Kenya Cabinet fails to agree on tribunal

July 14, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 14 – Kenya’s Cabinet has disagreed on a new proposal for the establishment of a special tribunal to try suspected perpetrators of post election violence.

A crucial Cabinet meeting held on Tuesday failed to agree on the formation of a home based trial for the suspects with Ministers disagreeing sharply. The six-hour meeting at State House Nairobi chaired by President Mwai Kibaki openly disagreed with proposals tabled by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo despite putting what had termed as “sufficient safeguards” that would protect the tribunal from any manipulation. 

“All I can say is that the meeting did not go well,” said one of the Ministers who did not want to be named.

A dispatch from the Presidential Press Service said another special session would be held next week to discuss the way forward after Ministers study the two proposed Bills tabled by Mr Kilonzo. The Bills are the Constitution Amendment Bill and the Special Tribunal Bill. Further consultations are expected as the government seeks for common ground on the issue.

Sources at Tuesday’s special meeting intimate that there were sharp disagreements over the inclusion of foreigners in the tribunal and the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

According to a source at the Kenya Law Reform Commission, the new draft had abolished an amnesty clause that was in the previous Bill. The President will also not have powers of pardon, meaning convicts must face the punishment delivered by the Special Tribunal. The Attorney General has also been stripped of his ’nolle prosequi’ powers meaning he will not be able to terminate any of the cases.

Also in the new draft, Ministers and other public officers named as having taken part in either planning or executing the violence will be required to resign immediately they are charged in court and will not return to office unless they are cleared of the charges. The tribunal will also have its own financial autonomy. 

It appears that an earlier proposal to have a special division of the High Court to try the suspects has now been abandoned.

The new Bill is a product of concerted efforts between Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, his Lands counterpart James Orengo and Attorney General Amos Wako assisted by the Kenya Law Reform Commission.

Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting came six days after Chief Mediator Kofi Annan handed over the list of the suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC) causing panic and anxiety within government. The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is expected to open the sealed envelope together with supporting evidence later this week as the court examines whether the offences meet the threshold of an international process (which covers genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity). 

The Justice Minister has however allayed fears that the ICC will immediately start prosecution.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto backed by legislators from the North Rift has made it clear that they will shoot down the tribunal bill. While a section of members of Parliament rejected the earlier bill in February because of the amnesty clauses as well as the powers of the President and AG to discontinue the conviction, the North Rift group said the tribunal targets a few people who were protesting against ‘election theft.’

At least 1,333 people lost their lives during the violence while over 600,000 were uprooted from their homes. Since signing the peace deal to share power last year the coalition government has been trying to put the crisis behind but the divisions within the executive and parliament have frustrated a efforts to come with a unified way out.


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