Mpeketoni: Terrorism and Politics as Ususal

Muthoni Wanyeki’s column this week in the East African strikes me as hitting exactly the right point:  “Mpeketoni: Get on with finding out who and why”.  Take time to read it.

The Jubilee Government was in a tizzy about stopping Raila Odinga from leading opposition CORD rallies around the country before the Mpeketoni attacks just over a week ago.  The attacks then became the focus of attention for Kenyans and the Kenyan media, with Uhuru Kenyatta deflecting things back to Raila and CORD by as much as accusing them of undertaking the attacks and explicitly denying a role for Al Shabaab.

Any reasonable observer recognizes that the Mpeketoni attacks in a sensitive area very near the border have less ambiguity about them as an incidence of terrorism than most of the individual bombings routinely attributed to Al Shabaab in Nairobi or even the Westgate attack last year. Yes, the methodological details vary–as they did in each of these from the previous Al Shabaab World Cup attack in Kampala.  Here is former Marine and security expert Andrew Franklin, who has written here previously, discussing Al Shabaab and Mpeketoni, along with unfulfilled security reform, on KTN.

With the victims largely now out of sight and out of mind in the hinterlands the media has moved on to the incessant tribal politics that makes for easy punditry in lieu of actual investigation and in-depth reporting.

I have never been a big fan of rallies in Kenyan politics–not in 2007 campaign when I was trying to help support a better process, not in 2011-12 when they were used to try to stop the ICC, and again, not in the 2013 campaign.  Nonetheless, I am pretty well inured to the fact that the usual suspects in Kenyan politics, on whatever side they happen to be at any given time, use these rallies as a primary means to connect directly to their supporters and to get national media for their messages.  I wish Kenya’s politics was a little more creative, but then, the political class as it exits always wins, so I guess they don’t feel a lot of incentive to change.  Regardless, the rallies are not in and of themselves generally dangerous except to the extent the security forces are engaged to make them so.

Tribal animosities were clearly more raw and pervasive in the spring of 2013 when I was in Nairobi for the election than they were when I left in May 2008 during the immediate post-election period.  It appears that the last year has not seen marked improvement.  An obvious reason why all this should be expected is that the parts of the February 28, 2008 election peace deal that were to address the underlying issues have not been implemented and the politics of 2011-2013 were so explicitly tribal.

Why haven’t they been implemented?  One reason is that the February 28, 2008 deal was made by Kibaki and Raila with Kofi Annan after the larger mediation process between PNU and ODM broke down.  PNU was a coalition of parties and not all of them ever supported the deal from the inception.  Uhuru Kenyatta’s KANU being one such at the time.  Raila and Kibaki cooperated to support the passage of the new constitution in 2010, but the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission plodded along on the backburner.  The biggest single thing to galvanize government attention during the remainder of Kibaki’s second term was the fight to block the ICC, and, of course, Raila was running for president again, along with Saitoti and Uhuru and some others.  By the time the TJRC report was finalized, the new State House was not prepared to accept it as written.

Rallies will come, and rallies will go.  The question is whether the long term work of protecting Kenyans from the persistent threat of terrorism and the long term work of “tribal” reconciliation will be taken up or yet again deferred for some future generation.

Uhuru Park March 3, 2013

After the Rally  (Uhuru Park)


March 24: International Day for the “Right to the Truth” and the Kenyan TJRC

The International Center for Transitional Justice asks “Can We Handle the Truth?” concerning gross violations of human rights.

The ICTJ has been working in Kenya since 2008, focusing in particular on the effort to deliver a successful post-election Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission process.

Supporting the search for truth, to lead to justice and reconciliation, is obviously a tough job in Kenya, and in the case of the supporting the TJRC made that much harder by the bizarre situation presented by the Kiplagat appointment to the chairmanship. The latest news from this week is Kiplagat’s last minute refusal through his lawyers to honor his summons to testify before the Commission:

The Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission issued Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat with a summons to appear before the Commission on Thursday 22 March 2012 . On the eve of the Hearing, the Commission received a letter from Ambassador Kiplagat’s lawyers stating that he would not honour the summons.

