Hillary’s Warning

Hillary’s Warning

The U.S. Secretary of State is in Kenya delivering a strong message that she won’t make clear. Let me help: Kenya’s Minister of Agriculture has to go to jail.

A small consortium of western democracies joined the U.S. 18 months ago in promising more than $10 billion in reconstruction aid, as a part of Kofi Annan’s plan to reconcile the two opposing candidates in the violent December, 2007, elections. Hillary is reading the receipts to Kenya’s leaders, but between the numbers is a man called William Ruto.

Part of Annan’s plan accepted by all sides was that something akin to a Truth-and-Reconciliation Commission be set up to determine once and for all who was responsible for the violence which killed more than 1,000 people and displaced nearly 150,000.

The signed agreement required the Kenyan Attorney General to complete a study and list suspects. That secret report was completed and couldn’t be too badly corrupted, because it was completed with the active assistance of the FBI and Scotland Yard. That list has already been given to Annan. The signed agreement further gives Annan the right to take this list to the World Court at The Hague, if Kenya doesn’t adjudicate the matter itself.

And right now, it doesn’t look like Kenya will. For some good politicians in Kenya, this is as it should be, since any judicial inquiry overseen by the Kenyan politic is likely to be corrupted.

The now infamous list of the “top ten” most likely suspects, still being kept secret by Annan, has Ruto at the top of its list. Ruto is one of the most ruthless men alive. Like his Kalenjin tribal predecessors, Daniel arap Moi (the dictator for 21 years) and Nicholas Biwott (Moi’s hatchet man), Ruto comes from Eldoret. He has a militia. He is a gangster that has skimmed off food aid during a drought. And to no one in Kenya is there the least doubt that he ordered widespread ethnic killing.

What’s particularly sad for me is that he was on the “right” side, the ODM, the one that Raila Odinga led honestly and openly to the election. Ruto was instrumental in the electoral victory and not just with dishonest means, but with all the necessities for an election victory: money, mostly.

They were never good bedfellows, Odinga and Ruto. Odinga was a real moral champion, transparent, straight speaking, an underdog you could identify with. Ruto for all his life was in the shadows pulling strings, making billions, growing more powerful everyday. But in Kenya’s dire society, tribalism rules. Kalenjins and Luos, Ruto and Odinga, was a match made even stronger because “Ruto et thugs, Inc.” was a part of the dictatorial regime of Arap Moi that the current president democratically overthrew. And current President Kibaki is Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s rival and nemesis.

I believe that the violence started with no organization. It began among the poor in the slums who had voted and who had won with Odinga. And when the election was stolen from them with tactics not so dissimilar to Bush stealing power from Gore, the fires exploded.

And the police over reaction was terrible, and the police were part of the establishment, and so the inevitable counter reaction ensued. For all we know the people truly in power may have truly felt a civil war had begun. And that’s when William Ruto got out his militia, his brownshirt brigades and lashed back with a ferocity that not even the police could match.

And for his money, his power and his “defensive” reaction from the perspective of a civil war, he was awarded the Ministry of Agriculture.

And now, he is the most wanted of the secret list of most wanted men. And any tribunal, in Kenya or The Netherlands, will have to deal with that. And that – more than any other single reason – is why both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga – the archest of rivals ever imagined – together oppose a tribunal as well as a trial in The Hague. Both are trying to sweep the matter under the rug.

Kofi Annan will not wait forever. The day will come when William Ruto’s name is postulated for infamy. And Hillary is probably trying to explain that it would be better to do it in Kenya than on the world stage.

It’s not going to be a pretty play.