Kenyan Voters Consolidate Democracy, But Kenyatta Invites Gen. Museveni, Uganda's Despot As Keynote Inauguration Speaker

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[Global: Commentary]

Uhuru Kenyatta's 'False Start'

In Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were sworn in as President and Deputy President, respectively, on 9th April, 2013.

Even with Raila Odinga's court challenge, this was the second time Kenyans managed a peaceful, orderly and democratic transfer of power.

Kenyan voters, even the ones disappointed at the outcome of the vote have behaved with exemplary wisdom with a desire to open a new page by rejecting post-election violence.

Because of the significance of Kenya's transition supporters of democracy scrutinized the guest list to see who was invited and who was not;  hanging onto every syllable spoken;  and decoding every gesture made, by the new leaders or their guests, to gauge for cryptic hints about which direction they will take Kenya. Many were surprised by Kenyatta's choice of Gen. Yoweri  Museveni,  Uganda’s dictator of 27 years, as chief guest at the inauguration.  One would have expected key speeches and symbols to reinforce notions of democratic governance, transparent and accountable leadership, and the rule of law.

Kenya's new leaders should have carefully weighed their choice of who spoke, to satisfy internal Kenyan expectations, and yearnings of regional, continental, and international democracy constituencies.

With Museveni, Kenya's new leadership made a false start. President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania or Jacob Zuma of  South Africa, African  leaders whose  countries made successful democratic transitions and peaceful,  orderly transfers of power would have made excellent choices.

The new Kenyan leaders regressed backwards. Ugandans are in a struggle to shake off autocracy, which Kenyans have now repudiated.  Museveni represents a past Kenyans have transcended. Gen. Museveni presides over a state riddled with cronyism and nepotism: patronage, graft and corruption; and outright looting of public resources by cronies and clansmen. 

He's introduced a Public Order Management Bill in parliament seeking to severely restrict or curtail bail rights and criminalize freedom of assembly, association and expression, by making it illegal for three or more people to discuss or criticize him, his party and policies. Museveni’s Minister for "Ethics and Integrity," a misnomer for a regime that excels in corruption, has introduced an "Anti-pornography Bill" outlawing miniskirts on grounds it is too erotic for Ugandan men.On orders of  Museveni, a Marriage and Divorce Bill has been withdrawn from parliament. 

The Bill sought to empower women, by recognizing their contributions to production and valuing their reproductive accomplishments within marriage, family and society; promoting women’s sexual health, sexual and reproductive rights, and gender equality; and criminalizing gender based and sexual, and domestic violence against women.  

Additionally, Petroleum Production and Sharing Agreements between the Uganda Government and the international oil companies are secret; their contents known to Museveni alone and those closest to him. The cabinet and parliament have no clues about the terms of the agreement. 

Last, but not least, Gen. Museveni  has arrogated to himself roles and functions of every and all national institutions, ministries, departments, and commissions by making the State House a super ministry; a one-stop clearing house for all state matters in goods and services.  

Nothing, including allocation of city plots or town markets, happens without personal involvement of Museveni. So, given his tyrannous conduct of affairs in Uganda it was no surprise that when he took the stage in Kenya, Gen. Museveni condemned the International Criminal Court (ICC), which will be conducting the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto in connection with alleged crimes against humanity -- for their roles in the post- 2007 election violence in Kenya. 

Yet Gen. Museveni's attacks on the ICC, while endearing him to Kenyatta and Ruto, also may mask his own fears and concerns. On June 8, 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported that Gen. Museveni contacted then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and urged him to block an ICC investigation of alleged war crimes by Uganda's army committed during its brutal invasion and occupation of parts of DR Congo.

Gen. Museveni also attacked the ICC for its selective prosecution of alleged war criminals. He is partly right -- especially when under the former Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo. 

There is well-founded disaffection that the international community has used the ICC and Special International Criminal Tribunal framework to go after alleged criminals in Africa, Arab Middle East, and former Yugoslavia.   

Yet, even this perceived selective and discriminatory practice, actually benefited rather than disadvantaged Museveni.  Apart from sparing him from prosecution for the well-documented crimes by Uganda's army in DR Congo, especially between 1998 and 2003, Museveni also invited the ICC to prosecute Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). 

Gen. Museveni wants to have his cake and eat it too. Just because the ICC is flawed doesn't mean some ruthless leaders don't deserve prosecution. 

Gen. Museveni has enjoyed many forms of double standards from the West, especially the U.S. While Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, and other countries came under  scorching criticism and intense pressures to democratize in the 1980s, Uganda under Gen. Museveni was given unique exceptions. 

The major donor countries allowed him to continue with his de facto one-party dictatorship and to openly suppress democratic rights at home. Gen. Museveni used brutal counterinsurgency strategies which collectively punished entire ethnic communities in the northern and eastern parts Uganda; meanwhile, an international conspiracy of silence was contrived to shield him. 

The open question is why he has been spared for the crimes within Uganda, in DR Congo and in Rwanda. Other leaders were indicted, including the Sudan's Omar al Bashir over alleged crimes in Darfur: Charles Taylor, for alleged crimes in Sierra Leone, for which a special court convicted him and sentenced him to 50 years; and Libya's Muamar Gadaffi, who was murdered by insurgents. 

Could it now be that Gen. Museveni has read the Tea leaves and knows that the dragnet has reached too close and that his own future indictment is not out of the question? 

The best option left for Gen. Museveni seems to be to build consensus for universal African rejection of the jurisdiction and authority of international institutions such as the ICC. In essence Gen. Museveni is spreading the word that an ICC indictment should be worn as a badge of honor. 

With Bashir holding off the ICC by having turned himself into a hermit in Khartoum, perhaps Gen. Museveni hopes to persuade Kenyatta and Ruto to refuse to participate in their own trial at The Hague, even though they've already made court appearances. 

Such a move might invite sanctions and ostracism against Kenya.   

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