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Kenya’s cabinet seeks consensus on violence court

By on July 20, 2009

Kenya’s cabinet met on Monday to seek consensus on how to deal with the suspected perpetrators of post-election violence in 2008, with ministers split between using a local tribunal or the International Criminal Court.

Crisis mediator and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan handed over an envelope containing the names of 10 suspects to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo earlier this month.

Locals and Western governments are pushing Kenyan authorities to punish those behind the worst violence in east Africa’s biggest economy’s post-independence history.

Annan’s move has heightened pressure on the shaky coalition government, led by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to establish a local court quickly or face international justice.

It is the second time the coalition cabinet has discussed the issue after a previous meeting failed to agree on how to proceed. Previous attempts to bring forward legislation setting up a local court have been rejected by parliament.

“I am confident we will strike a consensus on a local tribunal,” Mutula Kilonzo, Kenya’s justice minister, told the leading Daily Nation newspaper.


Kenya’s shilling currency and stocks are susceptible to any sign of political instability, and traders say they watching the debate closely.

Kibaki and Odinga are trying to push the local option, but there is resistance from some politicians.

A poll by local pollster Steadman said 68 percent of Kenyans wanted perpetrators of the violence — which killed 1,300 and displaced 300,000 people — tried at the ICC in The Hague.

Only 14 percent opted for the local option and 13 percent favoured an amnesty.

The poll highlighted Kenyan’s scepticism that any powerful individuals would be brought to account locally for the bloodshed, due to impunity among the political class.

The government’s human rights body this week released the names of 219 people including seven sitting ministers it alleged were involved in planning, financing, and inciting the violence.

Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who is named in the Kenya National Human Rights (KNCHR) report, has gone to court to have his name expunged.

Foreign donors have urged Kenya to urgently set up the local tribunal to restore public confidence in the coalition.


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