What's going on in Kenya?

Notes from different corners of the world.
Jan. 2 2008 4:41 PM

What's Really Going On in Kenya?

And why didn't a U.S.-funded group release its exit-poll data?

(Continued from Page 1)

Unfortunately, one bit of data has not surfaced. The International Republican Institute, a democracy-fostering nonprofit funded by the U.S. government—and despite the name, officially nonpartisan—commissioned an Election Day exit poll but has declined to release the results. Two people familiar with the results told me that they showed Odinga with a substantial lead over President Kibaki—one reported eight points, the other nine points. One has only to remember the United States' 2004 elections to know how fallible exit polls are, but a U.S.-sponsored survey would have weight here and could have given the ECK pause before it called the election so disastrously.

Ken Flottman, an official in the IRI's Nairobi office, said the data would serve additional purposes, such as studying voter demographics. The organization issued a statement criticizing the vote counting but does not mention its data. It  missed an opportunity to advance its mission of promoting democracy and fair elections.

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On Jan. 2, the first business day after the election, parts of Nairobi appeared to be getting back to normal, despite the heavy security presence. An up-market shopping center near my apartment was packed, including the local Java House, Kenya's superior answer to Starbucks.

Meanwhile, Kibaki's government accused Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement of inciting genocide. Some parts of the country were suffering from gas shortages, as was neighboring Uganda, where some Kenyans have fled. Odinga has called for a million-man protest on Thursday, amid fears of continuing violence. My sunny driver expects to see the riots cool. The rioters have no money, he said accurately. "They will get hungry."

Alex Halperin is a fellow with the Phillips Foundation. He blogs at halperin.wordpress.com.