And all it took was three days after their inauguration on April 9, 2013 for two of the three ICC suspects, through their surrogate deputy UN ambassador Ms. Koki Muli Grignon, to begin a concerted effort to have their trials moved from The Hague to the “the jurisdiction of the nation’s (Kenya’s) judicial institutions” as reported in the article “Newly-appointed envoy leads bid to bring Hague cases back home” that appeared on the April 12 issue of the Daily Nation.
I will remind Ms. Grignon that the sole reason her boss Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto are being tried at the comparatively independent and definitely “unbwogable” International Criminal Court (ICC) is because a majority of parliamentarians including the president himself came up with the catchy phrase “Don’t be vague, let’s go to The Hague” in response to efforts by some local politicians who wanted those suspected of fomenting the post-election violence (PEV) in 2007/2008 to be tried in Kenya; a suggestion considered a non-starter by many because Kenya’s judiciary had/has NEVER been free of manipulation by the high and mighty. I am sure Ms. Grignon remembers the cute hook that was all the rage after Justice Philip Waki’s team had completed its investigation of the post-election violence of 2007/2008 and handed its report to President Kibaki in October 2008; the team hand the names of the suspects to former UN Sec-Gen Ghanaian Dr. Kofi Annan. That the current president and his deputy ended up at The Hague instead of the Supreme Court of Kenya is no one’s fault other than that of the Kibaki government; the very government Mr. Kenyatta was a member of as a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance! I will take it a step further and argue that the “axis of impunity” that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta saluted and paid tribute to during Tuesday’s inauguration – Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki – set in motion then entrenched the system of governance that weakened the supposedly independent institutions including the judiciary making it very easy for those who were calling for the PEV suspects to be tried at The Hague to carry the day.
Ms. Grignon is either naïve or believes that the majority of Kenyans who initially sought to have the crimes against humanity cases brought before the ICC are not cognizant of how prone to manipulation Kenya’s supposedly “independent” institutions are! On the other hand, the just–concluded election of two of the three principals facing those very charges may have given said individuals – Uhuru and Ruto – and their surrogate Ms. Koki Grignon the impetus, indeed the gumption or like they say stateside, “huevos” or chutzpah to redouble the efforts to bring the proceedings in front of a judiciary they have more sway over.
I strongly urge Ms. Bensouda and the ICC, indeed the UN Security Council to reject any attempts by the Kenyatta administration to bring adjudication of the PEV charges to the still-suspect Kenyan judiciary and I say this with all due respect to CJ Mutunga and his band of merry men and women. I do not put it past the richest man in the country indeed one of the richest in Africa, Mr. Kenyatta, to use his family’s considerable wealth to buy the acquiescence of the Kenyan Supreme Court ergo his outright freedom or considerable reduction in repercussions steming from the charges. I am not sure who said this but “every man and woman has a price.” With a net worth of close to half a billion dollars or approximately kshs. 41,000,000,000 (forty-one BILLION shillings at the current exchange rate of $1 = kshs. 82/=), no one should doubt the willingness of Mr. Kenyatta and his family to use that formidable wealth to fight, tooth and nail, the ICC.
We have already seen the ICC lose some witnesses who have either recanted their testimony or flatly refused to testify. Some of the recantations happened before the two suspects were elected to the presidency and vice-presidency respectively. Kenyans and their Supreme Court elected and finally arbitrated the duo into office with the April 9th inauguration. I only expect the pressure on the remaining witnesses to intensify as July 9, the day the trials are scheduled to begin, draws nearer. Jonah Anguka’s book Absolute Power: The Ouko Murder Mystery details the brutal 1990 murder of Kenya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation. In a chapter titled “Convenient Deaths,” (pgs. 219-229), the author writes that following Dr. Ouko’s death, so many material witnesses and people connected to the case died in a manner and at rate that Kenyans were left wondering whether the deaths were by happenstance or “deliberate” targeted killings.(pg. 219) Mr. Anguka adds that the deaths could have been convenient for anyone bent on covering their involvement in the minister’s murder. He then suggests that the deaths of these people may also have been used to instill fear in the minds of potential witnesses. For the record, I counted a total of fourteen (14) people connected to Dr. Ouko’s death who either died or went missing before being questioned by the authorities or shortly thereafter.
