International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampa will hold talks with Kenya’s leaders today about how to prosecute the suspected masterminds of post-election violence in 2008.
Ethnic clashes after a disputed presidential election killed at least 1300 people and uprooted more than 300 000, shattering Kenya’s image as a stable, regional economic powerhouse.
President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the leaders of the coalition born out of last year’s violence, will meet Moreno-Ocampo to thrash out what happens next.
Crisis mediator Kofi Annan handed over a list of the main suspects to Moreno-Ocamp in July. Political sources say it names influential cabinet ministers, members of parliament and businessmen.
Annan said during a visit to Kenya in October that he expected a few “big men” to be prosecuted by the ICC.
According to a letter Moreno-Ocampo sent to Kibaki and Odinga, quoted by local media, he said they could either refer the cases to the ICC or he could initiate proceedings.
In the second case, Moreno-Ocampo would need to get authorisation from the pre-trial chamber at The Hague to start investigations, a step he has not taken in other cases.
The Standard newspaper said Kibaki and Odinga agreed after meetings on Tuesday to let Moreno-Ocampo pursue the second option to cushion themselves from any backlash.
The problem for Kenya’s leaders is that they were the rivals for the presidency. The killing started after the electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner, and Odinga cried foul.
If they are now seen to be the ones giving up former party allies accused of mobilising deadly ethnic militias, the coalition could fall apart and tribal violence could flare.
Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds. But numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and many Kenyans are sceptical powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.
“The problem is that the people who funded the turmoil are in power now. I’d rather we get an independent body to oversee this,” said Bernard Gitau, 50, who is living in a camp in the Rift Valley housing 500 families uprooted by the violence.
Tension is running high in the fertile Rift Valley north of Nairobi, which was the epicentre of the bloodletting and there have been reports that rival tribes are rearming.
Annan has warned that unless those responsible for the killings are brought to book, there is a serious risk violence will erupt again during the next presidential election in 2012.
“We welcome Ocampo, he should come and take immediate action,” Musa Muthumbi, chairman of a camp for displaced Kenyans in the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, told Reuters.
“We have had this problem, not once, not twice, but every election year since 1992.
They have been doing this to us and getting off scot-free. This man should just come in and whoever is guilty should be taken to The Hague.”
Pic: President Mwai Kabaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya