Ringera: Too much noise over small issues

The furore over Justice Aaron Ringer’a reappointment to the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission is an unfortunate piece of drama that has induced a frenzy of euphoria among legislators and the general public.

Justice Aaron Ringera

Justice Aaron Ringera

When the euphoria wears off, most will realize that nothing really changed despite what is billed as an iconic step by Kenya’s Parliament to reject the re appointment done by President Mwai Kibaki.

If anything, the ongoing cheap drama is working out perfectly as a tactic by Kenya’s ruling classes to engage in political bargaining, or horse trading, while hoodwinking the people that democratic space is growing.

Now, legislators are on a blood frenzy as they vow to re-examine previous executive appointments and subject them to a similar fate. If Members of Parliament go through with their threat, there will be total chaos in State Corporations and government departments as it will be difficult to tell who is in charge.

Despite all the hullaballoo about the legality or otherwise of the reappointment, the core of the saga was that the ODM wing of government was not consulted over the appointment. Prime Minister Raila Odinga tried to play down the issue so as not to appear as opposing the President but his allies, James Orengo and Prof Anyang Nyongo, could not have opposed Ringera’s reappointment without Raila’s tacit approval and encouragement.

The Ringera saga is reminiscent of previous tussles over the powers of the two main principles in the Giant Coalition Government, namely President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The Prime Minister has numerously said that he is an equal to the President and therefore should be consulted in every government decision. The result of the impasse over powers has resulted in a divided government.

Confusion in government was evident in parliament during the week as Cabinet Ministers harshly attacked their own government. When challenged to resign for disagreeing with their boss – the President – the ministers argued that they were debating as ordinary legislators and not as Cabinet Ministers.

The principle of an independent prosecution agency to tackle grand corruption was proposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) back in 1997. It was then known as the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority (KACA) and was meant to be an independent body that could prosecute top government officials. However, the very concept of a parallel prosecution body was not acceptable to Kenyan authorities and efforts were made to ensure its downfall.

On December 22, 2000, the High Court in the case of Gachiengo Versus Republic (2000) ruled that the existence of KACA undermined the powers conferred on both the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police by the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya. In addition, the High Court further held that the statutory provisions establishing KACA were in conflict with the Constitution. That spelt the death of KACA.

The present KACC was established in 2003 by enactment of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act. Justice Aaron Ringera as Director and three Assistant Directors formally took office on 10th September, 2004.

KACC has been accused of not prosecuting top personalities who have been implicated in corruption and instead going after “small fish.” In its defence, KACC says that it lacks powers to prosecute and it can only investigate and forward the files to the Attorney General. This situation is likely to persist as there are many in government who are uncomfortable with the idea of multiple prosecuting agencies in the country.

Raila foes lick wounds after by-election losses

Opponents of Prime Minister Raila Odinga are now engaged in a blame game after losing two constituencies where by-elections were held in the past week. Raila now feels vindicated in his earlier claims that he can ignore disgruntled legislators and work directly with voters.

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Raila was in an ecstatic mood over the weekend after his ODM party won the Bomachoge and Shinyalu by-elections. The victory came despite intensive campaigning by Raila’s opponents, many of whom are in the same ODM party as Raila. In a political scenario that can only happen in Kenya, ODM officials were campaigning for rival parties in a bid to prove who is bigger or more influential in ODM.

It goes without saying that Agriculture Minister William Ruto, who of late does not see eye-to-eye with Raila, was secretly hoping that the official ODM candidates would fail. Several other ODM legislators who have fallen out with Raila openly campaigned for candidates running on other political parties. These include Omingo Magara, Isaac Ruto and Joshua Kutuny.

In Western Province, the Kenyan African Democratic Development Union (KADDU) of Cyrus Jirongo suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the ODM candidate. So resounding was ODM’s victory in Shinyalu that Jirongo admitted that his campaign machinery made fatal mistakes that cost his party victory. Jirongo told Citizen Radio that the KADDU candidate, Daniel Khamasi, was not a favourite among youthful voters. Khamasi is a former area MP.

President Mwai Kibaki’s PNU party was so hopelessly disjointed that its presence was hardly felt during campaigns. Appearances by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and party leader George Saitoti could not salvage the situation. PNU’s campaign was riddled by wrangling and a total lack of co-ordination. Party members are beginning to question the leadership credentials of Saitoti, who is planning to vie for Kenya’s presidency in 2012.

