Writing in the Guardian on February 25, 2011, columnist Alexander Chancellor warned that history would be very unkind to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for embracing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In the article titled History should come down hard on Tony Blair for embracing Gaddafi, the writer said, “For Blair, when he first shook hands with Gaddafi at their desert meeting in 2004, he knew very well what a monster he was … The most convincing reason for … their rapprochement was the promotion of Britain’s oil and other commercial interests in Libya, and for this the British government was not only willing to forget about Gaddafi’s support for IRA terrorism … but even willing to press for the release of the … the only person convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died.”

This might as well be the dilemma of most world leaders when dealing with President Uhuru Kenyatta. While the interests of their countries may demand a rapprochement with the new Kenyan President regardless of his charges of crimes against humanity, the future remains uncertain. Mr Blair did not know when he hugged Gaddafi that the dictator would, in less than a decade, come down in infamy.

And so for now many world leaders will treat President Uhuru with out-most caution, no one wanting to be caught on the wrong side should he ever be found guilty of crimes against humanity. David Cameron avoided being photographed with him during the Somali conference in London and Barack Obama cut Kenya off his itinerary during his African trip.

These are the “consequences” that Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson talked about prior to the Kenyan election. To the diplomat, the election of Uhuru Kenyatta as President will not cleanse him from the murk that an indictment on crimes against humanity carries. He said: “Individuals have histories, individuals have images, individuals have reputations. When they are selected to lead their nations, those images, histories and reputations go along with them.”

This is a reality that Kenya must accept as the ICC trials begin. Until the trials are concluded, we must accept the reality that the world will deal with our president cautiously and may even avoid him altogether.

The situation will be made worse by the Western media. From the day his trial starts, the signature international portrait of President Kenyatta will be him at the dock in the ICC court. The reasons for such coverage range from the stigmatisation of African leaders in the eyes of the West to the sensationalism that is created by such photos. Such was the case earlier this year when Sky News carried a story headlined “‘Criminal’ President  invited to UK”.

Kenya must be ready for worse headlines and unflattering coverage. Particularly when the witness testimonies begin, the Western media will be splashed with stories of murder, rape, dislocation of populations and the alleged complicity of the President in these crimes. Such coverage will make it increasingly difficult for world leaders to cozy up with him and for many months Kenya’s isolation internationally will increase.

Locally, the ICC trials will be a challenge on how government is run. If the President and his deputy are required to be at The Hague at the same time, there will be paralysis in government during the period of their absence. Their administration is still very fragile and has yet to fully establish its working procedures. There would be no Cabinet meeting for weeks and no head of government during this time.

2004-Year when former British Prime Minister Tony Blair first shook hands with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

International espionage would prevent the discussion of matters of national interest on the phone or by mail and these would have to wait for the President to come. Alternatively, Cabinet Secretaries and presidential advisers will have to shuttle between Nairobi and The Hague every other day to have confidential meetings. The expense would bring its own political problems.

If the two are not in Kenya at the same time, then it would help the running of government because one of them would always be available. But this is only so long as the President swears in his deputy during his periods of absence. Without swearing him in, the Deputy President would lack the constitutional powers to make many decisions or implement them.

This raises its own political problems and the Jubilee coalition will be tested to the limit. Can the Deputy President be trusted to keep seeking instructions from the President before making decisions or will he implement his own agenda?

The long and short of the ICC trials is that Kenya is in for a difficult time and it is necessary that the citizenry be told as much and be prepared for it. Otherwise the disillusionment that the people may experience may be unsettling for the country.

Paul Mwangi is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.