Making sense of the Kenyan government’s reaction to UNSC vote on ICC deferral

The UN Security Council has rejected Kenya’s (and the African Union’s) request for a one year deferral of the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy at the Hague. The two stand accused of crimes against humanity committed following the disputed elections in 2007. More than 1300 people died, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The US, UK, France, Australia, Guatemala, Luxembourg, South Korea and Argentina abstained to stop the deferral request. China, Russia, Togo, Morocco, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Rwanda voted for a deferral. African leaders have in the last two years been on an ill-advised crusade against the ICC, terming it as a “race hunting” tool of “declining” Western powers.

Kenyatta and Ruto are innocent until proven otherwise, but their attempts to make their personal cases at the ICC a regional struggle of Africans against imagined neo-colonialists bent on usurping African sovereignty is a little misguided. The Kenyan case is different (Kenya is not Sudan or the DRC) and ought to have attracted special consideration from the court (see closing remarks below). However, despite its faults the ICC is all the continent has in the quest to hold its leaders accountable. I reiterate, murderous dictators in Africa and elsewhere should never be allowed to have internal affairs.

Here is the government’s total freak out response following the UNSC vote, with some comments from yours truly.

STATEMENT FROM THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY IN KENYA

Kenya takes note of the outcome of the United Nations Security Council meeting on peace and security in Africa, and specifically on the subject of the request for deferral of the Kenya ICC cases. Kenya wishes to thank China and Azerbaijan who, during their stewardship of the Security Council, have been professional and sensitive to the African Union agenda.

Wow, this is how bad things have become. That Kenya finds friends in states like Azerbaijan. Yes, this is the place in which the president recently announced the election results even before the polls opened. These are our new committed friends. We are going places. 

Kenya wishes to thank the seven members of the Security Council who voted for a deferral and is particularly grateful to Rwanda, Togo and Morocco – the three African members on the Security Council – for their exemplary leadership.

Again, the only country we should be associated with on this list is perhaps Rwanda. I wish we could do what they have done with their streets, and corruption, and ease of doing business. But by all means we should not borrow their human rights record. Oh, and please let’s stay away from their variety of democracy.

This result was not unexpected considering that consistently some of the members of the Security Council, who hold veto powers, had shown contempt for the African position. The same members and five others chose to abstain, showing clear cowardice in the face of a critical African matter, and a lack of appreciation of peace and security issues they purport to advocate.

Letting the trial go on does not threaten peace and stability in Kenya. This is an empty argument. There will not be any spontaneous violence. Furthermore, the president is not the operational commander of the KDF. He is the Commander in Chief. He gets to issue orders from some room somewhere. Orders can be issued from anywhere. And remind me again how this trial impacts security ALL OVER AFRICA, other than by raising the cost of genocidal activities by African presidents?

Oh, and did I mention that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is almost entirely paid for by the European Union?

Inevitably, it must be appreciated that the outcome of this vote demonstrates that the Security Council does not serve the interests of a majority of its members and is clearly in need of urgent reform. It cannot be that a few countries take decisions that go against reason and wisdom in a matter so important to nearly one billion Africans.

One billion Africans. Really? I had no idea our president was this important of a man. One billion Africans. Many of whom starve to death; or die of treatable illnesses; or never make it to their first or fifth birthday because their leaders steal all the money meant for medicine. These Africans? Why should their names be invoked to protect the same leaders that have confined them to degrading penury for the last half century? Why, I ask? 

Also, the claim that Africa is united against the ICC is false. We all know about the divisions that stalled the silly idea of a mass walkout from the ICC by African states.

The African Union, in one voice, took the unprecedented step of making a simple request to the Security Council, bearing in mind the security and stability it seeks to achieve on the continent. But the Security Council has failed to do this and humiliated the continent and its leadership.

Ahh. Now the truth comes out. It is not about the one billion Africans after all. This is about the humiliation of the African leadership. It is about protecting the sovereignty of a few inept rulers. Forget the one billion Africans. It is about their big men rulers who steal tax money and stash it away in bank accounts in the same Western countries they like to call names.

