PRESIDENT Uhuru Kenyatta has once again used the ICC issue to solidify his political support in the country and the region.
By handing over power to his Deputy William Ruto in an unprecedented and historic protocol event in Kenya and flying to The Hague to face the ICC judges during the status conference on his case, Uhuru, according to many observers, managed to paint himself as a victim – once again evoking near-fanatical support.
“It was a masterstroke when he temporarily handed power to Ruto. That act alone got his supporters praying and standing by him; and Cord supporters shocked and their referendum push punctured.
“Whichever option the ICC judges may take within the next three weeks, Kenyatta has wisely forestalled an imminent confrontation with the court over the issue of sovereignty. His strategy of cooperation has also safeguarded Kenya’s sovereignty, ensured that Kenya remained true to the ideals of pan-Africa solidarity and demonstrated its commitment to international justice in a public and palpable way,” said Prof Peter Kagwanja, the Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute and former government adviser.
Before the elections Uhuru and Ruto appeared before the court and upon return they received a heroic welcome when tens of thousands of Kenyans turned up to receive from the airport to a mammoth all-day prayer rally in Uhuru Park.
The two leaders then went across the country castigating the court and describing it as a colonial tool that was being used to punish Uhuru, just like his father Jomo Kenyatta was tried and jailed by the British.
Initially, many commentators predicted that the charges would hinder Uhuru’s presidential ambitions.
His rival, Raila Odinga, questioned Uhuru’s ability to run Kenya “via Skype from The Hague” in a presidential debate broadcast live on radio and TV.
But anecdotal evidence suggests Uhuru re-branded the indictment in such a supremely intuitive way that the ICC label actually worked in his favour.
He denies all the charges.
Their anti-ICC campaign saw Uhuru and Ruto’s supporters unite and vote almost to a man for the two to defeat Raila’s Cord coalition with their “tyranny of numbers” narrative.
Yesterday when he returned to the country, the President once again attacked foreigners whom he accused of meddling in Kenya’s affairs.
“I went to see those people who think they can tell us how to run our country.
They should leave is to manage our affairs,” said the President amid applause from his supporters.
“The President has shown that he is humble and he is not afraid of handing power to anyone. We believe and trust in him even more. We from Rift Valley will remain strongly behind the two in Jubilee,” said Kericho Senator Charles Keter.
During his various stops from JKIA to the CBD, Uhuru explained that it did not matter who was President but rather what the occupant of the seat at any one time did for all Kenyans.
“When I was away Ruto took charge of the country. We have to learn to trust one another.
It doesn’t matter who is in power but what you do with power,” he declared.
“We don’t want division, I want us to be united,” the President told the nation outside his Harambee House offices.
Regionally, the President seems to have solidified his position as well, with the East African leaders standing by him.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni called on all African countries yesterday to review their membership of the ICC after the court summoned Uhuru, a sitting president.