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Kenya sets deadline for election violence tribunal

  • Story Highlights
  • Violence after December 2007 elections nearly tore Kenya apart
  • Nearly 1,500 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced
  • Tribunal was part of deal to end ethnic violence
By David Mckenzie
CNN
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NAIROBI, Kenya (CNN) -- A high-level Kenyan delegation has agreed with the International Criminal Court to set up a tribunal by July 2010 to prosecute those who instigated last year's devastating post-election violence.

Residents of a Nairobi slum shout during clashes between two rival groups in January 2008.

Residents of a Nairobi slum shout during clashes between two rival groups in January 2008.

Failing that, the government in Kenya will refer the case to the court's prosecutor to take over. The delegation, in a signed agreement with chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, also agreed to provide the court with a report on the current status of investigations and prosecutions so it can carry out "preliminary examinations" of the case.

The violence that erupted in Kenya following a disputed election in December 2007 nearly tore apart an African country once considered an island of peace in an otherwise troubled region that includes Somalia.

Nearly 1,500 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced after the re-election of Mwai Kibaki. The opposition, led by Raila Odinga, and many independent observers, said the vote had been rigged.

Under pressure from abroad and the region, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan helped hammer out an agreement that led to a coalition government of all major political parties.

A key part of the deal was the forming of a tribunal to investigate and prosecute the leaders responsible for the violence.

Annan promised to hand over a list of suspects to the court, should the Kenyan government not form a tribunal. He gave August as a deadline. The court's agreement with Kenya now gives the government breathing room.

A U.N. special investigator, in a report issued in June, called for the resignation of top Kenyan officials and sweeping changes in the country's security forces to end reported unlawful killings by police nationwide.

The report called for the resignation of Kenya's attorney general and the immediate replacement of the police commissioner. It also said Kibaki should publicly acknowledge his commitment to ending unlawful killings by police.

The Kenya government expressed its "deep displeasure" and "grave concern" with the report, saying it impinged on the country's sovereignty.

The U.N. investigator also advocated creating an independent civilian police oversight body, and said the International Criminal Court should investigate violence after the 2007 election. He urged the government to create a witness protection program as well.

Many analysts who follow Kenya think the next general election in 2012 has a significant chance of descending into violence, should key government reforms not be put in place.

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