BY EZEKIEL MUTUA
Kenya has been taken for a ride over the decades by all manner of foreign spivs and ne\’er-do-wells. But the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, looks set to outdo them all. Welcome to the theatre of the absurd.
Ocampo\’s long delayed announcement of the names of the six prominent individuals he reckons hold the greatest responsibility for the post-election violence (PEV) of 2007-08 was a damp squib of an anticlimax, contrary to tabloid newspaper headlines screeching "Thunderbolt" and such other total pish-tosh.
When Ocampo finally tabled his accusations against the six, their absurdity and irrelevance were breathtaking. This is not to say that, taken at the individual level, these are not serious charges. Indeed their implications are monumental. Kenyans were stunned by Ocampo\’s inclusion in his list of the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, ambassador Francis Muthaura, former police boss Maj Gen Hussein Ali and Kass FM broadcaster Joshua arap Sang.
As one MP blurted out in shock, to finger Mr Muthaura was tantamount to accusing the Presidency and, by extension, the person of the President. Mr Muthaura is also the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President. As for Mr Sang one would have expected him to be processed lower down the ICC\’s food chain, not among the frontline.
Ocampo has a reputation as an unorthodox and unduly melodramatic operative. On the day that he issued the warrant of arrest against Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, he actually had lunch with the man in his house in Khartoum, breaking bread with him and showering him with niceties.
Ocampo then got onto a plane for Europe and issued the warrant before dinner, to President Bashir\’s utter consternation. Bad faith, back-stabbing and sheer mendacity don\’t come much worse than this.
In Kenya\’s case, Ocampo long ago declared aloud that he was out to make Kenya an exemplarily deterrent case. When I first heard it, I remembered a series of articles in the British humour magazine Punch many years ago that purported to have been written by former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada. Such satirical pieces were written in wretchedly broken English and were full of woolly thinking.
One line kept recurring in the funniest of these articles and it was: "I will give you a fair trial and then hang you" or "give him a fair trial and then shoot him." Ocampo is behaving as if nothing has happened in Kenya since the PEV; not all the reconciliation and healing, not the new Constitution, not the ongoing installation of the New Kenya or the war on graft. He is simply bent on making Kenya a guinea pig case of his trial exploits.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done, we must be reminded that we chose the Hague option by refusing to adopt a local tribunal, forcing Kofi Annan to hand over the matter to the ICC. However, the media have also serially overlooked an intriguing fact.
Ocampo leaves office in June 2012, at the end of his nine-year term. Because the Kenya case could take about three years, Ocampo may never actually finish what he started with such maximum self-referential publicity and noise pollution. One of most astonishing things about Ocampo\’s limping performance in the middle of last week was his prevarication, bluster, evasiveness and flashes of irritability when he fielded questions from journalists.
Alex Chamwada of Kenya\’s Citizen TV asked the question of the day: Why was Ocampo naming these individuals now, so far ahead even of obtaining warrants? Why was he giving no thought to the damage this precipitate process might do the careers and reputations of the persons named? Few people now recall what Ocampo said. The second truly surprising thing was the realisation among Kenyans that Ocampo has relied on the lowest common denominator – gossip, rumour-mongering and outright lies.
He will have a heck of a time adducing proof in an open court, for practically every charge he has levelled at the Kenya Six borders on the frivolity. For instance, calling Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta "the focal point between Mungiki and PNU" during the PEV is, quite simply, both infamous and fatuous.
It is also the harvest of barfly gossip and speculation. The same holds true for the accusations against Amb Francis Muthaura. More critically, Kenyans are loudly asking what wrong Maj Gen Ali had done. What Kenyans remember most about the paratrooper and Army general who became the top cop was how he secured the capital city\’s central business district (CBD) to prevent the rioting mobs from accessing any part of it for weeks, until the PEV dust settled and negotiations began.
If the CBD had been overrun by riotous mobs the way it was on August 1, 1982, during the attempted coup by disgruntled elements of the Air Force, Kenya would have assuredly gone over the precipice and into the abyss.
Many Kenyans may not know that the ICC\’s very first trial – that of the Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga – was suspended by the judges on June 13, 2008, when it was discovered that the prosecutor had hidden material that had every chance of exculpating Lubanga. The astonished Bench remarked thus: "The trial process has been ruptured to such a degree that it is now impossible to piece together the constituent elements of a fair trial". In the case of the Kenya Six, the rupture occurred the minute Ocampo made pronunciations that echoed Punch\’s satirical Idi Amin "Dada…"Give them fair trial and then hang them." I rest my case.
(The writer is the Director of Information and Public Communications of the Republic of Kenya email:emutua @information.go.ke)