Monday, March 21, 2011

Government statements reveal duplicity

Sunday Nation 20 March 2011

Last week, the wing of the Kenya Government allied to the Party of National Unity (PNU) wrote a series of letters and statements addressed to various governments and international organisations, including the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, in an attempt to convince them to help stop the prosecution of prominent Kenyans for crimes against humanity.

The contents of the communications confirm the duplicitous character of our government, given that they appear to have the effect of cancelling each other out.

The letters to the UN sought to influence the Security Council to order a deferral of the cases for one year while the government prepares a local mechanism to try both the top level suspects and the small fry implicated in the actual killings.

As if to completely negate the implications of this process, the letters also indicated that there was a high risk of Kenya sliding back into anarchy should the presidential candidates on Moreno-Ocampo’s list be prosecuted, a tacit admission that the government could not guarantee the safety of Kenyan citizens in the event of widespread violence.

In other words, the government was admitting that the fate of this country lay in the hands of Ocampo’s suspects, specifically the 2012 presidential candidates on the list.

Indeed, a pointer to just what sort of problems we face came in the form of a politician’s statement that there may be “no elections without the Ocampo Six” (or at least two of them) on the presidential ballot.

Deferral proponents

These threats from deferral proponents therefore imply that any prosecution must wait until after the next General Election.

Were the UN and the ICC to accede to these demands, Kenya may soon be faced with a situation in which a sitting president is indicted for crimes against humanity, a situation far more harmful for our international image than the prosecution of presidential candidates.

The government’s International Criminal Court statement, released soon after the court issued summonses for the Ocampo Six, indicated that the Kenya Government intended to challenge the admissibility of the cases before the court.

Ludicrous suggestions have even been made that Ocampo is beholden to local political interests, and is advancing the agenda of one political party.

The implication here is that the suspects have no case to answer as far as crimes against humanity are concerned, and are only being persecuted.

The meaning may be further stretched to imply that no such crimes actually occurred, and the facts before the court are purely a figment of the prosecutor’s imagination.

Three “government” positions therefore emerge from these lines of reasoning. One, that crimes were committed and we are intent on a local prosecution process.

Two, that because of the risk that these trials will almost definitely destroy the country, there can be no ICC or local tribunals. Three, that there were no such crimes and the court should just leave us alone.

A subsequent flurry of letters from opposing wings of government has only managed to further confuse the issues. It is time we took our country back from the hands of selfish politicians, and rejected in totality the three contradictory “government” positions.

Finally, come what may, we shall have elections in August 2012. The Constitution tells us so. Let our politicians try and stop us.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine

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