The Commission is now in the final stage of its Hearings. This stage includes giving a Hearing to persons adversely mentioned by Kenyans through our public Hearings and statement taking. This is an important stage which ensures fairness in compiling an accurate and complete historical record of the truth about the gross violations of human rights in Kenya

The Commission recognises that its ultimate aim is to draw Kenyans towards the path of reconciliation and healing. An overwhelming number of Kenyans have expressed the view that this destination can only be achieved through Truth and Justice

It is in pursuit of the truth that Ambassador Kiplagat, like any other witness, was to appear today before the Commission.
The Commission is surprised and taken aback at the reasons advanced by Ambassador Kiplagat’s lawyers for his non appearance here today. The High Court case clearly did not address the issue of illegal or irregular allocation of land. The High Court case only dealt with the legality of the process followed in appointing the commissioners

We are dismayed that although Ambassador Kiplagat has claimed widely in the media that he has returned to the Commission in a spirit of reconciliation and a desire to further the work of the Commission, he is instead addressing the Commission through his lawyers and refusing to cooperate with the critical national process of truth telling

We note that it is the Commission, and not individual Commissioners, that has summoned Ambassador Kiplagat to testify. The law is clear that the decision to summon a witness lies with the Commission and not with any other person or institution, and that any witness who does not comply is in breach of the law since Commission summonses are backed by the force of law as laid out in Section 7 of theTJR Act

The Commission is unwilling to squander any more valuable time and resources on theatrical tantrums meant to distract it from achieving its mandate. We are cognisant that there are Kenyans in this room who have travelled from Kitale and other distant destinations, in order to attend these proceedings which are adjourned to 29th March when the other witnesses expected today and who sought more time shall be in a position to attend.

We thank you for your patience and your attention.

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission steps up; Kibaki reverts to form; TJRC fails

News from Kenya suggests that a fresh breeze has finally started to stir on the corruption front. Nairobi Mayor Majiwa was forced to resign in the wake of his arrest on corruption charges, after initially vowing to stay on duty.

“The Big Story” yesterday in the Daily Nation reveals that the Anti-Corruption Commission, the KACC, has begun new efforts to recover from overseas proceeds from the massive and notorious Anglo-Leasing and Goldenburg fraud schemes and probe additional ministries in current scandals. The Commission has written seeking formal assistance from the US, the UK and Switzerland. The Commission cleared away through a successful appeal a 2007 court ruling that it did not have authority to seek such foreign cooperation, with the Court of Appeals finding the argument that persuaded the lower court to be “idle”. Today, we have the detail that PLO Lumumba, KACC head, says that they are investigating four ministers and at least 45 heads of parastatals.

Nonetheless, President Kibaki appointed George Saitoti, his minister of Internal Security since January 8, 2008 during the post-election violence and a longtime insider, to the additional portfolio of Interim Foreign Minister. As I have noted previously, Saitoti was implicated by human rights groups in Moi-era election violence. He previously stepped aside as Education Minister as suspect in Goldenberg investigations, although the High Court ruled that he should not be prosecuted and he was reinstated. The BBC said at the time:

The court rejected the conclusions of an earlier commission of inquiry that recommended Mr Saitoti’s prosecution over the so-called Goldenberg affair.

The $1bn scam in the 1990s involved government payments to a company for non-existent gold and diamond exports.

Mr Saitoti was serving at the time as finance minister and vice-president.

The court ruled that Mr Saitoti had been acting according to procedure when he approved a payment to the firm Goldenberg International.

The court also noted the attorney-general had cleared Mr Saitoti of wrongdoing in a statement that he issued in parliament more than a decade ago.

“Today marks my happiest day in the last 16 years because during that period I have gone through much pain and suffering,” Mr Saitoti said after the judgement.

Both Mr Saitoti and former President Daniel arap Moi, in whose administration he served, have denied any knowledge of the scam.

For further perspective on the status of corruption and the middle class in Kenya, I highly recommend John Githongo’s inaugural post today on his “The State of Hope” blog: “Colonial Spoils Recycled as New Money”.

In this context, a crucial part of the 2008 settlement and “Reform Agenda”, the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, has completely derailed over the continued clinging to power of Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat. The American member loudly resigned, neither Parliament nor foreign donors will pay to operate the Commission, and the public obviously has expressed no confidence.