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Some of the six rejected local tribunal option

By | April 6th 2011

By Peter Opiyo

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga voted for a special local tribunal despite opposition from MPs on a local mechanism to try post-election violence suspects.

Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura had earlier communicated to the MPs to support the local mechanism. The letter would later elicit fury in Parliament with then Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale tabling the document saying it was authored by ‘a stranger in this House’.

"As evidenced by the presence of the two principals in the House, I am disturbed that I am not too sure whether the independence of the House is going to be exercised today," added Dr Khalwale.

Speaker Kenneth Marende, however, overruled Khalwale, saying the letter was exclusively to ministers and assistant ministers and that Parliament was not bound by it.

This cleared the way for voting on the Bill, which Kibaki and Raila rallied their troops to garner 101 votes against 93, forcing the Bill to lapse. The Government side required at least 145 MPs (65 per cent) to pass the Bill.

In an interview with Reuters after the vote, Raila expressed his disappointment saying the defeat was a big blow to the fight against impunity.

"This is a setback in the war against impunity and injustice, the Government will take stock and move forward," Raila told Reuters.

Prior to the voting MPs had debated over the matter with the backbenchers opposing the establishment of a local process, saying it would be manipulated.

Former Justice Minister Martha Karua, however, said the local tribunal would be a special one with credible structures.

"Those who are saying they have no faith in our justice system, this will not be our normal justice system. It is a special system where a prosecutor will be hired from the international pool. It is where a special registrar and investigator will be hired and where the tribunal and the special magistrate will be manned by people selected through a different process," said Ms Karua.

She prevailed upon the MPs to endorse the local tribunal saying The Hague process would only deal with the heaviest offenders, leaving petty offenders scot-free.

Karua’s plea

"To say that we go to The Hague, it means only those responsible for international crimes will be tried, if at all. It means the person who raped, murdered or destroyed the property of another will walk scot-free,’ said the Gichugu MP.

And it was Public Service Assistant Minister Aden Sugow who carried the clarion call of ‘Let’s not be Vague, let’s go to The Hague,’ from the MPs’ lounge right in the Chamber.

"We do not have the moral standing to be able to have a very transparent and clear process to try those who were behind the clashes in this country… let me say this: Let us not be vague in this House; let us go to the Hague," said Mr Sugow.

Kangundo MP, Johnson Muthama opposed the local tribunal saying the country has no capacity to try the suspects locally.

"Ni vyema tugeuze mbinu zetu kidogo ili kuwaonyesha wale ambao huuwa wengine kwamba ndege zitakuja, watawekwa ndani na kupelekwa kule, na kuiacha nchi hii ikiwa na amani. Kwa hayo ninapinga na kusema kwamba hapa hatuna uwezo wa kuwafanyia hao watu mashtaka. (We need to show those who murdered that the planes would soon be ready to take them there (The Hague) so that they leave this country in peace. So, I oppose the local tribunal because we do not have the capacity to try the suspects locally)," said Muthama.

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