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Tribunal: Government blamed for dragging its feet

By | July 17th 2009

By Standard Team

Kenya came under increasing pressure to set up a local tribunal to try post-election violence suspects, as Western envoys joined the fray.

It came as Agriculture Minister William Ruto was criticised for his proposal that suspects be subjected to a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).

European envoys led other diplomats in Nairobi to register their displeasure at the way the Government has been dragging its feet in setting up a special tribunal to try perpetrators of the violence, that broke out immediately after President Kibaki was declared the winner of the 2007 heavily disputed election.

Then, ODM — led by humiliated presidential candidate Raila Odinga — claimed that the election had been stolen, and asked its supporters to defend democracy. Flexing muscle, a defiant PNU side — which by now had named a partial Government — deployed the might of the country’s security forces to quell the countrywide protests.

It took the intervention of Dr Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary-General, and the international community to broker a way out of the crippling crisis.

Remedy for impunity

On Thursday, the Western diplomats — who have become increasingly vocal on Kenyan affairs — ruled out the TJRC as "a remedy for impunity", and asked politicians to focus efforts on enacting the special tribunal.

As this was happening, the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo, in a statement posted on his website, said the situation in Kenya had been under preliminary examination by his office since 2008.

Joining the onslaught on Ruto, Gichugu MP Martha Karua and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi rubbished the proposal to have suspects appear before a truth commission.

On Wednesday, Ruto led seven MPs from the Rift Valley in declaring that the handing over of the Waki envelope — that has the names of suspects bearing the greatest responsibility for the violence — to the ICC would not solve problems linked to the violence.

Ruto and his Roads ministry counterpart, Mr Franklin Bett, said it was upon Kenyans to solve issues affecting them through the TJRC.

Ruto said there was need for Kenyans to reconcile instead of wasting too much time focusing on The Hague and involving the international community in problems that could be addressed locally.

"Ocampo, the ICC Prosecutor, and US President Barack Obama will not provide us with answers relating to what happened after the 2007 General Election," said Ruto.

Differing voice

But on Thursday, Mudavadi offered a differing voice: "We had issues that emerged during our Serena talks, and TJRC was an option to be used for conceptualisation (sic) of other issues."

Mudavadi added: "Now some people are suggesting that the same (TJRC) be used. We now leave it to the public to judge whether TJRC is the best option."

The Local Government minister reminded the country that Parliament had adopted the Waki Report, which had only two options: The Hague and a local tribunal, or both.

"It is a question of collective responsibility," he added.

Karua, the former Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister who bolted out of Cabinet claiming his mandate had been countermanded by President Kibaki, said the perpetrators would have to face criminal justice, and the TJRC would not be an option.

Karua said those talking about a stolen election should have come out and handed that evidence to a court of law or to the Kriegler Commission.

"They must stop dancing in circles because those who committed crimes will have to be dealt with through the criminal justice system, and there are no two ways about that," added Karua. The EU envoys were joined by the American, British and Canadian counterparts in demanding that the National Accord — as initiated in 2008 — must be implemented fully.

The envoys did not mince words: "To gain the confidence of the Kenyan public and to attract international support, the Special Tribunal will need to follow the Waki Commission recommendations and meet international standards," said Ms Anna Brandt, the Swedish ambassador who chairs the EU presidency in Kenya.

"We encourage the Kenyan Government and Parliament to establish the independent Special Tribunal urgently, but if they are unwilling to set up a special Tribunal expeditiously, we urge the Government to refer the situation to the ICC at The Hague."

Additional reporting by Martin Mutua, Morton Saulo, Fatuma Fugicha and Peter Mutai

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