Still in Western Province, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi was also ecstatic after ODM’s victory in Shinyalu. This was because the by-elections had been billed as a battle between Mudavadi and Jirongo. Both men are vying for the political control of Western Province. While Mudavadi was born into luxury in the family of the late Moses Mudavadi, Jirongo is largely a self made man who rose to prominence as the head of a KANU campaign outfit in 1992. Jirongo was spotted by former President Daniel arap Moi and appointed to head the Youth for KANU 92 with William Ruto as his deputy. Youth for KANU 92 had access to unlimited cash whose source remains a mystery.

Over the past decade, Jirongo has tried to become political pointman for the Luhya tribe that dominates Western Province. The role of community spokesman was previously played by the late Moses Mudavadi (Musalia’s father) then the late Masinde Muliro and late Michael Kijana Wamalwa. Jirongo is highly contemptuous of Mudavadi who is regarded as a reluctant politician waiting to be given power on a silver platter. Jirongo feels that he has worked hard to get where he is and sees Mudavadi as a spoilt brat unworthy of leadership. This explains why Jirongo is so eager to prove that he can influence voting patterns in Western at the expense of Mudavadi. However, Jirongo’s backing in Shinyalu for former legislator Daniel Khamasi was, by his own admission, a mistake.

That is not to say that the ODM candidate and Mudavadi were exceptionally popular with voters. Shinyalu voted overwhelmingly for ODM and Raila in 2007 and the by-election victory could simply have been a continuation of the trend. Any other person running on the ODM platform had a good chance of winning the seat.

In Bomachoge, voters may have wanted to vote ODM as a means of rectifying what they see as a mistake they made in 2007. The larger Kisii region was perhaps the only part of Kenya where almost all major political parties fared well. The Kisii were split between supporting Kibaki and Raila. After the elections, the Kisii people were violently attacked by their Luo and Kalenjin neighbours for not supporting Raila. This time, the Kisii were eager to show solidarity with their ethnic neighbours by electing an ODM, pro-Raila candidate.

With the by-elections now a closed chapter, the rival camps in ODM are assessing the lessons from that experience and gearing up for the next battle. Raila is unlikely to change his mode of operation and will want to continue working directly with voters. He sees the by-election victory as proof that he and ODM remain popular at the grassroots. The likes of William Ruto, Cyrus Jirongo, Omingo Magara and Joshua Kutuny will also be analyzing their actions. They should learn to present a more united front in future and to choose a viable candidate capable of connecting with voters.

In coming days, Parliament will begin debate on the enactment of a Special Tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for post election violence in 2008. This is likely to be the next phase of the war between Raila and his opponents. It promises to be a brutal showdown where those working against Raila will be eager to make up for their losses in the Bomachoge and Shinyalu by elections. Jirongo has said that he will work to ensure that the Special Tribunal bill flops. “The perpetrators of post election violence must be taken to The Hague,” says Jirongo.

As political contests continue, issues affecting the day-to-day lives of Kenyans have been shunted to the periphery.

Kenyans reject Truth Commission, local trials

The Grand Coalition has come under scathing attack from angry Kenyans, who have been dismayed by the decision to have a Truth Commission instead of criminal prosecution for the perpetrators of political and ethnic clashes.

President Mwai Kibaki addressing journalists last Thursday when announcing the controversial government decision.

President Mwai Kibaki addressing journalists last Thursday when announcing the controversial decision by the cabinet.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga want to shield their key allies from both the International Criminal Court or a Special Tribunal constituted in Kenya. Individuals implicated in organizing, funding or complicity in violence were seen grinning behind Kibaki as he announced that he was getting them off the hook.

Opinion polls show that a vast majority of Kenyans want the ruling classes to be stripped of their positions and face criminal charges at the International Criminal Court. There is widespread belief that the international justice process will be more credible than justice in Kenyan courts.

The sad reality is that, 18 months after post election violence, nobody has been jailed with most cases ending in acquittals. This has not inspired confidence among the estimated 500,000 survivors of the clashes. Most of them still survive in squalid camps with little government assistance.

Kenyans want a radical change in their governance structure. For many years, attempts at economic, social and political reforms have either been frustrated or hijacked by the ruling elite. Politicians have vast powers to appoint cronies to state positions and to allocate resources as they wish. Economic liberalization has only benefited the well-connected and Kenyan industry is dominated by companies allied to or owned by politicians. Corruption is the order of the day as nothing works without a word from “above.”

Today, recruitment into government jobs is a waste of time as politicians manipulate the process to benefit supporters from their ethnic groups. The recent recruitment of personnel for the August national census has been marred by favoritism and bribery. Rather than benefit the millions of unemployed youth, temporary census jobs have been allocated to teachers and civil servants already on the government payroll. In several districts, youths have vowed to disrupt the census unless the recruitment of enumerators is repeated.

