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ICC questions that won’t go away

UREPORT
By Mohamed Guleid | April 11th 2016

One of the most poignant scenes from the 2007/08 post-election violence was the pulling out of a man from a matatu at an illegal roadblock in Naivasha and his macabre death at the hands of red-eyed, blood-thirsty youth.

Apparently, the police said, the youths were avenging killings in parts of Rift Valley and Nyanza.

Plainly speaking, the youth were looking for justice: You killed my brother, so I will kill your brother.

We get even. That was the ugly turn the grotesque killings were taking before things were arrested.

At that point, Kenya was degenerating into a state of lawlessness. All those who looted, robbed, raped and killed did it because they knew that one way or the other, the long arm of the law would not catch up with them.

It was revenge in a perverse form. And so far, the law has not caught up with them. Unfortunately, the back-and-forth debate on how to bring to account the killers and those with a bearing in the mayhem ultimately delayed justice and the killers have never been known.

I doubt they will ever be known.

In the confusion, the offenders easily assumed a victimhood that is both callous and foolhardy. No doubt, many Kenyans had yearned for the real perpetrators of the death and destruction to be punished severely.

Many of the victims relished facing their tormentors and those who killed their kin in court, squirming, sweating and scratching themselves in a witness cage as the horrors of death and destruction were told to the world.

The gnashing of teeth, they thought, would bring about healing and reconciliation and help them turn over a new leaf. The cathartic feeling brought about by admission of wrong by the assailant who chased them down the valleys with axes, pangas, bows and arrows, rocks, spears would have helped with the healing process.

That healing would have reinforced the feeling that to support and speak about a political ideology should not necessarily lead to intimidation and harassment or the crashing of your skull; where people will wrestle with ideas and not the man.

We have come a long way since then. The Judiciary is reformed. The police are more responsive and humane than at any other time. That brings me to the issue of the ICC cases against the Ocampo Six as they were initially known.

After the declaration of a mistrial at The Hague last week, it is only fair to look back and see what value the ICC cases have been to Kenya.

I will look at this in the strict sense of justice as revenge.

Michael E McCullough in Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of Forgiveness Instinct, asks if revenge is a communicable disease? Or is forgiveness a cure? “The urge to take revenge or punish... is not a disease or toxin or sign that something has gone wrong... it is not a problem, but a solution,” says the Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami.

So unless the people “feel and touch” this solution, the conclusion is that justice has not been served.

And that brings me to the ICC equation; did it achieve much? I bet no. In fact, it ensured that the real perpetrators of the 2007/08 violence dissolved into the crowds.

The ICC thus became a red herring for the many in our midst to reintegrate and live as if nothing happened as the six Kenyans battled it out at the ICC. I mean, how difficult was it to find and parade the man who threw the spear or who doused the granary with petrol and lit the match? Or who shot the arrow? Or who barricaded the roads and pulled out motorists and hacked them? Or who locked up people in a house and set them alight? Or those who financed the mayhem? Looking back, I feel a great deal of betrayal from President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

They took the easy option, perhaps fearing a backlash within their ranks. At first, there were fears a local tribunal would have been used to fix a few people, but still the fact is justice was never served.

Before Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga signed the National Accord that ended the skirmishes, there were no doubts both had unwittingly become complicit in the mayhem. On account of their positions, they could, if they wished, have brought sense into the country.

The dilemma that the Jubilee government finds itself is whether to celebrate their acquittal first or heal the country. They should yield to calls for justice. It is never too late. Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga squandered an opportunity to heal the country.

They too, should not.

Even as we head into 2017, those two should make it their business to rattle the egotistical tribal chiefs on the loose. Other than reforming a confidence-deficient and scandalised police force and ridding the Judiciary of rotten judges, there are signs that the impunity perpetuated by the stubborn, self-regarding, self-seeking ruling class, for whom the chaos and anarchy always benefit, remains untouched.

UhuRuto could make a difference if they wrestled with that, now that they are free.

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