Last week Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo termed as “impunity” declarations that William Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta’s presidential campaigns will not be affected by the ICC ruling. “It’s unfortunate they appear to say that Chapter Six has no meaning and also ridiculous that they appear to say that the Public Officer Ethics Act has no meaning,” he stated.
Mutula must have read the book ‘Profiles In Courage’, written by a junior senator from Massachusetts in 1956 who was to become the 35th President of America in 1961; i.e, John F Kennedy, who wrote true accounts of heroic acts by eight American Senators at different junctures in their nation’s history.
There was Senator John Q Adams, the son of a former American President (and a president later, himself) who in 1807 voted in support of a British Embargo bill that ruined the economy of Massachusetts; a state whose economy wholly depended on trade with Britain. He came from Massachusetts and his support of this bill cost him his senate seat. However he believed that ‘private interests must not be put in opposition to public good’.
In 1851 Senator Daniel Webster made a speech referred to as the ‘Seventh of March’ speech that started with the words ‘I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, not as a northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States of America’. His speech supported a position that destroyed his 20-year pursuit for the presidency.
In each case in the book an American Senator had taken a public position that was unexpected, unpopular and that went completely against personal/political interests. They opposed their party, the states that voted them in, the supporters who campaigned for them and/or their own friends and advisors. However the political capital they sacrificed put their nation on the right turn at a political cross-road that would otherwise have split America.
JFK admits that ‘no one likes the public more than himself, but that there are cases where a politician’s belief in himself is so high that his self-respect demands that he follow the path of courage & conscience, & in the process the public benefits’. This is what he calls the path of ‘courage; a deep seated belief in oneself, their integrity & their cause’.
I have interacted with Mutula Kilonzo and his belief in himself is very high! However there have been many other moments in Kenya where monuments of individual conscience stand out in seas of popular rule; Dedan Kimathi did it when he walked out of a City Council job in Nairobi and into the Aberdare Forest to fight for Kenya’s independence; Jaramogi Odinga did it when he was the lone voice calling for the release of Kenyatta; Nelson Mandela did it by choosing to work with President Botha in South Africa; Professor Wangari Maathai did it when she stood up to hired goons to protect Karura forest, etc.
The martyrs and victims of the KANU rule were in this ‘zone’ when they fought for democracy and multi-party politics. Even Moi had his moment, when he handed over power to Kibaki peacefully in 2002. In 2008 Kibaki and Raila each ignored their advisors, came down from their individual positions, and agreed to work together in a Coalition Government.
In each case independence of thought went against popular group-think and ‘right’ stood fast against ‘strategic’ interests. In each case someone did what they believed needed doing, despite personal consequences, obstacles, dangers and pressures.
Mutula Kilonzo has been met with angry reactions based on the argument that the Constitution does not bar anyone confirmed to have a case at the ICC from running for the highest office in the land. Even the party he serves as Secretary General (Wiper Democratic Party) has publicly disowned him/his statements and stated that they are his personal opinions and not the position of the party. But Mutula is a man of ‘courage’ and he has stuck to his guns, even telling his party that ‘Kenya and her people are much bigger than Wiper and Kalonzo combined!’
However those attacking him are missing the point; the issue is not whether someone suspected of having crimes against humanity can run for public office or not; that really is up to them. The issue is what the citizens decide.
We are living in a democracy well defined under our new constitution and every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, ‘holds office’. As some quote other chapters let me take you to chapter 1; clause 1; ‘Kenya’s sovereign power rests in the people of Kenya’.
In Siasa Mpya we say ‘Mimi Ndiye VIP (I am the Boss). This means that we, the Kenyan people, will decide what happens to Uhuru & Ruto should their ICC cases be confirmed. Incidentally the process will be quite similar to what we would do if an individual applied for a job in our homes or office, while still involved in an ongoing criminal case against him at our local magistrate’s court.