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Kenya: Protection from the protectors

By Peter Muiruri
Posted on Thursday, 17 February 2011 15:10

International institutions should stop the Kenyan government from trying to defer the ICC prosecution of the ‘Ocampo six’ so that there can be justice for the victims of the post-electoral violence, argues Peter Muiruri.

Kenyan leaders are frantically and relentlessly seeking the support of every person, country and organisation that matters in their bid to defer the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution dealing with the now famous ‘Ocampo six’. To them, the phrase the legal maxim that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ does not make any sense.

The African Union (AU) has readily agreed to give Kenya much-needed, but otherwise unnecessary, support. Unfortunately, this organisation is made up of countries led by some of the world’s most notorious despots. Of course, some of its leaders are credible, legitimate and have respect for human rights and democracy, but others are despots who will not let it go no matter how much they lose in credible, free and fair elections. They will never accept defeat and will not leave their seats without bloodshed.

Unfortunately, these are the leaders who have collectively supported the Kenyan government’s bid to have the ICC process deferred for a year. It should be remembered that the Kenyan government is a coalition made up of two major parties which could not agree on the outcome of the presidential vote in 2007. Now, the parties are divided on the issue of the ICC deferral.

The UN Security Council should take into account the fact that three years since the post-election violence erupted, we still have internally displaced people. These people are still living in camps because there has not been any political will to resettle them. The UN Security Council should also note that three years after this mayhem happened in our country, not a single person has been arrested, tried and successfully convicted for murder, rape or arson committed during that violence in late 2007 and early 2008.

The arrest and trial of people who killed, raped and destroyed property did not have to wait until we had a new constitution. Even the old constitution had provisions for how these kinds of criminals should have been treated. But because of the entrenched culture of impunity in this country, the government has never found it necessary to seek justice for the victims. Political support from the killers is much more important than justice for the victims.

The UN Security Council must also realise that the campaign to defer the ICC process is all about our internal politics. Two of the six suspects have already declared their intention to vie for the presidency in 2012 and because they happen to be the blue-eyed boys and preferred successors by the politically correct power brokers, it is feared that the ICC process will jeopardise succession plans.

The Security Council should also take into account the fact that the victims of the violence have never been consulted about the ICC deferral, yet they are the ones who suffered and continue to suffer. This is the clearest manifestation of the contempt that those in power have for the victims of the post-electoral violence.

Lastly, this country is currently in a constitutional and political crisis barely five months after the promulgation of the much-vaunted new constitution. The new, clean, incorruptible and competent judiciary that Kenyans have yearned for appears to be a pipe dream. This is because the old habit of appointing key people to this important institution based upon political patronage has crept back in, even under the watch of the new constitution.

The straightforward legal process of identifying the best people to fill key positions in this vital arm of the government has been disregarded. For that reason, there is a stalemate about the appointment of the chief justice, attorney general, director of public prosecution and the controller of the budget. The impasse is a result of the egos in the two principals: President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Each would feel slighted by the other if he backs off and none is ready to disappoint their respective side of hecklers, sycophants, hangers-on, cheerleaders and court jesters.

Peter Muiruri is political director for the Governance and Democracy Movement – Kenya

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