Prime Minister dismisses Kenyan Parliament vote against ICC process

Radio France International has an exclusive interview with PM Raila Odinga on the nearly unanimous vote in Parliament calling for Kenya to withdraw from the ICC:

The motion was passed during a late night session – with some MPs  labeling the ICC as “colonial” and “anti-African”.

But Odinga told RFI that nobody should pay attention to the motion.

“It cannot help anybody because the process that has started cannot be stopped, even if the country were to decide to pull out of the ICC today,” Odinga said.

“This is part of our constitution which requires a referendum to change … A mere vote in parliament is just an expression of opinion and does not hold any legal weight.”

The train builds speed–more warning signs for the Uganda election and the choices ahead

News on the Uganda campaign from Reuters this morning:

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, seeking a fourth term in office, will arrest his main opponent Kizza Besigye if he carries out his own vote count and announces the results, the presidency said on Wednesday.
Besigye said in October his party planned to hold a parallel count of the presidential election expected on February 18, to put pressure on the government and the president to speed up electoral reforms.

Besigye, leading an opposition coalition called Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC), plans to have agents at every polling station who will send results to a tallying centre.

He reiterated on December 6 while campaigning in eastern Uganda that he would announce his own results shortly after the polls close, local media reported.

The presidency said in a statement that Museveni, speaking to media on Tuesday in Jinja, eastern Uganda, had warned Besigye not to declare his own election results.

"The president said Besigye should not think this is Ivory Coast or Kenya. He warned that Besigye will be taking a short-cut to Luzira (maximum security prison). Museveni said even he himself cannot declare his own election results."

Museveni has said the electoral commission is the only institution authorised to declare presidential election results.

Museveni, in power since 1986, is facing a fierce challenge from Besigye, who has made deep inroads in the rural areas that are the president’s traditional support base.

Besigye says he was cheated of victory in the last two elections, in 2001 and 2006, citing rulings by the supreme court that both polls had been marred by massive rigging and intimidation of voters by the army.
. . . .

This presents a very challenging environment for everyone involved in the election. Museveni has "toughed out" calls from the United States (through the State Department) and others to open the Electoral Commission which he unilaterally appointed–and which has been deficient in the past as noted. Now he is threatening the election day operation of the largest grouping of opposition parties.

With the passage of time Museveni seems almost to court more controversy both domestically and internationally. Yet many knowledgeable observers see an opposition that is divided among so many candidates as not to have a real chance to defeat him at the polls this time even as his popularity seems to diminish. It would seem that Raila Odinga’s trip to campaign with Museveni on December 15 when the "Ocampo six" were named may reflect a desire on the part of both these politicians to show to the outside world that they can accept each other and do business on the basis of "realism" in spite of the past.

From the U.S. viewpoint, Museveni continues to receive military and security training and support associated with the AMISOM mission in Somalia, the regional role of Uganda and its military otherwise, and now perhaps in the context of renewed focus on addressing the LRA. Likewise, it is now clear that the Abeyei situation will remain outside the January referendum in Sudan, no matter how well that process may go. The situation in the DRC seems to deteriorate. So in totality what is the policy of the United States, the UK and EU toward the February election?

Are diplomats going to be willing to call the conduct of Uganda’s election as they see it? And if so, publicly or only privately? What about people providing technical assistance? What about the observation missions–diplomacy or assistance? In light of the new QDDR is it the policy of the U.S. administration that it is all diplomacy anyway? See also, “Democracy and Competing Objectives: ‘We need you to back us up.'”

Christmas Shopping–For Sale: Brooklyn Bridge, Ocean Front Property in Arizona, Local Tribunal in Kenya

“People, it is THREE YEARS since the election, isn’t it . . . “

Surely it is a simple choice between the ICC and impunity at this point. Every Kenyan is is entitled to his or her opinion as to what is best, but it would be unfortunate to be diverted into fantasy in looking at the way forward. Who is it that said that the ICC process was ideal or perfect? The choice of the ICC was made with eyes open. It is only the desire to preserve the ground rules that accountability can only go so high, that certain “champions” are untouchable, no matter what they do, that has triggered the “buyers’ remorse” we are seeing now with the choice of the ICC.

