22 January 2013

Kenya: Tell Us About Security, Jobs and Not ICC Cases


Listening to the CORD and Jubilee alliances on the campaign trail, one would think the International Criminal Court was founded in Kenya, by Kenyans, for Kenyans. The Uhuru-Ruto cases at The Hague have dominated the campaigns in a way that a foreigner would think that Kenyans do not have more pressing issues such as inflation, insecurity, unemployment and lack of consumer protection and price control.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka of the "shuttle diplomacy" fame has once again made the ICC the centerpiece of his public addresses. Unlike a few months ago when he spent millions of taxpayers' money globetrotting in the name of seeking international support to bar the ICC from trying Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, this time around Kalonzo is "warning" voters that voting for Uhuru and Ruto would scare foreign investors from Kenya. On the other hand Uhuru and Ruto have spent a lot of time deflecting or responding to these allegations.

Whereas the significance of the ICC cases cannot be ignored, it is irresponsible of the CORD alliance to dwell on the issue at the expense of addressing the real issues facing Kenyans. It is even more disturbing when a Vice President opts to scare Kenyans without backing up his argument. Kalonzo states with unusual certainty that if Uhuru is elected President "nobody will invest in Kenya." That is as far from the truth as Kalonzo and Jirongo calling themselves reformers.

First, Both Uhuru and Ruto are suspects, not convicts. They will still be suspects after the March 4th elections. They have not been indicted and they remain suspects until 2015 if ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's recently released schedule for the case is anything to go by. If Uhuru is elected President then the case may not even take place. He could also be acquitted. These are cases of a political nature and the outcome may be determined by the politics of the day. It is therefore unfair to make this a campaign issue considering that Uhuru and Ruto are before the ICC as individuals suspected of bearing the "most responsibility." This means there are other suspects who are not believed to bear "most responsibility" but suspects nevertheless. Could the suspects without "most responsibility" be Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki who were the Presidential candidates then?

Second, Kalonzo argues that "nobody will invest in Kenya" if Uhuru and Ruto form the next government. When did Kalonzo realize this? When he became a "reformer" on December 4th, 2012? Kalonzo is deliberately deceiving Kenyans. He knows that no multinational company has pulled out of Sudan since the ICC denounced his friend President Omar al Bashir.

Third, it is ironic that people like Kalonzo who have been known to chest thump about Kenya "going east" are now pretending to be so "concerned" that Western countries have threatened sanctions against Kenya if the ICC duo wins. Kalonzo and I met at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC on May 12, 2012 where I asked him if the government was concerned about its perceived notion of leaning to the East at a time when neighboring Tanzania was strategically balancing its dealings with both the West and the East and benefiting from both. Kalonzo's answer which was calculated to appeal to his audience was that Kenya has historical ties to the West that cannot be broken and that Kenya was just leaning East for "strategic" reasons. That is possibly true but where is the bravado he displayed seven months ago while telling the west to "respect" Kenya's "sovereignty?"

Kalonzo is also wrong on foreign investment because China, the country's main foreign investor thrives on rogue nations and would care little whether there is a democratic government or a Hague bound occupant of State House. In fact, China would love a situation where Kenya is isolated from the rest of the world so they can continue milking it dry as they have done in Sudan. The second major foreign investor in Kenya are Kenyans in the Diaspora. They are not going anywhere whether Uhuru or Raila is elected President. Diaspora Kenyans do not need politicians to analyze the risk of investing in Kenya. Their mothers, brothers, uncles, wives and girlfriends do the scouting for them.

The CORD coalition's insistence on making the ICC an issue in this election may be counterproductive to its presidential candidate. The Jubilee alliance cannot be exonerated either. Victims of Post Election Violence deserve justice but using the pending ICC cases as a scare tactic when both candidates and their running mates were key players in the events that led to the 2007/2008 violence is political conmanship.

These folks need to address the real problems facing Kenyans such as inflation which remains unbelievably high. Unemployment stands at 40 % (officially) and could be even higher in reality. Instead of talking about the ICC, these candidates need to tell Kenyans how they will address the runaway lack of price control and ensure consumer protection.

Kenya needs a new strategy for growth, based on reform and investment while shunning its preference for consumption without production. These and many others are the real issues Kenyans care about, not the ICC and its aftermath!

Mr. Kaberia is a Washington-based consultant on African politics. Email: tkaberia@yahoo.com

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