Poll violence blamed on weak laws

July 22, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, July 22 – Lack of proper legislations to deal with suspects of hate speech and incitement may have contributed to the high level of violence in the country, a lobby group said Tuesday.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission’s (KHRC) director Muthoni Wanyeki said the current legislation does not spell out ways of handling cases involving hate speech and incitement.

During cross examination at the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence (CIPEV) on Tuesday, Wanyeki said the violence witnessed in the country during the post election period was a result of a high level of impunity adopted by Kenyan politicians.

Wanyeki was being cross examined by lawyer Mbuthi Gathenji.

Below is an excerpt from Tuesday’s proceedings:

Gathenji: What about the prosecution capacity?

Wanyeki: Our prosecution capacity is also an issue, yes.

Gathenji: And you did not recommend any external prosecution?

Wanyeki: No we didn’t, we assessed what external capacity means which will be the International Criminal Court (ICC). We have been in touch with them. We have offered to tender part of the information to them to make their assessment as to whether or not this situation would fall under their limit.

Gathenji: So that option is still open.

Wanyeki: I believe so, depending on what our investigations and prosecutions team decides.

Gathenji: You talk about an impartial and independent public prosecution system. That is your recommendation. Were you by any chance talking about a special court or a special tribunal within Kenya or what did you have in mind?

Wanyeki: What we had in mind were specific amendments that have been mentioned in other reports that will enable our courts to handle these matters.

Gathenji: In making these recommendations about an impartial independent public prosecution system and in your knowledge you know that our constitution does provide that the Attorney General should do it. Are you in any case alluding that the capacity of the Attorney General is not sufficient in the circumstances?

Wanyeki: We have in previous reports looked at the performance of the Attorney General’s office in respect of Human Rights violations and we have not been entirely satisfied. That is where these recommendations come from.

Gathenji: Since you are within the jurisdiction, you know the challenges that have been with various organisations trying to prosecute. Are you also suggesting or do we share the view that our constitution needs to be amended?

Wanyeki: Of course we have been part of the constitutional reforms process or lobby from our inception.

Wanyeki also told the commission that her organisation had conducted an extensive tour of the Rift Valley and established that many youth were involved in oath-taking prior to the general election.

Many of the youth are blamed for the violence witnessed in the country during the post election period that claimed the lives of nearly 1,500 people and displaced about 300,000 others.

The violence was sparked by claims by the then Presidential candidate Raila Odinga who accused the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the vote.


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