Beyond the red light district and herbs of Amsterdam, we Kenyans are on trial

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The big City where Kenyans are on trial for you know what, has the biggest red light district and bhang smoking is legal.Some of the streets make Koinange street look like a convent. Landing in Amsterdam at the crack of dawn on Monday, I had plenty of time to kill in the hotel lobby before my room was available.

I did what I always do on landing on foreign soil, which is to pick up the brochures on display, and select the best maps, dining and entertainment guides, visitor information, and so on.

It is my first visit, but I’ve heard a lot about the Dutch city’s seedier side, especially the drugs scene and the famous red light district.

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Nothing quite prepared me, however, for the open way in which Amsterdam has turned vice into a virtue. Almost every brochure I pick up prominently promotes guided tours of the places that make out our K-Street look like a convent.

Amongst tours of world-famous museums, art galleries, and opera houses, one can also throw in legit excursions, complete with professional guides, to the red light district, and also to the coffee shops that offer much more than just a shot of caffeine; they are actually places where one legally partake on bhang.

I have the rest of the week to decide whether I’ll take up some of those pleasures, but if I do, I bet I’ll be in good company because as I was leaving home, a large delegation of Kenyan honourables was also making its way to the Netherlands.

They were all coming to lend moral support as Deputy President William Ruto takes to the dock to answer charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

The Deputy President and his co-accused, journalist Joshua Sang, Tuesday morning pleaded to multiple counts of murder, persecution and forceful ejection of people.

The politicians accompanying them will have lots of spare time after the obligatory performances for television cameras, so they might find it worthwhile to leave the staid confines of The Hague and explore the carnal and herbal delights of Amsterdam. I will be happy to make recommendations.

On a more serious note, however, we are dealing with some deadly serious business. The Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya is on trial, and might still be in the dock come November when his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, joins him at The Hague to answer to equally serious criminal charges.

We are not dealing here with traffic offences or partaking more than the recommended ration of Amsterdam’s licit offerings, but some of the most severe crimes imaginable.

Mass murder, ethnic cleansing, persecution and rape as a weapon of war rank alongside genocide and other high crimes that attract the attention of international criminal jurisdiction.

President Kenyatta might have tried to make light of the ICC cases – minor “personal challenges” he termed them-– during the pre-election presidential debate, but the reality now has to sink in that Kenya’s top two leaders are facing serious criminal charges in a court they cannot bully or buy.

It is another inescapable reality, however, that this “personal challenge” is a grave national challenge.

This I put not in the context of political propaganda put out by supporters of President Kenya and Deputy President Ruto who would want us to believe that it is Kenya on trial rather than a few individuals.

Neither do I put it from the viewpoint of the political opposition that, like vultures or hyenas, are circling in to start tearing flesh from the soft underbelly of the walking wounded.

For me, Kenya is on trial, not because we were all culpable of the 2007-2008 post-election carnage, nor that we all must share in the tribulations of our leaders. Nor am I convinced by the jingoistic balderdash to the effect that the country is targeted by Western powers.

We are on trial simply because of the way we behave during this trying period. We can remain calm and sober, and let the judicial process run its course.

But we can also allow ourselves to be manipulated by selfish politicians, and maybe get incited into reckless and irresponsible actions that might just lead to a replay of the murderous past that has led us into this situation.

The choice is ours to make.-nation

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