NAIROBI, November 17 – The first day of discussions by Members of Parliament on National Reconciliation and Institutional Reform in Nairobi, ended without a definite way forward on the implementation of the Waki Report.
Both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister (PM) Raila Odinga steered clear of the Waki proposal to form a special tribunal to try the financiers and perpetrators of the post elections violence, at the start of a three-day seminar organised for the legislators by the National Assembly of Kenya and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The two leaders did not provide specifics over the manner of the implementation and instead called for forgiveness and reconciliation. When President Kibaki received the report from Justice Philip Waki on October 17, he pledged to have it discussed by the Cabinet ‘at the next meeting.’ The Cabinet has since met but the document has never featured on the agenda.
In his opening remarks at the conference, President Kibaki said: “While justice needs to be done in order to set a clear precedent that will deter impunity in future, it is only through forgiveness that we can bring enduring reconciliation in our country.”
Mr Odinga made a passionate appeal to politicians urging them not to whip community passions for support when they differed with their colleagues over the Waki report.
In an apparent reference to a looming fall-out within his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party over the Waki findings, the PM urged leaders to put the interest of the country first when dealing with this national issue.
“Do we want to be remembered as the House that saw evil engulf our nation, had a chance to make sure it never happened again but let the chance slip due to ethnic difference,” the PM asked.
A section of Rift Valley legislators led by Agriculture Minister William Ruto at the weekend threatened to walk out of the party over Mr Odinga’s stand on the Waki Report.
The post election violence report has generated deep divisions among the political class. The Government has been accused of taking too long to give direction on the report, even after a majority of Cabinet Ministers said the recommendations should be fully implemented, when it was handed to the President in October.
President Kibaki however appealed to participants at the seminar to make concrete and realistic recommendations in the form of a parliamentary action plan, which would assist in addressing the challenges facing the country.
“I wish to assure Kenyans that my government will accord full support to constructive recommendations made by this forum,” he said.
Justice Minister Martha Karua in her address at the forum said the government had no option but to implement the Waki report.
Responding to plenary questions on the Waki list of suspects said to include members of the Cabinet, MPs and prominent businessmen, Ms Karua said amnesty could only be given to persons once they had been tried.
The Justice Philip Waki Commission set a 60-day window during which a local tribunal should be established. The report was categorical that if plans to set up the tribunal were sabotaged, suspects of the violence would be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The commission handed over to the chief mediator of the election dispute, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan a secret list of suspects who should be investigated and tried if found culpable in the violence that left 1,500 dead.