ICC process: Kenya is in a pathetic state of denialBy MWANGI S. KIMENYI | Wednesday, May 30 2012 at 12:03
The majority view in Kenya is that the International Criminal Court process will make the country united.
The view is that pushing the ICC process to the logical conclusion will be a major step towards ending impunity.
Many intellectuals, politicians and Kenyans of all walks of life have taken it as a given that Kenya will come out of the ICC process better.
But a commonly held outcome does not necessarily make it correct, or socially optimal. History is replete with commonly held views that have turned out to be nothing more than collective folly.
If the desired end result of the ICC process is to build a more united Kenya, then we need to ask ourselves whether we seriously believe this will happen. If we are honest with ourselves and believe so, then the process should proceed.
But I am not so sure. In fact, I believe that there is a very high chance that Kenya will come out of the ICC process worse off. We do want justice. But in using the ICC process, we could end up with a more volatile situation than before.
I hold the minority view that in the end, whether the accused are acquitted or convicted, Kenya will be worse off. In trying to solve one serious problem, ICC may end up creating a monumental one.
I believe that the process will weaken ethnic bridges that we have sought to build over time. In the end, those cheering us to take the “criminals” to The Hague will be sitting on the sidelines laughing at our folly — “look at them, fighting again”.
Both [ICC suspects] Mr William Ruto and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta have gained in popularity especially among members of their communities.
Both have now a fanatical following that has less to do with policy proposals than a show of support for their being “unfairly” accused.
We know that things will get worse, but we have decided to live in denial. Suppose for a moment that there is a chance this process will make Kenya worse off.
In that case, could we open ourselves to consider an alternative approach? I personally believe we can take a different approach that can help us be a better country. But there must be a compromise.
This must start with Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta. For any intermediate solutions to be found, the two must stop all political activities and drop out of the race for the presidency, at least for the next election.
They believe they are unfairly accused and I agree that they must be presumed innocent. But that is beside the point. As long as they continue to campaign for the presidency, they will exacerbate the widening ethnic divide.
They can do Kenya a great service if they shelve their ambitions for the time being. Let us then agree to stop the ICC process and establish a credible local mechanism.
Crimes were committed. People died and others were injured. Property was destroyed and people displaced.
We also know that many people were active participants in the violence. For any process to be fair, they, too, must be brought to justice.
But we must reject the notion that after all these years of independence, we still have to rely on others to judge our people. I believe that we can do better through an internal reconciliation process.
In 2010 and 2011, I spent weeks in the conflict-hit areas of Molo, Burnt Forest and Kuresoi. The message I got from the people there is one of forgiveness and repentance.
Kenyans are better than what the international community make them to be. We can solve these problems. This is a position that I held even before we knew who the suspects were.
If we take the reconciliation option, I would suggest that we “sentence” all the accused for a period of at least two years.
The issue of their guilt or innocence is actually irrelevant at this point. The ICC process could take years during which time they would be practically prisoners.
Their sentence would be to be peace-makers. Uhuru and Ruto can use their oratory powers and mass following to call for unity. [ICC suspect Joshua] Sang can use the radio to broadcast messages of peace.
The respected Francis Muthaura (another ICC suspect) could give lectures to public servants on diplomacy and peace. These people, whom we now see as liabilities, could become effective agents for peace.
More severe sanctions could be imposed on all those found to have been responsible for the conflict — directly or indirectly.
It is taking a reconciliatory approach that will show the world that we are, indeed, a responsible people, with a capacity to deal with our problems.
That we have four people lined up for The Hague trials does not earn us any global respectability. Just the reverse.
I suspect that my proposal will annoy both supporters and opponents of the ICC process in equal measure. If this turns out to be the case, then it is a credible proposal and we should give it some thought.
Mr Kimenyi is Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution (email@example.com)
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