Global Ethics Corner: Kenyan Election Controversy

Apr 15, 2013

After a controversial election, Kenya has inaugurated Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, as its new president. Should Kenya, a hub for the aid community and an important Western ally, face repercussions?

The last time Kenya held a presidential election, in 2007, the aftermath saw months of violence in which over 1,000 people were killed. Kenyans went to the polls again in March 2013, and, although there was much less violence this time, the results are still shrouded in controversy.

Despite allegations of voter fraud and just barely escaping a runoff, Uhuru Kenyatta was inaugurated as Kenya’s new president on April 9. Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, was formerly deputy prime minister and is one of Kenya’s richest men.

He has also been accused of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, charged with organizing some of the violence connected to the 2007 elections. Kenyatta vehemently denies this and there is little direct evidence. But he is due to stand trial in The Hague this July.

Ironically, the ICC charges may have actually worked in Kenyatta’s favor during his campaign. To date, the ICC has only indicted Africans and has only opened investigations in African states. So, by electing Kenyatta, some argue that Kenyans are making a pointed statement against Western institutions.

Despite this, analysts think that the official Western reaction to Kenyatta’s presidency will be muted as Kenya is too important to be left isolated. It is a hub for the aid community, one of Africa’s richest states, and a vital ally in the fight against terrorism. Before the election, the U.S. vaguely warned of "consequences" if Kenyatta were to win, but this has not been backed up. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. remains a "strong friend" of Kenya and the U.S. ambassador attended the inauguration ceremony.

What do you think? Should Kenya face repercussions for electing someone under ICC indictment for crimes against humanity? Or should the West treat Kenyatta like any other legally elected president?

By Alex Woodson

For more information see:

Tom Odula and Jason Straziuso, "Kenya Celebrates New President; Daggers for West," The Associated Press, April 9, 2013

Simon Allison, "Kenya is stuck with Uhuru Kenyatta, for better or worse," The Guardian, April 2, 2013

Binyavanga Wainaina, "Kenyans elected a president we felt could bring peace," The Guardian, March 10, 2013

Faith Karimi, "President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya a man of complexities," CNN, March 30, 2013

Tom Odula, "Next for Kenya: President on trial in The Hague, though a push to drop charges begins to form," The Associated Press/The Washington Post, April 2, 2013

Photo Credits in Order of Appearance:
Katy Fentress [also for picture 3]
Uhuru Kenyatta
IMF [also for pictures 9 & 18]
ICC logo
josef stuefer
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation/TURKEY
U.S. Army Africa
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joshua Wanyama

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