The Impoverished Kenyans

The Impoverished Kenyans

Left: President Uhuru Kenyatta, scheduled to go on trial for crimes against humanity in July. Next in line: Vice-President William Ruto, scheduled to go on trial in May.
Poor Kenya. The world waits to see if the new president and vice-president will travel next month to The Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Kenyans elected these men free and fairly. They chose alleged murders to lead them.

As a businessman in tourism I wait for more signs. As a devoted student of Kenya, I’m depressed and frightened. Like everyone in the world who knows Kenya, we wait with baited breath for the start of the scheduled May and July trials of the Vice-President and President.

Kenyans are polite and on edge. They are proud that they didn’t devolve into violence as during the last election, proud of the new judicial system that validated the election, but on pins and needles waiting like everyone in the world for the next chapter in this country’s history.

That comes next month when Vice-President William Ruto is scheduled to begin his trial for having arranged and financed killer squads following the 2007 elecetion. President Kenyatta’s trial is set to begin in July.

“If the International Criminal Court is right,” writes Daily Nation columnist Makau Mutua, “the two funded death squads to kill, maim, and loot each other’s folks. Mr Ruto only subordinated himself to Mr Kenyatta because he couldn’t win [the national election] on his own.”

Mutua goes on – as many others have – that this unlikely team of arch enemies is together for only one reason: they are both alleged organizers of mass murder.

There’s nothing particularly sensational in this thriller, the Joker elected mayor. It struck me as a storyline that would likely be rejected by Hollywood for being sorely uncreative. The difference, of course, is that this is real.

And the sad part is not the fates of these two men. The sad part is that Kenyans elected them, freely and fairly.

Incredibly, Kenyans couldn’t come up with anyone else. And although it’s true I supported Kenyatta’s principal rival, Raila Odinga, nearly anyone of the other 6 challengers who contested the election would have been infinitely better.

Anyone who watched even a snippet of either of the two election debates would see what great people Kenya has as potential leaders. But none but Uhuru and Raila had the financing (and ethnic support) to be viable candidates.

That was the main reason I (and many, many others) supported Raila: none of the other challengers had a chance, and the outcome proved it. The remaining six challengers got less than 8% of the vote.

Kenya is peaceful. In fact as Somalia improves, Kenya becomes more and more peaceful. Raila has met with Kenyatta. They are photographed laughing together, working to “keep Kenya peaceful.”

I received an email from an owner of a lodge near Mt. Kenya, Sunday, which implores me to write good things about Kenya, to beef up its tourism:

“Would it not be a good idea to now send out a positive email concerning Kenya? It seems to me that people prefer to spread bad news all the time.

“Kenya is an amazing country with lovely people and I am sure if you compared the crime rate with the UK and considered the poverty people combat every day here in Kenya, the UK would not come out looking too rosy itself!”

UK leaders are not accused of crimes against humanity. The Kenyan president and vice-president are.