From news reports and from predictions from various pollsters it seems that while implausible it is not impossible that we could have both a President and Deputy President that are facing trials for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). This would be the case if a joint bid for the presidency were put forward by Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta and North Eldoret MP William Ruto, and Kenyans voted for them.
Of course whether or not the two can ran for political office let alone the Presidency still remains to be determined? The Attorney General has sought an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court as to whether the two can run with pending ICC trial. However overall there has been little in the way of an official position by the government on whether the two can run. It is also difficult to know if Kenyan’s can depend on definitive direction from the government in this area.
The government’s reaction to the ICC trials against the Deputy Prime Minister and the Eldoret North MP can be termed as varied at best and at worst predictably linear. At the outset the three failed attempts at setting up a local tribunal were met with calls of “don’t be vague, it’s the Hague”. At about this time there were also promises from the government to cooperate with the ICC in the process. However since the pre-trial hearings began there has been a demonstrable shift in the government’s tone towards the ICC. Considerable amounts of tax payer shillings have been spent challenging the admissibility of the case and the ICC jurisdiction over the case, and even more spent on “shuttle diplomacy” at both the African Union and the United Nations Security Council.
Voters had little control or say over these processes, however we have now reached a strange confluence where voters can have a active say. The country’s next election is on 4th March2013, and the ICC trials against Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, and Eldoret North MP, William Ruto begin on 10th and 11th April 2013. Imagine a scenario where a month after the election, both the Head of State and his Deputy are headed to the International Criminal Court to face trial for crimes against humanity.
Why is the confluence strange? It’s strange because in most democracies it would be absurd for anyone with indictments for crimes against humanity that include charges of rape, murder, and mass displacement to simultaneously run for president.
Electing a President with an ICC indictment will have definite consequences for the country: international alienation and isolation, possible trade sanctions and embargos, a stop to donor funding which will have dire consequences considering a large part of the countries budget is donor funded. If Sudan is any Zimbabwe any indicator of what international sanctions can do to a country the citizens and not the President will be the ones who suffer the most. And there will always be a conflict of interest between using the Office of the President as a shield against the ICC or using to further the interest and growth of the country and its residence.
As the election date draws nearer and voter registration continue, we voters will have to make a decision as to what criteria we will use to pick the candidates, whether we will apply the criteria in Chapter 6 in of the constitution or whether we will ignore these provisions and revert to old voting patterns.