Ethnic violence culprits escape justice again

One and a half years after the devastating violence that followed the December 2007 elections, not a single person has been prosecuted and jailed for the deaths of at least 1,500 people during a three month orgy of killing, looting and rape.

kingpins_of_violence

Lack of political will among Kenya’s ruling elite has bogged down the prosecution process, meaning that those behind the killing and destruction will not stand trial any time soon. Meanwhile, the desire among western powers for stability in Kenya explains why the International Criminal Court at The Hague gave one more year for Kenya to establish a tribunal to prosecute those who planned, financed and participated in the clashes.

Kenya’s ruling elite were behind the violence whose victims were mostly slum dwellers and impoverished peasants. There is clear evidence of top politicians making hate speeches, administering oaths and paying youths for the mayhem. The two leading presidential candidates in 2007 – President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga – kept silent as fighting raged in their names.

Even today, inter-ethnic relations in Kenya are fraught with tensions, as politicians are not eager to unite the people. Politicians have boycotted peace meetings called to reconcile warring tribes because it is easier to campaign on a platform of ethnic nationalism rather than a campaign of unity. Indeed, majority of Kenyan leaders are mere ethnic warlords with no interest in national unity. They want to isolate their tribes in order to enhance their own power and eventually pass the baton of leadership to their children. In effect, what we are seeing in Kenya is the rise of a feudal class that wants to monopolize political and economic power for generations to come.

For sure there is more-than-enough evidence to begin criminal prosecutions against those involved in the political and ethnic clashes. Thanks to the media, there are acres of tapes showing looting and actual killings taking place. Politicians were recorded preaching ethnic incitement to their followers. Others were taped threatening those ethnic groups that they thought would vote for rival candidates.

The Majimbo (federalism) debate stoked ethnic tension prior to the 2007 elections. Anyone with a political knowledge of Kenya would have known how the concept of Majimbo was used to perpetrate ethnic killings in the 1990s at the Rift Valley and Coast Provinces. To bring up the same debate in an election year was not only naive but extremely reckless. The consequences were easily predictable, especially with millions of unemployed youths eager to take over the properties of people perceived as “outsiders.”

Kenya’s politicians are split among themselves over whether to establish a local tribunal or to let the International Criminal Court do the work. And it all has to do with the 2012 Presidential elections when President Mwai Kibaki will be stepping down.

On the one hand, Kibaki and Raila want a local tribunal because they think that they can manipulate judges and intimidate witnesses, resulting in acquittals and light sentences. On the other hand, a second group of politicians led by William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta fear that a local tribunal will turn them into sacrificial lambs. Ruto led fighting in Eldoret on behalf of Raila while Uhuru organized retaliatory attacks by the Kikuyu ethnic group on behalf of Kibaki.

Ruto is loudly complaining that Raila has abandoned the youth who fought for his premiership. Ruto says that both Kibaki and Raila should face trial as everybody else was fighting for either of the two men. Ruto believes that Raila has a soft spot for Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, and having Ruto in jail would automatically clear the path for Mudavadi to succeed Raila sometime in future.

On his part, Uhuru believes that his political rivals want him jailed. His rivals in the Kibaki camp for the 2012 presidential elections are Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and former Justice Minister Martha Karua. It should be noted that Karua and Uhuru’s rivalry grew because Uhuru thought that Karua as Justice Minister was going to ensure that Uhuru was knocked out of the presidential succession race.

Uhuru and Ruto want the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take over the cases for several reasons:

  1. They perceive that the ICC will be much more fairer as it does not have a vested interest in the 2012 elections in Kenya.
  2. Court cases at the ICC take years to conclude. By 2012, the cases will not even have began and when they do, it is possible that either Uhuru and Ruto will be president and will therefore use state resources to escape prosecution.
  3. It will not be possible to take the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to The Hague to testify whereas a local tribunal will easily be accessible to IDPs.
  4. If the worst comes to the worst, Ruto and Uhuru can implicate both Kibaki and Raila at the ICC. Should we have a local tribunal, it will be very difficult to bring charges against the President and Prime Minister but the ICC is not intimidated by titles. After all, the ICC currently has a warrant of arrest for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan.

As for the Kenyan people, what do they want?

Kenyans want the entire political class to be taken to The Hague as this will ensure justice for the hundreds of thousands still suffering the effects of post-election violence. There are fears that, unless something is done stop to ethnic warlords, the next General Elections of 2012 will be the end of Kenya as we know it.

Just to show that Kenyans want The Hague Option, the Standard daily reports that the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) is questioning how a Parliament housing the perpetrators of the 2008 violence can agree on a law to incriminate itself. Many in the House have been named as purveyors of ethnic strife.

The NCCK’s Secretary General, Peter Karanja, has scoffed at the one year extension given to the Kenyan government by the ICC saying the repreive is a delaying tactic against justice.

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2 Responses

  1. its clear that Kenya’s ruling elite is not ready to settle this issue
    of the post election violence.this clearly shows that most of them are involved in the issue in one way or another.thus they are trying to protect themselves by not attending parliament when it comes to the issue of setting up a local tribunal.and now that the Hague has given them 1 year to stabilize themselves;how is this going to help us yet 2012 is around the corner?this guys are going to drag themselves till they get us into yet another trouble.

  2. I have appealed to the kenyan politicians especially those who are having ideas of devastation of the nation kenya. I do say it’s very easy to demolish a storey then to put it back in the same hiegh and size, needs couple of hours, days, months and years. Compare to Kenya its long time civilization: what we need is the leader he/she who is going to protects these civilizations meaning that “THE 47TH YEARS NATION” since the independence. This need the political wills how to rule this nation not how to be a leader of this nation. these are contradictory ideas. Real I know kenyan history because I did my all learning/education there more than my country Sudan.
    May the good Lord blesses kenya due its being a host nation for the east and eastern Africa. thanks

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