This is huge >> ICC drops case against Uhuru Kenyatta

The ICC prosecutor has dropped the charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta, citing the lack of evidence due to non-cooperation by the Kenyan government. Mr. Kenyatta stood accused of playing a significant role in the 2007-08 post-election violence in Kenya in which at least 1300 people died and over 300,000 were displaced.

Four quick observations.

  • The Kenyan case was always going to be a tough one for the ICC. Kenya is neither the DRC nor Sudan. As soon as Kenyatta got elected Brussels, London, and Washington made it clear that they would not sacrifice their economic and geopolitical interests in the wider eastern Africa region on the alter of justice. This gave Mr. Kenyatta latitude to attack the legitimacy and legality of the ICC case against him both through the African Union (AU) and Kenyan diplomatic channels. Back in Kenya witnesses disappeared or withdrew their testimonies. The Office of the Prosecutor repeatedly said that the Kenyan state refused to hand over evidence relevant to the Kenyatta case. All this while Western embassies remained quiet about the case (for fear of “losing” Kenya to China).
  • This leads me to conclude that in a perverse way, the collapse of the Kenyatta case might actually be good for the ICC. The court (and OTP) can save face by arguing that they had the authority to prosecute the case but lacked cooperation from the Kenyan state. Now, the biggest challenge for everyone involved is how to ensure that this does not get interpreted as blanket immunity for all sitting presidents who are suspected of committing atrocities against their citizens. The deterrent effect of the ICC should be preserved.
  • The collapse of the case has interesting implications for Kenya’s domestic politics. It is common knowledge that the political union between President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto ahead of the 2013 election was primarily driven by their ICC cases. Mr. Kenyatta’s case has collapsed. Mr. Ruto’s is ongoing. This will diminish Mr. Ruto’s bargaining power in the alliance. It will also demand for Kenyatta’s allies to walk a tight rope and ensure that they do not signal to Ruto’s supporters that they no longer need them now that Kenyatta is off the hook. Ruto’s bloc, URP, has the second largest number of MPs in the National Assembly. This will give him leverage of some sort, even as his case goes on. Simply stated, without the ICC bond, the union between Kenyatta and Ruto will become more transactional. This means that mistakes will be made, and each side will have to try hard to ensure that disagreements over specific issues do not get blown out of proportion. Knowing Kenyan MPs, this will be a tall order.
  • Lastly, now that the ICC is behind him President Kenyatta might actually seriously tackle the issue of insecurity in Kenya. It is widely known that since he took office his approach to security matters has been informed by the desire to rid his administration of anyone who might have been sympathetic to the ICC. The former chief of intelligence (who may have played a role in “fixing” both Kenyatta and Ruto) and other senior officials who may have testified against him were let go. It took the slaughter of more than 450 Kenyans at the hands of terrorists and armed bandits over the last 18 months for the president to fire the chief of Police and the Cabinet Secretary in charge of internal security. One can only hope that now Kenyans will get a more responsive security sector.

What does this mean for reconciliation in Kenya? Not much. 2007-08 shattered the myth of Kenya as a peaceful oasis in an otherwise volatile region. Kenyans are yet to comprehensively deal with the shock of seeing what neighbors could do to one another. The preferred MO has been to sweep things under the rug. That was the logic of the Kenyatta-Ruto alliance (the land issues that erupted in clashes between their respective constituencies have not been resolved). It is the same logic that drove the peace-at-all-costs campaign that stifled open discussion of contentious national issues ahead of the 2013 election.

For better or worse, Kenyans are desperate to move on past 2007-08. But the weight of historical injustices, inequalities, and the continued failure to address them are constant reminders that 2007-08 might happen again.

ICC Kenya case ruling and its consequences

That the ICC’s website crashed an hour before the ruling was given underscores the importance of today’s ICC ruling.

In the end it emerged that charges against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, MP William Ruto and radio Presenter Joshua Sang were confirmed. Former police commissioner Husein Ali and MP Henry Kosgey will walk, at least for now.

The political implications of the decision will be huge.

Firstly, President Kibaki must decide whether or not to retain two of his most trusted lieutenants in the government (Messrs Kenyatta and Muthaura) even as they face charges with regard to the death of 1300 Kenyans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Should the president decide to stand with them I suspect that soon the courts will have to decide whether these two are fit to hold public office.

Remember that Kenya has a resurgent judiciary eager to stamp its authority as an independent institution. There will be intense political pressure from Civil Society groups to see the two step aside.

Equally interesting will be whether the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will allow Ruto and Kenyatta to run for president in light of these developments. Again, the case might go all the way to the Supreme Court. The Kenyan constitution has a clause banning those accused of certain crimes from holding public office. The vagueness of the wording in the constitution will give the courts discretion in reaching a verdict. I suspect some activism here was well.

Secondly, Ruto and Kenyatta will find it hard to sell their candidacy to Kenyans ahead of the general elections later this year. As the process continues, it will be hard for both (whether guilty or not) to hide from the gruesome crimes that were committed in 2007-08. I therefore doubt the viability of either one running for president at the top of a ticket. If they want to be on a winning team in this year’s election they must be part of a coalition.

But coalition building will be hard. For one, cracks are already appearing in either camp. Ruto recently got kicked out of a party he tried to commandeer after defecting from ODM. Mr. Kenyatta is also facing a simmering insurgency within his Central Kenya camp. The other thing is that the Kenyan economic and political upper class has revealed a willingness to throw the two under the bus if they become too much of a baggage. It is telling that a group of Central Kenyan tycoons have started warming up to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the man to beat in this year’s general election.

