Ten years after 2008 post election “peace deal” Kenya is a world leader in crime and impunity

Kenya IDP Camp Post Election Violence Naivasha

Ten years ago today I watched television coverage of the “peace deal” signed by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in the IRI office in Nairobi, on the new K24 television station (owned by the Kenyatta family as I later learned).

I had sent off overnight a briefing memo to IRI’s president as background for a private breakfast confab he was participating in Washington on the “Kenya crisis” in advance of the news of the “peace deal”.  In the memo I explained my assessment of insights from the exit poll we had conducted on the presidential election that had been quashed from public release. For instance, that the poll showed the ODM party candidate Raila Odinga beating the incumbent (and declared winner) Kibaki among both Christians and Muslims, as well as in the overall totals.

One of the indelible memories from that day was watching the teargassing of Kenyans celebrating the agreement and expected end of the Post Election Violence. This conduct by the Police was an enduring legacy and prophetic symbol of continuity.

Uhuru Kenyatta at the time of the settlement had been serving since January as Kibaki’s Minister for Local Government and playing a leading role in city affairs in Nairobi in those days prior to devolution. He was to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister by Kibaki under the deal.  In hindsight this appointment was his functional designation as Kibaki’s successor, although that was not so clear to many of us at the time.  William Ruto, who had been leader of the ODM party’s negotiating team in the mediation process which had failed to close the gap to get to a final agreement, was on his way to serving as Minister of Agriculture as, originally, an ODM appointment in the coalition government, but later switching sides after Kibaki blocked Raila’s effort to suspend him over corruption allegations.  Martha Karua was serving as Kibaki’s Justice Minister, having led the PNU/Government side in the mediation; she resigned in frustration soon thereafter.  She has not found her place in electoral politics thereafter, but has long served as a member of IRI’s Global Advisory Board.

Today, I see news from Quartz Africa that PWC has issued its latest annual report of its Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey. Kenya has ranked #2 in the world (barely trailing South Africa, and solidly leading the rest of the Big Five: France, Russia and Uganda)! The biggest thing I’ve learned from these last ten years may be that in Kenya, you can get away with pretty much anything (from stealing an election to the vilest of mass murder, rape and mayhem in its aftermath, along with looting the public treasury while millions of Kenyans are parched and hungry).

I am concerned that a move by the ICC to try Uhuru, Ruto and Sang “locally” would needlessly cost additional lives


The Kenyan government, after years of lack of success in its various diplomatic efforts to block the ICC prosecutions of key figures in the political killings involved with the 2007-08 elections, achieved a potential breakthrough at the most recent AU meeting in Addis.  By getting a section of African strongmen and politicians to agree that the ICC shoe that they had promised to wear was pinching too tightly when it was not deferring to them as Heads of State as opposed to only pursuing lessor suspects out of power, the Government of Kenya raised the stakes for those nations that advocate a law-based international order and for the ICC as the only institution that remains with any potential to substantively express any tangible disapproval of the post-election murder and mayhem in Kenya in 2007-08.

It is in this context that the ICC will have to decide whether or not to accept a panel recommendation to move the trials from The Hague to Kenya or Tanzania.

Let me say that I am no fan of the decision to locate the ICC in The Hague in the first place.  Nothing against the Dutch and I do understand that The Hague has symbolism as a seat of the international law of nations.  Of course the criminal trials of individuals is something quite different and if anything in some ways undercut by the association.  We are confronted now with a situation in which the indictees have taken power in a member state–in a campaign initiated in the context of their defense to the ICC charges–and wish to avoid trial by mutating the individual criminal charges into a matter of the international relations of sovereign states.

So by all means move the Court to Botswana or Belize or some other more suitable location when it becomes logistically rational to do so, but these trials are supposed to be about the loss of life and limb in the “extra-electoral” context of the Kenyan fight for political power and it makes no sense to physically conduct the trial in such a way as to put more lives in the same type of jeopardy.

First, as a general proposition, witnesses against the President and Deputy President will never be able to live in safety in Kenya for any time in the foreseeable future after being identified and choosing to testify (they may wish to accept the danger of living in Kenya after testifying but this should not be asked or expected of them); this is the cold reality that should be readily evident to anyone who has paid attention to politics in Kenya over the years.  If it is understood that witnesses cannot testify in Kenya then why split up the trials over more than one location?  This process has already taken too long to no one’s benefit and supposedly the ICC has problems with resources and funding and a big backlog of cases already.

Second, estimates of the loss of life related to the most recent Kenyan elections with all priority on “peace” or stability over all else were still more than 500 people.  The police made extra-legal pronouncements restricting lawful civic expression and assembly; the country was basically shut down, the military was deployed and people were shot for breaking no law.  A trial in Kenya would be extremely expensive and quite dangerous by any informed reckoning.  The suspects on trial would be in charge of the “security” forces.  How many innocent lives will be lost for this?  No one can know ahead of time but it is grossly irresponsible not to count on some people who have no role in the trials dying for holding them in Kenya.

