Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fimbo ya mbali...

That day certain Kenyans have been waiting for or dreading, depending on where your heart bleeds, is here. The Deputy President, without much fanfare, was called to deny that he is what the Office of the Prosecutor claims he is in open court at the International Criminal Court. Then he let his lawyer do the talking. In hindsight, Mr Ruto should never have presumed on the enlightened interest of Justice Wakia and his fellow commissioners, nor on the good nature of the first Prosecutor in the case; he should, at a minimum, hired a lawyer when it seemed as if the Waki Commission was coming after him and not Raila Odinga. He should have hired a lawyer when the human rights industry in Kenya trained its sights on him and not on the Prime Minister. He should definitely have hired a lawyer when he was never given adequate opportunity (or so he claims) to rebut allegations made against him, and secret lists were handed over to the mediator and the Office of the Prosecutor.

Mr Ruto's sojourn in The Hague is not our concern today; we are more interested in the legions of vitriolic and anonymous commentators on the web spewing hate for or against the continued trial of the deputy President. This blogger is firm in his belief that unless a court of law convicts you of an offense, even the notoriously shoddy courts of law in our neck of the woods, a man must be permitted his liberty to pursue his interests. This blogger refused to subscribe to the argument advanced by the anti-UhuRuto mob that because Mr Ruto had been indicted by the International Criminal Court, and that he had been adversely mentioned in a human rights report, and that he was embroiled in a dispute with a landowner who'd fled Eldoret in the 1990s, and that he was the accused in a corruption trial involving government land, that he should put on hold his political ambitions until these minor, personal legal challenges were resolved. This blogger robustly defended Mr Ruto's right to pursue his political ambitions like any other Kenyan.

Mr Ruto's supporters - more like fans, really - refused to let things lie with this neat principle. As did those who were adamant that Mr Ruto enjoyed no rights at all when he was an accused person. They went back and forth over the "implications" of an accused person holding high office with the pro-Ruto crowd arguing that it was a declaration of Kenyan sovereignty while the other side argued that it would further entrench the "culture of impunity" if the politician held high public office while undergoing trial for international crimes. This blogger would leave things at that but for the acerbic language employed in defence of either side's positions, and the allegations of tribal loyalty or disloyalty that accompany the arguments advanced for or against the innocence of the Deputy President.

Mr Ruto's supporters have advanced supporting arguments that amount to a questioning of the patriotism of the Kenyans who'd see Mr Ruto drawn-and-quartered by The Hague-based court. They question the nationalist credentials of Kenyans who have done much to advance the cause of human rights in Kenya. Those on the other side do not understand how "civilised" Kenyans could stand idly by as accused perpetrators of gross human rights violations are elected to high office or mastermind their parliamentary colleagues to frustrate the course of justice. They fear that Kenya will be a pariah state if it finds a way of manipulating the system to rescue the Deputy President's hide from the ICC.

Now that the trial is underway, there are few options left. Even the bloviators in the blogosphere know that the extent of their influence is limited to their followers and no further. Mr Ruto may or may not be convicted; that is for the ICC to determine. Whether we win the online argument, Mr Ruto's fate, sadly, is in the hands of a court that sits thousands of miles away from the men and women fulminating online.

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