THE BLOG

Kenya: Why a President Kenyatta May Never Stand Trial for Crimes Against Humanity

Since Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of Kenya's presidential election, political analysts have tried hard to make us believe that the United States and Britain are worried. Kenya is the staunchest and most docile proxy of the two countries' regional war on terror, so it makes sense to think that they would worry about the implications of working with a president accused of crimes against humanity. But let me assure you that no leader in the United States or Britain is losing sleep over how to handle a Kenyatta presidency.

The warnings from the United States and Britain that Kenya would be isolated if Kenyatta becomes the country's fourth president are just empty talk, designed to keep intact that false notion that the two countries care about human rights and democracy in Africa. Deep down in their hearts, their leaders know that Kenya will remain their strongest partner in the region, regardless of who is in power.

Anyone with even the most basic understanding of international politics can tell that if Kenyatta becomes president, chances of the International Criminal Court trying and convicting him for his alleged role in the 2007 post-election violence are close to zero. Already, the Hague-based court has dropped a similar case against Francis Muthaura, President Mwai Kibaki's former chief of staff, because a key witness declined to cooperate. A few weeks later, another important witness withdrew from the case against William Ruto, who would be Kenyatta's deputy. This trend is likely to continue, more so if Kenyatta is confirmed president.

If the case against a President Kenyatta falls apart, don't expect the leaders of the "free world" to be heartbroken. The indictment against Kenyatta has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, and human rights. And it has little to do with the 1,200 people who were killed in 2008, and the many more who became refugees in their own country. No one would celebrate a failed ICC case against Kenyatta than the United States and Britain, because it would mean that they wouldn't have to worry about being in the awkward position of working with an ally who is a war criminal. Expect leaders of the two countries to change their rhetoric from "choices have consequences" to something like "the ICC found no evidence" that President Kenyatta funded the violence that followed the 2007 elections.

It won't be difficult at all for them to embrace Kenyatta. The two countries have a track record of making friends out of maniacs who have committed crimes many times worse than those Kenyatta is accused of. Though short-lived, the friendship with Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi is a perfect example of how the interests of the United States and Britain trump the human rights of people outside their borders. Unlike Gaddafi, Kenyatta has never been in command of any organized army, and that's reason to think that the United States and Kenya's former colonial master will feel comfortable working with him.

If I am wrong, and the ICC proceeds with the case against President Kenyatta, the court's history indicates that the trial won't be swift. It's likely Kenyatta would finish his first term before his case is closed. Again, expect Britain and the United States to amplify their contention that Kenyatta "is innocent until proven guilty" to justify their support of Kenya's war on Islamic extremists. And, considering the two countries' record -- and the importance of Kenya as the guardian of Western interests in East Africa -- don't be surprised if it emerges that they are working covertly to have the case against President Kenyatta dropped in order to avoid the criticism that would arise from working with him.

And if the ICC proves me wrong by convicting President Kenyatta, there is nothing in the history of the two powers to indicate that they will not work with him secretly, because their interests, namely the regional war on terror, are more important than the human rights of Kenyans.

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