Remember that the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission was sold as an alternative to legal trials. Now we see that Parliament was sitting on a report calling for Bethwel Kiplagat to be investigated for an alleged role in the Ouko murder when they approved him as head of the TJRC. I don’t buy the idea that any local tribunal now in Kenya could take on the highest level of suspects in the post election violence, and I think that is the whole point.

QDDR–the second leg of a two-legged stool?

It has been said that the Obama administration aspired to recognize development as a key aspect of American foreign policy for global security in parallel with defense and diplomacy. Thus the notion of development and diplomacy being subject to a quadrennial review/planning process modeled after the Department of Defense QDR. Having the discussion and creating a first document is noteworthy, and there are positive details in the plans presented in the QDDR released Wednesday. But the overarching policy is to institutionalize development as one of the subordinate functional operations of the State Department’s diplomatic mission.

From “The Cable” blog at Foreign Policy, “NGO community likes State’s QDDR, but is worried about implementation”:

Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy campaigns for Oxfam America, noted that while the QDDR clearly puts ambassadors and chiefs of missions at the head of country teams as the so-call “CEOs” of American diplomacy, it doesn’t tackle how the inevitable conflicts between short-term foreign policy objectives and longer-term development goals are resolved.

“The QDDR is an important step in reaffirming the efforts to modernize USAID and further elevate it as ‘the world’s premier development agency. But the document leaves open the question of how the United States will resolve situations where diplomacy and development will require different approaches and tradeoffs,” he said.

And from Secretary Clinton’s “Town Hall” with the QDDR release Wednesday:

Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president of policy and advocacy, asked at the town hall meeting how Clinton planned to deal with the tension between long-term development goals and short-term diplomatic objectives. Clinton responded that that tension would remain but the State Department’s chief of mission would be empowered above all others.

“I don’ think there’s any way to resolve it. I don’t think it will disappear but there is a way to diminish it,” she said. “But we’ve got to have somebody in each country that actually speaks for the entire government.”

With all respect, I think what this ultimately means in practice is that you “resolve” the conflict by making sure that the State Department’s chief diplomat in country is empowered to do what is expected of a chief diplomat (who also has significant responsibility in the defense arena as well), which is to prioritize diplomacy.

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[Todd Moss made similar points more persuasively in a post at the "Views from the Center" blog from the Center for Global Development.]

A year of “AfriCommons”–what’s changed and what has not

I have been at this blog a year last week, so it is probably a good time to reflect a bit. This is probably best done off line, but I’ll take a quick start at sharing some impressions. I have a lot of partially drafted or mostly drafted posts that have been set aside in the course of keeping up with breaking developments, with my time constraints as an amateur, so I’ll go ahead and fire this off a week late rather than refine it further.

The biggest development for Kenya in the past year was been the passage of the new constitution, without doubt. Most of the impact remains an expectancy, as the old political order and a new legal order crunch against each other.

This week we are seeing the limitations of the old order “coalition”, “power sharing” or “unity” government model in the face of the possible ICC indictments for crimes against humanity related to alleged leadership roles of the six suspects named by Luis Moreno-Ocampo. To the degree to which there is unity or commonality among the various players in the government, it is at a “least common denominator” level when it comes to imposing accountability–the one thing agreed on is that leading political figures should not be accountable. Things are getting ugly as it becomes quite clear that the idea of cooperating with the ICC was never a serious consensus commitment and the failure to establish a local tribunal or otherwise pursue prosecutions for the post election violence (or vote fraud) was not based on a belief that the ICC was a better route to justice.

Likewise we see that the old Government of National Unity is not prepared to act responsibly in moving forward in implementing the new constitution, presenting challenges and dangers as we look ahead to 2012.

