Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kagame, Museveni deceiving Kenyatta on the ICC

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As it is commonly said, misery loves company. Indeed, beyond Bensouda's spectacle in the Hague, here in East Africa, the ICC seems to have created strange bedfellows.

In the last few months, its become quite clear that Mr. Kagame and Museveni, the co-doyens of impunity in the region, have been relentlessly courting the young Kenyatta into their unholy alliance--a politico-criminal network, which according to the Ugandan journalist Tim Kalyegira, is the "darkest" in the region.

Darkest because the alliance is responsible for millions of deaths in a geographic space that spans from the infamous Luwero killing fields in Uganda to the Golgotha of Mbandaka, DRC where according to the New York Times, the last of the two million Rwandan Hutu refugees were slaughtered before being tossed into the Congo river in broad daylight.

In the Congo though, the massacres have continued in what has become the greatest bloodbath in recent history, dwarfing the horrors that befell Rwanda in the previous decade. Still, fingerprints of both Kagame and Museveni have remained highly visible. (For more on Kagame;s crimes, read here)

So why has Mr. Kenyatta enthusiastically danced along?  There can only be one possible explanation: Mr. Kenyatta is seeking for some leverage against the ICC. Since the duo has been relentless critics of the ICC (for obvious reasons that they want to cover up their ass), they have offered Kenyatta the much needed consolation.

So strong the flirtations that the trio has ended up sidelining Tanzania's Kikwete. The new doctrine by the trio has been "you are either with us or against us". And since Mr. Kikwete has refused to openly condemn the ICC, he must be ostracized. Yes, they are behaving like high school bullies.

Kikwete's first cardinal crime was in suggesting that it would be wise for Kagame to speak with members of his opposition for the sake of peace in the region. Since then, Kikwete has gone further to provide troops that have helped Congo crush Kagame's proxy forces ending close to two decades of Rwandan occupation. Given this latest humiliation on Kagame, we can pretty much kiss goodbye the East African community at least in the way that we know it.

Far from the online pictures showing a smiling Kenyatta sandwiched between the two despots, the truth is that the young Kenyatta cannot be any more different from them. First, the two men are certified dictators who have seized power by staging bloody rebellions. They have both clocked more than a decade in power with Mr. Museveni already carrying the trophy for the longest serving dictator in East Africa. 

Mr. Kenyatta, for all his fault, has followed the democratic channels to get to the house on the hill. While the Kenya's post election violence remains a dark stain on him, which he must seek to clean (appearing in the Hague being the most realistic option), Kenyatta is a saint compared to the duo. As Kenyan political scientist Ken Opalo has warned, it would be regrettable and possibly tragic if Kenyatta takes any advice from the duo. Their record of governance includes disappearances of critics, assassinations, harsh sentences for journalists etc. Hardly a record worth emulating.

Perhaps another mini-reason why Kenyatta seeks to be associated with Kagame-Kaguta (Museveni) is that in the last two decades, the duo has cultivated a highly sophisticated media image that presents them as the African messiahs. More than Museveni, Mr. Kagame's PR has been most effective. The "digital president", "CEO-president", "the visionary creating an African Singapore" are just but a small sample of the cynical titles that aim to obscure the serious political repression going on in the tiny land-locked state.

Indeed, some of the media strategists who have created the Kagame brand for an unsuspecting Kenyan audience includes the Ugandan born Charles Obbo-onyango (although, judging by his recent silence, he might have jumped off the bandwagon) and a host of Nation journalists. NTV also has a penchant of doing a few feel good interviews with the dictator. Larry Madowo's shoddy job being the latest--the fellow lacked the decency to ask the dictator about journalists languishing in jail for criticizing him. A shame to his profession!

Mr. Kenyatta clearly needs to disassociate himself with this cabal of murderers. And should he continue, Kenyans have to remain diligent ensuring that their journalists don't start disappearing. An alliance with Kagame and Museveni might buy a few tough talking statements from Rwandan diplomatic corps, but it will do little to distance Kenyatta from the crimes he faces at the ICC.

As it turns out, the strategy might end up doing more harm than good!

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