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February 19, 2019

In Uhuru's Power Game, Truth And Reality Are Expendable

President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves harambee house after handing over presidency to deputy president William Ruto. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves harambee house after handing over presidency to deputy president William Ruto. Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

When President Uhuru decided to go to The Hague, contrary to the wishes of some friends, he saved himself from being a fugitive sought by world governments. This was so, whether he travelled to The Hague as a private citizen as he claimed or as President of Kenya.

A private citizen going to The Hague to answer charges of crimes against humanity is shameful enough. Going to ICC as the only President who has ever been paraded at the international court is even more embarrassing, hence Uhuru’s preference to travel to The Hague as a private citizen.

The myth that President Uhuru transferred and left the presidency behind with William Ruto when he travelled to The Hague in order to save the presidency and sovereignty of Kenya from ignominy, is a political illusion that allows President Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto to draw unwarranted political credit instead of blame for a crisis they created and put the country into when they announced “say Hague, don’t be vague.”

When President Uhuru left William Ruto acting or doing his work for him when he was in The Hague, he did not stop being President and neither did he become a private citizen. Even in the ICC, Uhuru was the President of Kenya, not some Kenyan private person.

It is said Uhuru appointed Ruto as Acting President and travelled to The Hague looking private in order to save the presidency from the shame of appearing in court accused of crimes against humanity. Yet Uhuru’s and Kenya’s presidency did appear in court accused of crimes against humanity. Clearly, Uhuru did not cease being President upon his appointment of William Ruto as Acting President.

Uhuru wanted to travel to The Hague as a private citizen, not because he had ceased or did not want to be President of Kenya, but only because the shame of a private citizen travelling unnoticed to the ICC is lesser than a president travelling to the ICC unnoticed and denied presidential respect and glory.

Whether Uhuru liked it or not, the man who bore his name and travelled to the Hague disguised as a private citizen was Kenya’s President who could not be accorded the respect his office deserved when in The Hague. Yet in a way, travelling as a private citizen was the foretaste of what would have become the life of Uhuru if the President had refused to go to The Hague and become a fugitive.

Further, Uhuru seemed convinced that if he travelled in private and was detained, Kenyan Presidency would escape detention. But would it? If the eventuality of detention had happened while Uhuru was in The Hague, both Uhuru the private citizen and Uhuru the President would have been detained simultaneously and his Acting Deputy President would have taken full presidency which he did not have as Acting President.

In appointing an Acting President, Uhuru did not save presidency from the shame of appearing in the ICC. The only thing that will save Uhuru from travelling to The Hague as President is termination of his case.

But as long as Uhuru is the President of Kenya, travelling as a private citizen, will not save Kenya from the shame of her President being indicted with crimes against humanity.

If Uhuru wants Kenyan presidency never to be embarrassed by ICC, the court has to drop his case or Uhuru has to drop his presidency.

But wearing off the coat of presidency and travelling to The Hague with his presidency denied, while not saving Uhuru from embarrassment, has saved other African presidents the shame of seeing a fellow African president summoned to The Hague by ICC while still in office or their necessity to travel to The Hague to offer their colleague moral support.

The Dutch government was also saved embarrassment because they did not have to choose between a president and a private person who came knocking at their gate as the same person. By choosing to travel private, Uhuru chose for Dutch government the easier option of treating him as a private person.

Interestingly, whatever Uhuru is doing now is claimed to be done for people, country, sovereignty and not Uhuru. In pursuit of this, Uhuru has appointed Ruto Acting President to ensure presidency is not embarrassed or endangered in any way. But what will happen when President Uhuru returns, resumes his job and it is Ruto’s turn to go to The Hague? Will an Acting Deputy President be appointed to save deputy presidency from infamy and will Ruto also travel as a private citizen to save deputy presidency from shame?

Something good has, however, come out of this charade. From when Uhuru and Ruto decided to go to The Hague, it was obvious to many that governing and attending trial or using the government to protect an accused President and his deputy was never going to be smooth. All the embarrassment that Uhuru is trying to avoid by travelling as a private person could have been avoided if Uhuru and Ruto had skipped election until their trial was over. Exercising power they sought to protect them is now an encumbrance they never foresaw obstructing their own freedom from trial.

Whichever way the Uhuru case goes, as long as Kenyan courts are not yet fully reformed and our democracy is still weak, Kenya will continue to need ICC. However, from the look of things, African presidents may have scored a victory in Uhuru’s Status Conference if judges, through an indefinite stay or adjournment, eventually rule that President Uhuru and by extension African heads of state are not triable while still in power.

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