Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Lack of prosecution over post-election violence worsens Kenya's case at ICC

This is an extended version of a letter The Nation kindly published, 19 Nov 2013:

In a recent opinion article (“Is the die cast?” 18 Nov 2013), Kiriro wa Ngugi talks of Britain’s double standards in supporting the ICC [International Criminal Court] process. He writes that Britain previously released her own prisoners in Northern Ireland, and so asks: “Why would the UK Government [...] not allow us to do what they themselves have already done in the past to resolve their own social turmoil?”

Mr Ngugi is referring to the Good Friday agreement of 10 April 1998. This is in no way, however, a period of history that supports the actions of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto towards the ICC.

Mr Ngugi describes the agreement between Britain and Ireland as showing preference for peace over justice, and so argues: “This is the exact same direction and philosophy that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto adopted after the 2008 PEV [post-election violence].”

What happened in the Good Friday Agreement, however, is that both the British and Irish governments recognised they had misused their paramilitary forces to exacerbate confrontation between those who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and those who wanted her to become part of the Republic of Ireland. Admitting their fault, they sought ways of rebuilding confidence between the divided communities.

The big difference between those instigators of violence and the instigators of Kenya’s PEV was that they were already in prison. To understand the difference, imagine this happened in Kenya...

Imagine culprits of the 2008 PEV were convicted by Kenyan courts and were now sitting in prison. Then, to reconcile the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities, elders and leaders of both groups—who were not themselves necessarily involved in organising the violence—came together to publicly say their communities had committed faults in the past and that this was an unacceptable way of building the country of Kenya. Then, to demonstrate their commitment to peace, they forgave each other’s communities and decided to reduce the sentences of those of both sides sitting in prison.

The comparison does not hold between Northern Ireland and Kenya because of the complete lack of criminal proceedings in Kenya against perpetrators of violence at any level. There is no one in Kenya whose prison sentence we can publicly reduce in order to say forgiveness should take priority over justice.

If an alien is looking down at Kenya from Mars, it would think Kenyan society is most afraid of whether or not matatus have hazard signs in their boot—because that is what the police force spends most of its time checking. From Mars they would be amazed to hear that actually what citizens are afraid of is violence during elections, Al-Shabaab terrorism, threats of secession from the Mombasa Republican Council and killings in Tana River.

When the international community remains committed to procedures of justice it is saying we believe in Kenya. We believe killing is never acceptable as a form of political intimidation. We stand on the side of those committed to peace and we reject threats, corruption and violence as forms of political abuse. We count African countries as equal partners in building a peaceful world. We believe there is nowhere saying one group of politicians should have special permission to organise violence against their citizens. We believe leaders are servants of the people and democracy stands or falls on the question of whether you can count your leader as your equal. We see Kenya as a great nation and we will always stand on the side of justice for her people.