Kenya Must Revive Plan to Create ‘Credible’ Court, Odinga Says

Kenya should revive plans to create a “credible” local judicial system to persuade the International Criminal Court to refer investigations into post-election violence back home, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said.

The comments come after the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in December identified six Kenyans, including Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, as the main instigators of the violence in 2008 that left 1,500 dead.

“We tried very hard two years ago to set up a local tribunal,” Odinga told reporters today in the capital, Nairobi. “Most of us wanted a local tribunal to try the perpetrators of post-election violence.”

The failure to push through the changes required to set up the court led the ICC to pursue its own investigation. The East African nation shouldn’t pass up another opportunity to create and approve legislation “to set up a credible local mechanism,” Odinga said.

The ICC would listen to any request from Kenya to try the suspects in a local court, Christian Wenaweser, president of the tribunal’s oversight body, said on Jan. 28. Under the arrangement, Kenya must show its judiciary is even-handed and the ICC would stay involved monitoring the tribunal, he said.

Kenya aims to use the ICC statutes to request a transfer of the cases to the local courts, President Mwai Kibaki said on Jan. 28. His position was endorsed by the African Union.

‘Powerful Forces’

There is resistance for the local option because some Kenyans believe “powerful forces” will meddle in the process to avoid being implicated and to keep out of jail, Odinga said.

Kenya’s new constitution enacted in August vowed to strengthen the country’s courts. The changes include allowing lawmakers to vet candidates for judges, who were previously appointed by the president, and the creation of a Supreme Court to settle disputes over elections and constitutional affairs.

Replacement of the chief justice, director of public prosecution and attorney general are among the planned changes. Odinga has rejected Kibaki’s nominations for the positions because he wasn’t consulted on the issue, as required by law.

Moreno-Ocampo requested that charges of crimes against humanity be filed against Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister, former Higher Education Minister William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, who resigned on Jan. 4 as industrialization minister, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter. The alleged crimes include murder, rape and forced displacement

All six men have denied the ICC’s accusations. The charges stem from fighting that erupted after then-opposition leader Odinga disputed the results of a December 2007 election that gave victory to Kibaki. The fighting subsided when Kibaki signed a power-sharing accord with Odinga.

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