Kenya: Ocampo headache for Kibaki and Raila

kenya_kibaki_odingaPresident Kibaki (right) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga (left) face a major political test this week as the International Criminal Court closes in on some of their ministers over the post-election violence.

The two are expected to decide to honour a request for a meeting with ICC chief prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo who wants the masterminds of last years violence tried at The Hague.

On Saturday, Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo confirmed that he had received Mr Moreno Ocampos letter on Friday and would act on it on Monday. He added that he would pass on the request to the two principals, indicating that the ICC prosecutor was ready to come to Kenya.

Ocampo is ready to come even tomorrow, but he needs appointments with the principals. He wants to see the Big Two so that they appreciate what he is coming to do now that he will be prosecuting their citizens, Mr Kilonzo said.

Depending on the response from the two leaders, the ICC prosecutor could come to Kenya any time this week.

At the same time anxiety, protests and quiet reflection seemed to greet news that the government may arrest and hand some key politicians and businessmen over to the Hague. Agriculture minister William Ruto blamed human rights activists from the region for targeting politicians over the violence.

The news of the ICC request coincided with Mr Odingas statement on Friday that the government would arrest and hand over the suspects to The Hague. The PM spoke in Dholuo when he addressed Kisumu residents during two stopovers.

On Saturday, however, the PM sought to downplay his remarks and accused reporters of misquoting him in what he termed malicious and irresponsible journalism.

A source familiar with President Kibakis thinking said that the Head of State was grappling with how to deal with impunity without necessarily opening new wounds in various communities.

In a telephone interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Kilonzo noted that the ICC boss had emphasised that he can only deal with the masterminds and financiers of the violence while a local process woud deal with those who committed murder and arson. He added that prosecution at The Hague can only result in conviction, which carries a life sentence, or acquital.

The ICC prosecutor seemed to be reading from the same script as peace mediator Kofi Annan who on Wednesday said prosecution of the suspects should be two-pronged: The ICC for the masterminds and a local special court for those who carried out the actual killing and destruction.

This would ensure that all those responsible for the deaths of 1,133 Kenyans and the displacement of 650,000 others are punished.

Mr Annans statement was followed by a report from his panel of eminent persons through the South Consulting firm that said the suspects should be dealt with by May 2010.

The ICC prosecutor said he would be seeking a commitment from the President and the PM that they would hand the suspects over to The Hague. He added that he would also be seeking a plan from the two principals on how they would set up a local tribunal to try the other suspects.

It is believed that as many as six Cabinet ministers, five MPs and several business people are on Mr Moreno Ocampos wanted list. The report by South Consulting released on Friday suggests that most Kenyans prefer The Hague option.

Asked what the most important thing that Kenyans should do to address past injustices was, 40 per cent of the respondents said they wanted prosecutions, 31 per cent said they would rather forgive and forget while 11 per cent want a truth, justice and reconciliation commission.

When further asked what mechanism should be used to try individuals responsible for post-election violence, 58 per cent said the suspects should be taken to the ICC, 14 per cent preferred a local tribunal and 7 per cent support the High Court.

On Saturday, Minister Ruto claimed that civil society activists who this week claimed that communities in the Rift Valley were arming themselves in readiness for another cycle of ethnic violence were the same as those who had forwarded names of politicians from the province to the Waki Commission that investigated the post-election violence and prepared a list of suspected ringleaders.

The minister was speaking at the Chebororwa Agricultural Training Centre in Marakwet West District where he was the chief guest during the agricultural field day.

These are same, same people who alleged that the post-election chaos that rocked the country early last year following the disputed presidential elections was organised, masterminded and financed by politicians and businessmen in the Rift Valley, he said.

Mr Ruto, whose Eldoret North constituency bore the brunt of the violence, was accompanied by his Eldoret East counterpart Prof Margaret Kamar and Marakwet West MP Boaz Kaino. He accused the activists of peddling rumours and causing unnecessary tension among communities living in the North Rift.

If they were genuine, why couldnt they inform the police so that the CID could take swift action instead of going public and making alarming and unsubstantiated allegations? the agitated minister asked.

Reacting to the ICC meeting request, Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara accused the government of engaging in sideshows instead of handing over those who bear the biggest responsibility in the post election violence to The Hague. He appealed to Mr Moreno Ocampo to move fast and issue arrest warrants against the suspects in order to deal effectively with the culture of impunity.

There is a lot of misconception about who should invite and who should be invited. The government or (Justice minister) Mutula does not have to invite Mr Moreno Ocampo. The moment Parliament adopted the Waki report in its entirety, we submitted ourselves to The Hague option in the event that we fail to enact a law setting up a special tribunal to try those with the biggest responsibility in the post election violence, Mr Imanyara stated.

This business of government purporting to wait for Mr Moreno Ocampos so-called formal request is a mere sideshow, he added.

Similar sentiments were echoed by lawyer and politician Paul Muite who said the chief prosecutor does not need permission to start prosecutions.

Sunday Nation

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