The arrival of Luis Moreno-Ocampo to Nairobi today, on paper, is
no more than a quick meeting to set up other meetings. But for many
Kenyans, Mr. Ocampo's arrival raises hopes that the victims of the
2008 post-election violence - apparently orchestrated by top Kenyan
politicians - may finally see some form of justice.
The Argentinian prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in
The Hague has his work cut out for him. Kenya's political class,
having signed in early 2008 an agreement to prosecute the kingpins
of the election violence in Kenya or formally request the ICC's
intervention, has ended up doing neither.
In his meeting today with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime
Minister Raila Odinga - the two rival leaders at the crux of the
election dispute - Mr. Ocampo will make clear that the ICC will
intervene, with or without the government's help.
So while Ocampo - famous for filing war-crimes charges against
the sitting president of Sudan for the deliberate targeting of
civilians in the Darfur conflict - will almost certainly not fly
home with a planeload of Kenyan war criminals, many Kenyans see this
as a turning point, where leaders who may have once killed with
impunity realize that their actions have consequences.
"Kenyans are divided and confused over all the euphoria of
Ocampo's visit," says Wafula Okumu, a Kenya expert for the Institute
for Security Studies in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa. "Some
people will argue that Ocampo is trying to impose his will on the
country, but Kenyans had a lot of opportunities and time to put this
thing to closure, and ... failed to do so.
"So now, it's going to be very difficult time for the two
principals [President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga], who will
face pressure from their followers to get out of this mess. And they
can't," says Mr. Okumu. "I think Ocampo's agenda is already set.
He's going to let them know what will happen next in the carrying
out of the investigation. The ICC is investigating in the field,
collecting evidence. The process is inevitable."
No rigging, intimidation, looting
Ocampo's visit is just the latest signal to Kenyan politicians
that the old manner of rigging elections, intimidating opponents,
and looting the treasury are no longer acceptable for a country of
Kenya's stature on the continent. Last month, former UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan visited Kenyan leaders to remind them of the
commitments they made to settle the deep issues that set Kenyans at
each others' throats, and the US assistant secretary of State for
Africa, Johnnie Carson, informed Kenyans that the US had identified
and banned top Kenyan politicians from travelling to the US, because
of their opposition to reform.
The sustained international pressure underlines that Kenya is too
important to be allowed to return to the tense days after the Dec.
27, 2007, elections, when violence by political activists killed
some 1,500 people, displaced around 300,000, and cut off key supply
routes for food, fuel, and other essential supplies for most of
Kenya's neighboring countries, from Sudan to Uganda, Rwanda, and
"I informed them, in December, I would request to the judges of
the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and that
is the process established by the Rome Treaty," Ocampo said today at
a press conference at the president's residence. "I explained to
them that I consider the crimes committed in Kenya were crimes
against humanity, therefore the gravity is there. So therefore I
Kenyans' patience wearing thin
Ocampo's visit comes at a time when Kenyan politicians are
exerting pressure on Kibaki and Odinga to slow the process of any
ICC investigation, and when progress toward rebuilding a stable
government is beginning to halt. The patience of many Kenyans is
wearing thin. …