, and 
approximately 600,000 were displaced, according to media reports. Yet 
no one has thus far been held accountable.
   Kenya this year conducted its first election under the 2010 
constitution. In addition to voting for a president and members of the 
National Assembly, Kenyans selected members of the new Senate, as well 
as governors and local Assembly representatives in the 47 newly-created 
counties, each with a designated women's representative. More 
technology was brought into polling places to better ensure accuracy of 
voting and vote tabulation. Unfortunately, reported malfunctions of the 
equipment in some polling stations and at the national level, where a 
server broke down, for awhile stoked fears of vote rigging. If the 
court process had not been handled well as it was, we might now be 
looking at another wave of post-election violence.
   Uhuru Kenyatta was elected President with 6,173,433 votes to 
5,340,546 votes for Raila Odinga, and this was certified by the Kenyan 
Supreme Court. Nevertheless, violence was still a possibility until 
Odinga gave a magnanimous concession speech following the court ruling.
   The amount of U.S support for the Kenya election was extraordinary. 
American and Kenyan civil society organizations were enabled to conduct 
civic education, including radio and television messages and programs 
aimed at youth to encourage participation in the election process and 
discourage violence. Youth organizations were created nationwide to 
give young people an enduring voice in their country's political 
system. Several innovative approaches were created, including a comic 
book called Shujazz with young characters involved in commenting on the 
Kenyan political scene.
   The three organizations presenting testimony today all played major 
roles in creative preparations for the 2013 Kenyan election. The 
International Republican Institute printed nearly 1.2 million sample 
ballots and 400,000 election posters for the IEBC and also distributed 
800,000 Shujazz posters. The National Democratic Institute conducted an 
important poll on voter attitudes heading into the election, covering 
such issues as whether the country was headed in the right direction, 
whether their lives would improve during the next five years, whether 
the election posed a security threat to them and their community and 
whether they felt others were being encouraged to do harm to their 
ethnic group because of the elections.
   The International Foundation for Electoral Systems advised Kenya's 
electoral commission on the process to conduct an election where there 
were 1,882 different configurations of the ballot, depending on the 
local races being run. The cell phones necessary for reporting of vote 
totals from polling stations were so late in being procured that IFES 
went ahead and purchased 1,200 to send into the field in time for 
election day.
   Despite the extraordinary efforts by NGOs in preparing for the 
Kenyan election, we must be selective in what lessons we take from this 
experience. We will not be able to devote such resources to what will 
be several important elections yet to be held in 2013.
   The U.S. Government has pressed both the governments of Mali and 
Madagascar to hold elections at the earliest possible date in order to 
normalize relations after coups replaced elected leaders. Zimbabwe, 
which recently held a constitutional referendum, is scheduled to hold 
presidential and legislative elections that many in that country hope 
will break the long cycle of repression of the political opposition. 
Ethiopia's next election will replace the late Prime Minister Meles 
Zenawi and also will determine whether the political opposition will 
have more space to operate than in previous elections. Guinea's 
election also is being conducted in an atmosphere of uncertainty for 
the political opposition.
   These elections are important to U.S. foreign policy as was the 
election in Kenya. So how do we ensure that they are successful and 
represent the will of the voters if we can't devote the resources we 
did in Kenya? That was the question we put to the witnesses, whose 
organizations have broad experience with African elections and have a 
unique viewpoint that we hope will allow Congress and the 
administration to agree on funding for a policy that is fiscally sound 
while being politically effective.