In the meantime, the Kenyan situation forges ahead:
- The Kenyan High Court released its decision on when the Elections Date should actually be held. It's quite an interesting situation, in actual fact - while the new Constitution of Kenya holds that all elections in Kenya should be held in August, this entire year is a 'transitional' year. Which means that several major sections of the Constitution, including when the next election should be held, are unclear. There has been considerable debate on the matter, from all sides of society. CSOs have been urging for the 'direct' interpretation of the Constitution, and for elections to be held in August 2012. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which is the major administrative body in charge of setting up the elections, had stated that it would be impossible, from an administrative standpoint, to have the elections any time before December 2012. On that note, an MP put a bill forward in Parliament, hoping to amend the Constitution (both on the elections date, and on the issue of the 1/3 gender requirement). President Kibaki has come out and asked people to respect the 'full terms' of the elected officials, from the last election (which would put the elections sometime in March 2013). So, inevitably, it remained for the courts to make the final determination. If you need some bedtime reading, you can read the full decision here. It is an interesting decision, which ultimately refers to the 'Power-sharing' government that was set up by Kofi Annan as a means of ending the 2007 post-election violence. One of the important aspects of the power-sharing agreement between the President and the Prime Minister was that neither one could dissolve the National Assembly without the express written consent of the other. Otherwise, the terms of the two heads of state were to expire after 5 years (January 2013). And, by the letter of the law, an election would have to be held within 60 days of either (a) the dissolution of the National Assembly, or (b) the expiry of the terms of the elected officials. So, it turns out that the High Court agreed with President Kibaki (sort of) - the absolute latest date that an election could be held is March 2013, unless the President and Prime Minister agree to dissolve the National Assembly before that time. An appeal of the decision has already been launched by a group of Civil Society Organizations (not including ICJ-Kenya), based on the argument that the Prime Minister (Raila Odinga), should not be in a position to determine the next elections date, since he intends to run in the elections himself. I'll be watching this development closely, given the link between violence and human rights abuses and elections in Kenya.
- Almost concurrently, the Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Kenya, Nancy Baraza, got mixed up in a tabloid-worthy conflict. Allegedly, Madame Justice Baraza entered a busy, up-scale shopping mall in Nairobi in order to visit the pharmacy, but walked right through the necessary security protocols (each mall and hotel here has a security guard that will scan you with a metal detector). So, the female security guard followed her inside to get her attention and to screen her. Once the guard got the DCJ's attention, then conflict began. DCJ Baraza got angry with the security guard for not recognizing her, pinched her nose, and, depending on the news source: (a) went to her car and got her gun to threaten the security guard, (b) took her own bodyguard's gun to threaten the security guard, (c) threatened to shoot the guard, with or without a gun, or (d) talked about something to do with guns, with no gun present. In any event, it seems apparent that those actions were 'conduct unbecoming' of the second-most prestigious Judge in Kenya. Since then, the Judicial Services Commission has investigated her actions, and has recommended that the President suspend her, and appoint a Tribunal to make a decision on whether she is fit to remain in service. Despite numerous calls for her resignation, DCJ Baraza seems intent on fighting this to the bitter end, as she initially launched a court petition to block the suspension (which she ultimately lost). This saga is ongoing.
- Perhaps most importantly, the International Criminal Court, on January 23rd, released its decision on the confirmation of charges against the six Kenyans suspected of being the most responsible for the serious crimes arising out of the 2007 post-election violence. Four out of the six accused individuals had their charges confirmed. This means, in essence, that the ICC found sufficient grounds to confirm their charges, and to proceed to trial based on their links to substantial human rights violations. Of the four confirmed, three of them are currently public officials. Uhuru Kenyatta is the deputy Prime Minister, and the Minister of Finance, Francis Muthaura is the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary of the Cabinet, and William Ruto is the Member of Parliament for Eldoret North. Both Ruto and Kenyatta are also presidential hopefuls. From the sounds of it, Kenyatta has stepped down from his post as the Minister of Finance, and Muthaura has stepped aside from his posts. But there are significant concerns of the roles that these gentlemen will play in Kenyan politics, especially with the upcoming (probably delayed) elections. What is more hopeful, though, is the fact that the confirmation of the charges against these four is a massive blow against the forces of impunity. There is a tangible sense that people responsible for major crimes, no matter how prominent the individuals are, will be held accountable for their actions. The presumption of innocence notwithstanding, the fact that these cases are going to trial is a major step forward. The two accused that did not have their charges confirmed - Henry Kosgey and Gen. Hussein Ali - are still, however, undergoing investigations by the Office of the Prosecutor. In fact, the Prosecutor's office continues to do background investigations, which is also a positive sign - one of the controversies arising out of the confirmation stages was that major areas of violence - especially from the Kibera slum and in Kisumu - had been left out by the prosecutors. Given the way that the ICC processes work, however, the Prosecutor is still able to investigate these situations, and bring them before the court, either as additional evidence against the 4 standing trial, or against the 2 that were not confirmed, in a new confirmation hearing.
- On a personal note, I have had an abstract of a paper accepted to the ANCL Annual Conference in Lagos, Nigeria. The conference is on fostering Judicial Independence in Africa, and I'll be writing a paper on Judicial Independence in the Context of ICC prosecutions, using the decision of the High Court of Kenya to issue a provisional arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir. Exciting stuff! Of course, now I have to actually get down to business and write the paper.
I am still following news in Canada with some interest, and things heat up with regards to the treatment of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. I am seeing the monumental changes occurring here in Kenya, and it is providing a very contrasting perspective with how things are developing in Canada. Just because the label 'developing country' doesn't apply, doesn't mean that a country can do with a few positive developments.