Statement on the Upcoming General Elections in Kenya

Clarification on the Involvement of Vanguard Africa

Vanguard Africa is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing ethical leadership and driving support for free, fair, and credible elections throughout Africa, including in Kenya.

Consistent with this mission, Vanguard Africa hosted former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his delegation for a range of high-level meetings in Washington, DC from March 13-16, 2017. These meetings focused on the importance of the upcoming general elections and why the international community must support Kenyan voters who are collectively calling for free, fair, fully transparent and peaceful elections. Our legal filing with the United States Department of Justice, submitted on March 26, 2017, provides detailed and up-to-date information on our involvement with Mr. Odinga and his delegation.

We will not respond to, or otherwise be distracted by, every false allegation that is printed, but we believe it is important to establish several baseline facts about our support to date. Vanguard Africa has never received money from, nor dispersed money to, Mr. Odinga or his political party. Any correspondence circulating on our letterhead, not disclosed in our original filing with the U.S. Department of Justice, are fabrications and the claims made therein patently false. 

Vanguard Africa will continue spotlighting the mounting calls for free, fair, and transparent elections throughout Africa, as well as in Kenya. We encourage anyone who believes in this pivotal cause to connect with us through our website or social media and help our team continue to build support for credible elections across the African continent.

How a Former London Security Guard Became the President of Gambia (Delayed Gratification – May 11)

One morning in December 2016, a tiny West African nation woke up to find its autocratic leader of 22 years had been toppled – and in his place was a former security guard for the Holloway Road branch of Argos. Anna Dubuis tells the story of Adama Barrow, the ultimate political outsider

Zambia: Hichilema’s Treason Trial Sheds Light on Political Tensions (Newsweek – May 2)

“What's happening in Zambia with Hichilema is not an isolated incident, but rather serves to illustrate a larger pattern of repressing critical voices in the country,” said Jeffrey Smith, executive director of pro-democracy advocacy group Vanguard Africa.

“Under successive [Lungu’s party] Patriotic Front regimes, we have seen, unequivocally, a very dangerous slide towards authoritarianism. The warning signs have long been present,” Smith told Newsweek.

Residents of English Speaking Cameroon Have Internet Restored (Newsweek – April 25)

“The #BringBackOurInternet campaign generated international interest and condemnation [and] definitely helped lead to the restoration of internet,” Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director at pro-democracy advocacy group Vanguard Africa, tells Newsweek .

“Oftentimes, these repressive governments, those like Cameroon which have operated outside the international gaze, need to be spotlighted and shamed,” said Smith. “I think that's what happened here. The internet block became too costly for the regime.” 

A Road Rage Case in Zambia is Renewing Fear for the Country’s Democracy (World Politics Review – April 20)

Jeffrey Smith, executive director of Vanguard Africa, says the odds are slim that outsiders will do much beyond issue statements of concern—something the U.S. Embassy and the European Union have already done in the wake of Hichilema’s arrest. In fact, Smith argues, Zambian officials have for years now been able to intimidate critics and target journalists with relative impunity, taking advantage of the country’s reputation for peaceful elections and transfers of power. “I think Zambia has been given quite a bit of leeway given their past successes,” Smith says.