Tribunal haunts coalition govt

October 20, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, October 20 – Politicians remain divided on the proposal to subject suspected planners and financiers of the post poll violence to a tribunal.

Jitters continued to emerge on Monday over the implications of the Waki report with fears that indictment of implicated politicians would reignite tension in the country. As President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga maintained that the report would be implemented in full, their lieutenants called for caution with some of its recommendations.

Speaking after the Kenyatta Day celebrations on Monday, Tourism Minister Najib Balala said that the ‘bold report’ should be handled with caution. “The minute we mishandle the report we will disrupt the stability and the unity we have regained,” Balala stated and added that the country should concentrate on strengthening national institutions instead.

Kamukunji Member of Parliament Simon Mbugua backed Balala’s assertions and said that ‘the report should be shelved’.  He said that if implemented it is likely to spark divisions in the country.

“It is like we are revisiting the problems we had one year ago. I think the best thing is to handle it with ‘utmost care’,” Mr Mbugua said.

Internal Security Assistant Minister Simon Lesirma however insisted that the fate of the report would be sealed by Parliament. “There will be debate in Parliament where there will be additions and subtractions,” he said and called for an end to a premature debate. Although most politicians are in agreement with the verdict that security forces in the country are in need of reforms they are apprehensive on the condemnation of their political colleagues.

In their address, the Head of State and the Premier reiterated that the report would be accorded utmost attention. President Kibaki said that the Waki Commission’s recommendations would be reflected in the new constitution. He however called upon Kenyans to uphold forgiveness. Mr Odinga on his part insisted that those found to have sponsored ethnic violence as collected by the report would face the full force of the law.

Regional Development Minister Fred Gumo had on Saturday said that it would be dangerous to subject leaders implicated by the report to trial, fearing that such a move would plunge the country back into uncertainty.

Led by Justice Phillip Waki the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Election Violence (CIPEV) identified ‘a handful’ of names of powerful politicians and businessmen suspected of having been at the centre of the chaos experienced in the country early this year. CIPEV recommended that a special tribunal be set up to investigate the persons whose names are currently under the custody of Chief Mediator Kofi Annan. The anticipated tribunal has however caused panic within the coalition government with speculations that some cabinet members and sitting MPs top the list.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka however insisted that those who planned the massacre must be exposed and charged in order to end the culture of impunity. “Even if we would want to sustain the peace it is imperative that we know these people and then leave them to their God,” he said.

Embakasi legislator Ferdinand Waititu said that it was only fair that those implicated paid for the loss of lives and massive destruction of property. “Everybody has to carry their own cross. All those people who were responsible should be punished for that,” he affirmed.

The Cabinet is yet to discuss the report that was handed to President Kibaki and Mr Odinga last Wednesday. It is expected that the Executive will lead Parliament in the establishment of the tribunal to be headed by a panel to be dominated by foreigners. Justice Waki predicted that it could take a minimum of three months to constitute the court and entrench it in the constitution.

Waki challenged the Panel of Eminent African Personalities to forward the names, which remain in a sealed envelope, to the International Criminal Court for indictment incase the country failed to set the tribunal.


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