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.

Judges reject kenya’s bid to stop icc case

The government of Kenya has lost in its bid to convince the ICC that it has the political will and capacity to try key perpetrators of the 2007-08 post-election violence (PEV). Kenya had asked for six months to get its justice system in order and convince the ICC that it could bring to book those who planned and carried out the murder of over 1300 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands in 2007-08. More on this here.

The Kenyan political elite find themselves in a pickle. Less than two years ago parliament thought that they could punt on addressing the PEV by deferring the cases to the ICC. It turns out Ocampo and the court were actually serious. Realizing this, they (the Kenyan gov.) attempted to hurriedly create a local process with the hope of persuading the court to stop the proceedings at the Hague.

But even a blind sheep could see through the government’s insincere attempts to clean up the judiciary or “investigate” the key suspects.

The Kenyan civil society remains adamant that the government has neither the capacity nor political will to prosecute the crimes committed in relation to the 2007 general elections.

Now the clock is ticking. With parliament and the Kenyan legal epistemic community largely in charge of naming the new judges that will staff the supreme court (and the wider judiciary) the accused and their political godfathers are in a panic. They must try and clean up shop under the current system or they will lose big, soon. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the same ethnic chiefs demigods politicians who were running around screaming “sovereignty” and “neo-colonialism” have since gone silent.

The Kenyan case has also generated a lot of heat with regard to the geopolitics of the ICC.

Many in Kenya and across Africa have (sometimes rightfully) criticized the ICC. But in my view it remains to be a necessary institution in the fight against impunity and murderous dictatorship on the Continent. (Pardon the phrase) We cannot throw out the baby with the bath water.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Without the ICC the families of those women and children that were burnt alive in a Church in Kiamba, Eldoret or those killed in retaliatory attacks in Naivasha will never get justice. That is the reality.

Remember, more Kenyans were killed in the months before the elections of 1992 and 1997 than in 2007-08 and yet the Kenyan political class merely pushed the unbearable truth under the rug. Also of note is the fact that the present anti-ICC crusade comprises those suspected to have financed opposite sides of the PEV.

The situation is a grim reminder of the Swahili proverb that says when the elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.

To those who talk of the ICC’s infringement on African nations’ sovereignty I’d like to pose a question: Who’s sovereignty is being violated? Is it al-Bashir’s or the Darfuris?; is it the Central Africans’ or Jean Pierre Bemba’s?; is it the Kenyans’ across the Rift Valley or the sovereignty of the Ocampo six?

icc finds six kenyans culpable for ethnic violence

The ICC has ruled that six prominent Kenyans have a case to answer for the murder of 1300 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the 2007-08 post-election violence in Kenya.

The spotlight is now on President Kibaki. About two of the president’s closest allies – Finance Minister Uhuru and head of civil service Muthaura – a local daily opines:

Retaining them in Government will send a signal to the ICC and the world that Kenya is not ready to co-operate and is a hostile State, putting it at par with Sudan, which has refused to hand over President Al-Bashir who is charged with crimes against humanity over Darfur.

More on the political reaction to this soon.

In related news, I am absolutely loving the wikileaks stuff on the drama that is Kenyan politics. Most politicians believe that Kalonzo is a janus-faced intellectual lightweight who pretends to love Jesus Christ. Raila is depicted as accessible but power-hungry and really bad at management. President Kibaki is sick, condones corruption and has been captured by vested interests in his inner circle. Ruto and Uhuru fret at the idea of taking all the blame for 2007-08. Uhuru Kenyatta is “lazy.”

This is valuable information, the effects of which will not be apparent any time soon. In the minds of Kenyans, a clearer image of these little men and women who parade as gods is slowly forming. It is only a matter of time before the myth of tribal loyalty is shattered and these tribal chiefs are seen for who they really are: a bunch of unprincipled and venal goons.


the African Union and its problems

The just concluded AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia had two key problems to address: the political crisis in Ivory Coast and the legal battles involving six Kenyans who face charges at the ICC. So far the continental body appears to have failed on its attempts to address both problems.

In the Ivory Coast, Mr. Gbagbo’s camp has already declared that the five person panel formed by the AU is dead on arrival unless Burkinabe president, Compraore is dropped. The Daily Nation reports:

The president of Burkina Faso, named on a high-level African Union panel tasked with settling Cote d’Ivoire’s leadership crisis, is “not welcome” in this country, a top ally of strongman Laurent Gbagbo said here yesterday.

And in Kenya, the political football involving the setting up of a credibly clean local judicial system to try perpetrators of the 2007-8 post election violence diminished the prospects of a deferral from the UN Security Council. Kenya must guarantee that it will try the suspects for the ICC to consider a deferral. It does not help that the appointment of high members of its judiciary, including the chief justice, the attorney general and the director of public prosecutions has already been soiled by political grandstanding.