Wycliffe Muga: ICC will expose political thugs - The Star

The big news about Africa on much of the global print media, over the past week or so, has been a report on how hundreds f of women were assaulted and raped by rebel militias in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo DRC) last June.

It is perhaps right and poetically fitting that these reports of DRC atrocities have been released at a time when prominent members of Kenya's political establishment are quaking in their boots at the prospect of the promised indictments and arrest warrants finally being issued by the ICC.

For if all that we have heard rumoured is true, then some of these seemingly polished and civic-minded men, have some personal experience of unleashing rabid militias on innocent men and women in unprotected villages or urban slums.

Thanks to these politicians, the days are long over when Kenyans could look with amazement at such atrocities as those which recently took place in the DRC, and ask, "What is wrong with those people?" We know now that we are in no position to stand in judgment over other African nations, in the matter of atrocities that arise when "tribal conflict" commences in earnest. We can no longer pretend that we are any different.

And that, I suppose, is why these ICC indictments - as and when they are finally handed down - should be viewed with rejoicing by the average Kenyan. They offer us the only opportunity we have to ensure that we never again have to experience anything like the post-election violence of 2007-08.

It's true that there will almost certainly be innocent people caught up in the ICC net. That can hardly be avoided when witnesses are reportedly being flown out with their entire families and further promised the opportunity to settle in the consoling suburbs of North America and Western Europe, after they have testified against the alleged masterminds of the post-election violence.

West Africans have been known to attempt foolhardy desert crossings to get to Europe via North Africa. Yet others are routinely drowned while trying to sail the Mediterranean Sea on some makeshift boat in the desperate search for economic opportunity in Europe.

So why would a Kenyan not make up elaborate atrocity stories directed against a person from a different tribe, if this would lead to permanent residence amidst those streets which are said to be payed with gold? This possibility of fictional atrocity stories is something which will bear watching when our fellows-citizens begin to give evidence against some prominent politicians who are even now having sleepless nights.

Still this is not your heavily compromised and deeply mistrusted Kenyan justice system we are talking about. It is the ICC, a world-class judicial operation. And I would venture to suggest that mere indictment by the ICC would be seen as proof of guilt by most who read about it. If the accused was to be subsequently released for lack of evidence, this would not take away the stain of perceived guilt.

In all mention of that person's name thereafter, the foreign press (in particular) would speak of "the Kenyan minister who was once indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity..." That is hardly the kind of thing which any politician, however reckless, would want his grown-up children to read about in the papers; and every time he or his family travelled abroad, if an immigration official lingered over their passports, they would nervously wonder if perhaps that officer was trying to figure out where he read this name before, and why the mere reading of it made him so uneasy.

To have your name officially associated with crimes against humanity is definitely a punishment in itself. But there is always the chance that some of these Kenyan leaders will actually be found guilty.

That they were absurdly careless in those difficult days: that they got carried away with the heat and fury of the moment. And that they subsequently left behind the most obvious and unmistakable evidence of their involvement in the massacres and arson attacks of those desperate days.

And this takes us back to those hundreds of rape victims in the DRC. The reason why there will be no escape for the perpetrators of the post-election violence here is that this is not really just about Kenya. It is about sending a message to all African leaders.

And the message is that it is no longer possible to allow atrocities to be committed within your borders - or to sponsor such atrocities yourself for political reasons - and hope to get away with it.

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