Another book – The Risks of Knowledge – co-written by David William Cohen and E. S. Atieno Odhiambo describes the investigation into the death of Mr. Ouko. No one can read Chapter 3 titled “Ouko’s Pain” (pge. 73-89) and not feel how terrified the Foreign Minister was about his personal safety after his return from a visit to the United States as a member of a delegation headed by then-president Moi. Mr. Ouko is described as pleading with Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi, the Permanent Secretary in-charge of internal security in the Office of the President to talk with President Moi and intercede “with the powers on his behalf.” (pge. 77) to which the late PS offers the incredulously callous response: “If you have collided with Nyayo (Moi), shauri yako (tough luck). I give you only two days!” It is a chilling and disturbing read, indeed a sad and painful imploration of a man who knows he is about to die; which indeed did happen shortly after the pleas fell on deaf ears. It also captures the ruthlessness of (our) leaders, including those who profess their religiosity at every opportunity. In a classic tale of “what goes around comes around,” Mr. Oyugi himself later died under extremely mysterious and suspicious circumstances; one of the fourteen people connected with Ouko’s death who either died or disappeared before they could be questioned on the matter.
I have to admit that the Ouko assassination remains very personal for me: He was from Nyahera, Kisumu – the same area as my mother. Uncle Bob as we called him also taught my mom at Ogada Intermediate Primary School, also in Nyahera. Robert’s mother and my maternal grandmother were both from Kano-Kolwa and were very close friends. The point of the fore-going digression on to the death of Robert Ouko is to illustrate the malleability of the Kenyan judicial system the new Constitution notwithstanding. The sad fact is that I could have chosen any one of several national tragedies the country has experienced in the last generation – the assassinations of Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki or the multi-billion shillings scandals such as Goldenberg, Anglo-Leasing, Sololo, Grand Regency – to illustrate the incompetence of its judiciary. If the PEV trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy are brought under the jurisdiction of Kenya’s judicial institutions, it is not inconceivable that the two suspects or those around them may choose to play fast and loose and eventually hardball with the local institutions, not to mention the persons tasked with “investigating” the charges currently sitting on Ms. Fatou Bensouda’s docket at the ICC.
Kenyans seem to have a very short and selective memory of events that should be hard-coded in the country’s collective memory. The significant emotional memory of the brutal murder of the country’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Robert Ouko and the ensuing joke of an investigation should still be seared in the consciousness and psyche of the country. Mr. Anguka quotes the late Justice Fidahussein Abdullah, a judge on the Ouko Commission who also died in the midst of the “investigations” as saying “(Kenya) is a country where guilty go scot-free, but the innocent (are) incarcerated, where Goldenbergs and Sololo flaunt their wealth and live lavishly but children of the streets arm themselves with faeces to beg, where inciters of violence are condoned but preachers of peace are condemned…Let us stop this rot..now or tomorrow it will be too late.” (pge. 227)
Both Mr. Anguka and the late Justice Abdullah contend that the rich and powerful in Kenya act with impunity that is near-total because they have the money and the connection: Mr. Kenyatta’s mentor is none other than former President Moi, originator of the “Uhuru Project” and the very person Dr. Ouko was begging Mr. Hezekiah Oyugi to have intercede on his behalf.
If the history of Kenya is anything to go by re: dealing with high-profile politically charged legal matters, Ms. Grignon, the country, indeed all who want justice for the victims of the post-election violence should not be naive, they should be sagacious and stay with The Hague – the one entity along with the seemingly indefatigable Ms. Bensouda, that may just be beyond manipulation, at least by Kenya’s rich and powerful.