MUNYAGA: Post-election violence victims too need justice
Kenyan Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang were on April 5th, 2016 discharged, but not acquitted, by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity for their role in the 2007-2008 post presidential election violence that resulted into many deaths, injuries and displacement of thousands of people.
The decision almost brought to an end the five-year saga of the original six suspects known locally as the “Ocampo Six,” named after former ICC Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo. They included then Deputy Prime Minister, now President Uhuru Kenyatta, Industrialization Minister Henry Kosgey, then Education Minister William Ruto, former Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, journalist Joshua Arap Sang and former Police Commissioner, Mohammed Hussein Ali.
The case against Kosgey, Muthaura and Ali collapsed at the pre-trial stage in September 2011. Ruto and Sang were formally committed to trial on September 10, 2013 while Kenyatta followed in February 2014. Charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta were dropped on December 5, 2014 after Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said she lacked evidence to prove him guilty beyond reasonable doubt. However, she reserved the right to file charges again “should she get more evidence.”
In a majority decision in the case against Ruto and Sang, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji and Judge Robert Fremr, agreed that the charges against Ruto and Sang be vacated and that the accused be discharged. However, Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia dissented, pointing out that the case had sufficient legs to stand on and prove the accused guilty as charged. The decision does not preclude new prosecution in the future either at the ICC or in local courts. The court left the doors open for appeal.
So, in a way, the circus goes on. ICC believes it can still net Kenya’s big potatoes while for President Kenyatta and most Kenyans that chapter in their national history is now closed. The President declared at a thanksgiving rally for the freed accused in Nakuru on April 16 that his country shall never again allow any Kenyan to be tried at the ICC. Kenya, he said, had competent courts to try any crimes.
A section of Kenyans have the right to celebrate that Ruto and Sang are currently off the hook but justice for the country’s victims of the post election violence (PEV) equally begs urgent redress. It is very unlikely that new PEV perpetrators shall ever be unearthed but the graves of the victims can never be hidden. Neither shall ever be the loss nor the grieving of those who lost dear ones and those still traumatized by the injuries they sustained and the homes they fled.
But best of all, is the experience that Kenya learnt through a spat of madness and irresponsible governance by people, who no doubt, thought they were untouchable. A sad reality of life in the country is its clear division along ethnic lines, which was also what happened in the 2007-2008 violence. The good side though is that Kenyans have learnt at a very high price that no tribe can annihilate another or forever transform themselves into the root of a political monarch.
The fact that ICC has failed to continue pressing charges against the accused doesn’t mean that there is no one in the country who knows what happened in PEV. In the eyes of men and their institutions of justice, that truth shall remain hidden from their view but there is one above from whom nothing can be hidden. Kenya needs healing, reconciliation and veneration of the principles that make it a great country.
The country’s National Anthem pegs the defence and protection of the people on justice for all. We can only hope that it is never sung in vain.
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