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Nairobi Government Sidesteps ICC; Kenyans Infuriated


Kenyans are expressing outrage after President Mwai Kibaki announced that the government will use the judiciary to deal with perpetrators of the 2008 post election violence. They described the announcement as an affront calculated to shield cabinet ministers who are alleged to be behind the violence.

President Kibaki announced Thursday after a long cabinet meeting that the judiciary would be used instead of the proposed International Criminal Court (ICC)to prosecute the perpetrators.

The cabinet failed last week to decide on how to deal with the masterminds of the post-election violence, which led to the destruction of lives and properties.

"The general feeling is that our government does not want to deal with impunity. Now by the cabinet refusing to heed to this recommendation by a very senior judge like Waki, Kenyans are treating this as an act of cowardice. A government that is not prepared to face the truth and deal with the impunity that has been committed, and a government that is taking its citizens for granted," said James Mwamu, vice chairman of Kenya's law society.

In his announcement Thursday, President Kibaki said the government will accelerate reforms in the judiciary, police and investigative bodies to ensure credible trials.

But Mwamu called the president's reform unfortunate, saying it will not address impunity.

"Even the suggestion that there are going to be reforms, no time frame has been given. And we know that these reforms have been going on for the last 20 years," Mwamu said.

He dismissed President Kibaki's announcement to use a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to address the post election violence.

"Even when you are going to recommend the TJRC is going to try the perpetrators. TJRC has no jurisdiction to deal with impunity," he said.

An independent commission investigating the post-election violence recommended the government form an unimpeded tribunal with local and foreign judges. That recommendation had wide local and international support.

Mwamu said there is need for a tribunal to deal with the masterminds of the 2007-2008 violence.

"International crimes need to be dealt with by a special tribunal, which has been formed in accordance with international standards, as required by the Rome statute," Mwamu said.

He said Kenyans will not relent until the alleged perpetrators face the full rigors of the law.

"The civil society and the people of good will must constantly continue putting pressure on the government… The civil society and the people of Kenya are not going to give up to ensure that justice is done," he said.

Earlier this month, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan handed over an envelope containing the names of 10 suspects to the ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. The move is believed to put more pressure on the Kenya coalition government either to establish a local court quickly or face international.

Mwamu said Kenyans are suspicious that some cabinet ministers want to shield the masterminds of the post election violence.

"That is the feeling in the country, yes. You know the prosecutor of the ICC has not yet opened the envelope. He promised that he is going to the investigation. But the people of Kenya are demanding he should open the envelope…it will then help the Kenyan people to decide as to who is impeding the setting up of a special tribunal to deal with the Kenyan past and to deal with the post-election violence perpetrators," Mwamu said.

A recent Steadman poll showed more than 68 percent of Kenyans favor sending the perpetrators to the ICC.

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