This last weekend I was in the North Rift for a thanks-giving service for Hon Henry Kosgey at his Nandi Hills home. I was part of the team that had traveled with the Prime Minister's for lunch and prayer session that Hon Kosgey had called at his home, to thank God for delivering him from the two cases that had threatened to destroy a political career he had painstakingly built for over 30 years.
It was an interesting position I found myself in. Just over 18 months ago I was the primary coordinator of a hugely successful campaign to raise one million signatures from Kenyans, to ensure that the cases against the 6 people initially mentioned by ICC Prosecutor stayed at the Hague (against efforts by parliament to get Kenya out of the Rome statute). I had done this because though the ICC option was not my preferred option for dealing with the 2007 post election violence perpetrators (I would have preferred we deal with all level of perpetrators through a credible local mechanism), this same parliament had a few months earlier, and on more than one occasion, strongly resisted calls by the President and Prime Minister to support such an option.
Now parliament wanted Kenya to void its obligations to the international court because the ICC prosecutor had suggested that a few key political leaders might be the ones holding the highest responsibilities for the 2007 violence. Parliament was now proposing that rather than have this 6 individual Kenyans argue their case legally in a credible judicial system, Kenyans should throw out the only process that was working towards pursuing justice for millions of Kenyans who had been direct and/or indirect victims of the 2007 inhuman crimes.
We considered the fact that had the Ocampo list been of other ‘more ordinary’ Kenyans, the MPs would most probably have been the first to call for their urgent prosecution. We believed this was a clear example of leadership impunity, and the 1 Million signatures were from Kenyans speaking against such actions from our own elected leaders. I had been clear then, as I still was, that the signature campaign was not about Kosgey or any of his co-accused, and that I would most likely do it again if the circumstances repeated themselves. However I also accepted that what Kosgey and his family had gone through could not have been easy for them.
I also got a chance to listen to him speak at the home, and subsequently at several political stops later that afternoon as he accompanied the PM around North Rift. What stood out for me was the way he handled this victory. He repeatedly spoke of how God had come through for him; of how the prayers of close friends and family had been what had kept him going and eventually prevailed in his subsequent acquittal in both cases. He also spoke of how humbling the experience had been, and jokingly suggested that ‘God Must Be a Nandi’ because he had heard him at home near Nandi Hills, and as he called out to him. In each speech it was clear that neither Hon Kosgey or his family were chest-thumping, despite the fact that they had employed a well set up and well-thought out legal strategy to deal with the two cases.
There was also a clear sense from the family that they appreciated what being named as a suspect at the ICC for crimes against humanity, implies to others, whatever state ones real liability might be. Hon Kosgey dealt with these implications, not with justifications about what he had done in the past, but with assurances and promises about what he will do from now henceforth to ensure that what had happened in 2007 never happens again. He also repeatedly kept calling for all communities to figure out how to co-exist, a call he has committed to do all that he can to make a reality. His decision to re-evaluate his politics and publicly re-state his political principles is an amazingly humbling thing for a man of his stature to do, especially after such a victory.
Finally, as Hon Kosgey thanked the Prime Minister for keeping faith in him even when he was not able to completely carry out his responsibilities as ODM party chairman; and keeping the Industrialization docket open for him for over 18 month (despite intense pressure that he re-allocate it), I saw a man with inbuilt humility. He explained that clearly the PM believed in his innocence, otherwise he would have given out the slots to someone else.
My last thoughts on this was the contrast when I thought of how some of the other suspects would have dealt with a similar situation to Kosgey's. If nothing else they must learn that God honors humility.
The writer is a commentator on Kenyan social and political affairs