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Kenyans greet ICC's Ocampo as chance for justice that government won't take

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in Kenya, said he would ask the ICC to open an investigation into politically charged violence after disputed elections in 2007. Some 1,500 people were killed, and many Kenyans say it's time for politicians' impunity to be reversed.

By Correspondent / November 5, 2009

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (c.) addresses the media after meeting Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki (r.) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga (l.) in Kenya's capital Nairobi, Thursday.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters


Nairobi, Kenya

It's been a busy week in Kenya. Torrential rains ended a months-long drought. A new Constitution was drafted. The world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, arrived to adopt the world's fastest mammal, a baby cheetah.

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But in this news-mad nation, where even days-old newspapers are passed person to person and devoured front to back, there has been only one topic of conversation, with the whistle-stop visit of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the flamboyant Argentine who is the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, dominating the front pages and the airwaves.

After Mr. Ocampo met Thursday with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, he said he would ask the court's judges in The Hague formally to open an investigation into what he said were "crimes against humanity" carried out after the rigged 2007 elections.

As the three men met in the president's downtown Nairobi office, the Monitor canvassed Kenyans on Ocampo's promise to make an example of their homeland on ending impunity for the politically-charged killings following the 2007 election.

Remarkably, for a country recently ripped apart by that violence, which pitted tribe against tribe and left 1,500 people dead, many today spoke in similar voices.

Hopes Ocampo will do what Kenya won't

"The Hague is our last chance," said Esther Onyango, an unemployed mother queuing to pay her electricity bill in Kawangware, a shanty slum in the west of Nairobi.

As others in the line nodded their agreement, she said: "Two years ago, this place was burning. We were promised afterwards that the big people who ordered this would go to jail.

"But even to today, they are still sitting in their nice offices and driving their big cars, free men, while we are suffering."

The promises Mrs. Onyango talked about were part of a powersharing accord brokered by Kofi Annan which created the coalition government that still holds power today.

Part of the deal was that Kenya's leaders would establish local mechanisms – a special tribunal, more muscular national courts – which would investigate the alleged atrocities.

But, as Onyango said, "nothing has happened" – hence Ocampo's visit and his promise that if Kenya won't do it, he will.

"It's better that the people who brought these problems should go to The Hague," said Mohamed Leeresh, a trader based in Archer's Post, 190 miles north of Nairobi.

Despite a long drought and flooding now, the town's pastoralist community was glued to flickering televisions in dirt-floor tea shops for news of Ocampo's visit, he said.

"This is the thing that you must understand about Kenya from long ago. People in power, they take what they want, they do what they want, and we, the ordinary people, have no way to stop them.