By Otuma Ongalo
He came with a bang but left with a whimper. This, perhaps, best explains the story of Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the immediate former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.
When he enthusiastically took over the cases of Kenyans (originally known as the Ocampo Six and now whittled down to Ocampo Four) said to have played a prominent role in the 2007-2008 post-election violence, he vowed to make the country an example to the world in the war against impunity.
He boasted of watertight evidence to put the suspects behind the bars and promised that the trial process would be beyond reproach. And since justice delayed is justice denied, he vowed that the Kenyan cases would be dealt with as expeditiously as possible and denied that they had anything to do with political intrigues.
This week, Ocampo quit ICC at The Hague to be involved in softer matters at the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa) in Geneva. The Ocampo who bowed out of the ICC scene was not the brimstone and fire-breathing Argentine who had hoped to leave an everlasting legacy by successfully handling the Kenyan cases.
His exit did not draw much attention because it came at a time the nation was and is still engrossed in mourning the deaths of Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and his assistant Orwa Ojode.
I do not agree with Ocampo that his prophecy that Kenya would be an example to the world has come to pass, contrary to his remarks immediately after the end of the status conference for former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Deputy Premier Uhuru Kenyatta.
The prosecution that had previously boasted of irrefutable evidence to nail the suspects beyond reasonable doubt is apparently ill equipped to effectively handle the Kenya cases in the foreseeable future. It is now pleading for more time to put its house in order in the wake of a barrage of challenges from the defence team. In the ensuing saga, more queries have been raised than answers.
With the cases clearly set to begin not before mid next year, have Uhuru and Eldoret North MP William Ruto succeeded in branding the Kenyan cases political and hence compelling ICC to realign the cases in accordance with the country’s political calendar and temperature? Mr Muthaura wants justice now and that justice is not forthcoming soon. The Hague is crying for time to put its acts together since the prosecution team is still reviewing evidence and interviewing witnesses, and this is despite the charges against the four suspects having been confirmed way back in January.
The delay is further compounded by the fact that the prosecution is yet to make full disclosure of the evidence against the suspects. In its confession before Judge Kuniko Ozaki during the status conference this week, the prosecution says it’s only after March next year that it will be able to disclose all the evidence against the first pair of suspects – Eldoret North MP William Ruto and Radio Presenter Joshua Sang.
And even after this, it will take the defence a considerable time to peruse the witness documents and the earliest this can happen is mid next year. Could Ocampo have boasted of evidence that didn’t exist? Could Muthaura’s insistence for September trial a mere defence tactic to embarrass the prosecution, knowing too well that it is not ready to face the suspects in court?
As Ocampo heads to his new job at Geneva, he leaves his successor Fatou Bensouda with so many loose ends to tie and matters to rest. The issue of witnesses’ manipulation and exposure to risks stick out like a sore thumb and make the ICC process to be not beyond reproach.
One renowned Kenyan scholar has been accused of being one of the intermediaries who often contacts defence witnesses and his comments in a local daily greatly implicate him.