Friday, August 5, 2011

Measuring Kenyan Preferences

Having spent this week knee-deep in surveys and reports on Kenyans' preferences concerning the International Criminal Court, I've been struck by the wealth of material that's been generated in three short years. The process created and materials generated by the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR), managed by the United Nations Development Programme and funded by numerous donors, offer a promising model for transitional justice efforts of all types.
A little background to begin: to put an end to the post-election violence in Kenya in late 2007 and early 2008, the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities brokered a peace deal between the two main political parties (PNU, Party of National Unity, and ODM, Orange Democratic Movement). In February 2008, the parties established the KNDR framework, with four agenda items: Stopping the violence and restoring fundamental rights; addressing the humanitarian crisis and promoting reconciliation and healing; overcoming the political crisis; and addressing long-term issues, including constitutional, legal, and institutional reforms. The KNDR Monitoring Project, funded initially by the Open Society Institute, was created in 2008 to monitor implementation of these goals.
The KNDR Monitoring Project has issued ten reports, both qualitative and quantitative, measuring the implementation of the KNDR agenda items. The country's progress is palpable as one reads the reports. The first, in January 2009, focusing on Agenda Item One, surveys Kenyans as to whether the political violence has stopped. (Though 60% of respondents said violence had decreased since just after the 2007 election, while 70% of those surveyed said their life was worse than it was just after the 2007 election.) The most recent survey, from June 2011, finds that 50% of the respondents feel safer than they did just after the 2007 general election.
One of the most interesting findings is the initially broad popular support for ICC prosecutions, and the shifts in public perceptions as time passes. In December 2010, 78% of those surveyed were very or somewhat happy that the ICC was investigating perpetrators of the post-election violence. More to the point, 54% thought that violence would erupt if the ICC failed to charge any suspects for post-election violence. And 66% said that Kenyan communities had reconciled "just a little" after the post-election violence. By June 2011, only 51% of those polled were happy that the ICC was pursuing the "Ocampo 6" while 38% were unhappy with this development. Just 32% of respondents thought that violence would erupt if the ICC failed to charge an suspects for post-election violence, and 35% believed that the "Ocampo 6" should be tried by a local tribunal in Kenya.
Some of the differences in responses may be due to changes in the wording of the polling instrument, but one might also infer that as the political situation in Kenya stabilizes, support for ICC prosecutions wanes. What's behind this preference shift? Does it represent progress towards restoring, and perhaps a new-found faith in, Kenya's justice system? Or is it simply that as time passes without further violence and the struggles of daily life resume, Kenyans' appetite for accountability loses its force? With a new constitution promulgated a year ago, one might argue the former, but with 68% of respondents in June 2011 finding the high cost of living to be the most serious problem facing Kenya today, the latter is a significant possibility.


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