As I have previously written, I have to miss the frenzy of reading the Wikileaks diplomatic correspondence, but the Kenyan newspapers are full of articles related to a few of the cables newly leaked. Much of this is Kenyan politicians dishing on each other to curry favor at the U.S. Embassy, and probably in some cases news to Kenyan voters who don’t have the same access to their leaders as Americans do.
One of the main impacts of the leaks in Kenya, that I would not necessarily have realized, is the degree to which the well-publicized cables give the Kenyan media cover to report facts that are quite well known but that they would not otherwise dare print for fear of libel suits and official displeasure. Certainly much of what Kenyan politicos tell the Embassy they will have told reporters, or reporters will have learned independently, but couldn’t report until the State Department’s internal “news bureau” was stolen and partially put out on the internet.
Some of the material dates back to the Government’s raid on the Standard media house on March 2, 2006. Enough of this outrageous incident (really series of incidents) has long been well known that in any country with leadership at all serious about press freedom and the rule of law there would be some people in jail. Nonetheless, total impunity for each and every player in all of the multiple criminal acts remains the status quo. While U.S. Ambassador Bellamy was sharply critical at the time, there is no indication that this has been on the public diplomacy agenda since.
It is in this context that observers of the Kenyan scene have to realize that the notion of a Kenyan “Local Tribunal” that would try the kingpins of the Post Election Violence identified by the Waki Commission report was always a pipe dream.
We have a recent report on the killing of former Foreign Minister Ouko, said to have taken place at State House in Nakuru–no action. We have the circumstances crying out for investigation in the murders of civil rights activists Oscar Kingara and J.P. Oulo–two years have gone by today with no action.
While I agree completely with the notion that as a wholly conceptual matter, a Kenyan tribunal rather than the International Criminal Court would be the best place to try the suspects for the Post Election Violence, it is also quite clear that that was never going to happen. The will is simply not there–the Government of Kenya has a well established policy of impunity which has served the interests at stake very successfully for many years. It will not change of its own accord, or through simple persuasion or jawboning. A “Local Tribunal” in Kenya, if there ever were such a thing, would be a platform for deal making to preserve impunity, not a court of law. Because the United States is not a member of the ICC, it may well be that we are not so credible as leading advocates of the ICC as the appropriate venue for the election-related trials–nonetheless, I think we should stop indulging political frivolity in the context of these grave crimes.