Outside of politics, Kenyans have revived their economy and are moving ahead in spite of the baggage of the political system.

On balance, while the existing government continues to be overripe, I am more encouraged about the intermediate future for Kenyans than I was a year ago.

From the U.S. standpoint, the Wikileaks fiasco is superficially the biggest new thing and is going to dampen a lot of holidays for our public servants I am sure, but I am hopeful that things at least will not get worse. Our overall international reputation will get better as we do better, and I suspect that on balance people around the world will be left with a general impression no worse than whatever it was beforehand. To the extent that our policies are known, I agree with most of what my country does most of the time, but like any citizen of a democracy have my dissents. I personally don’t get to read any of the leaked classified documents because I have, for extraneous reasons, a clearance that would let me read them if I had a “need to know”–thus I am at a disadvantage to other readers of the international newspapers.

Kibaki pledges no action for now against six suspects; key reading on Rift Valley

From Capital FM, “Ocampo Six can rest easy, Kibaki says”

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – President Mwai Kibaki has made it clear that he does not plan to take any action against government officials named by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo as suspected masterminds of the post election violence.

In a statement sent from State House on Wednesday afternoon, the Head of State said calls for action against those named were “prejudicial, pre-emptive and against the rules of natural justice.”

Christian Science Monitor series by Scott Baldauf:

Part 1: As ICC names suspect Kenyan leaders, records reveal talk of more ethnic cleansing

Part 2: Why one young Kenyan decided to kill for an ethnic militia

Part 3: In Kenya, the deep pull of land drove grievances – and ethnic violence

Part 4: Threats to Kenya’s ICC witnesses: Traitors will be dealt with ‘ruthlessly’

RELATED: The six men accused of inciting Kenya’s post-election violence

Ocampo Names “the Hague Six”, seeks indictments

From Kenya Imagine:

1. Deputy PM and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta
2. suspended Minister of Education William Ruto
3. Minister for Industrialisation Henry Kosgey
4. Secretary to the cabinet Francis Kirimi Muthaura
5. Former police chief Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali
6. Kass FM radio executive Joshua Arap Sang

Here is the story from Jeffrey Gettleman and Marlise Simons in the NY Times.

Political tensions rise in Kenya ahead of ICC indictments

Kenya’s Cabinet met today to consider the crisis presented by key members of the coalition government being named Wednesday in the Hague when prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo seeks six indictments for alleged primary actors in 2008 Post Election Violence. Divergent views have emerged as to what was or was not agreed to, raising questions as to the extent to which the ICC will obtain the promised cooperation of the government. The Presidential Press Service released a statement saying that the cabinet has now agreed to moving forward to create a “local tribunal” in Kenya to prosecute Post Election Violence cases. The ICC prosecutions were eventually initiated after Parliament voted down previous proposals for such a tribunal.

This is the report from the Standard, titled “Fresh Plan to Block Ocampo”:

. . . .
President Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) now want suspects identified locally and by the International Criminal Court to be tried by a local tribunal. The move has left Prime Minister Raila Odinga and ODM in a quandary just a day after the PM and Kibaki appeared united in condemning US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger.

The PNU plan is banking on support from rebel ODM legislators from the Rift Valley opposed to Raila, but allied to Eldoret North MP William Ruto, to drum up support for the plan in and outside Parliament.

Raila and MPs allied to him are opposed to the plan, noting that the same MPs voted against a local tribunal to try the suspects in February, 2009, but have lately been outspoken in condemning International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, claiming his investigation is one-sided and targets certain communities.

They say the ICC process should be allowed to run its course since Kenyans’ trust in the local judicial system is severely lacking.

But it is the shock decision by Kibaki, who appeared to go back on his promise to mediator Kofi Annan that the Government would support the ICC probe, which is bound to keep analysts busy for the rest of this week.

. . . .

The EU released a statement saying that they do not expect violence in the wake of Ocampo’s naming of suspects Wednesday.