the war muddied everyone

News that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, had funded at least two rebel groups – including Charles Taylor – left me surprised and less optimist about the Continent. It was a stark reminder that politics is a dirty game, especially in the context of a civil war as crazy as Liberia’s (which had among its cast the self-styled General Butt Naked). It is hard to imagine how any prominent Liberian politician from the 80s and 90s could have avoided siding with any of the many warring factions.

Perhaps this comment from the FP website sums it best:

“Of course, it’s not clear that there is a Liberian over the age of six who hasn’t supported one rebel group or another the past twenty years. If they were all banned from politics, there wouldn’t be a local left to run the place.”

It is hard to sympathize with Ms Sirleaf without appearing to be applying double standards given Taylor’s treatment by the wider international community. That said, one thing is clear: Ms Sirleaf is no Foday Sankoh or Charles Taylor.

And speaking of Liberia, Charles Taylor’s defense at his trial in the Hague is turning out to be a  major hilarity. And of course nobody does better reporting on these issues than Wronging Rights.

the ICC debate is a major distraction

Two weekends ago I ventured into Siaya in Nyanza province of Kenya to visit family. On the way there, I saw for the first time the consequences of the violence that rocked the country early last year. More than a year later, whole families are still living in tents at the Molo junction. Many more have had to endure life in make shift houses, still unsure of whether they will be able to return home permanently.

But in Nairobi, the issue of resettlement of Kenya’s IDPs is on no one’s radar. The hot topic right now is which ethnic chief is on the list of suspected instigators of the post-election violence that killed more than 1300 Kenyans and displaced hundreds of thousands. The political class has completely forgotten about the people who did their dirty work or suffered the consequences of the same.

It is a shame that the mainstream media in Nairobi has bought into the distraction tactics of Kenya’s (very mediocre) ruling class. As much as we should know about and debate whether to try suspected plotters of the violence here at home or in the Hague, we should continue focusing attention on those that are still suffering in tents away from schools, hospitals and their farms. These Kenyans deserve better than they are currently getting from Nairobi.