The Security Council has failed the African continent, which will have to make its own judgment in the coming days and weeks about how it wishes to engage with the Security Council, which obviously does not believe the voices of more than one quarter of its members is significant enough to warrant its serious and purposive attention.

The security council has failed African leaders. Not the African people en masse. Africans want to have elections without having to worry that voting one way or the other will result in their houses being torched or their mothers, sisters and brothers murdered or raped. They also want freedom from ignorance, disease and material want. Is that too much to ask?

The African Union’s request to the Security Council included its key resolutions at the Special Summit on the ICC. The important one for the Security Council to note was the one that categorically says that no sitting Heads of State or Government may appear before the ICC. Kenya regrets failure of important members of the UN Security Council to have due consideration of Kenya’s critical role in stabilizing the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions, and their reckless abdication of global leadership.

Wait, are these important global leaders in the UNSC the same ones President Kenyatta termed as “declining powers”? What makes them important now? 

Just for the record, I am part of the 67% of Kenyans who in a recent poll were in favor of the president attending court at the Hague. Having both the president and his deputy on trial will serve a great symbolic task of demystifying the Kenyan political leadership. The demonstration effect to all politicians, voters and criminal gangs alike will be clear: You cannot kill innocent civilians and get away with it.

In my view, the best case scenario is having both men attend trial and then get a not guilty verdict.

Kenyans are nowhere near ready to discuss frankly what happened in 2007-08 or the deeper issues of ethnicity and economic disparities that often mirror ethnic lines and how to deal with these issues at the national level. A forced conversation, especially one that has a foreign touch in the form of a court verdict, may result in unpleasant consequences. This would be a less than ideal outcome, but one that would not necessarily be catastrophic for the country. The constitution is clear on succession should either one or both leaders be found guilty and jailed.

Mitigating violence in Kenya’s 2013 elections

Joel Barkan has a CFR contingency planning memorandum on the Kenyan elections in which he notes that:

The United States and others may have limited leverage over Kenya’s domestic politics, but they are not without options that would significantly improve the prospects for acceptable elections and help avert a major crisis. However, with little more than two months before the elections, Washington must intensify its engagement or forsake its opportunity to make a difference.

But the window might be closing fast on the international community to help Kenya avoid a repeat of 2007-08, when 1300 died and 300,000 were displaced after a bungled election. According to a report by the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security (yours truly was a research assistant for the commission), evidence suggests that international interventions to encourage reasonably free and fair and peaceful elections are most effective when done well in advance to the polling day. In the Kenyan case, the structural causes of previous rounds of electoral violence were never addressed, and may yet lead to the loss of life this election cycle.

What can now be done to avoid large scale organized violence is to credibly convince the politicians and those who finance youth militia (chinkororo, taliban, mungiki, jeshi la mzee, baghdad boys, etc) that they will be held accountable. So far, as is evident in Tana River and the informal settlements within Nairobi, the lords of violence appear to be operating like it is business as usual.

Kenyan politician John Michuki dead at 80

John Michuki, MP for Kangema is dead at 80. The late Michuki was a Kenyan politician that many learned to love (and sometimes love and hate). As Transport Minister he brought sanity to the rowdy matatu sector with the much-loved “Michuki Rules”. As Minister for the environment he cleaned up Nairobi River.

His less illustrious contribution was in the security ministry. It is under his watch that the Standard Media group was raided by masked thugs under the pretext that they were about to publish information that would have “impinged on the person of the president.” It later emerged that the media house had information about alleged illegal dealings by a woman rumored to be an illegitimate daughter of president Kibaki. The war on the Mungiki sect was also carried out under his watch – with numerous allegations of extrajudicial killings of hundreds of young men.

The son of a paramount chief, Michuki was among the group of super-wealthy conservative elites who at independence took over power and managed to quiet the more radical elements of the independence movement. Under their watch Kenya emerged as a capitalist enclave even as its many neighbors flirted with communism and African Socialism, with disastrous consequences. For better or worse, Kenya benefited from this “home guard generation” (see Bates 1989, for instance; for a different view see AfriCommons).

