Friday, September 03, 2010

Kenyans can no longer tolerate impunity

Kenyans can no longer tolerate impunity


Posted Friday, September 3 2010 at 17:09

We have just celebrated the tenth anniversary of the death of Fr John Kaiser. Six months after his passing on, the FBI released a fraudulent report suggesting suicide as the cause of death.

That judgment was clearly more influenced by politics than truth. It took seven years before chief magistrate Maureen Odera ruled in a public inquest that the priest had been murdered. Yet his killers walk free.

The American Government has just lectured Kenya on impunity. Their European colleagues have joined in the chorus. Every time I hear American leaders instruct Kenya on international justice, I think of John Kaiser’s betrayal by his own government’s agencies.

Besides, it is preposterous that the USA speaks of Kenyan obligations to the ICC yet Washington itself has resisted all pressure to become a signatory to the Rome statute.

Kenya does, however, have international obligations as a member of the ICC, and these cannot be overruled by African Union resolutions irrespective of what the Vice-President thinks.

However, it matters little what the international community think of Mr al-Bashir’s visit, but it matters a great deal what the six million Kenyans who approved the new Constitution feel about its violation on the very day of its promulgation.

Impunity must be confronted. What do religious leaders have to say about sharing a dais with a man responsible for the slaughter of 300,000 of his own people?

They also shared cocktails with Kenyans who may be indicted by the ICC before the year is out. What message and leadership will they give when indictments are released?

We are constantly told that the enforcement of justice is threatening peace in Sudan and Uganda and that Kenyan indictments will lead to a resumption of violence in the Rift Valley.

I don’t buy this argument as it reminds me of the Charles Taylor campaign slogan of the mid-’90s: “He killed my ma, he killed my pa, I will vote for him.” Such misguided notions create tyrants.

Many are already predicting a peaceful 2012 general election based on the successful referendum. We should be hopeful but cautious. The General Election of 2002 and the recent referendum were peaceful events mainly because the outcome was predictable and conclusive, while the elections of 1992, 1997 and 2007 were close affairs marked by violence.

It would appear that the 2012 vote will be very close and may even require a run-off. Consequently, the chances of violence are considerably higher. Prosecution of the principal perpetrators from the 2007 violence offers the best way forward to a peaceful 2012 vote.

The two principals have constantly thwarted all efforts to establish local tribunals so we have had to turn to the ICC as a court of last resort. The ICC has a staff of 586 and a budget of $100 million, but in seven years it has failed to convict a single individual.

Yet its imminent indictments can send a clear warning that we can no longer tolerate impunity. A new AG, Chief Justice and fresh faces at the KACC could also send strong signals that the new Constitution is primarily the means to tackle impunity in every sphere.

John Kaiser did not die in vain.

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