1 October 2011

Kenya: The Sky-High Political Stakes

The perception that the son of Kenya's founding President has the most to lose at the worst possible juncture of his otherwise charmed life should the charges proceed to full trial has been inescapable, whatever one's view of Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta's predicament - innocent, guilty, caught in a vast conspiracy, a complex combination of all these factors and others, you name it.

After all, he is not only the most highly elevated Kenyan to be taken to court in any jurisdiction in the 58 years since his own father's trial at Kapenguria on charges of managing Mau Mau, but he has also achieved that rarest of political feats - being the preferred successor of yet another outgoing President of Kenya, this time Mwai Kibaki.

In 2002 he was Daniel arap Moi's choice, but the second President of Kenya was barely in a position to credibly recommend anyone else after 24 years in power, having overstayed his welcome by at least a dozen of these years.

For the outgoing Mt. Kenya power elite, it was all-important that Uhuru be available and unencumbered for the Kibaki succession, for, unlike Moi, the third President of Kenya had two powerful bequests to transmit to him ahead of the Presidential transition Genera Election - an undisputed largely positive legacy and, for the first time in 20 years, a Central Kenya vote bloc ready to vote for someone other than Kibaki.

Both these factors would have given Uhuru considerable wind assistance in the race for the post-Kibaki State House. But then ICC Chief Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo struck on December 15, 2010, naming Uhuru as among the six individuals bearing the greatest responsibility for the atrocities of the post-election violence (PEV) of 2007-08. This was a move that threatened to derail the DPM's once-in-a-lifetime second endorsement by a departing President, this time as an infinitely more viable succession project.

Should the charges proceed to full trial, Uhuru's life and career will be thrown out of kilter, win or lose, for years to come. If he ultimately wins a full trial, it will have denied him participation at the 2012 Presidential election scheduled for August, deferring his hopes to 2017 or even 2022, depending on how long the trial process takes. If he ultimately loses in court, that will be the terminus of his career.

It is against this very high stakes background that Uhuru lawyers Gillian Higgins, QC, and Steven Kay, QC, rose in the Pretrial Chamber on Wednesday September 28 and easily made the most vigorous exculpatory presentations of the confirmation-of-hearings sessions. The shadow of the Kibaki Succession and Uhuru's key role in it hung over the Pretrial chamber like a cloak of context, although no reference whatever was made to it.

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