Collective Identity, Memories of Violence, and Belief in a Biased International Criminal Court: Evidence from Kenya
34 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2017 Last revised: 23 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 22, 2017
International judicial institutions consistently struggle to build diffuse support. This struggle is particularly visible at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which aims to hold high-level perpetrators accountable for grave atrocity crimes. In ICC situation countries, the push for accountability invites an 'us vs. them' narrative, which frames the ICC as an outsider court set on intruding in sovereign affairs. When the ICC charged political operatives with organizing horrendous post-election violence in 2007-8, Kenyan leaders publicly advanced a conspiratorial narrative that the Court is a neo-colonial institution biased against Africa. This article uses unique survey data collected throughout Kenya to seek answers to the following question: which citizens are most likely to believe the story that the ICC is politically biased? The psychological approach we advance predicts that people negotiate between collective identities and personal experience when evaluating narratives about the performance of international institutions in their country. Ruling-party co-ethnics are far more likely to agree that the ICC is biased against Africans, as are members of other groups who think the ICC is a threat to Kenyan sovereignty. However, those with a personal experience of post-election violence are much less likely to agree that the ICC is biased against Africa, even if they are members of or associate with the ethnic groups in power. Among other things, this implies that the ICC is more supported by those who have borne the brunt of political violence.
Keywords: Kenya, ICC, Collective Identity, Bias, Election Violence
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