Leadership, not ICC, will save nation

Kenya is at a crossroads. The Hague beckons.

The international community is breathing down our necks, reminding us that we must complete the overhaul of our supreme law and end impunity before the next election cycle.

The nation is sagging under the weight of political contests within the transitory Grand Coalition Government, whose mandate was to save and hold the nation before the next elections.

Hopefully, by then we will have strengthened our institutions of governance, trimmed and shared out the draconian powers of the presidency, and begun on a fresh slate.

In other words, we would have made impossible those circumstances that muddled up the 2007 elections and walk into 2012 knowing it will not be characterised by open theft, fraud or manipulation of figures.

The world has come thus far with us, a potentially prosperous nation, but one imbued with internal contradictions such as the flourishing vice of ethnicity, corruption, impunity and ‘bad’ politics of polarisation in which every year is an election year. We must acknowledge there is no dignity in being goaded or pressured by external forces to reform.

There is no honour when the International Criminal Court — whose clients should be rogue nations and unruly leaders — comes stomping into our land to pluck a few Kenyans for trial in a foreign state. It is not anyone’s pride to see a sovereign nation cajoled to change its instruments of governance, or tackle what in common sense should not be there in the first place — corruption and impunity.

But a quick look at Kenya’s past sadly tells you commitment to tackle these ills has waned because the leadership appear to have the firm belief politics and money, power and deep pockets, share a symbiotic relationship.

They, therefore, let one feed the other, and the disastrous recipe is what has seen leaders cling to power at all costs, because the feeding line is made up of his or her coterie of friends, soothsayers and political surrogates.

It is no wonder, then, that we have lost confidence in key institutions of State such as the Judiciary, in whose corridors many believe you can haggle over justice and buy your way out.

Tribal cabals

In Parliament, Kenyans see a congregation bound by self-interest and greed. We lament over how they laze around the building, make idle talk, engage in name-calling and character assassination on the floor of the House, and then turn themselves into voting machines.

The Cabinet itself is fractured and what it does best these days is to put up a survival war, against the vagaries of international isolation and the red-hot furnace in the form of an increasingly cynical and sceptical citizenry.

The presidency, Kenyans say, is no longer inspiring and its silence and lame-duck nature has added fire to speculation a tribal cabal could have long usurped its powers and is wilfully using it to the chagrin of the rest of Kenya. It is no wonder, then, Kenyans argue it is captive of a few and that its appointments to public office seem to follow this pattern. Still, others argue it is symptomatic of ageing presidencies in Africa, especially at its sunset, when ‘kitchen’ cabinets and soon-to-be political orphans coalesce around it and make hay as the sun shines.

We retraced all these to illustrate, first, how low we have sunk, and two, to debunk the myth that ICC and the international community will solve our problems at the flick of some secret switch. Yes, they have a role in waking us up to the fact that we are an extension of the family of nations and subscribe to its rules of civility and good discipline.

But as we found out after the last elections, there are a lot more hidden divisions and inter-ethnic bitterness in the country than we imagined. We may hang those who killed but without a resolute leadership that is revolutionary in thought and action, we will still be sitting on the powder keg. We need a leadership that would fundamentally transform the Kenyan mind and kill the fact tribe and school ties count more than personal worth and competence.Yes, leaders must strive to be reformers but also icons of love, unity and nationhood.