Kenya’s Cabinet met today to consider the crisis presented by key members of the coalition government being named Wednesday in the Hague when prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo seeks six indictments for alleged primary actors in 2008 Post Election Violence. Divergent views have emerged as to what was or was not agreed to, raising questions as to the extent to which the ICC will obtain the promised cooperation of the government. The Presidential Press Service released a statement saying that the cabinet has now agreed to moving forward to create a “local tribunal” in Kenya to prosecute Post Election Violence cases. The ICC prosecutions were eventually initiated after Parliament voted down previous proposals for such a tribunal.
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President Kibaki and his Party of National Unity (PNU) now want suspects identified locally and by the International Criminal Court to be tried by a local tribunal. The move has left Prime Minister Raila Odinga and ODM in a quandary just a day after the PM and Kibaki appeared united in condemning US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger.
The PNU plan is banking on support from rebel ODM legislators from the Rift Valley opposed to Raila, but allied to Eldoret North MP William Ruto, to drum up support for the plan in and outside Parliament.
Raila and MPs allied to him are opposed to the plan, noting that the same MPs voted against a local tribunal to try the suspects in February, 2009, but have lately been outspoken in condemning International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, claiming his investigation is one-sided and targets certain communities.
They say the ICC process should be allowed to run its course since Kenyans’ trust in the local judicial system is severely lacking.
But it is the shock decision by Kibaki, who appeared to go back on his promise to mediator Kofi Annan that the Government would support the ICC probe, which is bound to keep analysts busy for the rest of this week.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo will spend five days in Kenya, including visits with victims and to areas most affected by post election violence, and a public question-and-answer session, along with civil society, religious and business groups. He has also offered to meet with those who believe they may be unfairly identified as suspects.
In the meantime, the EU envoys have spoken out against a continuing climate of fear for potential witnesses. A variety of reports indicate a pattern of intimidation and threats against prospective witnesses, and concerns have been raised about leaks of witness identities from within the Kenya National Human Rights Commission which has done much of the initial investigative work on the violence. A former senior official of the Kenyan Administration Police is said to be among those who have fled the country for safety in the absence of an effective witness protection program in Kenya.
The Indian Ocean Newsletter reported that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta hosted a meeting with Ministers William Ruto and Najib Balala at his Nairobi residence April 4 “to agree their stories for the ICC.”
At least 20 witnesses said to be holding crucial evidence on hate crimes committed during the post-election violence have been placed under protection.
Many have been flown out of Kenya for their safety while others are being protected in safe houses in various parts of the country, a civil society official involved in the international witness protection initiative disclosed on Friday.
They include seven people thought to have crucial evidence that could nail the masterminds of two of the worst atrocities committed in the Rift Valley during the violence, the official, who did not wish to be named to avoid compromising his trust, said.
The scheme under which the witnesses have been placed is managed by the civil society and international agencies and is not the one operated by the government.