By Steve Paterno
March 10, 2013 - Kenyan went polling in huge number and for the first time to test the country’s new constitution. The voting is conducted peaceful, with observers acknowledging its fairness and transparency. However, with electronic glitches, causing the delay in counting, the people’s anxiety was heightened, leading to suspicion and accusation of vote rigging. Even though Uhuru Kenyatta is finally declared a winner, his main rival, Raila Odinga, did not want to accept the result without a fight. Odinga’s camp is alleging of the ballots being “doctored” and that they will challenge the result through Supreme Court, but not violence. With the path history still fresh, such situation creates a volatile ground that can easily leads into bloodshed.
In the last Kenyan election, which was marred by violence, destruction and death, Uhuru Kenyatta is directly linked for inciting ethnic cleansing, for which he is indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kenyatta is scheduled to stand trial at The Hague in July 9th of this year, on charges of crimes against humanity. Now that he is declared a winner, the question then, how will Kenya fare with an internationally indicted president? The implication of course is far overreaching. Kenyatta presidency is definitely going to be met by backlash from the international community. The European Union, the drivers behind the ICC, already indicated that they are going to have limited contact with an indicted president. This means several diplomatic ties are going to be severed. Certain aides, loans and economic projects may be cancelled. Economic embargo of some sort will be imposed. Travel restrictions will be set in motion against Kenyatta and the company.
On the other hand, the USA, also issued warning of "dire consequences" in the choices the Kenyans made. However, the USA will likely downplay the significance of ICC indictment. The Americans will be forced in awkward and embarrassing situations to deal with Kenya in the name of regional stability and war on terrorism. Kenya is already the region’s largest economy, stable and with the biggest military that leads on war on terror, particularly next door in Somalia. Nevertheless, for Kenya to be in such awkward situation, it presents opportunity for other regional players to project themselves. For example, Uganda, led by a Kingpin, Yuwere Museveni, who has a proven track record of creating and destroying regional leaders, will probably jump into the fray without any hesitation. In the last several years, Uganda spent billions of dollars in military hardware to bolster its security position. Uganda is also playing a pivotal role in regional peacekeeping as well as on war on terror, even trying to steal the limelight from Kenya in Somalia. President Museveni is also a staunch supporter of ICC, because the leadership of Uganda’s rebel, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are as just indicted by the ICC like the president elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, whom President Museveni wants arrested and prosecuted. Therefore, all that is left for the regional King Maker, President Museveni is to play both the Kenyans and the international community in his favor of regional dominance.
Other equally important regional players that will significantly impact the affairs in Kenya are the countries of Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan and Kenya share similar fate: countries run by accused criminals. Last year, Kenya drew the furor of Sudan, and relationship between the two countries went sour, when the Kenyan high court ruled that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ought to be arrested in an event he steps foot in Kenyan soil. This will probably change, where Kenya will try to mend fences and establish an alliance of convenience with Sudan. Nonetheless, in any case that Nairobi is trying to establish stronger relationship with Khartoum, it will be walking on a thin line, because Kenya-Sudan alliance will put South Sudan in a precarious situation and further jeopardizes the stability of the nascent nation, which relies on Kenya on many fronts for its survival. In short, this spells regional disaster.
Another disadvantage of Kenyatta presidency is deeply rooted within Kenyan internal problems. In recent years, Kenyan ethnic rivalries are growing dangerously violent. The country is witnessing spike of armed violence, some of which are even targeted against the security apparatus. The government reprisal to such violence or lack of response thereof, leaves more to be desired. Add the external pressure as well as the internal crisis and the potential for terrorism attacks, Kenya proves to be a time bomb ready to explode, and one of the contributing factor to that will be the Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidency.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at email@example.com