The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) verdict to indict four Kenyans for the violence that engulfed the country in 2007/2008; led to estimated 1,133 deaths and displaced over 600,000 people from their homes has set a precedent that ought to be emulated. The African Union (committee of eminent persons led by His Excellency Kofi Annan) opted for a joint initiative with Kenyan leadership to put in place judicial due process to address the post election violence injustices. The Kenyan political class had two options: to set up a local mechanism or surrender key suspects to the ICC. They chose the latter.
It is a painful dilemma for a sovereign state to have its citizens face trial at the ICC or simply wish away the injustices. Wishing away injustices would sow the seed for future violent episodes. Failure to build a robust judicial system that can tame individuals with overblown egos will too lead to violent episodes. Countries such as Sierra Leone, and Liberia have illustrated what can happen to humanity when political contests drive off from the road of just laws.
Kenyans could borrow the spirit of Germans and focus on the future. Germany offers a perfect example of a country that endured humiliation to have its leaders tried after World War II at the Nuremberg Trials; it had its territory divided into two and as a united country, is led by a coalition government. The background may not be similar to the Kenyan situation but it’s an indicator that a focused citizenry ought to weigh the long term impact of such processes.
The ICC confirmation of charges against the four prominent personalities does not make them guilty of the alleged criminal acts against humanity. They are simply accused and are innocent until proved guilty.
As Kenya allows ICC to take its process, it’s important to reflect on what brought the country to this predicament in the first place: Politics of access and control of the national cake; using ethnicity as a vehicle to power as opposed to ideology driven party platform; bungled elections; lack of confidence in the local judiciary and winner takes it all mentality. With elections pending in 2013, Kenyans have – hopefully -learnt vital lessons. The country is bigger than individuals. It is important that voters acknowledge the fact that a country’s leadership is a reflection of its people.
By: James Shikwati.