Kenya@50: Panic in Nairobi as things begin to fall apart
Posted Sunday, September 22 2013 at 01:00
As I have argued before, Kenyatta and Ruto should carry their cross without bitterness! Kenya is not on trial; only three suspects are. Even if they are acquitted, this trial will do enormous and lasting damage to the image and national prestige of Kenya.”
On Tuesday, September 10, 2013, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto appeared before the International Criminal Court at The Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity; charges which stem from the horrendous post- election violence of 2007 and 2008 which dragged Kenya into a classic Hobbesian “state of nature”! I am informed that about 100 Kenyan MPs from the Jubilee Alliance and a few from Cord were on hand to give Ruto moral support with an African touch which left curious bazungu bystanders flabbergasted!
Prior to the events unfolding at The Hague, the Parliament of Kenya held a stormy debate on September 5 to start the process of withdrawing Kenya from the Rome Statute which established the ICC; nobody forced Kenya and 33 other African countries, including Uganda, to sign and ratify the treaty.
Why has the Government of Kenya decided to withdraw from the ICC barely a week before Ruto was due to appear before the court? President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to follow him on November 12. In an incredible development, the Foreign ministers of Rwanda and Uganda dashed to Nairobi and advised President Kenyatta to stop Ruto from travelling to The Hague, according to The EastAfrican of September 14; he rejected the unsolicited advice. Such are the characteristics of lawless men who promote the culture of impunity in Africa!
I hope our development partners are watching because barely a decade ago, the leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda were branded “the beacon of hope” of Africa. I am sure the good man who invented that brand must be regretting and wishing he could erase those remarks from our collective memory!
Kenyatta and Ruto have consistently argued that they are innocent, have nothing to hide and would cooperate fully with the ICC in order to clear their names. If they are not guilty of crimes against humanity, why are Jubilee Alliance MPs panicking? Why are they rushing to pull Kenya out of the ICC? Do they have cause to worry about the fate of their beleaguered leaders? Where is justice for the thousands of victims?
These questions beg answers, but the hysterical reaction of sections of the Kenyan political elite speaks volumes; it confirms that there is some writing on the wall for their leaders! Not long ago, many of these MPs sung “don’t be vague, go to The Hague”; now they are engaged in an exercise in futility which can neither halt nor reverse the ongoing ICC case against Kenyatta, Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang.
As I have argued before, Kenyatta and Ruto must carry their cross and not search for scapegoats! Kenya is not on trial; only three suspects are. Even if they are eventually acquitted, this trial will do enormous and lasting damage to the image and national prestige of Kenya. In this regard, I empathise with Kenya’s career diplomats who must be at pains to defend the indefensible!
The problem is not the ICC as the AU claims. ICC has no hidden agenda to harass, humiliate or prosecute African leaders. When I served at the Embassy of Uganda in Brussels, I covered the work of the ICC and got to know the former prosecutor, Luis Moreno- Ocampo and his then deputy, Fatou Bensouda. Uganda was the first country to refer a case to the ICC; that of Gen Joseph Kony and four others. Ocampo is an abrasive man, but he is a professional. I never got the impression that Ocampo who is a Latin American and Bensouda who is an African were out to fix African leaders for political reasons at the behest of racists or imperialists. If anything, there are many potential African candidates for the ICC, who are still at large, whom they could have pursued vigorously. Let them not provoke the prosecutor.
The problem is squarely the culture of impunity which is deeply entrenched in the mindset of most African leaders who behave as if they are above the law and untouchable! Their days are numbered because the ICC was established to deal precisely with such uncivilised and uncouth behaviour. Unless African leaders stop oppressing, torturing and killing their own citizens with impunity, I am afraid many will follow Gen Bashir, Kenyatta and Ruto. In today’s global village you may run, like Gen Bashir, but you cannot hide from international justice forever!
Time has come for Africa’s strongmen to stop treating Africans as mere subjects with no human rights. The precious and God- given lives of the wananchi should not be left at the mercy of these callous, mediocre and worthless dictators.
When the era of colonialism ended in the 1960s, Africans thought they had achieved freedom at last! With the benefit of hindsight, all that happened was a classic change of guards; the colonial governor who lived in “Government House” was simply replaced by “His Excellency” who lives in the same house, now renamed, “State House”. The previous mzungu occupant and his African successor have much in common; in many respects the black successor who outwardly looks like the wananchi is a lot worse!
It is a tragic irony of history! Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was spot on when he observed 50 years ago that for the vast majority of Africans, it is not yet uhuru! The struggle for liberty, justice and peace must continue!
Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat. firstname.lastname@example.org