People, Politics and Populism in International Criminal Law: The Mungiki as Kenyan Ethnos and Kenyan Demos

  • Edwin BikundoEmail author
Part of the Netherlands Yearbook of International Law book series (NYIL, volume 49)


Although democracy and democratic practices, in the form of both direct and indirect public participation in governance are axiomatically a cherished value of liberal democratic principles, populism is nevertheless treated with wariness because of its potential to come into conflict with other cherished values of liberal democratic principles such as human rights and the rule of law. The ‘people’ as such have a limited direct role ascribed in public international law. Therefore, populism for this chapter, references a crisis of political representation where a schism between a people and its representatives is detected, or claimed, or exploited. That so-called democratic deficit makes international criminal law practitioners on the one hand particularly vulnerable to demagogic speech challenging their legitimacy and on the other particularly tempted to counter demagoguery by asserting themselves as being more legitimate representatives of a victimised people than their oppressive rulers. This chapter consequently argues that in international criminal law the people is metaphorically explicable as an optical illusion appearing and disappearing at crucial moments in different guises. In the Kenyan case study selected, these contested guises include victims and popular mandates. The people as such are never present and yet remain politically as well as legally indispensable as a rhetorical claim to ground concrete action oriented towards justice.


Ethnos Demos Faustian pact Giorgio Agamben Max Weber Monopoly on legitimate violence Mungiki Political violence Populism 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Griffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia

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