Friday, November 12, 2010

We housed chaos witnesses, say rights body

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights commissioners Hassan Omar (left) and Fatuma Abdi Ibrahim address a press conference on November 12, 2010 where the rights watchdog confirmed it had placed potential post election violence witnesses in its safe houses in Nairobi. FREDRICK ONYANGO

Kenya National Commission on Human Rights commissioners Hassan Omar (left) and Fatuma Abdi Ibrahim address a press conference on November 12, 2010 where the rights watchdog confirmed it had placed potential post election violence witnesses in its safe houses in Nairobi. FREDRICK ONYANGO 

By JOHN NGIRACHU

The State human rights watchdog has confirmed it had placed potential post election violence witnesses in its safe houses in Nairobi early in the year.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, however, denied coaching and bribing Ken Braziz Wekesa and William Kipkemboi Rono men to implicate Eldoret North MP William Ruto’s in their submissions on the 2008 post-election violence.

It has asked police to arrest Mr Wekesa and Mr Rono for making false statements and lying to the commission and also wants them charged with perjury, which refers to lying while under oath.

“When you come to this Commission to record a statement, you have not gone to a funeral committee to record your condolences. This is an institution established by the Constitution,” said Omar Hassan, a commissioner.

He said it was not uncommon for witnesses to retract their statements in cases as sensitive as the post-election violence.

The Commission also asked for the investigation of the suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto for his role in the recent revelations of the two men and suggested he had instigated them.

Mr Hassan and fellow commissioner Fatuma Ibrahim said Mr Ruto’s recent attacks on the commission and the former vice chairman in particular were the acts of  impunity fighting back.

“Hassan is targeted because they want to go to the commissioners and weaken the institution. They have tried it before,” said Ms Ibrahim.

Mr Hassan said Mr Rono and Mr Wekesa approached the commission in January this year, backed by “credible institutions” and claimed their lives were in danger.

Mr Hassan said that on April 12 this year, the International Criminal Court indicated it was no longer interested in Mr Wekesa, but the commission continued protecting him as he was still unsafe.

Mr Rono was dropped as witness on October 12, when he met the ICC investigators, and the Commission subsequently told him they could only keep him until January next year.

He said the two were no longer in danger as they have already exposed themselves as witnesses and compromised the safety of other potential witnesses.

Mr Hassan additionally accused Mr Wekesa, who has spoken to The Star newspaper, of making contradicting statements on his activities and the alleged threat to his life. 

On his return from The Hague last Monday, Mr Ruto claimed that Mr Hassan had bribed and coached witnesses to implicate him in organising the violence that followed the 2007 General Election.

Mr Rono and Mr Wekesa emerged a day later with sworn affidavits that they had indeed been bribed and coached to implicate the suspended minister.

They showed journalists their well-kept safe houses opposite the offices of the KNCHR on Lenana Road on Thursday, the same day Mr Ruto recorded a statement with the Criminal Investigations Department of the police.

His impassioned statements have mainly been against Mr Hassan, but the commissioner downplayed the attacks, suggesting he would not reply.

“I saw someone trying to invite me to a contest. I am not in the entertainment industry where Mariah Carey has beef with Eminem or Jaguar has beef with Prezzo. My beef is with impunity,” said Mr Hassan.

The commission said Mr Ruto’s statements “represent not only an act of impunity but also a scorched earth politics that seeks to destroy the reputation of individuals and institutions.”

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