The indictment of those suspected of masterminding Kenya’s post-election violence came closer yesterday when the International Criminal Court said it intended to pursue charges.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he wanted a three-pronged approach: an ICC prosecution of the worst offenders, a special tribunal set up by Kenya’s parliament for other perpetrators and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look at the underlying causes of the violence.
“Kenya will be a world example on managing violence,” Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. His office said “decisive consultations” with the principal officials in Kenya would take place in the coming weeks.
The violence in Kenya last year after a disputed presidential election killed at least 1300 people and uprooted more than 300 000 in east Africa’s biggest economy.
Kenya pledged to deal with the masterminds itself, but numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and the government has committed itself to referring the case to the ICC prosecutor if it fails.
A bill to set up a special court to prosecute the main perpetrators was defeated in parliament and Kenyans are sceptical that powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among the political class.
“There is no question, there is no doubt, that the next stage is the indictment of the suspects. Moreno-Ocampo has now finally set the record straight,” Gitobu Imanyara, the Kenyan parliamentarian who is sponsoring a second bill to establish a local court, told Reuters.
Crisis mediator Kofi Annan handed over a sealed envelope in July to Moreno-Ocampo containing the names of 10 suspects, causing panic in Kenya’s political sphere. The list is believed to include a number of influential cabinet ministers.
Western donor nations have been pushing for action by the government and believe making examples of key political heavyweights may help avoid a repeat of the violence at the next election due in 2012.
“Whichever way you look at it, the process is moving. It’s moving and it’s moving much faster than most people realise,” said Robert Shaw, a Nairobi-based political analyst.
“I still think that the major perpetrators face a serious risk of going to The Hague whether it’s two, three or four of them rather than it being done by a local tribunal, or a tribunal in a neighbouring country,” he said.
Analysts said that indicting the suspected masterminds could rip Kenya’s fragile coalition government apart, at a time when donor nations were pushing for its feuding politicians to work together.
“Those who are saying they want justice and an end to impunity, they also say, make the grand coalition work. You can’t have it both ways,” said a political analyst in Nairobi.
Imanyara said he expected the ICC to start naming suspects soon and the coalition government needed to come clean on how it planned to deal with the situation.
“My only request is for President (Mwai) Kibaki to come out publicly and state where his government stands on this. Does he or does he not support impunity?” he said.
“There cannot be any basis for supporting a grand coalition that perpetuates the culture of impunity.