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International Criminal Court cases might collapse, but remember the victims

By - JOSEPH NGUGI | September 17th 2013


On Tuesday morning, Kenyans will be glued to their television sets as the first witnesses is scheduled to take the stand at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the cases against humanity that face our Deputy President, William Ruto and radio journalist, Joshua arap Sang.’

Many Kenyans on the President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto’s side of the political divide believe that these cases are as good as finalised and suspects as good as freed. The rate at which the witnesses have been dropping off the prosecution’s list is something that has been widely celebrated by the leaders’ supporters.

But even as we watch what may be the beginning to an end of the ICC cases at The Hague, very important questions are yet to be addressed on the victims and the aftermath of the sporadic but deadly ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley.

Since 1990, residents of this vast region have experienced unprecedented violence that left thousands dead and property worth millions destroyed.

My aunt’s permanent house was demolished using explosives in Kaptagat, Uasin Gishu County. She died last year a very heart-broken woman. My uncle, too, was shot with poison arrows before being slashed to death by the so-called marauding warriors in the Ndeffo area of Njoro, Nakuru.

To date, nobody has ever been arrested or tried for these two incidents.

Hundreds of families in Kenya have similar stories. The sad thing is that nobody seems to listen to them. The victims lost their loved ones as well as their life-long savings. They ceased to be human beings and just became statistics for governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The Sh400,000 settlement some of them received recently from the government is not even enough to buy an acre of land in the places they once lived.

Whereas I would really want to see a speedy conclusion of the cases at The Hague, let us also not forget the bigger picture of the victims and the sad state of life that they have been subjected to. Let both the accused persons and the victims feel justice has been done. Let the accused be set free on the strength of their defence or the absence of evidence against them. But let the victims be adequately compensated.

The local judicial mechanism should be triggered to track down the killers who caused mayhem.

Let the culprits know that never again shall a few demented individuals, working on their own volition or while being coaxed by the powers that be, be allowed to take away life or willingly destroy property at will.

Let those who carried out these heinous acts know that they will no longer go unpunished, no matter how long it takes for the wheel of justice to be put in motion.

Kenyans have always been told that the arm of the government is long, but it seems the same has been too short when everybody expected it to reach a target.

Reconciliation between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin or amongst other warring ethnic groups should start with finding the truth and accepting responsibility.

Reconciliation does not come by burying issues under the political carpet and assuming that all is well.

I have full confidence that both President Uhuru and Deputy Ruto will be more than happy to preside over a just society where perpetrators of crime get punished and the victims feel not only vindicated, but also compensated.

Because of the goodwill that the President and his Deputy received from the former protagonists in the Rift Valley violence, it is important that the two leaders initiate investigations on the genesis of the problem.

It is only then that recommendations for a lasting solution can be mapped out. These measures should be designed to last beyond the Kenyatta-Ruto political marriage.

The cult-like loyalty the two leaders enjoy amongst their followers in the Rift Valley is an indicator that the causes of the perennial ethnic hostility is likely to be addressed with sobriety and solutions found.

I believe it is possible for the various communities in these areas to continue co-existing, even where they all fail to have their way on the issue of land and other resources.  It is happening in Rwanda and it can happen in the Rift Valley too.

Joseph Ngugi writes for The Standard from London ([email protected])

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