Visa bans are not sanctions enough
Published on February 8, 2008, 12:00 am
Since violence broke out following the announcement of presidential election results, foreign nations have appealed for calm, threatened to cut aid, and travel ban on individuals.
They have hoped to stop the killings, destruction of property and find a solution to the crippling political crisis by encouraging dialogue and reconciliation.
But their pleas have not been heeded. Granted, there is a national dialogue that is ongoing, guns may have fallen silent in some places and pangas, machetes, bows and arrows may be out of view in others.
But people who have been uprooted from their homes are still trapped in camps, and others have moved from places they called home and where they eked out livelihoods.
But one thing has not changed an iota: Those who subverted democracy, planned, executed and fueled the violence still walk the villages, towns and city scot-free. And they must have been people with wherewithal — political, monetary or both.
This is why we welcome United States, Canada and now Britain’s decision to revoke visas for politicians and other bigwigs who subverted democracy and sponsored the violence.
For long, perpetrators of ethnic clashes and anarchy, and enemies of democracy, have done their thing with impunity every election year. But they have never answered for their actions. But preventing them from visiting the US, Canada or Britain is just a slap in the wrist. More must be done.
If these countries have evidence that these people were involved in heinous crimes — some bordering on crimes against humanity — why not go the whole hog? Since 2002, the comity of nations set up the International Criminal Court to try people who commit such crimes against groups and communities.
In making this great stride, the world was saying it would never countenance another Rwanda, Yugoslavia or Liberia. That is why the issue must not stop at visa cancellations, but should be progressed to action against the suspects. This is because barring them from their countries will not prevent them from going shopping or sending their children to schools and colleges elsewhere.
Other nations in Europe, Asia, the Americas and, we dare say, Africa must follow suit. This is the only way to ensure that those to whom violence and subversion of democracy is their stock-in-trade have no haven to retreat to.
But the countries should not announce the action and fail to disclose the names of those it has slapped visa bans on. It should disclose their identity so that the country can shame them. This will make them pariahs not just in London and Washington, but also in Nairobi, their towns and villages. Their accomplices must also face the courts and answer for their actions.
What they have done has affected hundreds of thousands of people — if not millions — and it cannot be purported to have been for the benefit of a community. The poor have borne the brunt and are spending cold nights in displacement camps. The cost of disruption on education, business and normal life is mind-boggling.
But the merchants of war and death live in safe havens ringed by electric fences where want is never an issue.
The visa cancellations are a wake up call for the Government. What is it doing to ensure that those behind the most heinous crimes committed since the colonial atrocities are brought to justice?
It must collect evidence and prosecute suspects. In any case, have the crimes not been committed in its jurisdiction? If there is a time to shout about sovereignty, then this is the time.
It is gratifying that the Government, through its spokesman, Dr Alfred Mutua, has supported the visa revocation. The Government should now do its part.