, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 3 – As the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan prepares to hold talks with Kenya’s leaders, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo has admitted that there is a deliberate attempt to frustrate a Bill to set up a local tribunal to try post-poll offenders.
Mr Kilonzo on Thursday said that the Bill sponsored by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara would not guarantee justice for victims of the post election violence, and thus he does not support it.
“How can you sabotage something that is already sabotaged in the way it is drafted? It is weaker than the proposal I had put forward as Minister and I was giving you a tribunal that meets international standards. Imanyara’s proposal doesn’t; I will make no apologies for saying that. Until I can look them in the eye and say yes this is an independent tribunal, I will not participate in its debate,” he stated.
Mr Kilonzo further explained that the proposed Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2009 commonly referred to as Special Tribunal Bill would be easily manipulated by politicians implicated in the 2007/08 violence.
“I want a tribunal that gives Kenyans comfort so that if a Taita is arrested, he is not arrested because he is a Taita but because he committed a crime. Kenyans deserve to be assured that there will not be any hoodwinking, corruption or other shenanigans behind the process of the tribunal. It must be a local tribunal that can sit in Nairobi or Nakuru and recruit you as a Kenyan knowing that you cannot cut corners or persecute a particular person because you do not like his tribe or his religion,” he said.
He further attributed the consistent quorum hitches plaguing the Bill to parliamentarians who want to delay the process of justice and perhaps escape it.
“You know about self interest. If I came to your media house and there were people who did not want a local tribunal and others who do (partly because of suspicion that you might be a suspect) it is human nature to try and delay the hour of reckoning. Even those who are being tried under the United Nations tribunal on Cambodia tried to block the process and the law caught up with them,” he said.
The Minister stated that there was a general lack of government commitment to set up a local tribunal but singled out President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the only key government principals who supported a local tribunal.
“I have not seen signs of commitment; sorry to say. Although the President and Prime Minister continue to support the local tribunal, at Parliament level that commitment is not there. It is fair that we are candid about it. We will tell His Excellency Kofi Annan and Her Excellency Graca Machel the same; they understand,” he said.
The Justice Minister further promised that perpetrators of the post election offences would all face the law because Kenya had ratified the Rome Statute.
“Fortunately for us because of consenting to the Rome Statute those who thought they would be able to hide from justice by delaying it or by thinking that The Hague was too far are in for a rude shock. I expect a decision from the Pre-Trial chamber before Jamhuri Day to say that the ICC prosecutor Louis Ocampo can investigate and thereafter he will investigate and indict if he collects the correct evidence,” he said adding that the focus of the government had now moved to collecting evidence.
“This is why you notice that the focus of the ministry has shifted to protection of the evidence and special treatment of witnesses to ensure that no testimony is compromised or lost because without it we can’t really convict.”
He added that the ministry was also ahead of schedule in ensuring that justice was served to all victims and offenders of the post election violence.
“We are moving in stages and we are ahead of schedule. Those who were blocking the local tribunal thought it would take 20 years like it happened in Cambodia but come June/August next year they will see,” he stated.
Mr Kilonzo pointed out that the government was on schedule with Agenda 4 adding that the constitutional review process was on the right track.
“Our Fourth Agenda is still in progress with our new constitution underway. That is why I am saying that Kofi Annan should come to Kenya with a smile. He usually looks angry,” he stated with a light touch.
He also cautioned the public from thinking that the coalition government had failed because of the differences between the political parties that formed it.
“I don’t think that the wrangles within and without political parties are proof that the coalition government has failed because we will always have politics.”