A bid by a Kenyan member of parliament to create of a special court to try perpetrators of last year’s post-election violence was delayed yesterday when too few lawmaker turned up to debate the bill.
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor says he has a strong case against a few of the ringleaders blamed for the turmoil that killed at least 1300 people and uprooted more than 300 000.
A local tribunal would try lower-level suspects, but two previous attempts to win parliamentary approval for the creation of the court foundered, despite the backing of President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader-turned-Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The delays have stoked scepticism among many Kenyans who doubt that powerful figures in business and politics will ever face justice because of a widespread culture of impunity.
The apparent lack of will in Kenya to prosecute those behind the violence has also shaken the confidence of investors in east Africa’s largest economy who fear a return of violence in the run-up to the 2012 election if the issue remains unresolved.
Member of parliament Gitobu Imanyara introduced a private bill yesterday, that would create a local tribunal with “Kenyan and international judges”.
But debate on the bill had only just started when the speaker realised there were just 19 of 222 members in the house and adjourned discussion for a week.
Thirty legislators are required for a vote to be held.
Lack of a quorum is common in the parliament, reinforcing the view among many Kenyan voters that lawmakers are lazy and only interested in collecting their generous pay and allowances.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last Saturday there was a chance a high level trial could take place in Kenya, or at the UN tribunal in Arusha, northern Tanzania, where suspects from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide have been prosecuted.
Violence broke out between rival ethnic groups loyal to the two main parties after Odinga’s opposition accused Kibaki’s party of rigging the Dec. 2007 presidential vote.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan brokered a deal that helped consolidate peace by creating a grand unity government with Odinga as prime minister and members of his party in senior cabinet positions. But tensions remain.
Last year’s ethnic and political clashes disrupted supplies to a large swathe of central Africa and shattered Kenya’s image as the region’s stable trade, tourism and transport hub.
Moreno-Ocampo met Kibaki and Odinga earlier today and told them he would request the green light for an investigation in December from the ICC’s pre-trial judges.
He said his decision to proceed unilaterally was because the Kenyan leaders had decided against referring the case themselves to The Hague, but they had promised to cooperate.
Pic: President Mwai Kabaki and Prime Minster Raila Odinga of Kenya