THE ICC TRIAL A WORRY FOR KENYA

Within the next six months, two of Kenya’s topmost leaders will be standing in the dock before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, to answer charges against humanity, related to events following the 2007 botched general elections.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, will appear in court at different dates to face a litany of serious charges that could determine the future of their political careers, but more importantly, the destiny of their country of fourty million people.

The two leaders have appeared at the Hague before for preliminary hearings, but this will be the first time in the history of the ICC, that a sitting president and his deputy will be in the dock. They will have the onerous task of convincing the international bench that they are innocent of charges of murders, rapes and other crimes against humanity.

With Ruto on the dock will be a former radio presenter, Joshua Arap Sang. Two others who had initially been included in the list of suspects were released for lack of evidence.

Ruto’s trial will begin in September and Uhuru’s will kick off two months later. The two cases will be the highlight of this year’s events, marked by watershed polls last March in which Uhuru was declared winner in a controversial exercise that has divided Kenya down the middle, and locked out a key leader, Raila Odinga, out of the government for the second time.

If past cases are to be taken as a marker, the Uhuru/Ruto hearings in Netherlands could drag on for a year or even more. Several attempts by defense lawyers to have the cases postponed, transferred to Kenya or Tanzania, and even heard through video-conferencing, failed. Recently, one last desperate attempt was made to have Ruto attend only a select number of hearings so that he could be free to attend to official duties at home. Although the Court acceded to that request, the prosecution has now appealed the decision, meaning that should the appeal be allowed, Ruto and Uhuru, who hasnt requested for that consideration, will have to spend weeks or months at a time, in the cold European winter.

Although the two cases will run consecutively, perhaps allowing one of them at any given time to be in charge of the government, fears still persist that their appearance in court in full glare of the international media could hurt the global image of a country preparing to celebrate its 50th year of independence in December. Already some western countries have shifted to a neutral gear awaiting the outcome of the two cases. Am I saying that the next two years will be trying for Kenya? Yes.

In the meantime, there are growing fears in the country that the opposition might try to capitalise on the disorganisation in government to engage in some form of mischief. Since taking over, Uhuru has been laboring to strengthen key arms of government to make them more effective in delivering services, but the situation is still fragile at the moment, given the multiple labor strikes, insecurity and instability in the devolved county administrations. But it is foolhardy for anyone to think that the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) led by Raila Odinga would not want to make as much hay as possible from Uhuru’s and Ruto’s troubles.

The most reasonable advice I can give is that Kenyans must guard against all forms of incitement or action that could plunge the country into anarchy.

And that is my say.

We should not allow Kenya to go astray

Like most African countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya has had its share of political violence. There have been land clashes and ethnic fighting. In 2007, the country experienced its worst form of violence following disputed presidential election results. Both the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki, who was vying for his second term in office, and the opposition leader Raila Odinga, claimed victory. More than a thousand people were killed and tens of thousands rendered homeless.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague has since indicted three Kenyans who are to face trial, within the next few months, on serious charges against humanity related to that violence. Two of them, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, are occupying the presidency and deputy presidency positions in a government elected after the 2012 polls. Odinga who lost the elections continues to protest that the polls were rigged just like they were in 2007. However, the Kenya Supreme Court did not agree with him and confirmed the results.

Sadly though, public comments in the social media in recent weeks and events unfolding in the country – especially after the overthrow of Egypt’s President Morsi – appear to suggest that things may not all be well in the country, and that a secret plot may be in the offing, probably to topple the current leadership.

Raila’s closest aide, head of his presidential campaign, Eliud Owalo, has been in and out of the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department in the past few weeks on allegations that he planned to lead a campaign to distabilize the government. No evidence has so far been adduced to implicate him in such a nefarous activity. The organization he allegedly was to use to achieve that distabilization, the March 4th Movement, is said to be a legitimate group led by a human rights crusader who has since come out to announce he owned it.

In the 2012 elections Raila got very close to 50 percent of the votes against a little over 50 percent by Uhuru. In numbers, therefore, Raila still commands substantial popular support. As things are now, his followers appear to be restless about the Uhuru regime, and many think the Egyptian scenario should apply to Kenya. I personally dont think so. Egypt and Kenya are two different countries with different histories and systems of governments. While the Egyptian Army is radicalised, the Kenyan military is disciplined and apolitical.
However, the huge support Raila commands is presenting a major issue of concern to the Uhuru government. That is why the ruling Jubiliee should tread carefully and avoid an form of provocation that could trigger an upheaval.

So far, the Uhuru/Ruto government – although without the full support of the western world – appear unfazed and determined to move on and fulfil its election promises that include issuing laptops to all standard one pupils; free maternity to all pregnant women; providing tens of thousands of jobs every year, and implementing fully the Constitution now based on a devolved system of rule.

In order to avert a political crisis, I suggest that the government of Uhuru/Ruto ceases any form of harassement of the opposition that could lead to instability. It should promote a spirit of tolerance and accomodation; provide a level playing ground for all political players and work towards uniting all tribes.

The tragedy is that Kenya is a highly tribalised nation. The fact that Raila is a Luo, Uhuru a Kikuyu, and Ruto a Kalenjin, is a big deal in a multi-ethnic Kenya.The combination of votes from the Kikuyu and Kalenjin – two very large tribes is what realised the victory for the ruling Jubilee Alliance. In order to ensure stability a middle ground has to be found to ease the prevailing tension between the Luo on one side and the Kalenjin and Kikuyu on the other.

Kenyans want peace and stability. They want jobs; they want to see action to end rampant poverty; they want their land rights respected; and they want a stable country that will continue to attract investments and tourists and in the end generate jobs.

I hope friendly countries including the United States will do everything in their power to ensure that peace prevails in the East African country.
And that is my say.