Justice minister vows new quest for Kenya violence tribunal

Tuesday March 23 2010

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo (centre) with the NPI-Africa Executive Director Florence Mpaayei (left) and the TJRC Chairman Bethuel Kiplagat in Nairobi, March 23rd, 2010. Mr Kilonzo has vowed to revive the quest for a local tribunal. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

Kenya's Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo has vowed to revive the quest for a local tribunal for the suspects of the post-poll chaos as soon as the new Constitution is passed.

The minister said the current state where the suspects’ fate has been left to the Hague-based International Criminal Court was likely to sow the seed for a recurrence of the violence after the 2012 elections.

“Regardless of what ICC will decide, we have to prosecute all the perpetrators within the country (as soon as the new Constitution takes effect). This country must live with the fact that it is only us who can heal whatever ills that happened,” the Justice Minister said.

Speaking at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre on Tuesday Mr Kilonzo accused the ICC for “behaving like Kenyan courts” given the delay in granting chief prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo the permission to launch investigations.

“It is now four months since December 3 when the prosecutor asked for permission to launch investigations in Kenya. What are they waiting for?” Mr Kilonzo asked.

Parliament’s push to revive the push for a special tribunal was put on ice after MPs staged walk-outs whenever the Bill by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara came for debate.


Mr Kilonzo noted that the government failed to enact the law after Parliament rejected it.

“Although I lost (in Parliament), I will come back to you (once the new Constitution is passed) and ask you to support us try those people who committed crimes,” he said.

The remarks come within days of heightened tension from human rights lobbies citing threats to witnesses of the violence, with the most recent case being the threats against Nyanza deputy Provincial Commissioner, Mr Oku Kaunya.

Mr Kilonzo remained non-committal on the legitimacy of the threats against Mr Kaunya noting that all witnesses with threats against their lives had a right to State protection.

But for now, he reckoned that the government’s hands were tied given that there was no water-tight Witness Protection Act to guarantee witnesses their security.

“Once Parliament is done with the Constitution, the next agenda will be the Witness Protection Act, which will have to be amended to strengthen the proposed agency,” the Justice minister said.

The Act was passed in 2006 and amendments are contained in a new one --the Witness Protection (Amendment) Bill 2010-- which is set for Parliament as soon as it is done with the proposed Constitution.

“There’s only so little we can do for now, with regard to protecting witnesses,” he said.

At Tuesday’s function Mr Kilonzo launched a manual to help the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission implement its mandate.

The Guide to the TJRC and Transitional Justice in Kenya was prepared by the Nairobi Peace Initiative (NPI-Africa) and a Ghanaian firm WANEP.

TJRC chairman Bethuel Kiplagat, who has been under pressure from sections of the civil society calling on him to resign, led his team to the launch.

Mr Kilonzo asked Mr Kiplagat to “be the first witness” to help the commission move on with its work without its credibility being questioned.

The commission began its work with false-starts and its work was temporarily kiboshed when public pressure piled on the chairman to resign. The sittings were characterised by walkouts and even the Vice Chair Betty Murungi threatened to quit if Mr Kiplagat stayed put.

She has not resigned several weeks since she made the threat.