By Dr. Opiyo Oloya
THE case of the alleged rape of a New York hotel worker from Guinea by former International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn referred to by his initials simply as DSK is dead. It was dead from the start anyway, not because the alleged rape never happened.
To the contrary, something did happen in that hotel room, and it is possible that the 32-year-old woman now identified as Nafissatou Diallo, was a victim. There is nothing to suggest Diallo was not telling the truth when she said she was forced by DSK to commit some very indecent sexual acts a month ago. But as a poor African immigrant, her case was almost dead before it even began.
Start, for example, with the revelation late last week that she lied on her immigration application in December 2004 that she was gang-raped back home in Guinea. Now, it is against the law of every country in the world for a would-be immigrant to tell lies in order to gain entry at the border. However, many migrate from poor nations like Guinea because of dire circumstances back home. If things were good, they would not be immigrating in the first place.
It is not uncommon for immigrants to say just about anything to ensure that they gain a toe-hold in the new country. If today a machine was invented to detect improbable stories immigrants tell to gain immigration in the West, hundreds of millions of people would be forced to return to their country of origin. Essentially, in a very lopsided world where the poor have to live by their wits, storytelling to find opportunity in developed metropolis is not really a big issue unless you are in a position similar to Dialloâ€™s where your credibility is on the line. There is also the issue of Dialloâ€™s association with a convicted felon in a US federal penitentiary. Here again, there is a double standard with the insinuation that her connection with a criminal makes DSKâ€™s denial believable that he did not rape her.
The problem is that DSK is a powerful man who all his life lived within a certain privileged circle of prestige and power. He likely could never have connection to a criminal unless that criminal was himself. Meanwhile, as an African immigrant eking a paltry living in the mean streets of New York, Diallo was more likely to know two or three people who have run afoul of the law. That, however, does not mean she herself was and is a woman of base character, a cheat, a liar and conniver. It simply means that she is an immigrant whose experience is not all that unique in a place where immigrants support each other, and do not abandon even those in jail. Indeed, the case of alleged rape was decided from the beginning because DSK has the money, connections and prestige to steamroll the investigation.
As IMF chief, he was the godfather of a powerful organisation that decides how much money is doled out to poor nations like Guinea. He knows a long list of people who owe him favours. With his wealthy wifeâ€™s multi-million dollar fortune at his disposal, DSK went to work. First, the couple hired Benjamin â€œBenâ€ Brafman, the very best defence lawyer money could buy.
Brafman has handled celebrity cases for Michael Jackson, Sean Combs (Puff Daddy), Jay-Z and others. Secondly, Brafman went to work to dig out all the dirt on Diallo by hiring the very reputable private detective firm Guidepost Solutions Detective Agency. A team of detectives was likely dispatched to West Africa to work the Guinean angle, to interview everyone who ever knew Diallo, even the village she came from, the food she ate as a young girl. In short time, Dialloâ€™s life was like that of a fish in a glass bowl for everyone to see. The DSK team uncovered that Diallo fabricated the story of her rape in Guinea. The team also acquired information that showed that she spoke to a convicted felon in a US jail, citing the transcript of the exact conversation. The team also uncovered that the teenage child Diallo claimed was her daughter was in fact someone elseâ€™s daughter. Diallo, not DSK, was now on trial after all.
However, and this is probably true of allegations of rape the world over where the accusers are vulnerable women against men, this does not mean that Diallo was lying when she said Dominique Strauss Khan forced himself on her. Not all all. What it says is that when you are a powerful rich man with connections all over the world who is alleged to have sexually forced yourself on a poor woman you can make the case disappear by turning the power of doubt on her. Diallo will likely never see her day in court. She will quietly vanish into the thin woodworks of society. An immigration hearing will be started to deport her back to her native Guinea. She will likely die poor, her claim to fame being the allegation she brought against a powerful world leader.
The world leader meanwhile will move on as well. His life in politics will likely grow brighter again, and he might even rise to become the leader of the Republic of France. Whatever happened in Suite 2806 at the Sofitel Hotel, whether DSK forced himself or not on a poor African immigrant woman working as a hotel cleaner in New York will be a mere footnote in his career. That is what being rich and being poor means.