Over the years, little has been done to fight corruption, ethnic violence and other crimes committed by the rich and powerful. This has fostered a culture of impunity because guilty parties do not suffer any consequences. Politicians in Kenya have become demi-gods who can get away with theft, murder, incitement and adultery. Moral rectitude among Kenya’s leaders has plummeted as they engage in torrid love affairs with married women from poor families. Girls seeking assistance for school fees or jobs are forced to perform sex acts, sometimes within parliamentary offices.

The culture of evil among Kenyan leaders has sparked bitterness among ordinary people. For many years, there was little that could be done about it as the masses suffered their indignities in silence. The prospects of sending powerful personalities to the International Criminal Court offers a chance at national renewal. As stated elsewhere in this website, the international justice process offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to purge the Kenyan political system of vermin pretending to be leaders.

Though the cabinet announced that it will support criminal prosecutions through the Judiciary, few expect this to happen. If anything, most of the talk was on “forgiveness and reconciliation.” Cabinet ministers repeated similar themes throughout the weekend at various public rallies as though they had been ordered to sell the idea to Kenyans.

As a measure of how far the government was willing to go in shielding ministers from international prosecution, President Kibaki candidly revealed that they considered withdrawing Kenya from the statutes that created the International Criminal Court.

“One of the options considered was withdrawal from the Rome Statute under Article 127 and repeal of the International Crimes Act, 2008,” said the President.

There has also been speculation that, because Kenya signed the International Crimes Act after the post election violence had subsided, there was a legal argument that the new law can only be applied after its been enacted. According to the Constitution of Kenya, a law cannot be applied on crimes committed prior to its inception.

It is clear that politicians are using every legal loophole to escape justice. Among those mentioned in various human rights reports are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.

Political activist Mary Wambui, widely believed to be Kibaki’s second wife, has been implicated in organizing and funding ethnic militia.

Other prominent politicians who will face criminal charges in future include: Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo, Dr Sally Kosgey, Henry Kosgey, Elizabeth Ongoro, Franklin Bett, Kabando wa Kabando, Njenga Karume, John Pesa, Jayne Kihara, Ramadhan Kajembe and their respective supporters.

A host of councilors, security officers and political activists have been named by the Waki Commission of Inquiry and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

In the past few months, as pressure mounted on the government to act against the masterminds of political violence, the suspects have vowed to implicate both the President and Prime Minister. The argument has been that Kibaki and Raila benefitted from the violence and, therefore, cannot avoid responsibility. While Raila used mass violence to protest what he sees as electoral fraud that denied him the presidency, Kibaki was silent as violence raged on his behalf.

Hague to purge Kenya’s political class

The International Criminal Court at The Hague will be the much-needed purge of Kenya’s leadership, heralding the rise of new politicians hopefully free from corruption, tribalism and pettiness.

In history and political science, a purge is the removal of people who are considered undesirable from an organization or from society as a whole. Purges can be peaceful or violent; many will end with the imprisonment or exile of those purged, but in some cases they will simply be removed from office.

Should the International Criminal Court (ICC) make good on its threats to prosecute top political leaders for the 2008 post election violence, none will be left to continue the ongoing misruling of the republic. Prominent personalities from the entire political spectrum will be swept away in a tsunami of justice whose effects will likewise transform Kenya’s social, economic and political landscape.

Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Kenyans want the ICC to immediately take over the cases of those behind the post election violence. Admittedly, it will be several years before the ICC actually jails any of the bigshots but a few years of waiting is a worthy price to pay if we want a new order in Kenya.

Shortcuts in justice – such as a local tribunal – will be so heavily manipulated that nothing will change in Kenya. Even the so-called Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will be a mere slap on the wrist for people implicated in heinous crimes against men, women and children.

ICC Chief Prosecutor, Louis Moreno-Ocampo, may not know this but he could be the messiah that Kenyans have been praying for. For quite some time, Kenya has been at a critical juncture. Conspicuous greed and avarice by the ruling elite has sown the seeds for violent overthrow by the oppressed and impoverished populace. The only reason why there hasn’t been a mass rebellion in Kenya is because nobody has risen up to be the torch-bearer.

By arresting, prosecuting and jailing the persons responsible for Kenya’s woes, the ICC could avert violent revolution in Kenya and therefore save uncountable lives. When Kenyans see the international justice system at work getting rid of their oppressors, there really will be no need to rise up against each other. However, if the ICC dilly-dallies and succumbs to the wishes of Kenya’s cruel and corrupt leaders, then the world should brace itself for continued ethnic strife in the country.

There comes a time in the history of any nation when a purge is necessary. Just like a tree revitalizes itself by shedding old leaves in order to grow new ones, Kenya has no choice but to discard a parasitic ruling class. The ICC is the tool to make this happen.

