In 2010 Ivory Coast held the final round of its general elections where President Laurent Gbagbo faced opposition leader and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. The country’s Independent Electoral Commission declared that opposition leader and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara had defeated the country’s incumbent President Laurence Gbagbo for the presidency.
However their Constitutional Council declared these results invalid and declared Gbagbo the winner. Violence broke out leaving hundreds dead and tens of thousands as refugees in their own country over the next several months.
In April 2011 CNN reported that President Gbagbo had been offered a professorship at Boston University if he renounced his claim to the presidency. A spokesman for US Senator James Inhofe confirmed that the American State Department had asked if Gbagbo would accept the position, and that the former president had been assured that the International Criminal Court would not charge him with crimes.
Our very own Raila Odinga, then Prime Minister, and an African Union special envoy to the Ivory Coast crisis was quoted as one of the leaders who urged Gbagbo to accept the offer. Gbagbo rejected the deal. Today he is facing charges at the International Criminal Court.
At around the same time this was going on in Ivory Coast, a group of locals in Syria took to the streets to protest the arrest and torture of 15 schoolchildren for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. The protests, which started peacefully, exploded into violent clashes against the Assad-led Syrian government when the government opened fire on the demonstrators and killed four of them. Today unconfirmed reports indicate that close to 100,000 people have died in Syria as a civil war rages on between rebel forces trying to oust President Assad, and loyal government forces.
In May this year the CNN carried another report by a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, proposing that America should now help Turkey, Israel and the Arab nations liberate Syria from Assad. The report suggested that Assad and his close allies be allowed to leave Syria for Russia, Iran or elsewhere, quietly. Basically Assad is being offered a similar offer to that made to Gbagbo.
One can safely assume that if Gbagbo had taken former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s advice he would not be at the ICC today; despite the fact that hundreds of Ivorians were dead and tens of thousands displaced due to his actions earlier. The same scenario most likely applies with Assad, especially if he walks away when he still can. The over a hundred thousand dead will end up being sacrificed in pursuit of peace, for Syria and the world.
These two cases show the reality that is the international justice system; that justice consistently ends up the loser if a choice has to be made between peace and justice, for a country to move forward. In fact I would suggest that this is why neither former President Kibaki, who was in charge of a government many accept used too much force against ‘peaceful’ protestors; nor former Prime Minister Odinga, who was in charge of a political formation that called for public actions that ended up provoking violence, were taken to the Hague when there was an agreement supported by the international community, that created the Coalition government between the two protagonists. This means the international community, be it the AU, BRICS, EU, America, etc, is not averse to facilitating and ‘cutting a deal’ with people associated with violence, if it will lead to peace.
So why is this so hard to accept in the Kenyan situation?
Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto pursued a campaign strategy for 2013 based on very similar logic to what the international community pursues in other scenarios; i.e. establish a political compromise that introduces temporary national calm, to allow more structured pursuit of permanent national peace. They then assured Kenyans (and the world) of a peaceful election in 2013 and initiated public discourse on a process towards national reconciliation. At the very least we are better off today than we were at this point, after the 2007 elections.
This is why the growing effort to portray Kenya as a pariah state because we elected Uhuru and Ruto must be denounced strongly. This starts with castigating the comments from the American White House that Obama will not come to Kenya because of the ICC cases. This effort to promote continuous political competition in Kenya around the ICC issue seems to suggest that some in the American government have not accepted Kenyans decision on March 4th 2013.
This is why #SomeoneMustTellObama that as much as we love him we will not accept his government’s attempts to influence our local politics, anymore. We made our choice and we will live with it. We cannot afford a new round of political campaigns barely three months after a bruising general election. This is not in the best interests of his fatherland.
(Wambugu is a political commentator)