Pushing for immunity will not help indictees of the International Court

Monday November 18 2013

The United Nations General Assembly session

The United Nations General Assembly session October 18, 2012 during the vote for five countries to become non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for the years 2013-2014 at UN headquarters in New York. A motion seeking to defer the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta failed to pass the Security Council. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA 

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Not many Kenyans can point out Azerbaijan on a map of the world. Fewer still have ever heard of President Ilham Alivey.

Yet for all its remoteness and distance, the Republic of Azerbaijan has suddenly become a favourite for many in the Jubilee government and its legion of supporters since last week.

The country caught the favour of Jubilants with its ‘Aye’ vote at the United Nations Security Council in favour of the resolution designed to win President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto some reprieve on the International Criminal Court indictments.

When the motion was predictably defeated, the Kenyan Government went on the offensive, excoriating Britain, the United States and France for leading what was supposedly an imperialist and neo-colonial manoeuvre against Kenya and Africa.

The various spokesmen primed to speak out conveniently forget that the eight Security Council members stymied the African case included such ‘non-West’ nations as Argentina, Guatemala and South Korea. Others were Luxembourg and Australia.

By contrast, the supporters of the motion co-sponsored by Rwanda, Togo and Morocco were effusive in praise of the countries that voted for the initiative. The list includes such paragons of democracy and human rights as China and Russia, as well as Pakistan.

It is rounded-off with Azerbaijan that has suddenly become the darling of Kenyan officialdom. One can imagine that it provides a perfect role-model as one of those ex-Soviet republics, where concepts like human rights and democracy are as alien as can be.

As was once said of one of the Eastern European nations struggling to make their way in the civilised world, “this is not a country with a mafia, but a mafia with a country”.

Azerbaijan, with its tyranny, despotism and unchecked official corruption, fits the bill.

We are praising a country that is the antithesis of everything that has hitherto defined Kenya, a democratic and fairly liberal country where citizens, unlike many on the continent, have had the right to vote for leaders of their choice; the rights of association, assembly, and speech; the rights to receive and impart ideas, both directly and through a free and independent media.

These are the inalienable universal rights that we have all taken for granted since proclaiming victory in the battle for the Second Liberation.

These are the rights that are now under threat as our governments leads us to reject ‘foreign’ values and ‘looks east’ to even more alien cultures of the Azeri police-state model — closed society, tight state control, muzzled media, stage-managed elections, and regimented thought.

That, supposedly, is the African way we are now supposed to embrace as part of the scheme to get our democratically-elected President and Deputy President free of that small ‘personal challenge’ of the ICC indictments.

After failing at the UN Security Council and then making plenty of noise that betrays inability to understand that the democratic majority, the tyranny of numbers, triumphed, we are now taking our campaign to The Hague.

The next phase of the campaign at the ICC Assembly of State Parties wants to change the laws so that serving Heads of State and Government are protected from prosecution. That is another oddity only seen in repressive African regimes and Mafioso states.

We grew up in a regime where we were falsely taught that the President is “above the law”.

It took us a long time to realise that that was all one big lie designed to allow room for the ruling classes to loot the common wealth and stamp on their own people with confidence that they are untouchable.

Dear President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto, you can’t have your cake and eat it. You can submit to the law and take advantage of the ICC proceedings to prove your innocence. That will remove the millstones from around your necks.

But if you try to subvert the existing law by pushing for immunity, you are demonstrating the ‘above the law’ mindset that is unacceptable in a nation looking forward to the digital age, not backwards to a by-gone era.