The International Criminal Court (ICC) has now become a permanent news item in Kenya, and a major issue across all of Africa.
Ever since Kofi Anan and the Chair of the commission investigating the Post Elections Violence Justice Phillip Waki introduced the possibility of the masterminds of the Post Elections Violence (PEV) being tried by the ICC, the Court has indeed become a player in the local Kenyan politics.
I have written on this blog before, and the fact remains that the ICC is an imperialist court. Some members of Parliament, the President, his Deputy and some African heads of state seem to have come to this realization just a year or a few months ago.
It is true that this court targets and is pleased to try Africans, right from the African Presidents to small time rebels. This is despite the fact that other than the Democratic Republic of Congo, the worst war crimes in the recent years have taken place outside of Africa.
It is also not just any other criminal African President/rebel that the ICC targets. Some can actually survive their dragnet if they have good relations with the western powers. In Libya for instance, armed rebels toppled and murdered Muammar Gaddafi with the support of the imperialist countries. In the process, they killed thousands of dark skinned Africans Workers who were operating in the different economic sectors in Libya. Today, it is Gaddafi’s son, Saif who is standing trial at the ICC and not the racist Al Qaeda linked rebels. (Nobody is telling us who is currently mining Libya’s oil). In the case of Ivory Coast, a rebel leader, Allasane Ouattara violently ousted President Laurent Gbagbo from power, with direct combat involvement of the French Army. While Ouattara had destabilized the north for many years, causing uncountable deaths and untold suffering to the people of Ivory Coast, it is Laurent Gbagbo who is sitting at the ICC, and not Ouattara. The biggest culprit in the DRC conflict which has claimed over 6 million lives is Rwanda’s Paul kagame, who at this moment a darling of imperialism hence untouchable by the ICC.
These few examples show the imperialist nature of the ICC.
Whenever the ICC debate arises, questions are always asked as to why former U.S president George Bush and the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair have never been tried by the ICC for their international war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives, and the future of several generations destroyed by the acts of these two mortals. Some people misapprehend this question and counter it by arguing that just because killer A was not tried and jailed, then it doesn’t mean that killer B should not be tried and jailed.
They do not understand the essence of this argument. This argument exposes the Imperialist nature of the ICC, since if the International Criminal Court was anchored on justice alone, and not on any other interests, then there should be nothing stopping them from trying and charging George bush and Tony Blair for their international war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some argue that the United States of America has never ratified the ICC treaty hence the George Bush is out of the question. Then why not try Tony Blair? If the ICC cannot try Bush for killing hundreds of thousands because the USA did not ratify the treaty, then why did it accept the referral against Sudan, yet Sudan has also never ratified the treaty?
Indeed, if the ICC was an independent court outside the influence of the imperialist countries, then the United Nations Security council (UNSC) would not have the powers to refer situations (individuals) to the ICC. Worse still, the UNSC would not have the powers to suspend investigations/prosecutions that are already under the ICC.
This conduct and modes of operation of the ICC are just a few examples that expose the political nature of the ICC, its lack of independence, and the fact that it is a tool of imperialism concentrating its eyes on the richest yet most vulnerable continent, Africa.
The Kenyan cases
Kenya, just like many African countries has had its foreign policies not informed by its own internal needs, but informed by external forces and blind followership of their former colonial masters.
In 2005, during the 9th Parliament’s debate on the ratification of the Rome Statute, only MPs Mwandawiro Mghanga (chairperson Social Democratic Party) and Paul Muite (Safina Party leader) debated against the ICC bill. The rest of the MPs, including Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, then KANU opposition MPs supported the bill.
In 2009, Kofi Annan in his capacity as the chief negotiator of the 2008 Peace Deal, gave the government two options; That it either establishes a local tribunal or he refers the Kenyan cases to the ICC. Two (or three if we count Gitobu Imanyara’s bill which still gave the ICC some space) attempts to set up a local tribunal failed. Politicians allied to William Ruto, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta voted down the bill. Raila Odinga supported and campaigned for the bill though a good number of MPs loyal to him voted it down. Uhuru Kenyatta, though he ‘voted’ for the bills, almost all the MPs then loyal to him voted against them. William Ruto openly opposed the bills and campaigned against them saying that we ‘should not be Vague, we should go to the Hague.’ The then President Mwai Kibaki supported the local tribunal option.
By the MPs rejecting the local tribunal option, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta had chosen the ICC option. It is possible that thought that since the ICC would prosecute those with the highest responsibility for the Post Elections Violence (PEV), then Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki were the ones going to the Hague (and possibly the reason as to why they were supporting the local tribunal). This would have resulted in the two of them(Uhuru and Ruto) becoming the top contenders in the elections that followed.
Well, that was not how it happened and the then ICC prosecutor Moreno Ocampo instead went for the second and lower tires of suspected responsibility for the PEV, with both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto topping the list.