The Kenyan political scene will sorely miss Mr. Michuki’s straight talk and ability to deliver. He was among a handful of government officials that actually stood for what they believed, and he had results to back up all his talk. As the Nation reports:

Michuki gained the reputation of being a “ruthless” and efficient manager, who is widely acknowledged as being among the best performing ministers in President Kibaki’s government.

May he rest in peace.

Inequality, Terrorism and Governance in Nigeria

On June 17th Nigeria experienced its first ever suicide bomb attack. Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group that seeks the imposition of Sharia Law in all of northern Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Although the group’s principal aim – at least according to its press releases – is the imposition of Sharia Law, its motivating factors include economic, social and governance issues that the Nigeria’s infamously kleptocratic elite have so far chosen to ignore. According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The “nationalization” of the Boko Haram problem will intensify pressure on elected leaders and security forces to deal decisively with the group and prevent further attacks. Nigerian officials have proposed solutions ranging from crackdowns to outreach programs to amnesty offers. The government has to some extent pursued all of these options. Yesterday former Kano State GovernorIbrahim Shekarauproposed a hybrid approach of sorts, which would rely on intelligence gathering to defeat the group while advancing employment programs to deal with social and political grievances in Northern society.

Whatever course the government pursues, the Boko Haram problem has already led several Northern leaders, including the newly elected Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, to speak quite bluntly about the North’s serious problems of economic stagnation and political isolation. Northerners have been voicing such concerns for some time, but perhaps now these concerns will reach a broader audience and stimulate a debate that goes beyond just the issue of Boko Haram.

Since the unification of Nigeria in 1914, the north has continued to lag the south in a number of socio-economic indicators. Years of military rule by northern generals did not make things any better. Most of the country’s oil revenue wound up in Swiss bank accounts and as investments in properties in European cities – even as regular folk in Kano, Katsina and Maiduguri, and in the wider northern region, continued to wallow in poverty.

In a sense Boko Haram and its ghastly attacks on civilians and government installations is as much a rejection of Western/Christian education (its name loosely translates to non-Islamic education is a sin) as it is an indictment of northern Nigeria’s leadership. Even by Nigerian standards, the north is doing very badly.

Recently, the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, chastised the northern elite by noting that the “high and persisting level of poverty in the country is a northern phenomenon.” Nearly all northern states in Nigeria have poverty rates higher than 60%, with some at 90%. Prof. Soludo further added that “if you look at all the indications of development, what constitutes today the North seems to be lagging far behind that the gaps seem to have even widened.

It is hard to ignore the fact that regular southerners are inching ahead of their northern counterparts despite the generous revenue sharing arrangements among Nigeria’s 36 states.

What does this mean for national politics and governance in Nigeria?

Well, for one we know that the apparent north-south political divide in the last election was merely an artifact of presidential politics. Gubernatorial elections revealed that northern elites are also aboard Goodluck Jonathan’s gravy train.

Northern Nigerian elites are as much a problem in the north’s underdevelopment as the historical north-south divide.

In light of this, groups like Boko Haram show that the northern elite in Nigeria can no longer play the north-south card while keeping all the money from the national treasury to themselves. The men and women on the streets and in northern rural areas also want their cut.

I hope Abuja will not bury its head in the sand and pretend that Boko Haram is purely a security problem.

Kenya tried doing the same with the Mungiki group (with extra-judicial executions and all) without much success.

To Abuja I say: you must try to solve the problem you have, not the one you wish you had.

the ICC and kenyan politics ahead of 2012

Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Agriculture Minister William Ruto are arguably the biggest casualties of the ICC process. Mr. Kenyatta has been angling for the title of de facto leader of central Kenya while Mr. Ruto is the de facto leader of the Rift Valley Province.

Already within central Kenya cracks abound in the political mold. Ms Martha Karua and Mr. Peter Kenneth are rival contenders, with Mr. Kenyatta, in the Kibaki-succession game. Also in contention are the acephalous “Kikuyu underclass” which has felt sidelined and maligned by the wealthy ruling class from the region since independence. The Mungiki movement is a potential channel for this group to articulate their demands. The election of the likes of “Sonko” and Waititu in Nairobi may be a signal of things to come in 2012. The fight between the country club elite and the matatu generation appears almost inevitable. Should Mr. Kenyatta go down with the ICC process there will certainly be someone on the wings to take his position.

