After ICC, leaders must seize opportunity to heal a divided nation

By The Standard | Monday, Apr 18th 2016 at 00:00
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Two rallies that coalesced around the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) latest ruling of a mistrial were held separately in Nakuru and Nairobi on Saturday.

In Nakuru at the Afraha stadium, President Uhuru Kenyatta led the ‘Ocampo Six’ in thanksgiving for having thrown off the yoke placed upon them by The Hague-based ICC.

The Nairobi rally was organised by the Opposition to demand for compensation and justice for the victims of the election violence who feel largely neglected.

The Ocampo Six; President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, Joshua Sang, Henry Kosgey, Maj (rtd) Hussein Ali and Francis Muthaura were accused of masterminding the 2007/2008 post-electoral violence in which over 1,100 Kenyans were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced following the disputed outcome of the elections.

That the ruling coalition and the Opposition called separate rallies over the same issue yet hold such extreme opinions of each other’s intent speaks of a country divided down the middle.

These divisions are not doing the country any good; all the more reason why both sides of the political divide should come down from their high pedestals and advocate for real and honest healing of a country so evidently divided.

While the collapse of the cases against the Ocampo Six should have led to true national healing and reconciliation, it has instead opened new rifts akin to those that were witnessed in the campaign period for the 2013 elections.

Political posturing that completely ignores the victims of the violence has gained the upper hand. Kenyans, and especially the leaders, need to face up to the fact that there are countrymen, like those at Maili Nne in Uasin Gishu, still living in the ignominy of camps in their own country.

There are those who bear emotional and visible wounds from the violence. There are those who sired children from the sexual violations they were subjected to and these children are a constant reminder of the pain they went through.

There are children who don’t attend school because their parents lost the means to take care of them, yet those who caused them so much pain will most likely never be known.

As a country, we should concentrate our energies on making these people feel a part of the society once more. Leaders cannot use their plight to hurl invective at each other and campaign for 2017 while these people are still hurting.

But while the Ocampo Six had every right to celebrate their acquittal, it should not be lost on us that ICC was not actually about them. Their celebrations therefore did little to heal a divided nation.

A holistic approach would have entailed reaching out to the victims and all other Kenyans of goodwill, including all political leaders across the divide, to make the event a success.

In its absence, the event was emasculated of its potential national significance. The Opposition on the other hand should understand that opening up old wounds by inciting victims against the Government can only divide the country further.

This need not be the case as we head into another electioneering period.

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