, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 1 – More than a half of Kenyans still want suspected perpetrators of post election violence tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, according to a new survey.
The report by consultants hired by the African Union Panel of Eminent Personalities shows that 53 percent of respondents support the ICC route as opposed to 33 percent who vouch for a local tribunal. According to South Consulting, most of those interviewed believe the local Tribunal would be corrupted and trust they will only find fair judgment at The Hague.
These fears, they say, are due to the recognition of weaknesses in the national legal and judicial system and the fact that successive Kenyan governments have lacked political will to prosecute influential persons for serious offences, including political violence.
“This politicisation of the process to establish a Special Tribunal may lead to people losing confidence in the Tribunal. For the Tribunal to work, therefore, it will require that it is independent and that this independence is guaranteed through a legal framework. Credibility, objectivity and impartiality should be the main principles and values guiding its operations,” the report states in one of its conclusions.
South Consulting said politicians who fear that they were named in a secret list by the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence were politicising the debate and poisoning Kenyans for their personal benefits.
The commitment by the government to deal with impunity has also been put to question given that prosecution of suspects who may have committed crimes during the period has been slow and highly politicised. The monitors said that the country had failed to bring the offenders to account although the police made some arrests in early 2008.
“Further delays will have the effect of reducing people’s confidence in the process, particularly if the victims continue to see inaction on the part of the government. Significant, of course, is that the suspects will develop a sense of impunity and feeling of victory against the State for their violent behaviour,” the report concludes.
Parliament in February rejected the tribunal signaling their resolve to have the suspects tried at the ICC. The government is in a rush to start a second bid amidst threats by Chief Mediator Kofi Annan to hand over the list of suspects to The Hague-based court should the country fail to establish the tribunal by August.
A government delegation was due to leave for consultations with Mr Annan on the issue on Wednesday evening.
The Consultants regret that although the country has established structures for the much needed reforms the momentum of the reforms has been lost.
The team has warned that without undertaking fundamental reforms, another violent civil conflict could recur.
“Reforms that tend to appease the political leaders will not address the root causes of the country’s problems. The survey findings show that ordinary citizens prefer not only institutional reforms but also those that will improve their well-being. For this reason, it is important that reforms focus on a constitution that is desirable to the majority of the people,” the team advised.
South Consulting further warns that disagreement over distribution of power and patronage is likely to spill over into the constitutional review process and frustrate delivery of a new constitution. The team has also raised concerns over the disbandment of illegal armed groups who they say are growing in number owing to internal factionalism and general mutation.