The situation in the Rift Valley is different. Mr. Ruto, like Mr. Odinga in Nyanza, hogs all the political power without any clear contenders on the wings. Should the Eldoret North MP go down with the ICC process, the Rift Valley caucus may end up divided and politically weakened, just like happened in Western Kenya after the death of Kijana Wamalwa. Possible unifiers in a post-Ruto era include Dr. Sally Kosgey and Mr. Samuel Poghisio.

What does all this mean for Kenyan politics?

Nobody knows.

Firstly, Kenya’s emboldened parliament will have to make the right calls as it continues in its march to become the sovereign in the land. If MPs choose to settle their differences over the ICC’s indictment of their men in the august house it will become a lose-lose situation. The new constitution will not be implemented as intended. Kenya may have to go through a snap election. And in the worst case scenario ethnic tension may explode into full out violence, again.

Secondly, president Kibaki must take charge. Even as he allows his lieutenants room to craft their means of political survival he must make sure that the impression that someone is in charge remains unshaken. The last thing the country needs is a feeling of a free for all situation.

And lastly, Mr. Odinga must not play petty politics with the ICC process. It is obvious that if everything works for Ocampo Mr. Odinga will be the biggest winner. But he must show restraint and calmness. The ICC process must not be made to appear to be a political witch hunt. In any case 2012 is still eons away in political terms. Plus he must consider the impression he will create if he is seen as completely throwing Ruto and Kosgey under the bus, two men who worked hard and delivered him the Rift Valley vote in the 2007 general election.

My take on the latest developments is mixed. On the one hand I like the move to end impunity. 1333 Kenyans died. Those who planned their murder should face justice. On the other hand I know that justice is political. And politics is messy. Perhaps the two principals (Kibaki and Odinga) could cut a deal with Ocampo to rescue their lieutenants in exchange for the latter staying out of politics (and perhaps serving a suspended sentence in Kenya) and contributing some of their wealth to the resettlement of displaced persons from the PEV chaos.

How I wish the whole nation wasn’t so fixated on this but on what Prof. Ndung’u of the CBK has to say about the state of the Kenyan economy or the latest projections on the state of the country’s financial, agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

I hope that Kenya’s captains of industry will not play politics but instead fund the right guys: guys who want macroeconomic and political stability so that more and more equities, access Kenyas and safaricoms can bloom in Kenya.

 

jua kali will not take us where we want to go

Informal businesses provide employment for millions of Kenyans. Kiosks (both big and of the mama mboga variety), the mitumba business, matatus and even peasant agriculture are what keeps the average Kenyan going. Because of governance issues – like corruption and poor laws – the formal sector of the Kenyan economy has consistently failed to provide enough jobs for the ever growing population. That said, I believe that the jua kali (informal) sector will not take Kenya where it wants to go. Economic History teaches us that scale has merits. It provides the resources for R&D, lowers operational costs and generates revenue for the government because it is hard to hide profits from the taxman like is commonplace in Kenya’s jua kali sector. Plus if we have scale we can export surplus production to places all over the Continent thus creating even more Kenyan jobs – why should we cede these markets to the Chinese, Indians and other “Dubai” traders?

That is why I think that Jaindi Kisero has a point with regard to Kenya’s matatu-dominated transport sector. It is time Nairobi, if not all major cities and towns, had decent public transportation unlike the chaotic and thuggish matatu industry. The matatu industry has given rise to a matatu culture that has taken vulgarity and criminality to a new level – the epitome of which is the dreaded Mungiki sect. Because of this, most reasonable people would concur that “formalizing” public transportation and the matatu industry would go a long way in reducing crime and bringing some sanity to Kenyan roads. Now if only there was a place where we could purchase political will and secretly feed it to Kenyan politicians.

