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Fallout over the ICC cases is fanning ethnic embers

By Barrack Muluka | April 16th 2016

NAIROBI: Reconciliation is a grave matter. It is at once a noble and painful rendezvous with the past. It brings parties that have injured each other to the table of contrition and forgiveness. Like every painful exercise, the environment must be right. Egos must be put away. The mood must be tolerant. The truth must be told. All concerned parties must be involved. Propaganda must be avoided. Without these considerations the effort is futile. It will abort and generate fresh conflict.

President Uhuru Kenyatta must bear these truths in mind as he leads the Jubilee Alliance at reconciliation and prayer meeting in Nakuru today. The Jubilee meeting seeks to celebrate the collapse of the case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In principle, this is good. In practice, we wait to see how things will go.

Elsewhere, the CORD family will be in Kibera, Nairobi. They are talking about victims of the post-election violence (PEV) that led to the ICC process. You don’t need to be exceptionally gifted to know the two meetings will be similar. They are likely to sow fresh seeds of discord than they could bring the country closer to national harmony.

As I look into the seeds of time, I see the Nakuru meeting turning into a verbal assault against “those who framed the Jubilee leaders” so as “to pave their own way to political power.” I see chest thumping, sabre rattling and war cries. I hear the drums of political war. I sense the furious undercurrents of wild ethnic animosity.

Conversely, I see the CORD family shooting from the hip. I see the tribal formations that constitute the two political fraternities getting more hostile than they were yesterday – and all Kenya together with them. Instructively, the country is in the campaign mode. Antagonistic meetings of this kind are just beginning. Where they end up is anybody’s guess.

Kenya’s leaders are failing the test of leadership. Healing of the national soul cannot be achieved at hostile political rallies. The organisers of the two meetings know this. The object of the two rallies, however, is political posturing. The rallies can therefore only incite mutual insolence and hardening of positions across tribes, ahead of the elections. The opportunity to bring Kenyan communities closer in the post ICC dispensation is already slipping away.

Experience elsewhere in South Africa, Sierra Leone and Yugoslavia has shown that reconciliation goes hand in glove with humble focus on truth and justice. How did we end up at The Hague? This question needs to be truthfully answered. Eight years after the PEV of 2008, we still don’t know who burnt the church in Kiamba and killed innocent people. The question of those who died in Naivasha, Kisumu and Nairobi remains unanswered. You cannot rest these matters by mounting hostile meetings in Nakuru and Kibera.

As the political belligerents meet in organised anarchy, they must think of our seven-year-olds who are the product of PEV rape. Some of them are HIV positive. Their mothers are also wrestling with HIV forced upon them by tribal heroes. There is a sense in which Jubilee and CORD are violating these victims. Jubilee’s violation of the victims is defiant, open and unrestrained.

While gaily celebrating their “victory” over a “foreign court” and their local political enemies, is it possible that these people could also be dancing on the graves of those who were killed? Do they risk being seen to be laughing at the victims of rape and at the HIV positive product of the rape? President Kenyatta will in particular want to ponder over this. For ultimately he is the person the whole country looks up to for leadership. Kenya will be listening to his every word most keenly.

CORD’s violation of the victims is subtler, more covert. They will affect to speak for the victims and to shift the narrative from the suspects to the victims. At face value, they look benevolent. They are the good guys who think about the underdog. Yet is the ICC affair the deus ex machina that CORD needs to divert attention from its internal chaos? Is it is a device to minimise hogging of the limelight by Jubilee?

I have told you before – I am an old doctor. I can tell a mortal ailment from a passing cold. I also know when Rift Valley sneezes, Kenya catches cold. Nakuru is going to sneeze today. Kenya is sitting badly, in the grip of mortal ailment. The fallout over the ICC is stoking and fanning ethnic embers that have smoldered for a while. Lies and propaganda will do the rest.

President Kenyatta must lead in bringing the country back to order. Lamentably, he seems easy to anger. He rises up to every bait that seeks to anger him. His furious words can only aggravate an already hopeless situation. Going forward, the president must be stately, controlled and dignified to bring the country together. He must resist playing up to cheering ethnic crowds.

To his credit and his deputy’s, they have brought two tribes together. Is this pyrrhic success, however? What price will the country pay for this unity across two tribes? Is it incubating violence between the two tribes on the one hand, and other tribes on the other? Do we need to put international Good Samaritans on alert?

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