The terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall was a terrible and tragic event but it was also an international world-wide news sensation, dominating headlines and the media for five days from Washington to Beijing. With its epicentre in Westgate the shock waves of the terror attack earthquake spread out globally and as a result the tectonic plates of international diplomacy, and in particular the West’s attitude to, and relations with Kenya, may have just changed.
WESTGATE AN INTERNATIONAL TRAGEDY
That westerners formed part of the terrorist group that mounted the attack seems possible, even likely. That westerners and other non-Kenyans were victims of the attack, at least 18 of them, there is no doubt and that figure may well rise as the rubble of the shopping mall is searched. Westgate was not just a Kenyan tragedy.
Add to this the fact that United States and Israeli forces advisors apparently assisted Kenyan forces during the siege, and that leaders from around the world, including President Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, called President Kenyatta to show their concern and offer their support, and one begins to see what a truly significant event this was internationally.
CONSIDERING THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THE ELECTION…
Now add to the above some other factors that together make an equation the answer to which is significant.
A few months ago in the run up to Kenya’s election, diplomats from the US, Britain, Germany and other countries (who were not being very diplomatic), declared that whilst they were not interfering in Kenya’s internal affairs, or taking sides in the election, Kenyans would have to take into consideration the ramifications of how they voted: i.e., don’t vote for Kenyatta or Ruto.
We know the result of the election: the western diplomats would have been wise to have heeded their own advice and taken into consideration the possible ramifications of what they said and how Kenyans might vote: i.e., they should have kept quiet.
BACK AT THE HAGUE…
The election over, the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague continued but now in the dock were the President and Deputy President of a sovereign and independent country, recently and pretty much democratically elected and largely supported by other leaders in the African Union.
Set up at least in part as a political deal after the 2007 election and the violence that followed, the prosecution’s case in the ICC was always like a house built on sand. Ever since the sand has moved and the ICC house looks set to tumble down.
THE ICC’S ILLOGICAL POSITION
The ICC prosecution changed their stance: no longer were those on trial accused of directly ordering violence but rather of being the heads of organisations under which violence occurred. So we came, just a few days ago, to the illogical position, illogical that is in terms of the ICC’s own ruling, of an ODM activist being accused of orchestrating the violence whilst Raila Odinga, the leader of the ODM in 2007 to date, watched proceedings on television back in Nairobi.
Meanwhile, prosecution witnesses, day-by-day, withdrew from giving testimony, some claiming they had been coached in giving testimony in the first place. Some people claimed they had been paid or frightened into withdrawing, others that they had been paid or induced to testify in the first place. The Kenya Forum does not know the truth of the matter but either way the prosecution’s case was in a mess.
WESTGATE – KENYA IN SHARP FOCUS
Then came the terror attack on Westgate and the international attention on Kenya. The fact that Kenya is a stable country in a region of instability, a country in the front line of the fight against fundamentalist terrorism, was brought into sharp focus in Western capitals.
Leaders in, and diplomats representing those Western countries, will not say it publicly but they now face the reality, the real politic, of having to do business with Kenya and its elected leaders. Kenya and the West need each other. Western leaders are being forced to consider whether to continue to support the politics of the ICC or the politicians in Kenya. What’s the betting they now opt for the latter?
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda tried to make herself heard above the din of battle in the Westgate shopping mall by suggesting the ICC could play a part in prosecuting the terrorists. She wasn’t waving, she was drowning. The West will cut her adrift.