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Tribunal: When silence is betrayal

CARTOONS
By | December 9th 2009

Andrew Kipkemboi

When a dog bites a man, the rule of thumb we journalists are told is, that is not news. It is news when a man bites a dog. So former Justice minister Martha Karua’s withering scorn at her fellow MPs for taking bribes to play truant from and sabotage crucial House debates was therefore no news.

Somewhat, unsurprisingly, MPs skipped the debate on Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara’s Bill to set up a local tribunal to try the perpetrators of post-election violence and the Gichugu MP couldn’t suppress her angst. The MPs may not have blood in their hands, the overriding notion for wrecking the two Bills is that of primitive loyalty, greed versus principled dissent. The thing is, the fears and the rivalry of obvious protagonists have converged into common interest. One wonders frankly what those MPs from Central Province will tell their electorate in 2012 because to many of the victims, the tribunal would have been a propitiatory offering for the alleged killings and loss of property.

As minister early this year, Karua brought a Motion to set up a local tribunal to try those bearing greatest responsibility for the violence in the wake of the disputed 2007 presidential election results. Somewhat sheepishly, the MPs said it was vague, and shot it down. Since then, Parliament has dithered, the Executive has wavered and positions have hardened. Of course it is considered that the MPs then were wary of the Executive’s knack to lean on the Legislature. But for refusing to intervene and exert itself when it mattered, the Executive may be seen as complicit in Parliament’s legendary cupidity, nagging incompetence and raw cruelty. In retrospect, a tribunal was doomed from the outset because legislation hinged on unholy alliance between perceived suspects or the fear rivalry of aggressors in the political arena. They will not say why they won’t amend or vote down the Motion.

Organised violence

In his request to the Pre-Trial Chamber II for authorisation to investigate the Kenyan situation, ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo says while the violence initially appeared to be spontaneous, triggered by the perceived rigging of the elections, "the organised aspect of the violence became apparent as it emerged that political leaders, businessmen and others had enlisted criminal elements and ordinary people to carry out attacks against specifically targeted groups." And therein lies the rub. Actually, Ocampo’s search for justice is underpinned by his unremitting quest to unclutch the politicians’ diabolical stranglehold on the country. The elite have reduced the country into their plaything. This politicians’ sense of invincibility must be cut to size. A few months ago, I wrote in this column that in the confusion about who wronged who and how, the offenders had assumed a victim-hood that was both callous and foolhardy.

Politicians have always wanted to stamp out the spark of truth that could set off a revolt. Many of them through reckless utterance and lawless acts, poisoned the environment and made it impossible to accept defeat, however clear.

For ODM and PNU, winning was inevitable. It is these sins that they must be brought to account for. It is easy to blame the Commissioner of Police or the AP Commandant, but when all is considered, the leader who joined the wrong queue and cried foul did more to heighten the tension than the officer on sentry at a polling station. Is it the "duly elected" comment that pushed the rowdy mobs to the edge? Ocampo is saying politicians incited and financed the mayhem. It is the freewheeling culture of the politician that is on trial. Ocampo says in their rumbustious rallies, speakers made comments that were occasionally tinged with tribal undertones and denigrated other groups. Yet you will hear most of them agitate for reconciliation because apparently their relationships were not severed at all. All they did was go for the jugular and make fun of themselves, then they sat down to watch Prime Time News. The masses would retreat to their huts where for lack of a TV, they got entertainment from the mowing cows and the bleats of goats and dogs barking outside.

They power elite still frequent the same social places where they talk deals. They are members of the Parents Association of the same schools. They share church pews. For the masses, they killed each other and their schools and churches were burnt down on the say-so of a tribal chieftain. The wounds are still raw, the suspicions are rife and the rifts deeper. It will take real justice to rattle a tribal chief with a gargantuan ego and a touch of megalomania. The politicians reckon that doing nothing is a more reasonable price to pay than stirring up the ghosts. Yet despite that, the worrying consequence of doing nothing at all overwhelms the urge to close the books and turn on a new leaf.

The writer is The Standard’s Foreign News Editor.

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