Kipkalya Kones – the friendly old mass murderer from the neighbourhood

During my first year in Kenya, I was living in a residential complex called Ratna Apartments in the Lavington suburb of Nairobi.

The place was pleasant, and kind of upmarket, with a nice swimming pool and a gym, a hair salon and cosy little outdoor restaurant run by a very friendly and entertaining Indian called Ashwin.

We were seven young trainees sharing 2 big apartments. Although not excessively well paid after our home standards, we could still afford a cool lifestyle in Kenya. Although Ashwin’s restaurant was pricy after local standards, it became the place we ate every time we didn’t bother to make dinner ourselves; 4-5 times a week for some of us! It also served as our next-door café and and beer joint.

Among the regulars there was a friendly old man who as far as I can remember was there most of the times I was. He was someone you would always say hi to, and have a chat with. Always in a good mood, always with a beer, always talkative. We just used to call him “KK”.

A Candian friend of mine who lived next door once had a chat with “KK” about the North American Thanksgiving tradition.  He liked it, so he spontaneously decided to arrange a Thanksgiving party in Ashwin’s restaurant. It turned out he owned a turkey farm, so the whole party was on him, he insisted!

We were an excited crew, mostly consisting of young expatriates living in Ratna who had gathered for the Thanksgiving party. “KK” arrived as the last, accompanied by an assistant carrying a gigantic turkey. Drinks and everything was also on “KK”. Any suggestion of any of us contributing was anathema!

“KK”, I had found out, was actually an MP, and a pretty senior one.  More commonly know as Kipkalya Kones, he was a previous ally of former president Moi, and had switched allegiance to president Kibaki just before his landslide 2002 election. He was an ardent opponent of current PM Raila Odinga, whom he claimed was a dangerous person that needed to be contained.

He had been in parliament since 1986, and was, according to himself, strongly opposed to corruption, a vice he claimed it was important to fight.

I moved from Ratna only a few weeks later, and didn’t see “KK” again, but I remember reading an article about him ahead of the 2007 election. Raila Odinga was the apparent favorite to win, and “KK” had switched allegiance again!

Regardless of who actually won the controversial 2007 election, the aftermath was disastrous. Ethnic clashes throughout the country, massive bloodshed and grand scale crimes against humanity were perpetrated. A mass rage fuelled by cynical leaders stirring violence, hatred and tribalism to strengthen their own positions.

Following the violence, the Kenya Human Right Commission set up a report that included a highly controversial list of the top suspected perpetrators. The The Commission of Inquiry on Post Election Violence (aka the Waki Commission after its chairman, justice Philip Waki) was then formed to produce a more thorough enquiry. Its report included a confidential list of top culprits, that was handed over over to the president and the prime minister. Kofi Annan also received a copy, which he in turn handed over to the International Criminal Court after the Kenyan government failed to set up a credible tribunal to prosecute the top suspects.

Only recently did I actually get hold of the list in the KHRC report. Imagine my shock then, when I saw that Kipkalya Kones was named as one of the main perpetrators! The friendly old fella from the neighbourhood was identified a mass murderer!

The ICC is currently preparing to prosecute those on the Waki list, and is expected to issue arrest warrants soon. President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have already made it clear that any such arrest warrant will be honoured, and the suspects arrested and delivered.

Unfortunately, “KK” will never set his foot in the Hague: He died in a plane crash in 2008, under mysterious circumstances.

For those of the perpetrators that are still alive, there will for once be nothing that can save them from the claws of justice, though. The traditional impunity of the ruling elite doesn’t extend beyond Kenya’s borders, and certainly not to the ICC!

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