The political intrigue surrounding the western world’s response to Iran’s nuclear program is being implemented right now in Kenya.
A first step that an aggrieved society takes against the accused is diplomatic. That threatens and is followed by economic sanctions. And that is exactly the course that the western powers, especially Britain and the United States, began implementing against Kenya last week.
The western world has invested over $10 billion, more than two years of the Kenyan Government’s entire budget, to help Kenya reform itself after the catastrophic 2007 election turmoil that killed over 1300 people and displaced as many as 150,000.
The two protagonists in the election, sitting president Mwai Kibaki, and principle challenger, Raila Odinga, did forge a coalition government that ended the violence, an agreement engineered almost single-handedly by Kofi Annan.
But that agreement included pledges for a number of subsequent reforms, including significant constitutional reform, to avoid a repeat in 2012 and to bring to justice those who had perpetrated the violence. Despite a very active and public diplomatic effort ever since, including prominent involvement by Secretary Hillary Clinton, really little has happened.
The Kenyan press is furious. It is truly fair to say that the Kenyan population in a very wide majority wants these reforms. But the sitting politicians have lagered to protect one another.
The “List of 15″ culpable politicians compiled by the ICC chief prosecutor, Moreno Ocampo, is already pretty well known despite it being a sealed indictment. Among the most powerful named are Kenya’s Attorney General, Amos Wako; William Ruto, a powerful and evil man who has held a number of ministerial posts and who was originally nominated by Raila Odinga to be his prime minister; and recently fired national police head, Hussein Ali.
Wako and Ali have been around for nearly 30 years, surviving radically different democracies and dictatorships because their power base is so strong. Ruto arrived on the scene in 1992 and has been involved in a variety of huge scams, including milking the national pipeline of billions.
After months of threatening the action, last week Britain finally banned these three and 17 other prominent Kenyan politicians from entering the U.K. The U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, delivered 15 individually addressed letters to Kenya’s Foreign Secretary on Thursday, presumably doing or threatening to do the same thing as Britain.
Few in the world noticed outside Africa. Libya’s Muammar Ghaddifi, as this year’s Head of the Organization of African Unity, responded by successfully passing an African-wide resolution that urges all African States to withdraw from the international institutions being used to implement the sanctions. Right now, that’s mainly the ICC, the International Court in the Hague.
The actions by Britain and the U.S. have caused quite a stir in Kenya. Most of the press strongly supports it, and once again I think the Kenyan press truly reflects the country at large. At the same time President Kibaki has sent an urgent diplomatic letter directly to President Obama, something that is rare and unprecedented in Kenya.
Today, Kofi Annan returns to Nairobi to try to get things going, again. Not a moment too soon.