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February 16, 2019

Three cheers for the ICC


The past few weeks have been a time of deep anxiety for most Kenyans. It seemed as though we were caught up in a nightmare of impending violence, from which there could be no escape.

Two fundamentally opposed views of the August 12 presidential election result lay behind this:

On the one hand, we had the supporters of Jubilee Party who have absolutely no doubt that President Uhuru Kenyatta was validly reelected; and that the need for a rerun of that election is only necessitated by the blundering interference of the Supreme Court into what they believe was “a clean election”.

On the other hand, we have the opposition NASA supporters, who rejoiced that at long last, the “deep state” operatives who have rigged all but one (in 2002) of our presidential elections, had at last been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

As CNN reported on September 20th,

“Kenya's highest court laid out its reasons for annulling last month's presidential election…condemning the country's voting authority for failing to give the court full access to its computer servers. Justice Philomena Mwilu said that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's (IEBC) refusal to provide access left the court "no choice but to accept the petitioner's claims that the IEBC's IT system was infiltrated and compromised, and the data therein interfered with, or IEBC's officials themselves interfered with the data."

Still this matter has since gone beyond any argument over who won, or who rigged, or what the results of today's election might be. The debate has been firstly, on whether there will be any election at all; and secondly, on what level of violence might result from the clash of these two irreconcilable perspectives on the recent presidential election.

The first I cannot answer, as I am writing this well ahead of October 26. The second I believe I can answer as follows: there will no doubt be some violence if the election is held, but this will be the limited opportunistic violence that is not at all unusual in Kenyan elections, going back right to Independence in 1963. What I am fairly certain we will not see is a replay of the darkest days of the 2008 post-election violence. And I would give two reasons for this:

First is that we need to remember that by far the worst massacres and evictions in that tragic year, were in the upper Rift Valley. That was the place where the militias of one local community went "the full Interahamwe” on their neighbours, even unto pursuing unarmed peasant farmers to a church where they had taken shelter – having already lost everything they owned - and burning down that church over their heads.

Hundreds of thousands fled this carnage.

Well, the upper Rift Valley is now a solid ‘Jubilee zone’ in which there is no quarrel between the two key ethnic communities of that region. They will all happily vote for the return of Uhuru to State House. So no problem there.

Second is the extent to which the fear of the ICC has entered our national psyche. Each side uses it to threaten the other.

For example, some Jubilee supporters are alleged to be laying the groundwork for the former PM Raila Odinga and his running mate, former VP Kalonzo Musyoka, to be summoned by the ICC. Since it is almost entirely NASA supporters who have been killed thus far, it is somewhat odd that these Jubilee supporters seem to be saying that NASA leaders will answer at the ICC for the killing of their own supporters by the Kenyan police.

NASA activists on the other hand have fixed their sights on the Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet. This is a far scarier threat, as we have already seen one of his predecessors – a distinguished former army paratrooper, lauded by all his former comrades as an officer and a gentleman – end up at the ICC.

What I am saying is that nothing scares our political class more than an assured rendezvous with the ICC. Any leaders or hirelings thereof, who set out to organise large-scale violence know only too well what will follow.

And therein lies our salvation.

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