The whole point of the ICC is that it is “international”.  Thirty three other nations in Africa beside Kenya are members.  The reason for these cases being at the ICC was the tactical decision to vote in the “duly elected” Kenyan Parliament to “don’t be vague, go to The Hague.”  If “The Hague” no longer has the stomach for this, they should declare now that the task is too hard and walk away and make clear that Kenya, in spite of the work of the Waki Commission arising out of the AU-sponsored 2008 post-election settlement and the vote of its own parliament, is a zone of impunity, at least for suspects who arise above a political ceiling on potential accountability.  Otherwise, these trials need to be brought to fruition and be heard and appealed and done with purposeful speed and as few diversions as feasible.

We all know that the crimes alleged happened.  We saw them and heard them and see and feel their effects today.  Those of us who lived through this time in Kenya heard various bits and pieces of the details as these things were happening.  If the suspects or any of them are tried and acquitted then anyone who believes that they are in fact innocent of the roles alleged can celebrate that and all of us can finally mourn justice for these crimes along with the dead.

Famed photojournalist Mo Dhillon responds to AU on the ICC trials: “African Unity leading Africa towards disaster”

Sir Mohinder Dhillon, renowned Kenyan photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker shared this new essay which he also submitted to the ICC judges:

Gaddafi and Museveni

African Unity leading Africa towards disaster.

I’d like to challenge the AU to tell me which tribunal or judiciary in Africa will ever convict a sitting Head of State. This attempt to renege on a commitment to the ICC is nothing more than a sinister plot by Africa’s dictators to save themselves from any kind of accountability. It was initiated by the late Colonel Gaddafi, who bailed the AU out of a financial crisis, thereby buying the loyalty of other African leaders whose necks were also on the line. To save himself from international justice, he wanted Africa out of the reach of the ICC. Shame on such leaders! Contrary to any suggestion of restoring national sovereignty, the aim of these people is for Africa to be out of the Rome Treaty so that they can continue with their evil intentions where money and power counts for everything and the ordinary African can rot.

Our memories in Africa are very short, particularly in the case of perpetrators of genocide, rape and murder. Those who support the AU line that accused Kenyans should be tried locally should remember that not so long ago Parliament and other local bodies preferred to hand over cases to ICC. Remember the slogan that was on the lips of all Kenyans:  “Don’t be Vague, Ask for Hague”. Kenya was given 12 months to put their act together and they did not move an inch. Kenyan authorities were going to investigate several thousand of other perpetrators but none was investigated due to lack political will despite some of perpetrators were recognizable carrying out crimes against humanity. AU is becoming laughing stock in promoting impunity.

The early history of Kenya’s ICC cases seems already to have been forgotten. After the post-election violence in 2008, the Peace Accord appointed the Waki Commission which produced 529 pages report on 16 July 2009 along with 6 boxes of documents and supporting material. A sealed envelope containing names of those considered most responsible for the violence was given to Kofi Annan as mediator.   Kenyan Government tried for one year to establish a local tribunal but parliament blocked this, leading to the involvement of the International Criminal Court.  The ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo opened the envelope, inspected its contents and re-sealed it, before proceeding at Kenya Government request to carry out investigations and develop the resulting cases for ICC.

Kenya must smell the rat behind the intentions of our neighbours in Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan, who are guilty of gross human rights violations in their own countries. Most recently, these include muzzling the media and arresting journalists and civil rights workers, but there is a long track record of crimes against humanity in each country. The AU has failed miserably to bring the perpetrators to book, as have the local judicial systems.

Until fifteen years ago, I filmed all the OAU meetings since its inception in 1963. For most of that time, the fight against apartheid in South Africa was the only factor that held this organisation together – otherwise I’m sure it would have disintegrated. It is a matter of record that crimes against humanity on the rest of the continent have far outweighed the evils of apartheid both in terms of scale and sheer lack of accountability. Why the double standard?

It is abundantly clear that most of Africa’s leaders are more concerned with protecting themselves than they are with securing justice for ordinary people. Although we in Kenya have made enormous strides in securing personal freedoms over the last twenty years, I am deeply concerned about the negative influence of our dictatorial neighbours in Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia, where media houses are being closed down for flimsy reasons, where opposition is not tolerated and large numbers journalists and activists languish in dungeons without being charged. Kenyan genocide victims need closure just like the victims of Charles Taylor in Liberia, where the ICC was applauded for a job well done. There can never be adequate compensation for loss of life, limbs or dignity but at least some measure of justice was served.

Members of Kenya’s Government are shouting empty slogans about protecting their sovereign rights, in complete contradiction of their earlier position. I trust that the Kenyan people can see for themselves the total insincerity of those who are driven by nothing more than fear for themselves, and total disregard for the victims of violence. . . .

Here is the whole document: African Unity leading Africa towards disaster (5)