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Kenya Tribunal for Post-Election Crimes Opens Political Divisions

A Kenyan human-rights watchdog says it has been in communication with the International Criminal Court in the Hague about crimes committed in the aftermath Kenya's December elections. As Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, Kenyan political leaders are divided over whether to support a recommendation to establish a tribunal on post-election violence in the country.

As part of an agreement mediated by African leaders in February, a commission was established to investigate violence set off by disputed election results that killed more than 1,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands from December through February.

Last month the commission, headed by Kenyan judge Philip Waki, released its findings and recommended Kenya establish a tribunal with Kenyan and international members, to try those suspected of the greatest involvement in the violence.

Waki refused to reveal the names of the suspects, but said if Kenya's leaders did not agree to the tribunal within 60 days, those names will be forwarded to the International Criminal Court.

Leaders from both of Kenya's main political parties have not offered a firm position on the report, trying to avoid being seen as blocking an investigation into serious crimes, while retaining support of allies who may be implicated.

Kenyan civil society leaders have grown increasingly frustrated with the political response. A top official with the state-funded Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, Hassan Omar, called for leaders to act on the report.

"By rejecting the report, we understand the politicians to be telling Kenyans that 'A', they do not want national catharsis, healing of the nation, or a clean break from the past; 'B', they support the love of national morality in politics, and does not believe in the culture of humanity; and 'C' that they prefer to reinforce Kenya's culture of impunity by hiding the concealed painful truth of the post-election violence," he said.

Omar said the human-rights commission, which produced a separate report on the violence, would prefer to establish a tribunal in Kenya, but has been in contact with the International Criminal Court.

"The ICC has already been in touch with the KNCHR. They are interested in this matter. They have asked us to share with them our report, plus other reports, and to share with them the relevant information," he said. "They are determining whether this matter is a matter that they would be interested in, and the ICC does not need an invitation to come here."

Key supporters of both President Mwai Kibaki and his main opponent in December's election, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, are thought to be among those under investigation.

Supporters of Mr. Odinga from the Rift Valley province have been accused of organizing tribal militias to target members of President Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group over long-standing land disputes. Supporters of the president, meanwhile, have been accused of recruiting a Kikuyu gang known as the Mungiki to carry out retaliatory attacks.

Tensions have been particularly visible within Mr. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, which holds a majority in Kenya's parliament. The prime minister, who has eagerly courted the favor of the international community during the past year, initially endorsed Waki's recommendations. But a recent meeting of the party's members of parliament rejected them.

On Monday, after a meeting of top party leaders, Secretary-General Anyang Nyong'o said the party would form a new committee to look at the report.