“A reply to concerned commenters on the Ocampo charges” and preparing for 2012 in Kenya

This is something I prepared last December at the time the ICC prosecutor initiated his charges against “the Ocampo Six”.  Now that another four months has gone by, and we are many more months away from knowing whether any trials for the Kenyan post election violence will proceed, I thought it was worth revisiting:

With respect, it is hard for me to believe that anyone seriously thinks that [former ECK Chairman] Kivuitu himself was the primary manipulator of the election results. It happened on his watch, yes. He failed, but was not the primary instigator, nor beneficiary. I am very sad that the Kreigler Commission charged with investigating the election chose to fence off from review what happened with the presidential results–this is a great loss. Nonetheless, the charges of crimes against humanity sought by Ocampo as prosecutor before the ICC will stand or fall on their own merits. While Mr. Ocampo was not elected, he was appointed through a lawful process established by the countries, including Kenya, who are State Parties to the ICC convention. What prosecutors in Kenya are elected? Yes, there are more people who could be charged with more crimes–but the cold reality is that it is almost three years since the election, and it is the ICC or nothing and no one. This is less than it could have been, but far better than nothing.

Having lived with my family in Nairobi through the campaign, voting and violence, aside from my role in supporting the election process , the observation mission and exit poll, I fully appreciate the angst over the manipulation of the results after a peaceful vote, and over the role of the authorities in both the manipulation itself and in contributing to the violence by suppressing lawful protest and even murdering innocent citizens. To date no one has been prosecuted for any of this–Ocampo’s charges against Ali are a breakthrough in this regard. Ocampo is not seeking charges against anyone from the opposition for the chaos caused by the stolen election, but rather for crimes against humanity in the Rift Valley that are akin to the violence there in 3 of the last 4 elections. The judges will decide whether the indictments are issued, and if so, the trials will proceed with both sides presenting their evidence.

To say something further that I have not said publicly before, I do want to be clear that it is my personal belief that bribery of Kenyan election officials is “what happened” in the presidential election. I have not written or spoken publicly of this before because I claim no evidence or personal knowledge. In the first instance, it is what I was told by a senior diplomat (not U.S. Ambassador Ranneberger or anyone who worked for him) during that the post election period. It was explained to me that clear evidence had been identified. I accepted this as being explained to me not as gossip or a matter of personal interest, but as important information that I needed to know in the context of my job. There was no discussion of confidentiality, but it was what I will call a “private conversation in a public place”. Nothing clandestine, nothing that I was not to report back privately or act on but obviously not something I could “go public” with without being provided more detail and evidence which wasn’t offered.

Everything else I have learned since then is consistent with what I was told, and nothing is contradictory. I still have no personal knowledge or evidence, but it is what I do believe. This is one significant part of why I continued to be of the opinion that the exit poll indicating an opposition victory in the presidential race should be released.

Certainly the last election is very much “water under the bridge”, but now Parliament must grapple with constituting a new Election Commission for the current election season with campaigns already gearing up. Kenya very much needs better election officials this time than last time. The technical capacity to hold a clean election is certainly there–as we know from 2002, and the referendum in 2005 and in 2010. The moral capacity for tragedy and chaos is there, too, as we know from 2007.

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