The Kabugas of Kenya will have nowhere to run

Monday November 3 2008


THE MOST EXCITING Presidential campaign in recent American history comes to a close on Tuesday with very strong prospects that Barack Obama will sit in the Oval Office.

The “son of a Kenyan” has been leading comfortably according to the pollsters.

If the projections are to be believed, Mr Obama will take the national popular vote by a 5 per cent margin over his rival John McCain, but sweep the all-important count of electoral college delegates.

A simple majority, 270 out of 538 delegates, is required. My own count indicates that Mr Obama will comfortably cross the threshold and end up with between 320 and 340 electors, to just about 200 for Mr McCain.

It has been of the hardest-fought US elections. Tempers have frayed; harsh words have been exchanged; negative campaigning, on both official advertisements and campaign rally rhetoric, has been at a premium.

Lies, slander and false accusations have become legitimate campaign practices, especially through the anonymous viral e-mails and SMS messages.

Sounds familiar? It is no surprise the text messages doing the rounds within some sections of the Kenyan community in the US: “A ship from Kenya loaded with stones and equipment for uprooting railway lines has docked, awaiting the presidential election results”.

Maybe it’s not a very good joke, trying to make light of the turmoil that afflicted Kenya after the December general election.

It could be a very tight race in the US, but whatever the outcome, it is inconceivable that stones will be thrown, railway lines uprooted or innocent people butchered on a mass scale.

Even if Americans are subjected to another Florida, the suspect count in that state that gave George Bush victory over Al Gore in 2000, it will not lead to the kind of violence that threatens genocide and dismemberment of the country.

Dr Kofi Annan’s services will not be required to broker a power-sharing deal between Obama and McCain. Whatever disputes that may arise will be settled in a civilised fashion.

The US may not be paradise on earth, and the polls will not be 100 per cent without flaws. But ultimately, the country has systems that work and dispute resolution mechanisms the people trust.

We may make jokes about exporting stones to the US in preparation for an election result that we do not like, but the likelihood here is that if Mr Obama loses, it will be because the American voters preferred Mr McCain and not because of any widespread rigging.

The jokes may also be in bad taste at a time when we are refusing to deal with critical aspects of our post-election chaos.

POLITICAL PLAYERS FROM BOTH sides of the divide, President Kibaki’s PNU and Prime Minister Raila Odingas’s ODM are conspiring to suppress the Waki Report which recommended an international tribunal to try the financiers and organisers of the crimes against humanity that Kenyans were subjected to as their leaders fought for power.

When the power-sharing agreement was hammered out, we supported it strongly because it was the only way to end the bloodshed and pull Kenya back from the brink of the precipice.

Some of us also warned that for the leaders, it was not so much an issue of “come, let us a reason together”; it was all about “come, let us eat together”.

Leadership and politics in Kenya is all about eating chiefs who hold in utter contempt the masses they claim to represent.

When the leaders conspire to kill the Waki Report, it is not so much in the interest of holding together the fragile peace, but out of self-interest.

It is no surprise that those most vocal against the recommendations are those that were directly implicated.

Other than unofficial lists that have been doing the rounds, the Waki list remains secret, but it is safe to assume that those fighting it so vociferously are those on the list, or at least those acting as mouthpieces for their principals.

We have always talked up “forgive and forget” as an enduring Kenyan value, but we forget that often, this is what leads to the impunity that in turn leads to cycles of violence, theft, grand larceny, rape, murder and other crimes by those in authority who are always confident they will never be called to account.

If we are to end that impunity and ensure that Kenya takes itself as a civilised nation, the Waki Report must be implemented.

Of course the Government will not implement it; not when the chief combatants sit together and pull business deals or mutual benefit in the Cabinet room, while still promising more killings if they are touched.

That leaves the other option broached by the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Philip Waki.

Political exigency will dictate that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga opt to sit on the report, but the matter is not entirely in the hands of the Government.

Their permission is not required for the establishment of an international tribunal to try those involved. Remember Felicien Kabuga? I wonder where our murderers will run to.