It now appears that President Uhuru Kenyatta will eschew the trappings of his office, even if it’s just for a few hours and appear before Ms. Fatou Bensouda and the presiding judges at The Hague not as the Commander-in-Chief of Kenya’s Armed Forces, but as a crimes-against-humanity suspect.
The symbolism of this moment is not lost on Kenyans and in keeping with the partisan divide this case has taken since it was first announced, there are those who will look at this moment as the day the one time high, mighty and untouchable of Kenyan society stood before a judge they could not cower or court system they could not manipulate to answer criminal charges against them. Conversely, there are others such as Moi University Lecturer of Media Studies Dr. Omanga who will see Mr. Kenyatta’s summons and appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC) as classic Kabuki theater i.e. political and legal posturing by the courts ‘ere the inevitable triumph of “us” over “them”. In his article in the Daily Nation, the lecturer compares Mr. Kenyatta’s summons to The Hague as a mere show of valiancy by the world court in the face of pre-ordained defeat i.e. dismissal or indefinite suspension of the case against POK.
In keeping with the African tradition of story-telling to illustrate a point, Dr. Omanga “tanda wilis” the story about a leopard (Mr. Kenyatta) cornering a squirrel (ICC) for dinner; a showdown whose outcome is inevitable (death to the squirrel) or in this case dismissal or indefinite suspension of the case against POK.
True to the hubris and triumphalism reflected in the lecturer’s parable, Mr. Kenyatta is reportedly going to The Hague with a posse of over one hundred and twenty distinguished supporters and toadies. Included in the entourage are four heads of state, at least at last count and an assortment of hanger-ons and sycophants. There are also reports that Mr. Kenyatta will address the court. It is this combination of events that I want to see play out: Frankly I would pay top dollars (or shillings) to bear witness to the optics of (reluctant?) “big man” and budding Pan-Africanist Uhuru Kenyatta, urged on by the quintessential “big men” Presidents Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Rwanda and their sycophants, going mano-a-mano with the hitherto unflappable daughter of Mali and Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
I would advise Mr. Kenyatta to harness the collective jingoism of his supporters and caution them against making a public spectacle of themselves and by extension, of him, on the international stage no less. President Kenyatta has seemingly stabilized his presidency and has comported himself with a modicum of competence after a rather rough start. He should continue along that path and take a page from his deputy Mr. William Ruto who has conducted himself with aplomb worthy of a true Moran (tho’ mewonders whether he is actually Masai). The junior half of the digital duo his appeared before the chamber on schedule/as scheduled and for all the bluster and fury at the beginning of the trials, his supporters and their antics have avoided becoming THE news.
Mr. Kenyatta would also be ill-advised to use his chance to “address the court” as an opportunity to lay out his road-to-Jerusalem Pan-Africanist credentials. It is a message that is passé in this era of globalization not to mention information at the stroke of keys. The president should avoid getting on his soapbox and haranguing that the “ICC is a vestige of colonialism” and the other anti-western rant that are frankly hypocritical given his very western-leaning personal and business proclivities.
Indeed this Wednesday October 8th 2014 hearing may be Ms. Bensouda’s last hurrah in the case against Mr. Kenyatta. If that is the case, I would argue that the fact the process played out to its conclusion, the accusations and counter-accusations notwithstanding is something both sides can take “credit” for; as Pyrrhic a victory as it is for those who lost loved ones in the post-election violence of 2007/8.
I am glad that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, heir to a share of $600M fortune was compelled to use some of that money to defend himself against the “personal challenge” that somehow morphed into a national issue that brought Kenya on the verge of pulling out of the world courts, the backroom machinations and use of government resources aside.
Finally, it is my hope that these trials were collective shots across the bow of Africa’s “big men” that the era of wanton impunity especially against their people is over.