If impunity is the exemption from punishment, absence of remedy, immunity from unpleasant consequences, lack of access to effective justice, and general lack of accountability, then we can be said to have a lot it in the country, and whether or not the situation changes is largely dependant on the voters.
Earlier in the week the New York Times ran a story entitled “Will Kenya Vote for Impunity?” The article centered around the country’s unique political situation in the lead up to the next election i.e. a situation in which two of the persons running for the highest seat in the country, will be simultaneously facing trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Citing the legal/constitutional loopholes that could allow the implicated candidates to run for presidency the article stated of the country’s situation:
“Legal or not, though, there’s no way to paper over the potential bind in which both candidacies might place the country. And should either candidate prevail in the election but not in The Hague, Kenya would be in the awkward position of having an elected president who is also a wanted criminal.
That prospect may be tolerable to the political class here, which notably refused to extradite President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, also wanted by the I.C.C., during a 2010 visit to Kenya. But the country’s political process — to say nothing of international justice — deserves better.”
Though the article centered on impunity in the ICC cases it raises the bigger issue of the voters’ role in either fighting or supporting impunity. Apart from the ICC situation the country has a number of the unresolved corruption scandals that seem to grow in number every day, however legal loopholes continuously allow those implicated in such scandals to run for political office. I agree with the author’s general premise that Kenya’s political process deserves better, but the question is will we vote for better?
As Kenyan’s we are quick to point fingers at the leaders when corruption happens, but as voters we rarely examine the role we play in maintaining a status quo of impunity. In the new dispensation the legal framework and institutions for fighting past impunity certainly exist there is the Chapter 6 of the constitution, the yet to be enacted Leadership and Integrity Bill, several laws on the ethical standards to be held by public officers. But the truth is without the will of the people; legislation can only go so far. It is difficult to say how big a part policy decisions and politician’s past records plays in the voters’ choice of candidate however the fact remains that in exercising our vote we are choosing either the rule law or impunity.