Will Kenyan ICC defendants ever become “too hot to touch” for the U.S. and other Western players in Kenya? If so, when?

With the second round of “confirmation” hearings underway in the Hague for the charges against “the Ocampo Six” this week and next, the U.S. and other Western “donors” and supporters of Kenya’s Grand Coalition Government are confronted with the spectacle of Kenya’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in the dock facing charges of egregious crimes of international significance. Of the six, five either have significant current jobs in the Kenyan government or are Members of Parliament (or both in the case of the Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta).

The current Grand Coalition Government was formed as the preferred donor approach to the 2007 Kenyan election debacle–the U.S. quickly asserted that it was impossible to conduct any sort of remedial activity about the election, that both sides “needed each other” and should cut a deal to share power. The Europeans soon fell in line. The current Kenyan government, as represented in the Hague trials, is not a creation of the Kenyan voting public, but rather of the political elites on “both sides” along with the “international community” led by key players in Kenya, most especially the United States. The U.S. is said to have insisted that the coalition not be temporary but remain in place a full five years as if ordinarily elected.  In playing this role, did we not take on some responsibilities besides promoting conceptual reforms that might or might not bear fruit in the future?

I was in Kenya as these crimes were happening. Who really believes that Ocampo is making these things up?

Irrespective of whether Ocampo, or more likely his successor, ultimately wins convictions eventually, what is it that we need to know that we don’t know now to decide whether or not the defendants are ordinary political leaders of an allied country which we support and with whom we conduct “business as usual” or are ordinary defendants charged with crimes against humanity directed at their own people, and while facing trial worthy of some decent level of distance and disapproval?

Make no mistake about the defendants continued reliance on attempts to rally tribal solidarity.  Take note of  Uhuru Kenyatta’s approach to the charges that he was a primary mover in unleashing the Mungiki to murder Luos in the eastern Rift Valley as a political counterbalance to Kalenjin militia attacks on Kikuyu further west, from today’s Standard:

A lawyer representing 233 victims of post-election violence accused Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta of uttering inflammatory statements on the eve of his appearance at The Hague.

The lawyer, Mr Morris Anyah, used press reports carried on September 19 in which the minister was allegedly quoted saying, “we are going to The Hague and we know justice will prevail, because we did nothing wrong and all we did was to support our people”.

He claimed that the statement had tribal connotations and was intended to justify retaliatory attacks that are subject of charges against Uhuru before the ICC.

On Wednesday, the lawyer said the statement, which seems to proclaim Uhuru’s innocence holds a deadly meaning in the tribal context of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

If the defendants at the Hague this week had wanted to “support” any of the Kenyan people, or otherwise defend Kikuyu farmers and villagers in the Rift Valley, they could have used the government security forces at their disposal to secure “hot spots” in the Rift Valley rather than Uhuru Park in Nairobi, and could have more generally used the security forces for security instead of for the election effort.  What Ocampo is laying bare on both sides is tactical mass murder for politics–this was never war, it was politics by Kenyan means.

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