According to Ocampo, the list had more names but he zeroed down to the six who bore the ‘highest responsibility’ (somehow excluding the likes of Najib Balala and including Journalist Joshua Sang!) and the court reduced them further to three (with Sang still hanging in there). Nobody seems to be now bothered about the other suspects on the Waki Commission list, neither are people bothered about the lower echelons of those responsible for the PEV.
Is President Uhuru Kenyatta an Anti-Imperialist and an Anti-Neocolonialist?
The ICC had three major effects in the Kenya’s 2013 national elections. First, it helped consolidate Uhuru’s grip of the largest voting bloc in the country, which is the Kikuyu-Meru-Embu votes. Whereas public opinion especially in Mount Kenya region was Pro-ICC, and remained the same even after Uhuru was named on the list, Ocampo’s arguments during the Pre-trial chamber hearings changed the public opinion in this region and Uhuru Kenyatta’s involvement in the PEV was now seen as that of a savior who led revenge attacks that that played a role in ending the PEV. Uhuru, taking advantage of this development, launch a series of “prayer rallies“ around the Mount Kenya region making sure that he was the De Facto leader in the region.
The second effect of the indictments is that it brought William Ruto (leading the second largest voting bloc) and Uhuru Kenyatta together.
The third result was that the first two developments sealed Raila Odinga’s fate on his quest for Presidency, and the Uhuru-Ruto coalition won the elections with a deciding majority in Parliament.
For some reason, powerful western countries were opposed to the Uhuru-Ruto candidature and even made statements to that regard. They preferred Raila Odinga who had proven to be an envoy of imperialism in Africa as could be seen with his positions on Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Libya. What was difficult to understand was why the Western governments decided to make their bias known to the Kenyan public rather than just support Raila financially from behind the scenes. Their threats only served to strengthen Uhuru-Ruto’s grasp on their supporters.
Then Uhuru Kenyatta threw in a few surprises.
· He revealed that the greatest person he has ever met was Nelson Mandela, while the person he admired the most and would like to meet was Fidel Castro. Comrade Fidel Castro is undoubtedly the world’s greatest political figure alive, a true revolutionary with a great love for humanity and a man who’s contribution to this world is not rivaled by many……but the shocker was the fact the Uhuru too, with his background, admired him and wanted to meet him!
· The second surprise was the Pan-African themed swearing-in ceremony held at Kasarani where even the last anthem played was the first verse of Mungu Ibariki Africa.
· The last surprise was his speech at the AU Special Summit held just over a week ago. It generated a lot of discussion within Africa’s progressive circles. It was so powerful that it is impossible to think that it was written by uhuru Kenyatta or anyone in his inner circles.
But do these and similar developments make Uhuru Kenyatta an anti-imperialist? Do they show that he understand how imperialism works? A look at a few examples paints a different picture.
Uhuru Kenyatta, during his tenure as the finance minister managed to take Kenya back into International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) claws, by borrowing money from them and making many agreements with them.(Kenya had consciously turned its back on it for 8 years.)
Recently, the Uhuru Kenyatta government has signed for more loans (totaling 60 B, I think) from the IMF. The IMF and the World Bank have been used as tools of imperialism and Kenya across all of Africa, and many African countries have never really risen above the damaging effects of the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 80’s and 90’s.
Going by Uhuru’s appointments to his government, he has shown just how much he admires neo-liberalism, since majority of his appointees had IMF and WB backgrounds. No wonder one of the first activities of this government was to introduce VAT tax on basic food stuff, and even books!
The Kenya government and some politicians have said that Kenya now has an independent and reformed Judiciary, thus there is no longer the need for ICC in the Kenyan cases. I personally believe that the Judiciary is slowly reforming, and that we now have some very independent Judges in the Judiciary, but does Uhuru himself, also believe this?
Whereas he has been castigating the ICC as a foreign, neo-colonial and imperialist court, he has never raised a word against the Kenyan citizens that are illegally being detained in the US prison in Guantanamo Bay (possibly the worst prison in the world) and he has never said anything against the torture and detention without trial of Kenyans (terror suspects) in Uganda. There was even a time when the investigative journalist John Allan Namu asked him whether his government would intervene on behalf of the Kenyans being denied justice in foreign lands, and his response was about how Kenya will not allow terrorism etc etc. nothing about Justice for those who like him, are suspects, not confirmed criminals.
The Kenya Parliament voted to withdraw from the Rome statute, and the leaders of majority in both houses gave some good arguments explaining that move. But a candid Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs-Amb. Amina Mohammed, contradicted Parliament’s arguments and confirmed that Uhuru’s government does not care what happens to “the other Kenyan” at The Hague, since that was his “personal matter.” This shows us what Uhuru’s true position on foreign domination is. His message to imperialism could be that “you can do whatever you want to ordinary Kenyans and Kenya in general, as long as you do not touch me…..imperialism to the people, not to the President.”
Since independence, the British Army has continued to use Kenya as one of their most valued training grounds, yet Uhuru, who should be an anti-imperialist/anti-neocolonialist has not even threatened to evict them, even if the threat was just for his own selfish gains.
What come out of these few examples is that Uhuru is not an anti-imperialist, but some reasons, the imperialists are anti-Uhuru.
