, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 23 – Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo said on Thursday that formation of a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) should not be misconstrued to mean amnesty for perpetrators of last year’s post election violence.
Speaking at a meeting with the Media Owners Association, the Minister said no one will evade punishment by appearing before the TJRC.
“Let me puncture a balloon that I’m seeing being floated politically; that you can resolve the crimes committed through the TJRC. International crimes must be punished! I want to assure you in Kenya they will be punished,” he vowed.
“The Rome Statute and the International Customary Law do not recognise resolution of international crimes through reconciliation, negotiation, mediation or even through prayer.”
Mr Kilonzo said TJRC’s main role is to help the country heal from the 2007 violence and move on into a peaceful future.
President Mwai Kibaki on Wednesday appointed former Ambassador Bethuel Kiplagat to head the commission which has an operation mandate of two years.
Mr Kilonzo appealed to Kenyans to support the truth and reconciliation process explaining that it was the most favorable option for healing the country by addressing historical injustices that also led to the violence.
The lawyer used the opportunity with the media to emphasise the importance of forming a local tribunal to not only address the 2007 fracas but as well future related violence.
He said there is no way Kenya could keep running to the international community any time it faced such violence.
He further said he was ready to defend the Special Tribunal Bill in Parliament next week but after the Cabinet approved it.
“If Cabinet allows me, personally I accept the views of those legislators saying they will shoot the Bill down, but I will still go and present it to them and explain to them,” he said.
The Mbooni legislator said the task force working on the Bill had ensured that the proposed tribunal will be insulated from manipulation.
He said the team had done all its best to address all concerns raised by MPs who voted against it when it was first presented to Parliament by former Justice Minister Martha Karua.
MPs opposed to it have argued on issues of witness protection, independence of the tribunal and said it was likely to divide Kenyans.
Mr Kilonzo insisted that referring the Kenyan issue to The Hague meant that Kenya was a failed State. He said the country is capable to form the Special Tribunal and ensure justice succeeds all vested interests demonstrated by powerful individuals.
He however admitted that it was still a heavy task ahead to push the Bill through owing to the fact that some Cabinet members and MPs were against the local tribunal despite many persuasions.
He urged the media to educate the public on the importance of trying the perpetrators locally.