And in other news, Somalis in the southern part of the country will be forced to go hungry after al-Shabab kicked out the WFP. About 900,000 people will be affected by the WFP decision. 2.8 million Somalis are dependent on food relief. The WFP decided to close shop in the face of several demands from al-Shabab (the demands were not all bad, I should add. One of them was that the WFP should not import food during the harvest season in order to promote local agriculture. These al-Shabab types know something about the demerits of food aid in Africa, it seems). Somalia has not had a functional government since the fall of Siad Barre in the early 1990s. Sometimes I wonder whether instead of the US paying the Ethiopians to invade Somalia it might have been better to have the Islamic Courts Union run the country. Well, at least for some time before incentivizing their being less predatory and misogynistic. Most politicians the world over have a price. Especially once they have tasted real power.

Lastly, Somalia is not all gloomy. If you are daring enough you can make money in the land of the al-Shabab, without being involved in piracy.

mungiki massacre in Karatina

The Kenyan dailies are reporting that at least 29 people have been killed by suspected Mungiki members in Karatina, Central Province. The murderous sect members allegedly woke up their victims late in the night and dragged them out before hacking them to death in the middle of the road. The pictures from NTV tell it all – there were bodies littered all over the road next to a tea plantation.

This latest incident should shame the government into taking conclusive action against the sect. The government must know the sponsors of the sect. The Mungiki problem is not a criminal problem that can be remedied by targeted assassinations like the government has been doing. It is a structural problem. Jobless youth in Central Province and the wider Nairobi area have been made to feel like there is no hope and therefore they turn to crime. Killing these young men while leaving the financiers and beneficiaries of their thievery untouched will not end the problem.

29 innocent Kenyans were killed last night by young men who have been brainwashed and turned into killing machines. The actual killers must be punished, yes. But most importantly, the plotters of the massacre and the leaders of the sect – those who parade around in expensive suits and are always in and out of courts – must also face the law.

And I can’t help but wonder, was there a police station near this particular village in Karatina? And why did the police take forever to respond? It must take a bit of time to hack more than 29 people to death and burn a house or two. So why did the police turn up after the dust had settled?

spread the word…..

The Kenyan government continues to refuse to deal conclusively with the issue of police brutality and extra-judicial killings. Here is a link to an open letter to the prime minister and president on the issue. Read it and pass it along.

I am particularly disturbed by the continued politicization of the killings. ODM seems to be the most vocal against the killings while PNU remains more cauti0us in its approach. I believe it is wrong for both ODM and PNU to try to politicize this matter. Kenyans are dying, some innocent, and we risk a complete breakdown of the rule of law. And how is police commissioner Ali still in office?????? Why hasn’t ANYONE been fired yet??? Accountability, accountability, accountability.

Mungiki-linked NGO leader killed after a day of mayhem

Following a day of Mungiki-led protests that disrupted traffic in Nairobi and its environs, Oscar Kamau King’ara, leader of the Oscar Foundation was shot dead by unknown people on State House Road Thursday night. In his company, and also felled by the unknown assassins, was one Paul Oulu, a former official of the students’ union at the University of Nairobi. The killing of Mr. Oulu prompted riots by University of Nairobi students. The Standard reports that government spokesman, Dr. Alfred Mutua, had accused Mr. King’ara’s foundation of being involved in fund-raising for Mungiki, a banned organization.

Both Mr. Oulu and Mr. King’ara had spoken to Mr. Alston, the UN investigator on extra-judicial killings in Kenya, and given evidence of police involvement in unlawful execution of suspected criminals – including members of Mungiki. Their violent murder comes in the wake of the murder of another witness of Mr. Alston’s Mr. Bernard Kiriinya.

The murder of Oulu and King’ara reeks of police involvement. I think it is time President Kibaki’s government set up an independent investigation into the extrajudicial killings that have become the norm in the police force. And Ali, I thought he was a sane man. How can he let this happen under his watch? His police force is the prime suspect on this one, and if he thinks otherwise he better tell us who killed the two ASAP or resign.

Update: I found Wanyeki’s take on this issue interesting and a bit more balanced than most.