What Uhuru Kenyatta win means for the ICC case

Many East Africans are optimistic that the Kenyan elections will turn out well. The polls suggest the presidency could go either way between the two leading candidates, Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.
 Gitura Mwaura
Gitura Mwaura

Many East Africans are optimistic that the Kenyan elections will turn out well. The polls suggest the presidency could go either way between the two leading candidates, Mr Raila Odinga and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

Uhuru’s candidacy, however, has attracted considerable regional and international attention on account of his looming International Criminal Court (ICC) trial.

The Kenyan High Court has just cleared the way for him to run dismissing arguments that the pending ICC trial make him ineligible.

Though the petitioners have vowed to challenge the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court, as things stand, a Kenyatta presidency is possible, if not anticipated by his supporters across the borders.

Regionally, all indications emanating from the East African Community’s diplomatic circles—and State Houses—suggest an attitude to let the election process take its natural course as the noisy Kenyan politics are wont to be. They will abide by the voters’ decision.

The regional prayer is that peace prevails before, during and after the elections: that the voters and their preferred choice of candidate exercise their respective rights—and responsibilities—as legally provided in the new Constitution.

Everybody knows that any violent fallout from the elections will not spare anyone in the EAC, going by the experience of the 2007 elections in Kenya and their violent aftermath.

Any violence this time will also not spare fragile and prospective members to the East African Community such as the Somalia and South Sudan.

What has been gained in Somalia against the Al Shabaab militants may be pulled back, while the strides made to reign in South Sudan in the regional economic fold may falter.

The general consensus regionally and internationally, therefore, is that Kenya must remain stable after the elections, even in the event of a “violence-free” worst case scenario.

The scenario speculates on what would likely happen should Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, also set for the ICC, not cooperate with the international court after winning the presidency.

The scenario is likened to that of that of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. The ICC issued two warrants in 2009 and 2010 for his arrest for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

For his refusal to cooperate, there have been international trade sanctions, while President al-Bashir now can only travel to friendly countries where he may not be arrested, even on the continent and within the East African Community.

Malawi, South Africa and Botswana, as members of the ICC, have already made it clear that President al-Bashir cannot set foot in those countries. Otherwise, he risks arrest and be handed over to the international court.

Uganda twice failed to assure the Sudanese leader of his safety from arrest leading to a decision by him not to travel to the country.

Activists in Kenya went to court after the government failed to arrest President al-Bashir when he visited the country in August 2010 during the promulgation of the new Constitution. The High Court issued a warrant of arrest obliging the government to do so should he again travel to the country.

Which brings us back to UhuRuto—as the presidential candidate and his running mate have been tagged, combining both their names.

It is not expected that the two will fail to cooperate with the ICC. But, in the eventuality that they do, what then?

The region seems set to stick with their own, while analysts are agreed that the Kenyan situation is not necessarily Sudan’s.

Opinion is divided, but there is an expressed reluctance “to unravel long-held diplomatic, trade and military ties with one of Africa’s more stable democracies and an anchor of stability in a volatile area.”

Others say if it came to that, the people will be left out of it; that sanctions may be limited to the individuals concerned and to political affairs, as US and European economies are too heavily invested in the country to want to lose out in case of trade sanctions.

In the meantime, the International Monetary Fund has predicted a positive economic growth trend, whoever takes the presidency.

I hold no brief for either candidate, but this column is for the odds that Kenya and the region will emerge unscathed.

Twitter: @gituram

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