Sunday, September 08, 2013

Our appointment in Samarra.

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture,  now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra. ~ Appointment in Samarra
This blogger keeps returning to this theme for a reason; this blogger believes that the continued conflation of the fates of the President and Deputy President with that of the sovereignty of the nation or the their relationship with the victims of the violence of 2007 and 2008, by the President's and Deputy President's ardent acolytes, is misjudged. When The National Alliance and the United Republican Party were formed, the nominal presidential candidate of the latter, William Ruto, and that of the former, Uhuru Kenyatta, had searched for a formula that would guarantee them victory against the apparently imminent victory of Raila Odinga, the Orange Democratic Movement Party of Kenya's candidate.

The events leading to the rise of the three parties to the top of the political firmament is a classic study of how raw ambition in the pursuit of political power, untrammeled by morality or notions of fair play, can have consequences than just the rise of political heroes or the fall of political villains. In 2007, in the face of an incumbent determined to win at all costs, William Ruto and Raila Odinga formed a formidable team. In 2008, long after the embers of the violence had died down, and Mr Ruto had been betrayed by Prime Minister Odinga, his casting about for a winning strategy would require that the events of the previous 10 months be cast in a light that would rewrite history and cast him as the victim of political perfidy. He could not have known that the decisions he made at that time would re-unite him with Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he had allied with twice before: in 2002 for Mr Kenyatta's ill-fated first presidential campaign, and in 2005, in opposition to Mwai Kibaki's attempt at making a constitution without the consent of the popular Raila Odinga.

It is now well-documented that Kenyans were murdered, raped, maimed and displaced, and their properties unlawfully expropriated or destroyed on a scale not witnessed since the days of the Emergency (1952 - 1959). Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, President and Prime Minister, agreed to appoint a Commission to Inquire into the violence. The Commission's report has been widely accepted as factual and honest, save by the President and Deputy President, though they only denounced the report when they were ensnared in its consequences, one of which was that if Kenya could not or would not establish a special judicial mechanism to investigate and prosecute offences committed in 2007 and 2008, the whole can of worms would be dumped in the International Criminal Court's lap. Kenya had signed up to the Rome Statute in the early months of Mwai Kibaki's first administration; Mr Kibaki could not have imagined that one of his favourite politicians would be in the cross-hairs of the ICC within a decade of ratifying the treaty. His minions had assured him that the Rome Statute was a valuable weapon in taming the impunity they claimed had become a culture under the twenty-four year reign of Daniel Toroitich arap Moi. They forgot that Mwai Kibaki and Mr Moi went back a very long way; what touched the one would inevitably touch the other. Perhaps this is why President Kibaki did nothing to domesticate the treaty. He would be forced to do so in the aftermath of the 2007 and 2008 crises.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, having rewritten the narrative of how Kenya came to be under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, needed to cast "new" light as to how they were the victims of a vast conspiracy. The ICC trials were no longer about assigning responsibility, and blame, on the persons responsible for the violence or the judicial satisfaction of the victims; the trials were alternatively or solely about the sovereignty of the nation; the usurpation of the peoples' will to elect political leaders of their choice; or about the racist tendencies of the ICC against Africa. Intellectuals were deployed in an effective campaign to revise the ICC narrative. One day before the Deputy President travels to The Hague for the start of his trial, the campaign against the ICC and the trials has been an unqualified success.

None of the players in this complex story are clean. Neither the civil society nor the Court itself come to the affair with lean hands. Neither too the accused or their apologists. It is because of the complex motives of each of the actors that the outcome of the trials is in doubt. What seems to have been buried under the plots and counter-plots is the fate of the victims. Their lives were demolished. Few of them are scar-free. Few of them have been made whole again. Few of them are free of the fear and desperation that they faced in 2008. Few of them have moved on. In our posturing and cant, their fates have become more political fodder for the survival or convictions of the accused, depending on where your sympathies lie.

In the anonymous story, the servant ran away to Samarra because he misinterpreted the gesture by Death. In Kenya, we misinterpreted calls for a domestic process and our President and Deputy President ended up in The Hague.

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