The ICC Obsession

I have been given the tip and the request to update my blog more regularly. I have been told that it will also help increase the readership of my blog. So perhaps this is high time again to make another open resolution (as I did when I started this blog): I resolve to update this blog on a weekly basis, bringing you an even greater collection of stories of my galavanting around the world.

Today’s post is about the current Kenyan obsession with the International Criminal Court (ICC). As you may or may not have read, following the elections held in Kenya in December 2007, violence ensued over highly controversial results i.e. both sides claiming victory, which unfortunately is becoming too much of the norm in African countries today. The violence ended when a government of unity was brokered between the two sides. However, no one was ever put on trial for the violence. In part, this was probably because many of the alleged perpetrators are very high up the political system. So the international community took on the case through the ICC and the six suspects named by the chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, are:  the former Minister of Higher Education (who has currently stepped aside pending corruption charges), the Minster of Finance (also the son of the first president of Kenya), the former Minister of Industrialisaiton (also currently stepped aside pending corruption charges), the Head of the Public Service (probably the highest unelected political figure in the country), the former head of police and a radio presenter at the time.

But enough of the politics, back to what this post was orignially about: The obsession with the ICC in Kenya. Now Kenya is the first country I have lived in where I am yet to ever see international news make the front page of a newspaper. In fact the front headline of Kenya’s newspapers are always either corruption or about the “Ocampo Six” as the accused have been named by the press. And lets face it, there has been enough international front page news worthy items recently, or you would think. (When discussing this feat of Kenyan newspaper with a colleague, I was told that in fact international news has made the front page before. So I asked when. And he told me when Obama was elected. Of course.)

Recently in the run up to the start of the trial which happened on the 7th of April, the ICC definitely has had the upper hand in news reporting over corruption. We are getting indepth coverage about each of the Ocampo Six’s preparations before the trial, how they entered the airport, how they exited the airport, how they entered their hotel, the hotels they are staying at also got full articles, what each of their family members think and say – to the extent that by the 7th of April, when they actually went on trial, I think the whole country was familiar with their whole daily schedule (I honestly would not have been surprised if some paper reported how often and when each of the suspects brushed their teeth).

But not only in the press. Everything has become ICC related here, to the extent that I have been told you can even buy ICC memorabilia. Its become a big business in Kenya. However, for me the epitome of it came the other day when I was stuck in traffic (surprise, surprise) and as per usual, a beggar came to my window requesting money. And as per usual I stared straight ahead to try and ignore him. He got so frustrated that he finally said to me

“You are not giving me money. You are going to the Hague”

Apparently now in Kenya even being tried by the ICC is now a bigger threat than eternal damnation.

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