Efforts to have post-election violence suspects tried in Kenya rather than The Hague are “sinister” because a local court could be open to manipulation by some suspects, said the prime minister.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued summonses to the six top suspects in the violence on Tuesday, a move that has intensified infighting in the country’s fractured coalition cabinet, many of whose members want Kenya to leave the ICC.
President Mwai Kibaki has asked the UN Security Council to defer the trials for a year and then have the cases heard in Nairobi, a plan backed by the African Union, but opposed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga who wants ICC trials, Reuters reports.
“I think the motivation is obvious. Their idea is to have a bench that will be user friendly, that’s really the reason,” Odinga said at the inaugural Reuters Africa Investment Summit.
“Just less than a year ago everybody was convinced that a local tribunal would be manipulated, that it would be interfered with by the political powers that be.
“All of a sudden the very same people who were calling for The Hague are rooting for a local tribunal … why that about turn? My view is the motives are sinister, they are not good.”
Odinga has opposed the government’s move to challenge the ICC from trying the cases.
“The government is not the accused person, there are individuals who are accused not as members of government, but in their own capacity,” Odinga said.
The deadly fighting broke out after Odinga accused Kibaki of robbing him of victory in late December 2007 elections.
More than 1,220 people died and 350,000 were displaced, severely denting the east African country’s reputation for stability in a turbulent region.
In the peace deal Kibaki and Odinga signed to end the fighting, they agreed that those responsible for violence would face justice, and the cases eventually were taken up by the ICC after Kenya failed to set up a tribunal to try the suspects.
Prominent among the six suspects are Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, and William Ruto, the Higher Education Minister who has been suspended to fight a corruption case.
Kibaki and Kenya’s powerful ruling elite is backing Kenyatta and Ruto as the president’s successor, and analysts say they are seeking to block Odinga from the post.
Should the two be indicted, it could stop them from racing for the top post, and possibly ease competition for Odinga, shown by opinion polls as the frontrunner to replace Kibaki.
Odinga, a charismatic orator, has vowed to break from Kenya’s past leadership riddled with corruption, but conceded the present government had failed to rein in the vice.
“We bear collective blame for inaction as a coalition, but I would say we would have done better if we did not have a coalition,” Odinga said.
His position as prime minister is under fire with Kibaki’s allies plotting to pass a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, a move that could precipitate the government’s downfall — and a snap election.
“I don’t fear losing my position as prime minister,” he said.
“I have no problem with that happening, but … if a partner moves out of this government, then the government actually falls, so they must be prepared to go for an election.”
Odinga said he had not contemplated walking out of the government despite the many public disagreements with Kibaki, the most recent over the president’s nominations of top judicial figures. He blamed the spats on hardliners in Kibaki’s camp.
“We talk sometimes one-on-one and when we do that, there is a consensus or agreement.
“There are advisers, some of them are hardliners, they say to him: ‘You are yielding too much ground, you are the president’. These are people who are living in the past when the president made all the decisions,” he said.
Odinga said he had fully recovered from a head surgery mid last year and was ready to go when elections come around. He predicted a victory by reformists who backed a new constitution in a referendum last August, and forecast a peaceful poll.
“I believe the forces that brought the constitution to this country will even be much stronger in the coming elections … so I want you to watch this space,” Odinga said.