It is difficult to determine the logic behind the call to compensate the victims of the 2007 post-election violence soon after the termination of the case against Deputy President, William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang.
What exactly is the connection between the compensation and the termination of the case? It is easier to see the link between the termination and the call for reconciliation.
In a sense, the many actors and interest parties to the ICC proceedings against the two Kenyans would explain hesitation, perhaps, or the complexity to invest in reconciliation following the post-election violence in 2007 while a few are claimed to bear responsibility for the violence and subsequent generation of people we now call victims.
Even if initiatives to reconcile the affected communities and victims are ongoing, a more concerted effort is absolutely necessary to heal broken hearts.
It is much more difficult to increasingly hammer the call for victims’ compensation at this point without explaining why it could not be done earlier.
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Either the understanding is that the accused and the Government held back the compensation process because the case at the ICC influences the willingness and probably the ability to compensate, or the victims and the affected who deserve the compensation could have influenced the process or outcome.
So, it sounds as though, typical of us Kenyans, this is an “opportunity” for compensation.
As we have heard from the Government over the years, precisely, since the post-election violence, some victims have received compensation.
The question then is whether the compensation now sought is a matter of delayed justice or a new compelling consideration that is strongly correlated with the acquittal of Ruto and Sang. There is a moral discomfort with this call to compensate victims just because the case against Ruto and Sang collapsed.
One may argue, with a considerable degree of insecurity, that the well-intentioned call lay dormant since the violence occurred blinded by fear of reprisal from the compensating authority.
Now that the case is no more, it appears, coming out to demand the compensation is a matter of justice.
We ought to appreciate that the call is not quite new. Some institutions, organisations and individuals have consistently raised the question of compensating the victims.
It is therefore prudent, I argue, to address the question independent of the termination. This gives a sense of collective concern to the victims.
The danger with this “momentous call” is that the victims are compensated on account of the termination, in which case they will either praise or demonise the one who enabled the offer to come through.
In all fairness, let us de-personalise the compensation.
The Government should not turn benevolent after several years of neglect and compensate on a morally questionable motive.
Of course, most governments including ours are endowed with moral bankruptcy. But, that political morality is a rare virtue should not shield anyone from doing what is humane.
If victims of the post-election violence exist in this country, it is because the Government failed to offer a timely intervention.
The more reasonable approach requires the Government to offer an apology to the victims for a delayed compensation and then proceed to compensate. If, we must assume, the will (to compensate) is there!
The challenge with compensating the victims lies in the fact that our politics is quite transactional. It runs like the old “Patel Shop”. Everyone is busy buying and selling at a cost they can afford. Our politics is indeed a liberalised market where the poor have minimal capacity to bargain.
They must depend on middlemen who aim at profits while passing any losses to the poor.
For this reason, compensating the victims has taken long as the process used fits into a transactional model of politics.
The people charged with the responsibility, with their political sentimentalism and functionality, may have run out of resources but there is a high probability that the compensation turned into a business transaction.
If the Government is persuaded the exercise is an obligation – which it should be anyway – and surely not some form of tokenism, for once it should act humanely and support its own people to find footing back into life through a just process and unconditional compensation.
Moreover, addressing the compensatory concerns of the victims is part of the process of reconciliation which is critically essential before the 2017 elections.
This reconciliation process activated since the post-election violence, like the compensation process, turned into another “Patel Shop”. Taxpayers’ money spent thus far to reconcile communities’ totals to a handsomely generous amount with no actual ground results.
Transactional politics took over the process. Now, we are back to calls for the same reconciliation we needed in 2008.
Nonetheless, before this noble call, let us think of the people who deserve just compensation without objectifying them.