It’s no secret that Kenya has become the laughing stock of the East and Central African region. We are that country that has no clue on how to build, maintain and restore its national image abroad in addition to being ambivalent where issues of national sovereignty are concerned.
The latest case is the government taking sides with a war criminal against both international and national laws.
But let’s rewind back a bit:
A few months back, during a spell of severe drought which resulted in the #feedKE campaign, there still were Cabinet Ministers openly blaming relief agencies and media organisations for blowing things out of proportion while pictures of emaciated women and children were beamed to the entire world. Prior to and during the confirmation hearings of the Ocampo Six, our government tacitly encouraged its senior officials to continue displaying their ignorance by accusing the ICC of having a political agenda and attempting to subvert an international instrument that we have signed and ratified. In that connection, let’s not forget how a certain Vice President went on two rounds of “Shuttle Diplomacy” to try and stop the ICC cases from proceeding at the Hague only to end up embarassing our country in the eyes of the world.
We could also mention the Migingo case, not to say that our Ugandan neighbours are terrorists but only to highlight how unassertive and weak the Government’s “diplomatic” efforts have been in reclaiming what squarely falls within our territorial waters.
However in recent weeks, our foreign policy (or lack thereof, as many would argue) seemingly stooped to its lowest when we decided to invade another sovereign state in the name of national security. Our argument then was that the heightened state of insecurity occasioned by the Al-Shabaab in Somalia required a military response, so we took on a war on terror that the US itself is grappling with against Al- Qaeda’s little brother, Al-Shabaab.
Now fast forward to today:
Kenya has received a 2 week ultimatum from Sudan to reverse a recent High Court of Kenya ruling which issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Al-Bashir should he set foot on Kenyan soil, pursuant to the Rome Statute, which we have signed, ratified and domesticated by virtue of article 2(6) of the Constitution.
The government led by the Foreign Ministry has publicly rubbished the court decision terming it as “insensitive”(i.e the court failed to take into account factors such as international relations, peace and security in the region,etc.) and “unenforceable”, declaring that it intends to appeal against the decision. Meanwhile, our Foreign Minister takes a chartered plane to Khartoum bearing a personal message from President Kibaki assuring the Sudanese President that all is well.
All this begs the question: why is Kenya taking sides with Al-Bashir over it’s own national and international commitments?
I understood that inviting him last year to the ceremony of our Constitution’s promulgation a year ago may have been necessary to ensure that he doesn’t interfere with our on-going efforts in brokering peace in Sudan and the eventual birthing of South Sudan. But why we do we still need to play nice with Al-Bashir now? What is this hold that he has over Kenya that would make the Executive arm of government literally bow at his feet? Why are we even befriending a man whose name is synonymous with the atrocities that took place in Darfur?
As a country that is already carrying the baggage of its own ICC suspects, a questionable war in Somalia, the World Corruption Heavyweight title, widespread abuses of constitutional rights and freedoms, Al-Bashir’s beef with the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court is the last thing we need on our plate right now. Neither the Minister of Foreign Affairs nor the President of the Republic himself can guarantee Sudan a favourable outcome from our Court of Appeal in the case of Al-Bashir’s arrest warrant. We are a nation of laws and unlike Sudan, our days of an Imperial President are long gone. The Constitution is supreme. Let the chips fall where they may.
As for our dented image abroad and countless foreign policy gaffes, one may easily be led to believe that the Kibaki administration couldn’t be bothered. We seem to be oblivious of the fact that the world is watching; in all our lawlessness, callous disregard for human rights, institutionalised avarice and disunity. So, our yearning to reclaim Kenya from the leaders that bedevil it must go beyond vocalising desires to vote them out next year. We must start now. We must push for reforms through the judicial system and through popular protests so the world may know that the people of Kenya are not silent in consent of their government’s misdeeds and that the people of Kenya understand that their destiny is in their own hands.