Analysing Politics Not An Easy Task
Every few months, I run into someone – maybe an old friend; sometimes a new acquaintance – who tells me that writing opinion columns is so easy that anybody can do it. That may or may not be true, but this common viewpoint, ignores the fact that such writing carries with it the likelihood that the writer will sooner or later make a complete fool of himself. Take for example, the ongoing serialization in the ‘Daily Nation’ of the book which is to be launched this weekend, ‘Peeling Back The Mask’ which is written by a former Prime Ministerial adviser, the lawyer Miguna Miguna.
About two years ago, this Miguna’s columns were unapologetically dedicated to preaching the gospel that the PM, Raila Odinga, was a heaven-born patriot, and a leader like no other. Shortly after he was suspended from office, Miguna set out on a new path: to paint the PM as a betrayer of his friends and unworthy to serve as the president of Kenya.
Miguna is just an extreme example of something that can happen to just about any regular columnist. Today you see things this way; and tomorrow, a totally new perspective presents itself. And this need not even be related to the loss of some cushy job you had hoped to hold for many months yet. Turning to my own case, I would point out that when the ICC first handed down their indictments, I was among those who hailed this as a historic blow against our culture of impunity. But just this week, I read these paragraphs in the New York Times:
It was exactly the kind of case the International Criminal Court was created to investigate: Yemen’s autocratic leader was clinging to power, turning his security forces’ guns on unarmed protesters. Hundreds were left dead, and many more were maimed. But when Yemen’s Nobel laureate, Tawakkol Karman, traveled to The Hague to ask prosecutors to investigate, she was told the court would first need the approval of the United Nations Security Council. That never happened, and today the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is living comfortably in Yemen’s capital, still wielding influence.
Now, as the world confronts increasing evidence of atrocities on a much vaster scale in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad’s government battles a growing rebellion, there are signs that Mr. Assad is likely to evade prosecution, much as Mr. Saleh has. The men have not been prosecuted because they have powerful allies, underlining what critics say are crucial flaws in the court’s setup. That now threatens to undermine the still-fragile international consensus that formed the basis for the court’s creation in 2002: that leaders should be held accountable for crimes against their own people.
This would seem to suggest that whatever they may or may not have done during those dark days in early 2008, the real problem for Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Francis Muthaura, and Joshua Sang, is that they do not have powerful friends at the international level. However much influence they may wield here in Kenya, whether nationally, or in their own regional backyards, when it comes to the global political theatre they are dispensable small-timers like all those DRC Congo warlords, or the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor.
As this article goes on to say: Already, the failure to act against some leaders challenged by the Arab Spring is emboldening critics who see the court as just another manifestation of a deeply undemocratic international order. So-called justice, they say, is reserved for outcast leaders, including an assortment of African officials from weak states with few powerful patrons. “We have the feeling that international justice is not ruled by law,” said Rami Nakhla, an exiled Syrian activist and member of the Syrian National Council, an opposition group. “It is ruled by politics, it is ruled by circumstances. It depends on the situation, it depends how valuable this person is. That is not real justice.”
So where does that leave those of us who hailed – in lofty and poetic terms – the decision by The Hague to allow charges to be brought against prominent Kenyans for ‘crimes against humanity’? Surely there is a suggestion here that we were all naïve and simplistic in our assessments. No doubt at the end of the day, it will be the evidence brought against the ‘Ocampo Four’ which will prove decisive. But be that is it may, the fact is that if these men had been Yemenis or Syrians, they would never have appeared before the ICC in the first place.