ICC trials mark decisive turning point in Kenya

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BY SALIM LONE

For someone who has never seen any senior official of the country\’s elite in the dock, the sight of two of the country\’s most powerful political leaders appearing at the International Criminal Court on Thursday for alleged crimes against humanity was an earth-shaking experience.

That I had worked closely with two of the accused, Mr Kosgey and Mr Ruto, made it even more so – there was an undeniable pull of sympathy, which was balanced by the recognition that they would get scrupulously fair trials.

There is no doubting the fact these ICC trials mark a decisive turning point in Kenya\’s history.

Whether the accused are acquitted or convicted, I cannot imagine now that anyone would again dare organise election-related violence, which has been our staple since 1992.

The most pernicious obstacle to lawful and accountable governance in our country has always been impunity, whose persistence continually threatens to undo all the astounding democratic gains we have made since the end of the KANU era in 2002.

Kenyans have therefore sought no goal more ardently than the end of impunity.  If we had not begun that journey towards justice now – when the legacy of more than 1,300 of us brutally killed and hundreds of thousands maimed or uprooted from their homes is still resonant – then we never would.

Kenyans felt deeply ashamed by the violence that racked this nation three years ago. But as they watched the hearings start on live television they should stand tall about their maturity in supporting trials that would be scrupulously fair in obtaining justice for those who perished.

This is NOT because the six are being tried by the ICC – if a genuinely independent local tribunal had been formed, most Kenyans would feel the same way as they do now.

Finally, Kenyans should be proud of the fact that this defining moment of our history resulted from the work of unprecedented judicial courage by a Kenyan, Justice Philip Waki, who in turn was executing a mandate given by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the eight-person Serena team – all of them Kenyans. We were not dragged to the Hague by western powers.

Most of us ended up opting for the ICC only after a local tribunal was shot down, and some leaders actually argued in favour of The Hague.

(Mr Lone works in the Office of the Prime Minister)

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