Kenyatta Victory and the New African Renaissance

Kenyatta Victory and the New African Renaissance

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Photo: Kenyans rallied for their internationally indicted President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta.

NEW YORK--History has a way of repeating itself. Uhuru Kenyatta’s triumph in Kenya’s presidential election earlier this month has far-reaching implications for Kenya, Africa and the world.

Uhuru, a scion of Kenya’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, is facing similar political circumstances faced by his father.

Prior to independence in 1963, the charismatic Jomo Kenyatta, along with his counterparts in other countries of Africa, fought for the liberation of Kenya from British colonial bondage.

Confronting Modern Colonialism

Today, history seems to have run full cycle, as Uhuru’s presidential victory stands in the face of modern imperialism, which is epitomized by the conduct of International Criminal Court (ICC). With this victory, Uhuru is set to become the new symbol of decolonization of the continent.

The idea of the ICC is good--but to have focused only on Africa since its inception in 1998 does not only make a mockery of its international outlook, but also creates a perception of modern colonialism through international jurisprudence.

Although investigations are being conducted elsewhere, to date the only suspects indicted by the court are Africans. Some countries notably the United States have ignored the validity of the court, and yet Africans are continuously harassed and intimidated by the court.

Certainly, the specter of the ICC may have played significant roles in the outcome of 2013 Kenyan election. On one hand, fear of the court may have ensured the absence of violence in this year’s presidential election, such as the post election violence that occurred in 2007.

On the other hand, the forces of nationalism and patriotism among Kenyans may have also been responsible for the election outcome – surely an unintended consequence of prosecuting a nationalist of Kenyatta’s stature.

The electorate may have cast their votes for Kenyatta in protest to his indictment by ICC and other western collaborators for crimes against humanity he allegedly committed after the 2007 election.

Initially many commentators predicted that the charges would hinder Kenyatta’s presidential ambitions. Even his rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, questioned his opponent’s ability to run Kenya “via Skype from The Hague.”

Foreign Interference Worked in His Favor

But anecdotal evidence suggests that Kenyatta re-branded the indictment in such a supremely intuitive way that the ICC label actually worked in his favor. Consequently, the Kenyan elections became a referendum on the ICC and foreign interference in Kenyan affairs.

The latest decision of International Criminal Court to withdraw charges against Francis Muthaura, a co-accused of Kenya’s new president-elect, raises the prospect of Kenyatta’s eventual acquittal. It is the right thing to do.

Imagine conducting a trial of a country’s president via Skype? Would you do that to a sitting or even past president of the United States, or a British Prime Minister? ICC risks irrelevance if it targets only African countries out of 120 other states that signed on to the Rome Statute that established the court.

As salutary and exemplary as Kenyans revolt against imperialism may appear, it is important to remind Africans and the leaders in the continent that the continent’s destiny is in their hands. Hardly any African will welcome foreign interference in the continent’s internal affairs, but the actions of a few elites sometimes justifies external arbiters or interlocutors.

For example, the action of Kenyatta’s main rival Raila Odinga in the days and months ahead will determine the future democratic experiment underway there. Kenya, after all, is the hub of East African economy still recovering from fratricidal violence that erupted in 2007 presidential election.

Although Odinga, himself the son of Oginga Odinga, a fellow nationalist like Uhuru’s father, has alleged massive vote-rigging, saying he would challenge the results in the Supreme Court. It is heartwarming to learn that Odinga has appealed for calm, warning that any violence “could destroy this nation forever.” This is what is expected from a statesman.

Relationship With Obama

No doubt, the post-election politics in Kenya are of interest to the international community for a number of reasons. It will determine the country’s relationship with the United States where Barack Obama, a Kenyan-American, is the president.

There is a brighter prospect of Obama visiting his father’s homeland during his presidency and touting the gains of democracy in Africa.

The United Nations has one of its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and therefore will have a stake in the future stability of the East African country.

The globalization of labor and capital will benefit stable democracies, and it will be remarkable if Kenya joined the league of stable democracies in the world.

It is clear that elections, corruption, transparency and political participation are perennial challenges to Africa’s democratic governance.

The continent is in dire need of good governance to address a myriad of socioeconomic challenges facing nearly 1 billion African citizens.

In the meantime, this is Kenya’s moment to join the movement for Africa’s renaissance.

Uchenna Ekwo is the President at the Center for Media & Peace Initiatives, in New York, which works toward conflict-resolving journalism. You can follow him on Twitter: @cmpimedia or e-mail: