Time For Kibaki to Eat A Fat Toad
It is now widely known that back in 2005, the US Embassy in Nairobi tried all it could to get Kenya to sign an agreement which would exempt US citizens from being sent to the ICC if arrested by Kenyan authorities.
When the debate on this issue was at its height, with various influential local NGOs taking full page advertisements to express their opposition to this idea, I asked an American journalist what this was really about.
Why was the US State Department going to such lengths to secure an agreement which would allow its soldiers to avoid standing trial at the ICC, when every other democracy had no such reservations?
He explained to me that it was not really about ordinary soldiers. It was more about shielding former top officials of the US government, who had played key roles in prosecuting the Cold War, and in particular during the 1960s and 1970s. And he gave me the example of the legendary US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger – famous for his brutal disregard of human rights – who could not dare travel outside the US without first confirming with his lawyers that the nation he would be visiting was not one of the many where he was likely to be arrested, and brought to court on criminal charges.
More recently, in early February this year, the immediate former US President, George W Bush, abruptly canceled a planned trip to Switzerland because of the expectation that human rights groups would use his presence there as an opportunity to bring criminal charges against him for acts of torture committed by US security forces in various special prisons for suspected terrorists. Apparently, his broad authorization of certain extreme methods of interrogation was grounds enough for such criminal charges to be brought against President Bush.
I mention all this just to illustrate that there is really nothing very unusual in the political elite of a country seeking to shield its members from an appointment with the judicial officers at The Hague.
The surprising thing is not that the Kibaki administration should be seeking to protect “the Ocampo Six” but rather, that they should be going about it with such incredible incompetence.
There is recognition that there is something distasteful and morally dubious that has to be done. But there seems to be no awareness that however contemptuous this effort may be, once you have embarked on such a path, you have to be serious about it. As Chinua Achebe put it, “If you must eat a toad, then at least eat a really fat one.”
What the government is engaged in currently, amounts to a desperate and incoherent panic, of the kind which rarely ever succeeds in achieving the desired objectives.
On Saturday 12th March, for example, we learned that our Ambassador to the UN had delivered a letter to the President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute, Mr Christian Wenaweser, in which it was argued that “the ICC indictments pose a real and present danger to the exercise of government and management of peace and security in this country”.
This has an echo in a Wikileaks revelation of earlier this week, that quotes US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger writing to Washington in June 2009, that, “With respect to establishment of a Special Tribunal, Muthaura argued that moving too quickly could even cause civil war.”
Now two of “the Ocampo Six” are already facing criminal charges for corruption; charges of which we must assume they are innocent, until proven guilty.
But there has been no danger to the “exercise of government and management of peace and security” as a result of this. So why should there suddenly be such a threat if they have to travel to The Hague to answer charges for which they are likewise to be assumed to be innocent, unless found guilty?
In general, nothing marks out a man as being very likely guilty of some form of criminality, than if there are threats constantly made that if this man should be arrested and tried, there will be serious trouble for everyone else. It’s the equivalent of having your own friends pronounce your guilt from the rooftops. For if you are innocent, then why do they keep warning everybody of the consequences which will follow if you appear in court?
And when at one point we are threatened with this spectre of violence if a Special Tribunal tries these men locally; and at another time, violence is said to be assured only if criminal charges are brought against them at The Hague; then what are we to think?
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