Friday, January 7, 2011

January 7, 2011 - Politics on the Brain

Kristoffer and I have been talking a lot about Kenyan politics lately, both to each other and with some US visitors we've had. I have to admit that the tone of our conversations has not been so positive. We are frustrated with Kenya. As Kristoffer says, "You think that nothing else will surprise you, and the government goes and does something that completely blows you away."

So I've already written about the six high-profile Kenyans that the International Criminal Court's prosecutor, Louis Morena-Ocampo, named as being behind the violence that occurred after the December 2007 election. Ocampo will now try to prove to the ICC judges that he has enough evidence to prosecute these people for crimes against humanity (only one of whom was a bit of a surprise to anyone over here); it is understood that many other high-profile people were involved but Ocampo only named those who he believes he can successfully prosecute with evidence.

The next step after that was that ALL BUT ONE Member of Parliament (MP) voted to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute, which would effectively withdraw them from the ICC and repeal the International Crimes Act. It wouldn't change the current investigation, but it would mean that the ICC could not prosecute Kenyans in the future. In voting this way the MPs basically told the world that they believe Kenyans should receive impunity and in the future should not be held accountable for their actions [as an aside, Kenyans argue that the US is not part of the ICC either which most people around the world think is insane and horrific. The US should not be used an example in this situation, there is no good reason at all why the US is not part of the ICC except that the US thinks they can and should do everything according to their own rules.]. The irony here is that before Ocampo named his list, the ICC gave Kenya MONTHS AND MONTHS to establish their own local tribunal to try those suspected of fueling and financing the post-election violence. Nobody wanted to do it, everyone opposed it and said "Bring on the Hague!" Now that the Hague has come a-knockin', the government is looking to run and hide. Ocampo has been accused of being biased against Africans and worse, but the reality is that the Kenyan government realizes that they are in dangerous territory and they don't like it. By voting to withdraw from the ICC - which, by the way, needs the president's approval before becoming a reality and thankfully he hasn't given it...yet - the MPs gave the appearance of their own guilt in what happened or what could happen in the future. Nobody seems innocent from committing crimes or corruption in this country.

Today's headline in the Kenyan paper we read says, "Kibaki, Raila plot way out for Ocampo 6", and goes on to explain how the President and Prime Minister are looking for ways to reclaim the option of trying the six suspects here in Kenya at a local tribunal instead of letting them be sent to the Hague. They are publicly looking for a way out! Does anyone else think that sounds really, really guilty of them?! So once again, Kenya surprises us. This is a country with incredible resources and potential and money and international hope/support. And yet, she remains her own worst enemy.

If the President agrees with the MPs to withdraw from the Rome Statute, then things around here should change a lot. We don't believe that the United Nations can continue to have 2 large headquarters here (UNEP and UNHabitat) and to be the 3rd largest UN compound in the world. It could very well be a game-changer in regards to the international community here. (Except China won't go anywhere because they don't care about crimes against humanity - their financial support and the incredible infrastructure they are building here secures their position in the region with access to our resources - and, surprise surprise, makes them oh so very close to all that oil in Sudan. But that is a blog for another day I guess.).

So, alas, I sigh. The government of Kenya is not heading in the direction that we hoped it would be heading in right now. We know the country is better than the image it is showing the world - we know that regular Kenyan people deserve more from their leaders - and we sincerely hope it changes face soon.

LMW

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