Kenya has said it will miss a September 30 deadline to set up a local tribunal for the architects of the 2008 post-election violence, raising the possibility of International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutions.
The Hague-based court is ready to step in if the government does not come up with a way of putting on trial those accused of causing violence that killed at least 1300 people and uprooted more than 300 000 in east Africa’s biggest economy.
While some see justice for last year’s chaos as crucial to future stability in Kenya, which faces its next presidential election in 2012, others have warned that any judicial process could destabilise the country by stirring up old hatreds.
“I am sorry but we cannot be able to form a local tribunal as ordered by the ICC,” Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo told a meeting earlier this week in the Rift valley town of Naivasha, which saw some of the worst ethnic bloodshed.
“We have only nine days and can’t beat the deadline by producing a tribunal of international standards.”
Kenya’s parliament adjourned last week until November 10 without finalising discussion of the bill that could have created the tribunal. That will now be impossible unless President Mwai Kibaki recalls legislators from their recess.
Kenyan media said yesterday that Kilonzo would now inform the ICC of the new development.
Politicians stoked tribal tensions ahead of the last election, and activists say a handful of prominent figures including several sitting ministers should face justice.
Foreign donors disillusioned Kenyans and local markets, which bombed during last year’s crisis and are jittery over coalition divisions, have been following the debate closely.
Kibaki and former opposition leader Odinga disputed the December 27 vote, with Kibaki declared winner by a tight margin but Odinga claiming fraud. After several months of chaos, which paralysed key sectors of the economy, they formed a coalition which stemmed the violence but has been split by bickering.
Both men have said they support a local court, although the majority of Kenyans want the ICC to take over, believing that a domestic tribunal might be a whitewash.
Pic: The Hague