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United Kingdom Lords keen on stronger ties with Nairobi

By - Joseph Ngugi | May 26th 2013

By Joseph Ngugi

London: Thursday’s debate on Kenya in the British’s House of Lords is a clear indication that the international community has found itself pressed hard between the rock and a hard place on how they should deal with Kenya.

The positive remarks about Kenya and the new leadership under President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto is clear pointer that the most senior and influential British legislative chamber is out to set an agenda, not only on how the British government should conduct her business with Kenya but also a warning to the powerful international players that they are on their own should they decide to isolate the most powerful country in East Africa.

The two major issues that dominated the debate touched on the last elections and the ICC cases facing Uhuru and Ruto.

Lord Chidgey said he was convinced that President Uhuru and his Jubilee coalition were clear winners in the last election.

In an unprecedented one hour debate in the House of Lords on Thursday, Lord Chidgey said: “Kenyatta and his Jubilee Alliance were clear winners and thus avoided a run-off against his main political opponent, Raila Odinga and his Coalition for Reform and Democracy. The Jubilee won by just 8,000 votes, a victory confirmed by Kenya’s Supreme Court.”

Lord Chidgey also hailed Raila for accepting the result, which unquestionably kept his supporters off the streets. He, however, said Kenya still remained sharply divided across ethnic lines, which is a major challenge for the new administration.

As the saying goes that the seed does not fall far away from the tree, Lord Chidgey did not fail to compare the ascendancy of President Uhuru with that of his late father, 50 years ago.

He said that this was a remarkable year for Kenya since the country will celebrate 50 years of independence from Britain, after Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, took over the reins of government as Prime Minister in 1963.

“There was much pessimism during Kenya’s build-up to independence. Kenyatta had been tried, convicted and imprisoned by the British for “managing” the armed insurrection known as the Mau Mau on charges that were widely regarded as spurious. He was described by a former British governor as the, “leader to darkness and death. Yet he was instrumental, even in the sensitive areas of the so-called White Highlands, in calling for peace and unity. When he died in 1978, he was admired in an era of instability in post-independence Africa - as having presided over stability and economic advance for his country,” Lord Chidgey said.

Lord Anderson of Swansea said he was delighted that the elections in Kenya were good news since there were no repetition of the 2007 killings.

Lord Anderson said the victory of Uhuru had created a major dilemma from the international community considering that the cases at the International Criminal Court were still pending.

Made history

“This is something of an embarrassment for us and for the international community. Clearly, the indictees have been properly elected — the first time that has happened. Do we shun them or have minimum contact? What consultations have there been with our EU partners and with the Commonwealth?” Lord Anderson posed.

He said Uhuru had been to the Somalia conference in London “and I assumed he will also attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.”

“The experience of the indicted President Omar al-Bashir in Sudan is quite different. Here we have a good ally, too big to ignore. Is it still the case that the proceedings are scheduled to begin in July or, as some rather hope, is the case collapsing? I suspect that the British Government would want the whole procedure at the International Criminal Court to fade far away so that we can forget it.” Lord Anderson said amid a chorus of “yaa! yaaa! from his colleagues.

Lord Anderson said the International Criminal Court didn’t have universal membership since it was created and had only successfully tried and convicted one person since 2002.

“Perhaps philosophically we have here a clash between justice and politics. Some will say, “Let justice be done whatever the result”, yet there is the question of politics. For example, suppose in Syria President Assad were to say, “Yes, my time is up. I will be prepared to go into a friendly country in exile, together with members of my family and entourage, so long as no proceedings are taken against me”. There would be a great temptation in the international community to proceed against him because of the very clear massacres and human rights violations in Syria. However, allowing him to move into a safe haven could save many thousands of lives. This is part of the dilemma that the international community would face.” He said.

He said that criticisms levelled against the ICC by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda during President Uhuru’s inauguration ceremony that The Hague court was only interested in prosecuting Africans should not be dismissed but must be investigated. The Earl of Sandwich said that perceptions also mattered and there was already a post-colonial resentment of Britain and other European powers suspected of trying to influence the political scene in Kenya.

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