A Letter to the Vice President

Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka has served as vice president of Kenya since January 2008 when he was appointed by President Emilio Mwai Kibaki. The following fictional letter from President Kibaki to Vice President Musyoka addresses the ongoing debate of putting Kenyans on trial outside of the country. The letter originally appeared in The Star.

Dear Stephen:

Let me start by commending you for the tireless, selfless, and sleepless effort put into the shuttle diplomacy to ensure that those Kenyans who have been accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court are instead brought back to be tried here on Kenyan soil. Those who have been throwing all manner of brickbats and trying to you look like an aimless, rudderless, windscreen wiper are really clueless about the bigger picture; they also have no idea what servant leadership is all about.

These fellows are simply idle rumor mongers and backbiters: like that fellow Rannerberger who was writing to his bosses in Washington that some time ago you said that I was “sleeping on the job.” Apparently, he is under the impression that you suggested that I have two wives. Why would anyone believe such flimsy bar-talk? Maybe the introduction of the Mututho law to curb reckless and excessive drinking will also ensure that, henceforth, drinking does not lead to such hallucinatory imaginings.

But I also understand the politics behind it: it is these same fellows who have concocted all these stories that you are indecisive; a veritable “watermelon” who cannot decide whether to be red or green. I would not worry that they attempt to characterize you as an opportunist and intellectual lightweight. What I cannot understand, however, is why anyone would fall for this kind of fuzzy analysis.

I, for one, do not. I know that you are very clear about what you stand for. I know that you hold the Presidency in very high esteem. This is why when I appointed you to lead the shuttle diplomacy efforts despite the loud cackling, baying, and protests from political busybodies, you were quick to point out that the President “supersedes all others... If you take the view that the President is the head of government and the head of state and he chooses to dispatch his Vice-President and Cabinet ministers, his intentions do not normally get questioned.”

I also recall when I appointed you leader of government business in 2009 and the Right Honorable Prime Minister protested you reminded him about the finality of my appointment and the need to follow the rule of law and not the rule of the jungle. And when, in that same case, the Speaker of the National Assembly overruled me and stated that I cannot unilaterally exercise my presidential powers, you were quick to point out that this was “an assault on the presidency.”

Your consistency on the need for all to respect power did not start yesterday. I remember when these same charlatans and trouble-makers were campaigning for multi-partyism and I reminded them that removing KANU from power was like cutting a Mugumo tree using a razor blade. When they did not listen and Oginga Odinga tried to register a political party, at a time when section 2A of the Constitution was very clear that there could only be one political party, did you not remind them that this was treasonable? And when later the same Odinga tried to sue then Vice-President George Saitoti for libel for calling him a “communist”, was it not you who put this into perspective as the “‘the height of bad manners aimed at bringing the office of the Vice President into disrepute”?

They simply don’t get you Stephen. You have been very consistent as a servant to the leader. In fact, this is why I am writing to you. I have lately been thinking that perhaps it is time to tweak things a little bit to ensure that the huge success of your shuttle diplomacy is not used to malign the credibility of the positioning of my government on the issue of Kenya’s sovereignty.

You see, I have recently learnt that, due to bad legal advice (we regrettably seem to have a surfeit of this; do you not wonder how nowadays everyone and their grandmother seems to be a legal authority on such complex issues as presidential powers?), there are Kenyans who are being tried in Uganda for alleged acts of terrorism. I have received reports that some have been abducted from Kenya, others within Uganda and even others arrested and handed over to Ugandan authorities without recourse to proper legal procedures.

This situation is so bad that it has even led one High Court judge to question my fidelity to the new constitution: “It also raises [a] basic issue of whether a President who has just sworn and agreed to be guided by the provisions of the constitution can allow his agents to breach [it] with remarkable arrogance or ignorance… [it] is [a] serious indictment on the institution of the President and whether he is protecting, preserving, and safeguarding the interests, rights, and obligations of all citizens as contained in the new constitution.”

Another judge, while noting how extradition provisions were disobeyed warned that, “Whether one is a terror suspect or an ordinary suspect, he is not exempt from the ordinary protection of the law. Whatever the security considerations… the recognition and preservation of… liberties was the only way to reinforce the country’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights… the capacity to battle terrorism and enforce human rights at the same time… are not, and should not, be incompatible.”

It is on these grounds that I am now seeing a statement issued by the respected and acclaimed Commonwealth Lawyers Association meeting in Hyderabad in India on February 9, 2011, calling for the release of Al-Amin Kimathi, a Kenyan citizen.

Stephen, are we to allow foreigners to become the mouthpiece on the rights of Kenyans when you have successfully made the case that Kenya is proudly sovereign, ready and able to deal with its own issues internally? Our very own Justice Minister, a seasoned and senior counsel, has admonished us: “I am wondering why my colleagues in the cabinet are quiet about rendition yet it is illegal.”

It is time to do something about it: with this letter, I am instructing you to go to Kampala to reclaim the dignity of our country and vindicate the rights of our citizens. If the Ocampo Six can—and should—be tried here, so must all other Kenyans whatever they are accused of perpetrating.



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