Justice, the ICC and Kenyan Politics

A panel of judges at the ICC will issue their ruling tomorrow afternoon on whether or not six accused Kenyans will stand trial. The six include two declared presidential candidates. Either way the ruling will have a non-trivial impact on the pursuit of justice for the victims of the 2007-08 post-election violence (PEV). It will also significantly shape the politics of coalition building in this year’s general elections.

Because of the ICC process, the Kenyan justice system has put on ice its own process of holding the perpetrators of the PEV to account. A non-confirmation of the charges against at least some of the six co-accused will add the 2007-08 PEV to the long list of crimes against Kenyans, many of which have been committed by the high and mighty, that have gone unpunished.

Justice is political. Therefore, there is no doubt that if the process of prosecuting the crimes committed in the PEV returns to Kenya none of the big fish will be held accountable. That is the sad truth.

This is why despite the noisy political environment, a majority of the PEV victims (and other Kenyans) still back the ICC process. At the very minimum they want justice to appear to be served.

At the moment the problem of justice remains a worry largely monopolized by the 300,000 or so Kenyans in IDP camps and the relatives of the over 1,300 who were killed. [The media and the political class are squarely to blame for this shameful situation.] For the rest of the country, focus has shifted to the politics of the general elections due later this year. To this we now turn.

Two of the accused, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have declared their interest in the presidency. Mr. Kenyatta is currently the second most preferred presidential candidate after Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Mr. Ruto, while not as popular nationally, still commands a sizeable chunk of the votes in the country’s most populous province – the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley has also been the hotbed of political violence in country’s history, most of it over land.

A confirmation of the charges will seriously dent the presidential ambitions of Messrs Ruto and Kenyatta. It will make it harder for either of them to sell their candidacy outside of their immediate ethnic constituency. It will also give their opponents (and there are plenty) an opportunity to hold themselves as the clean candidates that ought to succeed Kibaki. Needless to say, a non-confirmation would bolster the duo’s campaigns. What will this mean for the general election?

It is common knowledge that the man to beat in the 2012 election will be Mr. Odinga. The two scenarios above will impact the outcome of the election mainly through their influence on the coalition building abilities of the anti-Odinga crowd.

More on this tomorrow in reaction to the ICC ruling.

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