Friday, October 9, 2009



October 9, 2009
By Standard Team

One chief with international clout exited Kenya on Wednesday, as another packed his bags at The Hague for a trip to Nairobi that could mark Kenya’s turning point.

One chief warned against corruption and impunity, and the other is itching to catch its kingpins and make them an example to the world on what should be done to the lovers of these vices. Both ‘chiefs’ have the backing of the international community led by the US and the United Nations, which forced Kenya’s power-sharing deal last year.

The first is Chief Mediator Kofi Annan and the second is International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. In between the persuasive ‘chief’ gently nudging Kenya to reform fast or face the wrath of the international community, and the other holding onto a leash and a whip is Kenya and its Grand Coalition leaders.

Both chiefs are agreed the pace of reforms is too slow and doubt if leaders share their fear Kenya could burn in 2012 if the next electoral circle precede reforms, which they agreed to implement 18 months ago.

Above the two chiefs is pressure from the donor community, which they bear on the shoulders before transferring to Kenya, whose leaders argue is unnecessary because on their own rating, they are doing ‘extremely well’ and in most areas, are ‘ahead of schedule’.

The works of the two chiefs complement each other this week when Ocampo arrives to assess progress in setting up a local tribunal, pegged onto international standards, to punish less-profile suspects of post-election violence.

Chief Ocampo is playing his cards close to his chest and so yesterday Ms Cornelia Schneider, a public information officer at ICC could not specify when Ocampo would be arriving in Nairobi. But she promised: "The moment I get any news I would be glad to share it with you," she said, on the telephone, from The Hague.

On Wednesday before he left, Annan gave his final word that those suspected to hold high responsibility for the skirmishes would be tried at The Hague. They are said to be ten and include at least six Cabinet ministers.

"It is not either the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a local mechanism. It must be both," Annan said on Wednesday night, in his address concluding his four-day trip.

Annan’s statement came after the Government announced it was not keen on establishing the tribunal and preferred healing and reconciliation.

He proposed a three-tier approach that would involve a local tribunal that meets international standards, forgiveness and reconciliation for minor offenders, and the ICC for those who bear the greatest responsibility.

That said, it left President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who Annan said must lead reforms to completion in the next 18 months, latching their hope on the most unlikely face in Parliament — Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara and his proposed Bill on a local tribunal that if passed, would appease the two chiefs and Kenyans. The focus now shifts to Parliament when it resumes sittings next month, for this is the theatre of the next tussle for a special tribunal.

On the radar

Local and international radars will be on MPs, especially on whether they will comply with international demand on them or succumb to political machinations that have twice seen them reject creation of a tribunal.

Yesterday, Imanyara, who has been fronting a local special tribunal said: "I am elated the international community and the visiting British MPs backed the Bill as being in tandem with international standards. I urge my colleagues to vote it into law." He appealed to Kibaki and Raila to mobilise MPs to support the Bill.

Lurking in the shadows as Ocampo lands and MPs ponder the next move, are Annan’s key warnings on Wednesday:

– Kenya is already at, or past, the halfway-mark between the formation of the Coalition Government and the next electoral cycle. Kenya cannot afford a recurrence of the crisis and violence that engulfed it after the 2007 elections. But that is a serious risk if tangible reform were not achieved.

–"My conversations with Kenyans during the last three days have underscored there is a crisis of confidence political leadership ... I urge them to listen to the voices of Kenyans."

– "There are very real concerns about increased criminality in parts of the country. All these factors make the need for reform even more urgent. It is clear this is the moment of truth for Kenya’s political leadership."

– Kenyans, who are normally a patient people, are beginning to doubt if their leaders can deliver. As a consequence, healing and reconciliation may suffer. Kenyans want their leaders to lead.

As if to confirm the international radar trained on Kenya, the influential Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week warned: "Firm public leadership is needed by Kenya’s unity government to overcome resistance from certain parliamentarians who, fearful of being held to account for their role in the violence, are ready to subject Kenyans to a new round of bloodshed."

Mr Kenneth Roth, the executive director of the HRW, said Kenya must choose between impunity and justice. Ocampo announced last week he would be coming to Nairobi for further consultations with coalition leaders, Kibaki and Raila, on how to proceed with the cases.

Travel Bans

What he did not say was that this was part of the choreographed series of events lined up to weaken Kenya’s knee — and include America and threats of travel bans on ministers, among others, and warnings by the European Union and Canada.

And, so with Annan’s exit, more pressure is certain to follow. This is discernible on two fronts: The US could next week release the names of VIPs threatened with visa bans. And the Government that gave itself 90 per cent grade on reforms yesterday appeared to have slightly climbed down and chose to amplify the positive aspects of Annan’s verdict.

"Dr Kofi Annan has established that the Government has made substantial progress, and that there is need to speed up the pace of reforms, an assessment that we fully agree with." said Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua, yesterday.

And so like in African folklore, Kenya the errand boy stands before, not one but two chiefs, and the chroniclers are scripting furiously. For, next week another turning point awaits Kenya on the bumpy road to a new constitution.