Santuri Mwanga: Justice approaches in Kenya

Politicians who orchestrated last year's post-election violence fear they will end up in court at The Hague

When Kenya erupted into chaos after the 2007 presidential election, the country and some of its leaders were so consumed in the dynamics of the ugly tribal war that they never paused to think of the consequences.

Some were quoted in live news broadcasts threatening even more dire action. Others went on air on popular radio stations calling for the extermination of members of certain communities.

At the time, it looked like the whole country would spiral into a Rwanda-like situation – and therefore some leaders let down their guard and became full-blown jingoists.

They called for international mediation and played up to the foreign media gallery, insisting that the election dispute and the resultant clashes could only be solved by outside means.

And so the then United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, brokered a peaceful settlement resulting in a coalition government, in which the main protagonists of the bloody theatre, incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and his fierce rival for the presidency, Raila Odinga agreed to share power.

Annan also recommended, among other measures, the setting-up of a commission of inquiry into the post-election chaos. The president duly approved the step and at the time, politicians thought it was a good idea. But when its chairman, Justice Philip Waki, presented his findings on October 17 and implicated top politicians from both sides of the divide – the Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity, headed by Raila and Kibaki respectively – it dawned on them that things might not be as rosy as they expected.

The Waki report recommended that at least 10 suspects in the clashes be tried at a tribunal to bet set up within 60 days of the report being made public – failing which, a secret envelope, which was in the custody of Annan, would be handed over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Now, a fierce debate has erupted over whether the report should be implemented. For politicians have realised that those named in the report are not ordinary Kenyans. They are key figures in the coalition government.

Although no one knows for sure what the Annan envelope really contains, it is now public knowledge that it contains at least the name of the minister for agriculture, William Ruto – who is considered to be the man who rallied massive support for ODM – and the de facto leader of the Kalenjin community and the deputy prime minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is considered to be the most eminent leader of the Kikuyu community after Kibaki. It also contains the names of key allies of Kibaki and Odinga.

Raila, in whose name many people believe the skirmishes happened (they used to sing, "No Raila, no peace") has been supportive of the Waki report. But he has found himself running into a maelstrom of opposition from his ODM party, which dismisses the report as containing "incurable errors". Ruto himself has vociferously dismissed the report and corralled his supporters to do the same. The effect has been that ODM, once seen as a fearsome monolith, is now in danger of splitting.

Uhuru has acknowledged that his name may be on the secret envelope. But he has justified his alleged misdeeds. He has said that what he did was meant to help internally displaced persons, most of whom were from his Kikuyu community. Given a similar situation, he said last week, he would do the same.

The cabinet is said to be split down the middle over the report. Most feel that if it were to be implemented, it would sound the death knell for the eight-month old coalition. Others feel that to end the culture of impunity, those implicated in the report must be brought to book. And many Kenyans want it implemented to serve as a warning to future warmongers.

Early this week ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said that the ICC was ready to try the suspects if Kenya does not do so. It is slowly dawning on the politicians who oppose the report that whether the country sets up a tribunal or not, the international trial at The Hague will happen. It is giving them sleepless nights.

Bookmark the permalink.