A section of Members of Parliament think it is a grand idea for us to have a special tribunal, after all. One whose law Parliament will write, legislate and sign into being, acting all on its own, hallelujah!
But I am running ahead of myself. Let’s refresh our memory. In February last year when peace was made between President Kibaki and his rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, there was a raft of things that they committed to doing to ensure that there is peace, love and unity and that we can all live happily ever after.
There are villagers, without sense whatever, who had been incited by politicians to kill their neighbours so that they could take their land. For any of us to be safe, it must not be possible for one person to take a panga and chop off another’s head for property. So, with the exception of the inciters and the choppers, we more or less were all united in the expectation that we would see some form of justice, both for the victims and the for sake of our own security.
So we all applauded when former Justice minister Martha Karua drafted the two bills for a special tribunal and asked Parliament to amend the Constitution so that the tribunal would be, as they say in politics, anchored in the Constitution.
MPs said No. There will be no special tribunal, the suspects should be taken to the International Criminal Court at The Hague immediately, ruled our sagacious MPs. The chief reason advanced for opposing the tribunal was that it could be manipulated by powerful people, just like the courts, and therefore justice would not be served.
For many Kenyans, that decision did not make sense. The ICC will try three or four of the worst warlords. We needed a tribunal to process the small, but murderous, fry. In any case, MPs had every opportunity to rewrite the law to protect the tribunal from manipulation. But no, MPs in their wisdom threw out the baby with the bath water.
MPs were impervious to the pressure applied by mediator Kofi Annan and the Special Prosecutor of the ICC Moreno-Ocampo, as well as diplomats from countries which normally meddle in our affairs. Their minds were made up, no tribunal.
I have not read the bill that MPs will be bringing to the House, but I hear it is the same one that the Cabinet gave up on. The only difference is that the President is denied his constitutional right to assent to it. I presume Parliament wants to make sure that he does not throw it out.
Here is what I think. There is a good reason why there are three arms of government. It is always a bad idea when one arm tries to do the job of the others. We all remember what happened in the Kanu regime when the President used to run Parliament and the Judiciary. Not only was the cult of personality nauseating, the resultant corruption and lawlessness is part of the reason why there isn’t a forest standing in this country.
To my mind, neither the President nor the Prime Minister have said or done anything to suggest that they have a problem with a local tribunal. I remember the two addressing MPs to try and prevail on them to establish it. Rather than MPs trying to be President, Prime Minister and Parliament all rolled in one, they should stick to their job but make sure that they do it right.
Let them, by all means, write the law. Let them pass it and present it to the President for his signature. If he rejects it without good reason, it will be a simple matter of overriding his veto and enacting the law anyway.
Are MPs justified in their fear that the President will interfere with the tribunal to secure immunity against prosecution for himself? If the President is of that mind, what can the tribunal do?
My own thinking is that if the President, the premier or any of the powerful people are guilty of crimes against humanity, their trial will not be here. It will be at The Hague. It is the smaller criminals for whom the tribunal must be set up.
I am also old enough to know that putting a sitting President of Kenya, or Prime Minister, or of any other country for that matter, on trial is easier said than done. Even the ICC, with all its diplomatic muscle, can’t do much, as is the case in Sudan.
It occurred to me that the election is much closer than many people think. There is a two-year window within which to carry out all these reforms. There is no time to waste with political schemes. Get on with it.
This whole week, I have been asking our journalists to go out and find out how ordinary people are finding it living in Blackout Kenya.
We often don’t know how important something is to our culture and daily routine until we lose it. For me, a blackout means that unless I wake up at 4 a.m. to switch on the heater, then I am going to have to shower from a basin.
There is nothing on earth I hate, loathe, despise like than having to shower out of a bucket. It is the most undignified, useless, futile, unsatisfying exercise in the whole wide world. It has nothing to do with the amount of water.
You can have a whole parade of buckets and empty them all on your body. You still won’t feel any fresher. For me, bending over a bucket is the essence of poverty, underdevelopment, powerlessness, hopelessness and despair. I’d much rather have rickets than bend over a bucket.
I reserve a small, hard place in my heart for the Kenya Power and Lighting joker who, in a fit of Orwellian crap-speak, thought that cutting power is “load management”. Load management my foot.
Mutuma Mathiu is the managing editor, Daily Nation; email@example.com