15 June 2012

Kenya: A Historic Step in the Right Direction

Up to a few days ago, the name of Paul Kipkemboi Ruto was not widely known to the nation. But earlier this week, he made history when he was jailed by a local court, for his part in a murder during the 2008 post-election violence.

For many months now, the nation has been focused on events taking place at The Hague, and the unprecedented drama of the high and mighty, being brought before an international tribunal, to answer charges of crimes against humanity. But it was at the village level that these atrocities took place.

And these atrocities were in many cases committed by ordinary small scale farmers in the countryside, who turned against men and women they had lived with peacefully as neighbours for years, and set out to systematically destroy their livelihoods or to murder them in cold blood.

Paul Kipkemboi Ruto was one such murderer. And the most chilling aspect of his cruel attack on his neighbour, was that he was just 19 years old when he took part in the murder of Kimani Thiongo in Timboroa, a small township to the north of Nakuru. Young men of 19 do not pick up machetes or bows and arrows, and set out on murderous arson attacks without some form of incitement.

No doubt the proceedings at The Hague will in due course reveal to us the identities of those who were the masterminds of this national tragedy. But even as we await this outcome, the life sentence handed out to Paul Kipkemboi Ruto sends out a clear message that the days when young men could engage in acts of wanton destruction, and even murder, and expect that their political overlords would protect them from the criminal justice system, are now over.

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