Domestic Politics in Kenya’s Foreign Relations II: Uhuru Talked to Aljazeera


It never received as much attention both in the so called mainstream and social media. Maybe it is I who needs to find new friends who follow such events of national importance, or follow the news a bit closer. I am talking about Uhuru Kenyatta’s interview with Aljazeera’s Folly Bah Thibault on the programme Talk to Aljazeera. If you missed it, here’s a link you can watch it and form your own opinion about your future leaders:

The main issue, which may be obvious to fervent followers of Kenyan politics, was the ICC. A while back, on the 4th of November 2012, I published a post on a similar issue. It revolved around the consequences to our foreign policy of having the Hague pair at the helm of Kenya’s political leadership. For 25 good minutes Uhuru Kenyatta was grilled about the direction he would take the country if elected.

Notwithstanding the perpetual interruptions by the interviewer almost frantic for direct answers, there were pertinent questions that needed answers by the interviewee. A lot of commentators focused on the journalistic ethics of the former and did not objectively scrutinize the answers of the latter. What issues did this interview bring to the fore?

First, there is the issue of trial dates. The ICC trial chamber has set the dates in April. These dates will be smack in the middle of elections if the current opinion polls are above reproach. Under the current constitution of Kenya, if there is no clear majority winner (i.e. 50% + 1) then the county goes to a runoff. It must be done within 30 days of the general elections, between the first and second placed candidates. It means that UhuRuto ticket may be engaged in serious campaigns while at the Hague facing egregious charges.

Secondly, suppose they win what then? Folly posed this question to Uhuru who started off by reiterating their support for the process. Despite the barrage of questions on he could be genuine about this support whereas the current ICC prosecutor has accused the government which he serves of non compliance, Uhuru stood his ground. However therein lays a bigger issue.

If come April, we have Uhuru and Ruto as the president who will handle the affairs of the state while the pair fends off international criminal charges? In my view, Uhuru was elusive as he just said ‘the government will continue to run’ without any specifics as how that would happen. In case you have not noticed, it is unprecedented that the president and his deputy of any country would be out of that country at the same time. Considering the close proximity in dates and the preparations involved, there’s a strong likelihood that both the president and his deputy will be out.

Thirdly, there is the looming question on sanctions. The presidential candidate can shout sovereignty at the top of their lungs but must understand that the concept is not practiced in isolation. There is always the international community that we must deal with and I think it is not enough for him to say that he will work with those who are willing and ideally leave out the rest. He questioned the interests of those states in Kenya perhaps in an attempt to impute imperialistic motives.

The ambassador of the United Kingdom to Kenya has been categorical on the issue. It is not the policy of the United Kingdom to deal with persons subject to the ICC process. In other words, we will not deal with Kenya should they choose the ICC pair. This is a perfect example of freedom and necessity as there is what you want to do and what you can do.

Finally there is the issue of state failure. There is no universally accepted definition of the term. However whenever one speaks of the term the first example would be Somali. So can Kenya end up like Somali of the pair will be elected? I do not see any evidence of this owing to the strong institutions that have been placed by the constitution. If we had strong and armed resistance to the government like in Mali of DRC, then perhaps a situation like that could ensue.

All in all, it is up to the Kenyan voter to choose his/her leader wisely. Keep the peace!