Kenyan church leader wants legal referral on post-election abuses

By Ecumenical News International
November 13, 2009

The head of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) says he is not happy that the east African country has failed to refer cases of post-election violence to the International Criminal Court - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"The Hague may be the only hope that Kenyans [victims of violence] will get justice and end impunity. I am disappointed," the Rev Peter Karanja, the General Secretary of the churches' council, representing Protestant denominations in Kenya, told Ecumenical News International.

He spoke to ENI shortly after ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced just over a week ago that he would seek ICC judges' permission to begin investigations into violence that erupted after Kenya's national election in December 2007.

Moreno-Ocampo made his announcement after meeting President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Nairobi on the same day.

Moreno-Ocampo arrived in Kenya on 5 November for his first visit since the ICC said it had stepped up its work in October. This came after the failure of Kenya's coalition government to create a special tribunal to try suspects, including senior politicians believed to be on both sides of the precarious ruling coalition.

More than 1,300 people were killed in the violence and around 650 000 were left homeless, following allegations of vote-rigging that escalated along ethnic lines, destroying Kenya's reputation as a stable country in a volatile region of Africa.

"The government remains fully committed to discharging its primary responsibility in accordance with the Rome Statute to establish a local judicial mechanism to deal with the perpetrators of the post-election violence," Kibaki said in a statement.

The government's inaction, according to Karanja, was because some perpetrators, financers and beneficiaries of the election violence are serving in the government and are unlikely to accept any prosecutions.

"The promise they [the government] will try anybody is a hoax. That's why there is this circus," said Karanja, referring to perceived frequent changes of position by the government.
"We take kindly to Ocampo's firmness and commitment to seek the mandate of the court to start the investigations of Kenya's post-election violence. We endorse it in full."

Karanja said the NCCK would also be pleased, if alongside the ICC process, a local tribunal that meets international standards was established.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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