Njoroge Wachai at PostGlobal

Njoroge Wachai


Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. He was Africa Correspondent for the Science and Development Network (SciDev.net), a UK-based web site highlighting science and technology issues from developing countries. He also freelanced for the Switzerland-based Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO). Njoroge was a press fellow at the Wolfson College, University of Cambridge for four months in 2003, where he researched the role of alternative press in the democratization process in Africa. Njoroge currently lives in the U.S. He has studied Journalism and Technical Communication at the graduate level. Close.

Njoroge Wachai


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Kenya Won't Bring Leaders to Justice

The world, I bet, has not forgotten gory scenes of death and destruction that Kenya witnessed early this year over a disputed presidential election. And the world should not forget that dark chapter of Kenyan history because the perpetrators of that mayhem have not been brought to book.

A whopping 1,200 innocent people lost their lives within a period of one month. Goons recruited and bankrolled by politicians, some now serving in the coalition government of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, systematically decimated whole families. In one incident in Western Kenya, marauding thugs, believed to be supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Agriculture Minister William Ruto, soaked a church where members of the populous Kikuyu community were cowering with petrol and set it ablaze. About fifty mostly women and children perished in that most bestial attack.

In a retaliatory attack, a gang reportedly propped up by President Kibaki's core supporters -some of them are serving in the cabinet - invaded a poor neighborhood, mostly inhabited by Mr. Odinga's supporters, barricaded their houses and then set them ablaze. A dozen lives perished in broad daylight.

These two atrocities and others not reported in this article, and the brutal uprooting of half a million Kenyans from their homes in different part of the country were what jolted the international community to swing into action to save Kenya from turning into a banana republic.

We heard the Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama passionately appeal for calm. The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made a personal visit to Kenya to demand that the government and opposition share power. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, followed suit. The European Union (EU) demanded that the warring parties find an immediate solution to the chaos or face harsh consequences. The African Union dispatched former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan to bring the warring parties together.

Some sobriety returned after Mr. Annan struck a deal for Kibaki and Odinga to form a coalition government, but not before thousands had died and the thousands others forced to seek refuge in refugees camps in and outside the country.

Mr. Annan ensured the signing of the power sharing deal was not going to be the end of the story. He demanded that the perpetrators of the chaos be exposed and punished. The government faithfully appointed a commission of inquiry headed by a respected judge of Kenya's Supreme Court, Mr. Philip Waki. Mr. Waki's commission completed its work last month and officially released its report to President Kibaki, with Prime Minister Odinga in attendance, two weeks ago.

The report demonstrates unequivocally that Mr. Kibaki and Odinga and cabinet ministers from their parties, the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), respectively, were privy to acts of atrocities that happened in January. The report notes a strategy meeting that supporters of President Kibaki held in the president's official residence (State House) - the equivalent of the American White House, French Elysee Palace or UK's 10 Downing Street - to plot retaliatory attacks against supporters of Mr. Odinga. Isn't this not enough to bring down a president?

The Kenya government's response to the report's findings has been incredibly ambivalent. Cabinet ministers mentioned in the yet-to-be-published report's addendum have launched a vigorous campaign to discredit its findings. Of course, they want to cover their butts.

President Kibaki, himself, seems to have jumped into the bandwagon of trashing the findings of the report. Rather than mobilize state resources to bring all those implicated in the January chaos to justice, he has embarked on useless and unwarranted calls for forgiveness. He wants Kenyans to forget and move forward as if the lives of the more than one thousand people who died in January don't matter.

The report gives the government two paths to punish these suspected murderers: to form a local tribunal by Feb 28, 2009 or let the suspects face the International Criminal Court in The Hague. So far, there's no sign that the Kenyan government is ready to bring those mentioned in the report to justice, which is why the international community must intervene.

Impunity is the last thing civilized societies should not condone. The friends of Kenya - the U.S., UN, the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU) - who came out forcefully to condemn the January killings and massive destruction of property must now demand justice for the deceased and the living.

The Kenyan government, which has yet to endorse the report, cannot be trusted to punish the killers in its midst. It is a mockery of justice to expect the Kenyan cabinet to punish one of its own.

The world must not wait until another tragedy explodes in Kenyan. This is the perfect moment to reign on impunity by hauling the criminal gang in the Kibaki and Raila government to The Hague.

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