KENYA: Church leaders back international trial for violence suspects

February 17, 2009

Kenya's Anglican leader says he supports the prosecution at the International Criminal Court in The Hague of suspected instigators of violence that followed disputed Kenyan elections in December 2007.

"Let us go to The Hague. I am very unhappy. Kenyans are very unhappy," Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi told Ecumenical News International on February 16.

His comments came four days after Kenya's parliament rejected a draft law to establish a special court to investigate those responsible for the violence in which about 1,500 people were killed. Some lawmakers were reported to have expressed a lack of confidence in Kenya's judicial system.

Nzimbi cited past commissions investigating corruption scandals and said he feared a local tribunal on the post-election violence would face interference.

"We have seen what has happened. They have become scandals in themselves. They become, 'You scratch my back, I scratch yours'," said Nzimbi.

Cardinal John Njue, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Nairobi, described the failure to set up the tribunal as "a reflection of the public's frustration with delivery of justice."

A political crisis in Kenya erupted after the December 2007 national elections in which incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential contest that opposition leader Raila Odinga said was rigged.

In the unrest that followed the elections, 300,000 people were driven from their homes. In April 2008, following talks brokered by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, a coalition government was set up with Kibaki remaining as president, and Odinga installed as prime minister.

Annan said he was disappointed by the vote not to set up a local tribunal to investigate the violence. He suggested he might send a list of suspected election violence ringleaders to the International Criminal Court. A commission of inquiry into the violence said this should happen if Kenya had not set up its own tribunal by March 1.

Odinga was on February 16 quoted in the Daily Nation newspaper as saying the government was determined to set up a local tribunal, and those people pushing for a hearing in The Hague were delaying justice.

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