, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 18 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga told Parliament on Wednesday that the country was not ready to cede its sovereignty by handing over its citizens to be tried in foreign courts.
He said Kenya was not a failed state and had a functioning judiciary, in response to concerns by Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale who challenged the government’s commitment to ending the culture of impunity.
“For the government to agree to refer (people for trial) to another jurisdiction will be abdication of its responsibility. We have a system that’s working but we will cooperate if the International Criminal Court (ICC) decides to proceed,” he said during his weekly address to the National Assembly.
The Premier was taken to task by MPs who sought details of resolutions that were reached during a meeting he held with President Mwai Kibaki and ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis-Moreno Ocampo a fortnight ago.
Mr Khalwale said: “We adopted the Waki Report recommendations in total; and the recommendation were that failure to set up a local process would immediately render the whole matter being referred to The Hague and you have told us you have refused.”
Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto caused laughter in the House when he sought clarification from the Prime Minister: “Can the PM clarify whether it is in normal practice for the prosecutor of the ICC to have meeting with possible suspects?”
In his response Mr Odinga said: “The list by Mr Waki`s team has not been made public. So virtually everybody is a suspect including Isaac Ruto,”
Mr Odinga however urged Kenyans not to be scared of possible indictment by the ICC.
“So many names may be in that list for Mr Ocampo. Even my name… and I have said Mr Speaker, if my name is there and they carry out investigations and I am found to be culpable, Mr Speaker, I am ready to face the trial to prove my innocence,” Mr Odinga said.
“Even if you are charged it doesn’t mean you are guilty. So why is this thing causing too much tension. Too much fear?” Let Mr Ocampo come and do his investigation.”
The Prime Minister was responding to a request by Mr Khalwale who sought details of the two-hour closed-door meeting between the PM, the President and Mr Ocampo at Harambee House.
During the meeting, Mr Ocampo announced that he was to request ICC judges to open investigation into the Kenya case next month, after the government declined to formally refer the matter to The Hague.
Earlier in the day, debate on Bill seeking to establish a local Special Tribunal stalled yet again, due to a quorum hitch.
Only nine MPs were present in the chamber during debate on the crucial Bill, forcing temporary Speaker Phillip Kaloki to adjourn Wednesday morning’s sittings.
Tetu MP F.T. Nyammo notified Prof Kaloki of the lack of quorum, cutting short Laikipia West MP Ndiritu Muriithi’s contribution. Earlier Gwassi MP John Mbadi tried to prompt the Speaker to call for a vote on the Bill, saying absence of MPs signified lack of interest in the Bill.
When the bell was rang, six more MPs walked in, bringing the total to 14, which is 16 less than would have required to constitute a quorum. However, when a vote to be taken on such a Bill, you need at least 145 MPs, or two thirds of the country’s lawmakers to pass it.
Last week, debate on the Bill was halted barely after three MPs had made their contributions.
Earlier, Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale and Kabando wa Kabando of Mukurweini opposed the Bill saying it was unlikely to have any impact.
“You are therefore saying we send the Republic of Kenya on a rollercoaster?” Dr Khalwale posed when he opposed the Bill.
“This is mischief. I beg to oppose because my conscience and foresight tells me it is unlikely to have any impact,” Mr Kabando said.
But MPs Mohamed Affey and David Ngugi (Kinangop MP) urged their colleagues to support the Bill to ensure justice for post poll chaos victims.
Mr Affey said: “We have failed to use the laws that we have to try the crimes committed in this country. It’s an indictment of a collective failure of leadership all of us are guilty of. I want to support this Bill since it gives the opportunity to reclaim that.”
“The other duty about this Bill is the only legislation in this country on the table now that provides or calls for compensation for victims,” his Kinangop counterpart added.