Ever since the post election violence of 2007/2008, the word impunity has been used both nationally and internationally in describing what is wrong with Kenya.
In what is popularly known as the Waki report, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the violence stated: “Our view is that the lackadaisical manner in which the government dealt with the Akiwumi report only goes to illustrate that the state was not particularly interested in resolving once and for all the issue of ethnic violence.”
In the report he tabled before the United Nations General Assembly in May 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions decried impunity in Kenya and observed that nothing had been done regarding the ethnic violence of 1992, 1997, and 2007.
He recommended that the International Criminal Court should take up Kenya’s case noting that “without the special mechanism recommended by the Waki Commission, there is little prospect of accountability”. This is the background against which Kenya is conducting its diplomatic initiative to have the cases at the ICC terminated.
The significance of this international reputation was clear when Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed was being interviewed a few weeks back by Zeinab Badawi of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the programme, HARDtalk.
The interviewer accused Kenya of trying to use the African Union as a Trojan horse to pursue its international diplomatic initiative to have the three cases dropped. She said though AU’s complaint was that the court was targeting Africans, the request for dropping cases only concerned Kenyans and not other Africans before the ICC.
The issue about the interviewer was not whether one agreed with her but that she was a reflection of how the world out there thinks of us. The international community is beginning to view us as a spoilt child who expects rules to be broken to accommodate its desires.
The reality is that gone are the days when we were the “island of peace” in an unpredictable and violent part of the world. Over time, the world around us has changed, but we are yet to wake up and smell the coffee.
Ethiopia is no longer in civil war and is quickly becoming a better investment opportunity for manufacturers both due to the low price of its electricity and the size of its population, about 90 million people. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Tanzania is no longer socialist and is now the darling of America. Apart from its own vast mineral, oil and gas deposits, Tanzania is the new gateway to the DRC and is receiving mammoth investment from both China and America.
China is building what is being called a “mega port” for Tanzania at Bagamoyo, which is more than 30 times the size of Mombasa, as part of a $10 billion investment package for Tanzania. When completed, it is bound to take away all Central Africa business from Mombasa port, which will be left to serve only Kenya and Uganda.
To underpin the importance of Tanzania to China, the Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Tanzania in March this year to personally deliver the deal. President Obama has recently visited the country and launched the “Power Africa” project, a $ 7 billion project to produce 10,000 MW of electricity to sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya was not part of the deal.
In the meantime, our signature project, Lapsset, to connect Lamu to South Sudan is failing to attract investors and, in fact, a new deal is being negotiated by South Sudan and its northern neighbours to take the project upwards connecting the South Sudan to the Red Sea. The new deal is said to be better for South Sudan and there is a real danger that Lapsset may never see the light of day. Sudan is itself fighting to convince the southern nation that it should continue exporting its crude through the pipeline to Port Sudan.
In the meantime, we are proceeding on the basis that the world cannot do without us. We even have the effrontery to demand that the whole world ignore the international law, yet the more we push, the more it appears that our principal interest is to continue with our renowned practice of perpetuating impunity.
Let us stop comparing ourselves with other countries. The painful truth is that Kenya is not Syria. In the Middle East, Syria is the only foothold for China and Russia. The rest of the countries are either fundamentalist or pro-Western. In Africa, China and Russia are spoilt for even better choices. They will only go so far to help us out.
Mr Mwangi is a Nairobi-based lawyer.