I expect a flurry of press conferences to follow shortly. But I must go to bed for now. It is 3:15 AM…

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.

what if ruto and uhuru were jailed by the icc?

Kenyan politics is currently in flux. Two key presidential candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto may be barred from running for public office next year on constitutional grounds. The key beneficiaries of such an eventuality will most probably be Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, the Premier and Vice President respectively.

But what would such an eventuality mean for Kenya?

I’d say not much.

Over the last few weeks Uhuru and Ruto have been crisscrossing the country and holding chest-thumping rallies to prove to someone – either the ICC or the Kenyan political and economic elite – that they have the support of the grassroots. They have also issued thinly veiled threats that violence may erupt in the country if they are whisked to the Hague and barred from running for president in next year’s general election. Why does Uhuru and Ruto feel the need to do this?

In my view, and according to the rules of power politics, a tiger need not shout about its tigritude [I believe it is the great son of Nigeria, Wole Soyinka who coined this phrase].

That Ruto and Uhuru have felt compelled to shout about their support-base and issue threats tells me that they are feeling the heat. The fact of the matter is that the key backers of the duo are the ones who would lose the most in case of a resurgence of violence – think of Kenyan retail, banking, insurance, media and transport barons. These are the people that will lose the most when the Mombasa-Kampala Highway is impassable and Equity Bank closes everywhere. They know this and Uhuru and Ruto also know this. Furthermore, igniting further violence would most certainly attract sterner reaction from international watchdogs like the ICC and the UN Security Council.

There is also the [small] matter that now ordinary Kenyans will also know where exactly the violence is coming from.

Violence is therefore not an option. Not for Ruto and Uhuru. Not for their backers. And most certainly not for the rest of Kenya.

I suggest that the rest of Kenya call their (Uhuru and Ruto’s) bluff about violence next year.

Their battles with justice should not derail the much needed institutional reforms that will take the country out of the miasma of mediocrity that continues to engulf most of the Continent.

In the final analysis, the words of former VP George Saitoti will ring true: There comes a time when Kenya gets bigger than any single individual. Ruto, Uhuru and the wider political class are about to be schooled on this maxim the harsh way.

kenyan elites conspired to kill peasants in rift valley, and are getting away with it

President Kibaki’s embarrassment regarding the 2007-08 post-election violence continues. The latest information from wikileaks suggests that the top brass of the Kenyan military armed the proscribed group Mungiki which then went on to kill peasants in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. The outgoing US Ambassador detailed to Washington how co-ethnics of Mr. Kibaki tried to arm-twist the army into providing guns and aerial support to Mungiki in their campaigns against Kalenjins in the wider Nakuru area.

In light of this new information the natural question that follows is how much Mr. Kibaki knew. I find it hard to believe that he had no clue about this. I find it harder to stomach the fact that the President of Kenya may have Ok-ed a move by some of his lieutenants to murder innocent women and children simply because they spoke a different language.

Here is an excerpt from the Standard:

In the cables published on the wikileaks website, the envoy reported he received information retired military generals from Central and Rift Valley provinces were involved in organising militias that were meant to play a bigger role in the violence.

Ranneberger identified a former commandant of the National Defence College as the main player in the deadly plot. “At one time he put pressure on serving military generals to arm the outlawed Mungiki sect with G3 rifles, and also provide them with helicopter support,” read part of the cables.

In one cable titled ‘Kikuyus Not Afraid to Strike Back’ Ranneberger quoted sources claiming elements of the “Kikuyu-dominated Party of National Unity (PNU)” were backing the so-called “Forest Guard” militia, which included members of banned Mungiki sect.

“He (name withheld) has reportedly put pressure on the current Kenya Army Commander, Lieutenant General Augustine Njoroge to release G3 rifles and provide helicopter support to the Forest Guard,” read part of the cable.

Lt Gen Augustine Njoroge has since left the force and is now Kenya’s Ambassador to Israel. It is not clear if he executed orders from his superior.

The cable claimed the Lieutenant General in question was assisted in his efforts by a retired Brigadier General who was “acting as Chief of Staff for the effort”. The name of the former presidential aide-de-camp has also been withheld for legal reasons.

The ambassador further wrote Mungiki was receiving funding from two businessmen, one of them based in Muthaiga.

Just hours from Ocampo’s big moment

Statement by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Kenya

ICC-CPI-20101214-PR614

As you know, tomorrow I will file two applications for summonses to appear for six individuals we believe are the most responsible for the post-election violence.

I believe summonses are sufficient to ensure the appearance of all six suspects. But as ICC Prosecutor, I am requesting that clear conditions be imposed on them, namely:

  • To frequently update the Court on all their personal contact details and whereabouts;
  • Not to make any personal contact with any of the other suspects, unless through their legal counsel to prepare their defence;
  • Not to approach any perceived victims or witnesses of crimes;
  • Not to attempt to influence or interfere with witness testimony;
  • Not to tamper with evidence or hinder the investigation;
  • Not to commit new crimes.

In addition, they must respond to all requests by ICC judges; they must attend all hearings when required, and post bond if the judges so instruct them.

These conditions are strict. They are in accordance with the Rome Statute and ICC rules.

Let me be clear.

If the suspects do not comply with the conditions set by the Chamber, I will request arrest warrants.

If there is any indication of bribes, intimidation or threats, I will request arrest warrants.

I expect the suspects to indicate to the Chamber shortly their intention to surrender voluntarily.

Source: Office of the Prosecutor