ICC: Uhuru Kenyatta’s “Personal Challenge” and Anti-Imperialist Rhetoric
During Kenya’s presidential debate in February 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta termed his case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on crimes against humanity, as a “personal challenge”. However, during a Press conference in October, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohamed shocked the Nation by stating that the ICC cases of Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto ceased to be personal once they were elected. “As soon as you are elected into office, it actually stops being personal. If it was personal, it would have never made it to the agenda of the African Union Summit. It made it to the agenda of the AU [African Union] because he is a sitting head of State,” said Amina. She even went further by stating that Uhuru’s case had become both a national and continental matter. But when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) rejected AU’s bid for the deferral of the cases on November 15th, Uhuru once again referred to his case as a personal challenge.
Joshua arap Sang, who is jointly charged with Ruto, has no elective position and is therefore not part of the bid to free Uhuru and Ruto by all means, from the tight grip of the ICC. Amina Mohamed has mentioned that his case is personal. During the election campaigns earlier this year, Sang revealed that former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was not responsible for the predicaments of both Uhuru and Ruto at the ICC. This position was recently confirmed by Ruto’s lawyers who overtly blamed former president Mwai Kibaki’s henchmen for “fixing Ruto” at the ICC. Interestingly, Sang unlike Uhuruto, wants the ICC proceedings ended speedily without the Jubilee Government’s numerous interventions through the AU, UNSC and the ICC Assembly of States Parties (ASP).
Ever since the ICC ruled that Uhuru should face trial, the President has led a vicious campaign to demonize Western nations whom, he claims, are interfering in Kenya’s domestic affairs by supporting the ICC. Earlier this year, the President hired BTP Advisers, a British PR-firm, “to work on his public image ahead of the ICC trial as well as his election campaign.” They shaped the words which he used in campaign speeches to blast the United Kingdom (UK). Uhuru is believed to have spent over KES 10 billion (100 million euros) during the election campaigns. The anti-Imperialist rhetoric was used by Uhuru mostly to convince the gullible Kikuyu and Kalenjin lumpens who voted overwhelmingly for the two indictees. Western diplomats cautioned Kenyans to be wary of electing the two ICC suspects with former head of the US State Department’s Africa Bureau, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, warning the Kenyan electorate ahead of the March 4th elections that “choices have consequences”.
Recently, Uhuru’s mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, was ranked by Ventures Africa magazine as one of the three female dollar billionaires in Africa. In the 1970s, she made a fortune from poaching, which contributed to the decimation of elephants for their tusks – (at least 15,000 were killed in 1973); zebras for pelts (at least 5,000 were shot illegally in six months during 1975); and colobus monkeys for their skins (two men were arrested with 26,000 skins in 1975). See: ‘Kenya: A History Since Independence (1963-2011) by C. Hornsby. Ironically, Uhuru’s wife Margaret, is currently leading an online campaign dubbed “Hands Off Our Elephants” whose goal is to stop ivory trade. Can she avoid sharing into the family’s illegally acquired wealth? No, because they have been “eating together” for a long time. Her father, Engineer Ephantus Gakuo, was appointed by the late President Jomo Kenyatta as Director-General of East African Railways (later Kenya Railways) in the 1970s and served up to 1987.
That Uhuru and Ruto spearheaded campaigns to “send themselves” to the ICC is water under the bridge and they should stop blaming the Western world. Why shout about Kenya’s sovereignty yet they threw it out of the window by refusing to set up a local tribunal? Why is Uhuru so scared of the ICC yet he has a retinue of well-paid lawyers to defend him? Why do his foot soldiers like Amina and Attorney General Githu Muigai deem it fit to turn his personal challenge into a Kenyan problem? This is definitely not the position of the victims of post-election violence (PEV) or those who did not vote for him. Recent perception poll results by Ipsos-Synovate posted in November, indicate that 67 per cent of Kenyans want Uhuru to attend his trial at the ICC. Further, why should the Jubilee MPs who routinely travel to The Hague in their support, get salaries for hanging out in pubs where they drink alcohol and sing karaoke after court proceedings, instead of working for their constituents? Imagine how much Kenyan money they are wasting there. CORD MPs and sensible Kenyan taxpayers should begin asking how much Ruto’s trial is costing them.
Diplomatic faux pas and impunity
Recent actions taken by Uhuru’s Administration have shown disdain to the international community, especially where the West is involved. For instance, Uhuru skipped this year’s 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York claiming he could not be out of the country while Ruto was away in The Hague attending his case. He also skipped the 23rd Commonwealth Summit held in Sri Lanka from November 15-17 and instead attended the Third Africa-Arab Summit in Kuwait from November 19-20. State House in Nairobi said this would benefit investments in Kenya’s energy sector. It was the first time for the country to miss both high profile international meetings. Pundits assert that Uhuru avoided the sessions because of expected tongue-lashing due to his ICC shenanigans.
Another contemptuous act is the ‘go slow’ by Jubilee government on the accreditation of six ambassadors from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Zambia and Iraq. The last two are collateral damage; otherwise it is the Western and Japanese ones that are being punished for supporting the ICC. Japan was the Court’s biggest financial contributor in 2012. The excuse provided by State House is that Uhuru has a “busy timetable”.
On November 21, three officials from the British High Commission in Nairobi were kicked out of the Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret by the Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno, who accused them of “violating diplomatic protocol”. They had arranged a meeting at the hotel with various civil society groups to discuss peace and reconciliation. Chemno claimed they had not informed the county government of their visit. However, the High Commission has mentioned that it sent a ‘note verbale’ (a less formal and unsigned note) to Foreign Affairs, prior to the visit. It is important to note the growing animosity of the Jubilee government towards civil society organizations which they see as staunch supporters of the ICC. During the election campaigns, both Uhuru and Ruto criticized them for depending on foreign donors to support their activities which they alleged were against Kenya’s national interest. It is feared that if the pending Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2013 is passed by the National Assembly, then civil society organizations will be forced to source 85 per cent of their funds locally, which could eventually weaken their independence. Some Jubilee MPs and party supporters have criticized civil society activists for telling off Uhuru’s government in its bid to amend the Rome Statute, to provide immunity against prosecution for sitting heads of State.
During the ongoing Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute conference at The Hague (November 20-28), the UK is pushing for Uhuruto cases to be conducted via video link. However, Jubilee has opposed this and wants complete immunity for the two leaders. But a section of Kenyan media has reported of Ruto’s secret meeting in Nairobi last week, with UK and US envoys in support of the video link alternative. The call for immunity is a long shot and critics view it as a personal quest to satisfy Uhuruto and will only advance impunity. Both Amina Mohamed and Githu Muigai are confident they will win because Uhuru’s indictment would impact negatively on the country’s Constitution and growth.
Jubilee members are so desperately chasing the wind after failing to convince the UNSC that Uhuru’s indictment would affect international peace and security, with special reference to the Westgate Mall terrorist attack. Moreover, the filing for amendment of the Rome Statute was not procedural because it should normally be done three months in advance. Theirs was filed three weeks ago. Both Amina Mohamed and Githu Muigai are top lawyers who should know better, yet they are more focused on the political side of this process than the legal one. Uhuru must deal with his personal challenge and its consequences without dragging down the whole country.