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Most Kenyans want violence suspects tried by ICC

Saturday July 18 2009

President Mwai Kibaki receives the Waki Report on post election violence from Justice Phillip Waki at Harambee House, Nairobi in October 2008. Looking on is Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/FILE

President Mwai Kibaki receives the Waki Report on post election violence from Justice Phillip Waki at Harambee House, Nairobi in October 2008. Looking on is Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Photo/FILE 

By REUTERS

The majority of Kenyans want suspects for the east African nation's post-election bloodshed to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) not a local tribunal, a survey said on Saturday.

Foreign donors, Kenyans and local markets are closely watching the debate over whether those behind the 2008 violence, which killed 1,300 people and displaced 300,000 more should be tried at home or at the Hague-based court.

Kenya's coalition leaders, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, are trying to push the local option. But there is resistance from some politicians, and the ICC has said it is ready to step in if the government fails.

Local pollster Steadman said 68 per cent of Kenyans wanted perpetrators tried at the ICC while only 14 per cent desired local courts and 13 percent favoured an amnesty. The data was almost identical when broken down by political parties.

While some analysts see justice for the 2008 violence as crucial to future stability in east Africa's largest economy, which faces its next poll in 2012 others warn a judicial process may destabilise Kenya by stirring up old hatreds.

The Steadman poll highlighted Kenyans' widespread scepticism that any powerful individuals will be brought to account locally for the worst bloodshed in the nation's post-independence history due to traditional impunity among its political class.

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Crisis mediator and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan handed over a sealed envelope last week with the names of 10 top suspects to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Steadman's study was carried out before the envelope was handed over.

Ministers named

Kenyan newspapers ran front-page pictures on Saturday showing Moreno-Ocampo opening the envelope. Kenyan political sources say at least two ministers' names are there.

Kibaki's cabinet, which is split over the court debate, is to meet on Monday about the issue. An earlier attempt to push a local tribunal measure through parliament failed.

The government's human rights body this week released the names of 219 people including seven sitting ministers, and one now deceased minister whose role in the post-poll violence it said should be investigated.

One of the ministers named, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, is suing the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to expunge his name from the report.

Another official named, Culture and Heritage Minister William ole Ntimama, dismissed the rights report. "It's all rumour, it's all hearsay," he told the Daily Nation.

Western donors have urged the government to quickly set up a special tribunal, or let the ICC take over.

Kenya's shilling currency and stocks are susceptible to any sign of political instability, and are eyeing the debate closely.

Half of Steadman's 2,005 respondents said they strongly opposed the shaky power-sharing pact between Kibaki and Odinga.

It brought peace after two months of ethnic clashes following the disputed December 2007 vote, but has dragged on reform.

Only 19 per cent said they strongly supported the pact, with 25 per cent saying they supported it "a little".

The majority, 63 per cent, said they wanted an early election with 34 per cent saying the vote should happen as scheduled in 2012.