BY MOSES KURIA
A lot has been said and written over Eldoret North MP William Ruto’s visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. Perhaps, no other incident has contributed to Kenyans knowing so much about ICC’s operations than Hon Ruto’s visit. Which begs the six million dollar question: Why has the ICC kept so much information, so many details about its operation to itself prior to this, dare I call it so, historic visit ?
Unfortunately in Kenya, it had come to a point where if one questioned the operations of ICC, he or she was branded as culpable, a suspect, a conspirator against justice, or one filled with fear. It reminds me of the journey to the realisation of a new Constitution when some of us were being branded as anti-reformers simply because we opposed a parliamentary system of government. The rule of the thumb in Kenya is to resort to some sort of McCarthyism and scare away dissenting opinion with mass hysteria.
Before Hon Ruto went to the Hague, Kenyans had this impression of a fire-eating ogre called Luis Moreno O’Campo who had no regard for fair and transparent process, neither for the tenets of natural justice that pre-suppose innocence until proof of guilt. Kenyans appear to be dumb-founded that through the voluntary appearance to share information and set up mechanisms for due process, the ICC process may even have higher thresholds of evidence admissibility than, say Western courts.
This is extremely significant as it will ultimately ensure justice for victims of post-election violence while shattering the illusionary, evil dreams of those who thought they could use the ICC process either to subvert justice or to settle political scores by getting their opponents out of the playing field ahead of the 2012 General Elections
Even as we recover from that artificially inseminated myth, Kenyans are yet to be explained to that it is not automatic that Mr Ocampo will get the indictments and herald Kenyan suspects to the detention centre in The Hague. The pre-trial chamber has to be convinced. In any case, the judges have to issue summons to the suspects first and only if they ignore those summons can the warrants of arrest be issued. Once the suspects co-operate willfully, they will continue to enjoy full liberties until the cases are concluded. Those liberties include continuing with their political agenda for 2012, 2017 and 2022 General Elections.
This general lack of information and civic education from the ICC only helps to feed the grapevine and create misconceptions which do not ultimately help ICC’s work in Kenya. Recently, I raised this issue with the ICC team in Kenya in a forum organized, not by the ICC, but by Wambugu Ngunjiri’s Kikuyus-for-Change forum. From what I gathered from the ICC team, there appears to be a major disconnect between the investigatory, witness protection and public information departments at the ICC. The three departments appear to be operating in discord hence the reason there has been very negligible if any public information and civic education process since the ICC commenced the Kenyan case.
In this ensuing scenario, accuracy of information is thrown to the dogs and that void is filled by speculators and rumour mongers at best, and at worst deliberate mis-information to achieve political, ethnic and other sectarian agenda. The political agenda invariably involves using the fairy tales to knock political opponents out of the game or trying to criminalize and mix up humanitarian efforts during the crisis with aggression
Other than the loads of fresh information, education and clarity that have come forth from Hon Ruto’s visit to Den Haag, the other major benefit is the re-direction of the Hague debate to what I consider the core issues of this conflict. The unearthing of some of the minutes of ODM’s pentagon meeting minutes rightly refocuses this debate to where it ought to be. During the crisis, some of us were categorical that disputes and grievances over election results is by no means a justification for the scale of violence that was witnessed.
Mr Ruto’s allies have challenged the ODM leadership to produce the Pentagon minutes. I am of the view that the issue of Pentagon minutes is so fundamental that no process can be deemed fair and just unless those minutes are produced.
For starters, I got hold last week a copy of a purported copy of the Pentagon minutes of 8th January, 2008 that discussed the Kiambaa tragedy. In those minutes, the entire ODM pentagon (Save for the absence of Joe Nyaga) and two non-Pentagon legal advisors who are now cabinet Ministers appeared to have celebrated the heroism of those behind the Kiambaa genocide and poured cold water on the incident as an act of “collateral damage”. Verification, authentication and admissibility of such minutes is the minimum one can expect from the ICC.
Finally, let it be known that an overwhelming majority of Kenyans are committed to fair conclusion of the post-election file so that victims can get the justice they yearn for and the country can heal and move forward. What we need is more transparency and free flow of information from the ICC to the Kenyan people. What we do not need is mischievous mis-information, obfuscation and devious use of the ICC process for myopic, selfish political and ethnic agenda.
(The author is an official of the Party for National Unity (PNU). The views expressed herein are his own and do not represent the position of the Party for National Unity. [email protected])