Charles Onyango Obbo on ICC Ruling - A shared history of colonial injustices

Yesterday the International Criminal Court at The Hague reduced the “Ocampo Six” to the “Ocampo Four”.

It confirmed charges against four of the six Kenyans charged with crimes against humanity following the 2008 post-election violence.

Deputy Prime Minister and minister of Finance Uhuru Kenyatta, former Higher Education minister William Ruto, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, and Kass FM programmes chief Joshua arap Sang might have to defend themselves at the court.

Former Police chief Maj-Gen Hussein Ali and suspended Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey were let off the hook.

The four are appealing, and the ICC Chief Prosecutor, as he usually does, will probably appeal the decision in favour of Mr Ali and Mr Kosgey.

Whatever happens, all the four were merely players in the great political drama of Kenya that will continue years after they are off the political scene and have been forgotten.

This is because one of the many ways to understand the ICC case is to reflect on the big Kenyan drama.

Kenya’s history of the last 100 year has produced several key currents, which all played out in the ICC case. Two of them were on play yesterday.

British colonialism and white settlement was particularly devastating for Central Kenya. They
resulted in massive displacements of the people from their land and an intense cultural struggle that led to founding the first independent churches in Africa and the bitter Mau Mau rebellion.

From an outsider’s reading of Kenya’s history and discussion with the more reflective individuals
from Central Kenya today, this history has produced, first, a near permanent millennial movement in the Mountain region (which the outlawed Mungiki sect that was allegedly mobilised by Uhuru for attacks in the Rift Valley loosely represents).

Secondly, it makes the colonial experience a deeply felt form of invasion for Central Kenya. It seems to drive the region to hanker for a Messiah, a Saviour who will restore to the children of the House of Mumbi the lands of their ancestors.

The Mountain region has never really found the perfect Messiah. In some ways Uhuru seemed to fill that void during the height of the chaos.

Whether Uhuru survives or not, the current that propelled him to power will not die out. There will likely be more Messiahs from Central Kenya, and there will be a lot more successor movements to Mungiki.

The other side of this complex tango is in the Rift Valley. While the Central Kenya psyche is both
driven and distorted by alienation, the Rift Valley’s is fuelled by dispossession.

From wherever colonialism displaced Kenyans, it seemed to send most of them to the then vast and fertile hills and valleys of the Rift.

The notion that the “immigrant” Kenyans were pioneer Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who
would eventually go back when calm returned to their villages, and return the places they had settled back to the “rightful owners” seems to have been bubbling underneath the Rift Valley for decades.

There is an inescapable sense of self-righteous right to repossession one gets from even the most
left-wing liberal Rift Valleyian when it comes to the region’s land, and the place of the other Kenyans who settled there.

Whether or not they see themselves that way, people like Ruto have about them the appeal of a Robinhood. Designer rebels crusading to repossess the commons for their people, who have been driven to suffer in the woods by grabbing outsiders.

For this historical reason, there is now in Rift Valley a market for a heroic Robinhood, a protector of the Nilotes’ pastures against acquisitive Bantu hordes.

twitter: @cobbo3

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