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Kenyan Nobel Laureate Urges Support for ICC Investigation

One week before an international conference convenes in Uganda to reaffirm the mandate of the International Criminal Court, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has called for Kenya's civil society leaders to support the court's investigations into crimes against humanity committed in the wake of the disputed 2007 election.

Maathai spoke at a news conference organized by the Nobel Women's Initiative in support of the International Criminal Court Review Conference next week in Kampala. The Nobel Laureate praised the work of the Court and its prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to expose and prosecute the architects of ethnic violence which rocked Kenya in 2008.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (L) and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (R) (file)
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (L) and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (R) (file)

After the two main opponents, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, accused the other of vote-rigging during the December 2007 presidential poll, supporters from both sides clashed in cities and towns throughout the country. The ensuing chaos left more than 1,000 people dead.

The International Criminal Court has taken up the cause of justice after witnessing the abortive attempts of the government to investigate the violence on its own.

The international investigation has broad support among the Kenyan public. Professor Maathai condemned the organizers of the violence and warned that lasting justice would only come from the vigilance of the Kenyan people.

"We want to say that, at this particular time in the history of mankind, surely there is nothing that should have justified leaders advocating for violence so that they could get to power," she said. "Those leaders cannot use the power that they now have to protect themselves from justice. That, I think, is the crux of the matter. Because if we allow that to happen, then you and I have no guarantee that it will not happen tomorrow."

Maathai indicated the investigation could reach up into the highest levels of the Kenya government, and urged the public to support the prosecutor's work and keep their leaders accountable.

In Kampala, the international community to review the progress of the International Criminal Court since its inception in 2002. The conference, which begins next Monday, will evaluate the Rome Statute that governs the court, and how it can fulfill its mandate. Key area's to be addressed are complementary and cooperation with national courts and the Statute's impact on peace, justice and the victims of international crimes.

Kenya's actions at the conference will be an indication of its commitment to justice for the victims of the chaos in 2008. Also speaking at the meeting, the executive director of the Africa Center for Open Governance, Gladwell Otieno, said the Review Conference presents an opportunity which cannot be missed by Kenyan leaders.

"The Kenyan government must seize the opportunity at this review conference to advance and not reverse the fight against impunity in Kenya and to demonstrate its support and cooperation with the International Criminal Court investigations in Kenya," she said.

The news conference was organized by the Nobel Women's Initiative, an organization founded in 2006 by six female Nobel Prize winners, including Maathai, to promote global peace, justice and equality. Maathai is an environmental and political activist. In 2004 she became the first African woman and the only Kenyan to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to preserve the Kenyan environment.