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January 20, 2019

National Interests Should Guide Us In The Hague Debate

ICC headquarters in the Hague on June 15 Photo/ICC
ICC headquarters in the Hague on June 15 Photo/ICC

Just before the outbreak of the Mau Mau war of independence, a European journalist asked Chief Waruhui, a colonial collaborator, how things were in Kenya. He said, Kenya was like a reed swaying in strong wind and he feared the worst. Soon after, he was assassinated and Mau Mau war broke out claiming thousands of lives before independence.

Many years later, in 2007/2008, another tragedy of post-election inter-ethnic fighting and consequent ICC trials of Uhuru and Ruto broke out, only rivaled by the 1982 coup attempt and one-party dictatorship.

These things happened because, when they reared their ugly heads, authorities forbade a serious and sober debate on them with disastrous consequences.

In between 1952 and 2007 at independence, President Jomo Kenyatta and fellow leaders betrayed Mau Mau and democracy and decided to walk the path of appetite, greed and capitalism, to the benefit of a few and ruin of millions. To eliminate resistance, a national debate was forbidden and punished.

Come 1982. To protect leaders’ loot, democracy had to be killed and one-party dictatorship legalised. I still remember that sad day when we inserted section 2A into the constitution to guarantee Kenya would be ruled by one party and one dictator.

To actualise dictatorship, democracy was killed, Parliament, Kanu party and whole country were all gagged. Those who said no were threatened with detention. Those who would not publicly support death of democracy were considered worse than the very few who opposed openly.

When Waruru Kanja warned that those who would not let people talk would not stop them from farting, no one listened. Dictatorship unleashed an unprecedented reign of terror that killed thousands, detained many and silenced the whole nation provoking the Air Force to attempt a coup that failed.

Ultimately, multi-party democracy was restored but from 2002, we intensified our ethnic agitation that in 2007 led to a civil war that killed 1,333 and displaced 650,000. Six Kenyans were also charged with crimes against humanity at ICC in The Hague.  Nevertheless, in 2013, we elected two of the six, Uhuru and Ruto, as our president and deputy president, caring nothing about the consequences of our choices.

Though prosecution of our president and deputy president in The Hague commences next week, Kenyans who are numb with fear dare not debate the matter or ask the hard questions about these trials and their consequences. Why did leaders who were charged with crimes against humanity vie for public office rather than clear their names first?

Why did leaders who claim to put the country first, form a government to protect themselves from ICC rather than serve Kenya? Who will govern Kenya when president and deputy president will be away in The Hague? If I could not govern my home through proxy when in detention, how can Uhuru and Ruto govern Kenya from The Hague by Skype? Can Uhuru and Ruto step down for the time of their trial in The Hague, and have the Speaker of the National Assembly take charge of government until the trials are over? To some, these questions must not be asked. They must be left to leaders to ask and answer.

Rather than reorganise our politics and government for solutions, many leaders think it is easier for Kenya to pull out of the Rome Statute and isolate ourselves from the Western world at all costs. But ICC was not established to prosecute Uhuru and Ruto, but protect people and victims of dictatorships the world over that would kill millions with absolute impunity. What will Kenyans do if they pull out of ICC and the devil comes after them? Where will they find refuge and justice?

Avoiding these questions is irresponsible, criminal and suicidal. We must know who will guide the ship of the State when the captain and navigator are away. Responsible and patriotic citizens will not leave the ship of the State to the mercy of elements. We have a right to solutions of this crisis because whatever will befall Kenya, will determine our destiny and that of our children for a long time to come.

We should not let our leaders prepare leave for trial, 2000 miles away and for long periods, without a national conversation and consensus about constitutional substitution of the incapacitated leadership by others in whose hands the whole country can feel safe and comfortable. Except in Kenya, this would be mere common sense.

If Kenyans cannot have a national conversation on their crisis, they will be admitting Kenya is no longer a democracy. It has metamorphosed into a dictatorship.

Some say this matter was settled by elections on March 4, 2013. It was not. Leaders charged should not have vied for office. But they did and got elected. Now we need a solution that their election created and will cater both for their interests and those of the nation.

Because our leaders are incapacitated we cannot send them to the Olympics. They will bring no gold medals.  Until our champions can run again, we must send our second and third best to the Olympics.

As we struggle for solutions, there is wisdom we must never forget. There is great danger in not replacing incapacitated leaders. The country must come before leaders. National interests come before personal interests. Justice must be for all – accused leaders and victims alike.

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