Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta's recent claim that "....there are lessons to be learnt from the way the court treats Africans....." is an interesting take from someone who, with all due respect, is the poster child for the impunity and abuse of power that made African leaders the target of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
While there are lessons to be learnt from Mr. Kenyatta's case at the ICC, his spin on the experience is in keeping with his brilliant strategy of wrapping his erstwhile "personal challenges" in sovereignty, nationalism and Pan-Africanism while using Johnnie Carson's "choices have consequences" warning to galvanize the two largest communities in Kenya whose "sons" (Uhuru and William Ruto) were in the ICC's crosshairs into voting them into office. Said spin also calls into question the relevance and aptness of the lessons Africans are meant to learn from the case.
The consensus is that the ICC is due for an overhaul. However, overhauling the court has little to do with the "way it treats Africans" - whatever that means. Least Mr. Kenyatta forgets, his case was brought to the ICC, not by some swashbuckling westerner or foreign-funded NGO. Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were hauled before the ICC by Kenyan MPs who doubted the ability of the country's judiciary to handle the politically-charged case and thus offered the advice "Don't be vague, go to The Hague".
Mr. Kenyatta offers the rather sagacious counsel that Africans should use history to "...re-examine themselves and determine their destiny." However, doing so would require an honest self-assessment and introspection that is rendered still-born by Mr. Kenyatta's hypocrisy in his relationship with the west and recent utterances including the one that is the subject of this counterpoint.
One can argue that Mr. Kenyatta is just holding true to Lord Palmerston's (Henry John Temple) adage that "in politics there aren't permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests." However, the "negative forces" that Mr. Kenyatta urges Africans to protect themselves against are more from within than from without. This is fully evidenced by those at the root of the evil that has bedeviled Africa over the years. The fact is some of the most atrocious acts of violence AGAINST Africa(ns) have been perpetrated by fellow Africans, oftentimes doing the bidding of their foreign masters.
Were it not for the home guards and the wabenzi of Kenya's pre- and post-independence era, one wonders whether western powers would have had the widespread success they have had manipulating the country's leaders to do their bidding. It is the likes of Johnston Kamau, Mobutu Seso Sekou et all who effectively allowed themselves to be co-opted by western powers, oftentimes against the interests of the very people they supposedly swore to serve and to protect!
In a piece titled "Home guards' ghosts still haunting Kenya", Mr. Maina Kiai writes that Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta "... talked of those bad wabeberu.....while welcoming them with open arms to control the country's economy....." -- as long as the favored locals -- his family and friends -- were partnered with said wabeberu. Mr. Kenyatta also invited the British military to help him maintain the structure of the repressive and abusive tools they, Brits, used to colonize and rule Kenya!
William Attwood, Lyndon Johnson's Ambassador to Kenya wrote in the book "The Reds and the Blacks: A Personal Adventure that during the Cold War" that "...Jomo Kenyatta welcomed cooperation with the West so long as (they) supported what he wanted for Kenya." It is a decision that at first glance is exactly what one would expect of any leader - to act in the best interest of those s/he leads. However, to consolidate his grip on power, Mr. Kenyatta used the country's law enforcement (police) and intelligence (Special Branch) institutions, with additional intelligence from the west - America - to infiltrate the various socio-political organizations that were sympathetic to his political rival Oginga Odinga. In so doing, Kenyatta Pere stifled and killed political opposition effectively making Kenya a totalitarian one-party state.
Mr. Kiai's revelation is the dirty little secret of Kenya's, indeed Africa's ruling elite: That they are quick to blame "western powers" for the plight of their respective countries even as they work with said powers to subjugate citizens of these very countries, in the process using the supposedly evil international institutions to maintain their grip on power! Almost 50 years after it was first published, Human Rights' activist Maina Kiai reiterates Oginga Odinga's basic point first made in the book "Not Yet Uhuru": That "...Uhuru Kenyatta (is) playing a similar game (like his father Jomo). Uhuru's rhetoric is anti-Western but his Peponi schools are as British as they come, run by British educators and providing a British education; his public relations advisers are British, whispering propaganda against those wishing for a different Kenya; his business advisers are British; his lead lawyers at The Hague are British; and his K24 station has been funded by the British, among others."
One wonders therefore, what lessons Mr. Kenyatta and his "dear brothers" of the African Union have learnt, not only from the International Criminal Court's treatment of Africa, but from "dear brother" Omar Bashir's treatment of the people of Darfur.
What have they learnt about "brother" and octogenarian Robert Mugabe's treatment of political opponent Morgan Tsvangirai?
Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has sparked controversy and fears of yet another spate of ethnic violence with his decision to run for a 3rd term in violation of the country's constitution: Burundians are yet to hear what Mr. Kenyatta and his "brothers" at the AU have to say about this turn of events.
Mr. Kenyatta's complaints about the way the ICC ".....treats Africans" would resonant if he and his colleagues at the AU had a demonstrable track record of addressing the very behavior the court is meant to prevent: crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Thus far, African leaders have failed miserably in policing themselves and their colleagues. In point of fact, the leaders are developing an African court system that provides them a "Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free" card -- further proof that the continent's main governing body is more interested in self-preservation than in confronting the very raison d'etre of the International Criminal Court: Preventing the impunity and irresponsible behavior of the continent's "elected" into office.