Clearly, President Uhuru Kenyatta will need a lot of lessons from the man he admires most, if he were to convert himself into a progressive individual.
Why we should support African Union’s onslaught against the ICC
Some confused Pan Africanists and Pseudo-Progressives have chosen to condemn AU’s en masse withdrawal from the ICC and have strongly come into the defense of, and support for the ICC. Some of the more petty ones claim that since the ICC has an African Judge, with an African Prosecutor, with African foot soldiers, then we should support it. (Just like saying that because colonialism had African administrators, then our forefathers should have supported it)
But we need to answer a few questions so as to know where progressives should really stand.
1.) Is the main reason behind AU’s threat to withdraw from the ICC good? The answer is No.
2.) Should we then support this main reason? The answer again is No. We should instead condemn the selfish interests that the Presidents have.
3.) If the AU countries quit the ICC, will that be good or bad? The answer is that that will be very good thing.
4.) Should we then support AU’s threat and possible withdrawal from the ICC? The answer again is yes.
We must differentiate between the cause, and the effect, what to support and what not to support. Just because one does not support AU’s reason, does not mean that one should then support ICC's domination.
*The positions that different countries took at AU special Summit with relation to withdrawing from the ICC can in fact be used as a yard stick of measuring the level of independence of the different African Presidents.
The question of Peace, Reconciliation and Justice
During the PEV of 2007/8, many lives were lost and the future of many families shattered.
The PEV was based on tribes, and not on any ideology. The campaigns then, just like the campaigns towards the 2013 elections were just tribal contests with each side heightening tribal animosity for their own benefit. There was no progressive ideological basis whatsoever. I do not support unprincipled Peace, but I’d rather we have Peace than have unprincipled violence. (Even Raila Odinga, with all his past, decided to put aside his principals and join in the tribal contest,,,,,,and then came out crying that the elections were rigged or that the Supreme court’s ruling on the tribal contest was unprincipled!)
It is true, that the Kalenjins and the Kikuyus, the two most involved ethnicities in the civilian-on-civillian PEV in 2007/8, campaigned together, voted together and celebrated their victory together in the 2013 elections.
Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, the AUC chair is also correct when she says that in as much as we need justice in Africa, Peace and Reconciliation are of paramount importance in Africa today.
During Ruto’s Pre-Trail chamber hearings, most Kikuyus and most Kalenjins were on opposite sides. Today they are united in supporting Ruto in his Trials. Even the chilling witness recounts that some had predicted would raise emotions have been ignored by a majority by these two ethnicities.
Does this then mean that Peace and reconciliation has been achieved?
Reconciliation between people cannot be achieved when no one has owned up to the crimes that they committed. Some people are still holding on to property that they violently stole during the PEV, others have assumed that nothing ever happened hence no apologies given, some IDPs had to be resettled elsewhere, some of those who butchered others are still walking free……
True reconciliation means people opening up and addressing the underlying issues, it means people facing those that they wronged, apologizing and asking for forgiveness, people returning what they stole, while those who committed heinous crimes being prosecuted and jailed. This should include not only the North Rift region, but all the places where PEV was experienced. This is an exercise that government should lead from the front.
Whatever exists now in the North Rift is temporary Peace, with the Uhuru-Ruto political ties acting as the guarantors.
Will the ICC give Kenyans, the victims and the accused Justice?
The ICC is an imperialist institution. Its decisions will not be based on evidence or truth. Its decisions will be based on the interests of the Western Powers.
That is why as Kenyans we must be very vigilant on the discussions that are going on between our government and Western Powers, and the agreements that might come out of it. If for instance Uhuru Kenyatta’s government agrees to host the US AFRICOM base on Kenyan soil, then their cases at the ICC will “crumble” and the two will be declared not guilty.
If imperialism wants to set an example of the two, then they will be found guilty, irrespective of how weak or strong the prosecution’s case is.
The way forward
Kenyans and Africans should wake up and be masters of their own destiny. We should end this notion that external dependency is the alpha and omega of development and progress. It is foolish to think that the forces that enslaved the African people, destroyed our history, colonialized our past, propped up dictators and assassinated revolutionary African leaders, destroyed our young economies in the name of loans/aid and views us as inferior due to the color of our skins will today become our saviors.
We must struggle and rise up against our own retrogressive systems here in Africa and overthrow the greed, rot, inequality and injustice, replacing it with justice, equality and humanity.
If our justice system does not work, then we should make it work, we should not run to the ICC for bogus fixes. Those Old powers and rising powers did not run elsewhere so as to strengthen their systems, it was the people themselves who rose up through numerous revolts and even revolutions in struggles towards improving their lives.
Africans should not sit pretty and expect solutions from the UNSC and foreign countries.
In the medium term, the AU should strengthen its institutions and show real commitment to ending impunity in Africa. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights should have the mandate to try all crimes beyond a certain magnitude. The idea that Presidents (and the powerful) cannot stand trial must be discarded completely since it is extremely backward and is part of what brings violence and instability in Africa.