Charges Kibaki and Raila will face at The Hague

President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and their loyalists will answer charges of planning, financing and executing the deaths of at least 1,500 people in the period between December 2007 and April 2008.

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Kibaki will answer charges relating to the use or misuse of the security services while Raila will be called upon to account for the actions of his supporters who were recorded in the international media chanting, “No Raila, No peace!!”

For Kibaki, the abductions, torture and disappearances of thousands of suspected Mungiki members could very well become a serious issue at The Hague. Kibaki lieutenants Uhuru Kenyatta, Njenga Karume, Kabando wa Kabando, Professor George Saitoti and others will answer for their roles in organizing revenge attacks by militia groups such as Mungiki. Prof Saitoti may face trial because he was appointed Minister for Internal Security in January 2008 as the violence began to peak. Saitoti is also on record as supporting the extra-judicial executions of Mungiki members (EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, its confusing, but The Hague will determine once and for all who ordered which killings).

Raila cohorts, William Ruto, Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo, Najib Balala, Jackson Kibor, John Pesa among many others will explain their utterances which were widely broadcast across the world and whose tapes are still in the possession of media houses. Raila will be held to account largely on the basis that the cries of “No Raila, no peace,” were made by his supporters. William Ruto will be forced to explain why severe ethnic violence took place in his backyard and why most of the victims blame him.

Nyong’o is on record justifying violence with arguments that, “one tribe cannot be allowed to dominate the country.” Kibor admitted on BBC radio of his involvement in ethnic cleansing at the Rift Valley while John Pesa is quoted instructing his constituents to take over businesses owned by migrant ethnic groups.

Najib Balala made the infamous “Lesotho” remark and has been implicated in funding violence at the coastal city of Mombasa. According to the Waki Report on Post Election Violence, Mombasa youths were given a daily stipend to engage in widespread looting of homes and businesses owned by immigrant ethnic groups.

Ethnic warlords find Truth Commission an easy way out

Faced with criminal charges for the deaths of 1,500 people, Kenya’s ruling elite now find the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission a convenient means of escaping jail.

Since it became obvious last year that punishment had to be meted out on those who planned, financed and executed post election violence, there has been loud disagreement over what to do with the perpetrators. The dilemma is over whether to have a locally constituted Special Tribunal or whether to just take the suspects to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are for a local tribunal. In fact, both men want Kenyans to “forgive and forget” the whole mess – their mess.

With a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), all one has to do is confess all the gory details of their crime and get an amnesty! With such confessions, the culprits of post election violence will sanitize themselves early enough for the 2012 General Elections! How convenient!

It is unfortunate that a respected personality such as Bethwel Kiplagat can propose the TJRC as a means of solving Kenya’s woes. Doesn’t he realize that people responsible for killings and rape will literally walk away scot free? But then, Ambassador Kiplagat has vested interests in the formation of a TJRC for he is slated to become a top commissioner, if not its head. But is it possible that this hitherto respected personality could stoop so low as to demean the concept of justice just for the sake of getting a job? Well, among Kenya’s cruel and corrupt elite, greed and avarice know no limits.

Other people proposed for the TJRC include former Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi and Presbyterian Church of East Africa clergyman Timothy Njoya. The rest are: Dr Maria Nzomo, Dr Elizabeth Muli, Tom Ojienda, Timothy Njoya, Dr Joseph Aluoch, Betty Murungi, Margaret Shava, Thomas Letangule, Abubakar Zein Abubakar, Joyce Miguda Majiwa, Tecla Namachanja, Maj Gen (rtd) Ahmamed Sheikh Farah and Dr Daadab Mohammed.

This list of names consists of people who have been hobnobbing with the political class for countless decades. Many in the above list have previously gotten high profile jobs thanks to lobbying by their political allies. Clearly, Kenyans should not count on the impartiality of the TJRC and its formation will promote impunity because those who have committed crimes against humanity will never be punished.

The best way – indeed the ONLY way – of ensuring that the events of 2007 -2008 are not repeated is to prosecute those implicated in funding, planning and participating in violence. Right now, the only mode of justice that Kenyans want is for the International Criminal Court to take over all cases and issue life jail terms to the likes of William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and their cronies, most of whom are easily identifiable.

Kenyans are looking upon International Criminal Prosecutor, Louis Moreno-Ocampo for the much needed purge of an oppresive ruling clique.

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UPDATE:

Former UN chief Kofi Annan has now sent the envelope containing the list of post poll violence perpetrators to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Read this breaking story and reactions by Kenyans >>

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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.

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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.