Saturday, March 09, 2013

Sovereignty?

Eric Ng'eno rightly celebrates the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya's fourth President (Donors will have to respect sovereign boundaries or risk being sidelined. Daily Nation, Saturday, March 9, 2013.) But Mr Ng'eno focuses on the wrong lesson to be drawn from Mr Kenyatta's and Mr Ruto's election. While it is obvious that the West would have preferred a Raila Odinga victory, and that they did all in their considerable power to shift the ballot in Mr Odinga's favour, the lesson we must draw from the Kenyatta victory is not that Kenyans have re-asserted their sovereignty; it is that Kenyans have abandoned all pretense at fealty to the rule of law.

We must all agree that the indictments of the two at the International Criminal Court was not a bar to them offering themselves for election. The loud campaign against their candidacy was rightly stymied by the Judiciary. But it is instructive that a large proportion of those that cast their ballot for Jubilee did it with the express purpose of "protecting" Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto from the clutches of the ICC prosecutor. That is how they understood the situation and that was their motivation for choosing Jubilee over CORD.

What seems to have slipped the minds of many, including Mr Ng'eno, is that millions of Kenyans are yet to receive justice for the crimes perpetrated against them. Thousands of Kenyans were murdered; we seem to have forgotten this. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were driven from their homes in the dead of night and their properties either destroyed or unlawfully expropriated; we seem to have forgotten this. Hundreds of thousands of women and children suffered unutterable violations; we seem to have forgotten this. And in the bright new dawn of a Jubilee jubilation, we seem to remind them that regardless of the outcome of the general election, and the presidential contest, their pursuit of justice must play second fiddle to the test of wills between Kenyan "sovereignists" and foreign powers.

Mr Ng'eno argues that the past fifty years has seen Kenya play second fiddle to world powers, giving up its sovereignty bit by bit until it has been retaken by the Jubilee victory. Mr Ng'eno glosses over the fact that Kenyan sovereignty is on paper only; it is only our constitution that declares it. But the reality is that we cannot escape the fact that Kenya is a minor player in a globalised world; when the World Bank and the IMF and other "development partners" attach conditions on their "grants" and "aid", how sovereign are we?

I put it to you that the point of international relations is trade and the nation with the most to sell and the least to buy enjoys greater power than a nation that finds itself in the opposite camp. Jubilee's flip response to threats of consequences by the West was to hint at a deeper relationship with the East, especially China in the style of the Republic of the Sudan. Even a casual examination of the relationship between Kenya and the People's Republic of China shows that it is deeply unequal; we need them more than they need us. For proof, one need only look at the moves China is making in Kenya with regards to newly discovered deposits of oil and gas in parts of the country; China has studiously avoided making any play for them, leaving the field open to companies from the West. China's decision to fund major infrastructure developments are done with an eye to southern Ethiopia and the fledgling state of South Sudan. Kenya is merely a means to a Chinese end. Even China's covert participation in AMISOM's pacification of Somalia is done with an eye to ensuring that its major investments in South Sudan and Ethiopia are free from perennial political risk in the Horn of Africa.

If Kenya had the capacity to demonstrate its sovereignty in it truest form, it would not have allowed the rich and powerful to rely on their wealth and power to escape the clutches of justice. Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto are yet to be convicted of anything to do with the 2007/08 conflagration; but the fact that they were indicted by a foreigner speaks volumes to our claim of sovereignty. It would have been less stinging if the Establishment had properly investigated the crimes, and prosecuted those not indicted by the ICC. As it is, in the fifth year of seeking justice, victims of post-election violence have nothing to show except chest-thumping by two men accused of committing such horrific crimes. This is the sovereignty that the likes of Eric Ng'eno treasure?

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