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Government eats humble pie in Geneva, accepts verdict

By | June 4th 2009 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By David Ohito and Beauttah Omanga

The Government ate humble pie and largely accepted the verdict on Kenya by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Philip Alston on extrajudicial killings.

In a quick change of heart, the Government withdrew its earlier version, which rubbished Prof Alston’s report and dismissed its recommendations and instead replaced it with a short version that was read before the 11th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

The country’s response to Alston’s report brought to the fore the lack of consultations in Government that has characterised the 14-month-old coalition.

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In the presentation yesterday, the Government admitted there were extrajudicial killings committed by police.

"The Government acknowledges there have been cases of unlawful killings within the police force, in respect of which investigations into 53 cases have been completed and 81 police officers prosecuted since the year 2000," Internal Security Minister George Saitoti told the meeting in Geneva.

"We have found most of the recommendations in these reports constructive and useful, and remain committed to fulfilling our obligations," Prof Saitoti said.

The common report was the culmination of days of disagreements between President Kibaki’s PNU and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ODM on the Government’s position.

Initially the Government’s delegation included Saitoti, Mutula Kilonzo (Justice and Constitutional Affairs) and Attorney-General Amos Wako.

The delegation had prepared a report that was very critical of the Alston Report. However, at the weekend, ODM said they had not been consulted and that they would like to be represented in the delegation. Consequently, Lands Minister James Orengo and East African Cooperation Amason Kingi were included in the delegation.

Kenya’s position was a sharp contrast of the earlier 20-page report, which rubbished the report.

Speaking to The Standard from Geneva on the telephone yesterday, Orengo said: "We managed to make PNU shift position and accept the truth on the ground."

Commitment to work

"We all signed the statement and made a Government commitment to work with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights." Orengo said.

"But the differences only show how lack of consultation and concurrence will make it difficult to drive Government agenda in the Grand Coalition Government," he said.

"It is regrettable that what we should have agreed on in Nairobi and sent one or two delegates resulted in huge delegation coming here at tax payer’s expense."

He called for a structured form of consultation in Government to avoid such situations in future.

"What PNU had sent here was a self serving document to defend officials in Government and carry out a public relations exercise. But from today its is a big lesson that every Government decision must be a product of consultation."

Talking to The Standard from Geneva, Mutula said the consultations between PNU and ODM dragged on till early morning as the two parties’ representatives’ looked for common ground.

"I am happy that finally Orengo and Kingi agreed with us and we also agreed with their view of the report," said Mutula.

Without elaborating the minister said: "We reached a compromise on the best way forward."

The common report, however, opposed the recommendation by Alston to have Wako resign and Ali dismissed, arguing that the solution was not in removing individuals from office.

"We agreed that Saitoti makes the presentations on grounds that his ministry is the one the report focused on more" said Mutula.

Last evening, Orengo said their report was well received, adding: "The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has asked to see the Government delegation this evening to express her appreciation.

In addition, Orengo added, "Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo has been asked to address the Human Rights plenary tomorrow on Kenya’s commitment to human rights, which is unrelated to extra-judicial killings and the Alston report."

Personal safety

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) had earlier backed the Alston Report and called for its adoption. KNCHR said several senior officials of the KNCHR have fled the country for fear of their personal safety and security in its report read by vice-chairman Hassan Omar Hassan.

Omar told the session: "Prof Alston’s report accurately reflects the state of extrajudicial killings."

"We note with concern that at the core of Kenya’s governance crisis is not about setting up task forces or commissions of inquiry, but the genuine implementation of recommendations emanating from these processes.