Another day, another horrific attack on innocent people. This goes on every day, whether in Kenya, Somalia, the US or Iraq at the hands of Islamic radicals, in Yemen or Pakistan from US drones, or in a number of other places around the world at the hands of the crazed and the dangerous. It’s happened in Kenya all too often before as well, from attacks on the US Embassy in Nairobi in 1998 to more recent attacks in the past year.

Before today, Kenya had recently been in the news for a different reason. The trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of individuals including Vice-President William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta has lead to a furious backlash both in Kenya, where the parliament has voted to rescind Kenya’s membership of the court, and in Africa more widely, in statements by the African Union (AU) which allege the court has a bias against African leaders. Indeed, the only other current state leader to face an ICC warrant is Omar al-Bashir, of Sudan. But this could be interpreted less as an attack on Africa, and more an indictment of the UN Security Council, whose members have protected leaders and individuals from other continents, particularly those of permanent members.

The attacks in Kenya have been claimed by al-Shahbaab, the militant Islamic group active in Somalia. Kenya has been involved in the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, since 2011. In a similar manner to the ‘blowback’ the US has received by intervening in Muslim countries, Kenya, as well as Uganda and other countries involved in the AU force have seen retaliatory attacks by Islamic militants as a response to their involvement. Kenya of course has a self-interested reason for their involvement in AMISOM. Indeed, their involvement only came after launching semi-independent sorties into Somalia. With Kenya bordering Somalia, they’ve suffered incursions by Islamic militants including al-Shahbaab in recent years, including attacks on tourist areas. This is of course bad for Kenya’s reputation and economy, as well as the obvious suffering it causes to Kenyans.

So Kenya is the centre of two current examples of international relations in action, which pull it in different directions. Some Kenyan’s have used Kenya’s role in Somalia and the ‘sacrifice’ it makes, with the horrific unintended consequences seen in events like today, as further fodder to dismiss the cases against its leaders at the ICC. Ruto and Kenyatta are up at the ICC for their alleged role in stoking the violence that followed elections in Kenya in 2007. These trials remain important for setting precedents in international law, particularly as they are early cases for the ICC. To their credit, Ruto and Kenyatta’s cooperation with the ICC is welcome, especially given the atmosphere in Kenya and Africa and the attack on their sovereignty that the trials are perceived as.

However, even though double standards are commonplace in international relations, particularly with the most powerful states (just look at the United States or Russia’s recent role in Syria), it’s important to maintain that a state, its people, and indeed its leaders, can be afforded support and condolences in times like these, but that this doesn’t mean that its leaders should themselves be immune from accountability. Both the trials at the ICC and the role of AMISOM (ideally) serve to strengthen international law and improve security and accountability around the world. States are amorphous and can do good just as they can do bad. Russia’s role of “peacemaker” in Syria is a testament to this right now. As such, support should be afforded to Kenya now, and this may take the form of delaying or suspending (temporarily) the trials at the ICC, but the trials at the ICC serve the same purpose that Kenya will now be looking for – justice.

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