Are Kenyans inextricably beholden to politicians?

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By Elias Okwara

My previous blog "Kenya has its failures," posted in The Citizens Blog January 21, this year drew a number of interesting reactions. From respected peers and academic mentors, to dissenting views published in varying media.

The resultant atmosphere from the International Criminal Court proceedings in relation to the so-called Ocampo Six seems to sadly buoy the contention that Kenya\’s stability is not steady. Perhaps more troublesome, the Failed States Index 2010 report asserting Kenya\’s shaky stability appears also anchored in official government position therein.

This was signified by a recent missive from the Kenyan Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as reported in the news media, who petitioned the President of the Assembly of States to the Rome Statute, with regard to the Kenyan case. 

Letter\’s implications

The February 28, 2011 letter argues, essentially, that some of the six individuals accused of masterminding the 2007-8 post election violence, apparently among the frontrunners for the presidency in 2012, are joined at the hip with the peace and security of Kenya and Kenyans, and by extension the peace and security of the region.

To begin with, it signifies that our stability leaves a lot to be desired in two respects. On one hand, this letter suggests that our competent security apparatus can neither avert nor suppress the resultant violence.

On the other hand, more detrimentally, it supposes that Kenyans are inextricably beholden to their political leaders; so much so that we willingly embrace violence on their behalf. Regardless, it remains that human security within the country, and therefore state stability, would be gravely jeopardised were the ICC proceedings to continue, as far as the government is concerned.

While not being privy to detailed security assessment of the country makes it difficult to substantively deduce the capacity of Kenya\’s security apparatus, one can easily make an assumption that Kenya\’s chief UN representative has credible information, beyond just about the possibility of people rising up in arms, to make him contend that there would be a return to "violence and loss of life".

This introduces another possible implication that has to do with state structure, separate from a violent backlash from the citizenry and inability of security forces to prevent or stop that violence, whose sacred core is a monopoly on the use of violence.

To this, the letter further asserts that some of the accused are "charged with responsibilities for peace and security", insinuating that Kenya\’s security structure would also bulk at the prospect of further ICC proceedings. As such, whether intended or not, the missive gives the impression that continued proceedings against the six would not only threaten the internal peace and security of Kenya, but would also compromise her sovereign defence capability.

I had detailed the social, economic and political indicators used by the Failed States Index in determining the need for the global community to be "Alert" over Kenya\’s stability, and the government\’s letter looks to give credence to the scores accorded: Kenya was ranked 13th least stable country out of the 177 examined.

A perfect storm

One logical conclusion to be drawn is that if conducting proceedings of the six all the way in Europe would likely elicit violence as indicated by the government, having any credible proceedings for the six in the country is likely to push us over the brink of precipice.  Aren\’t we likely to go through a complete series of the 2007-8 violence when we have a credible local process for the six, run by fellow Kenyans? Aren\’t we likely to witness ethnic divisions magnified to consequential, disastrous proportions?

It would then seem that proposing a "12 month reprieve" so that the six are pursued by a state that admits to its instability might not necessarily follow. The letter appears to provide a strong case in favour of continued involvement of this Court of last resort. It is not difficult to see the portentous connection between those stability indicators and a convergence of violence and incapacity of security forces to create a perfect storm of destabilizing chaos. The political class, for whom Kenyans would seemingly fight, has already made it clear that it is combat ready over the six individuals.

The fate of Kenya\’s stability, does however, largely lie with the populace in this case, as it is wananchi who would embrace violence and it is wananchi who would bear the brunt of chaos.

Absent a murderous mayhem driven by the people, security structure incapacity would be moot.



(“The writer is a foreign affairs analyst based in Brussels, Belgium.)

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