Kenya races to transfer ICC election violence case to Africa
The conviction of Liberian President Charles Taylor sent shock waves around Africa. Kenya's President Kibaki wants to move trials of Kenyan politicians to an African, to receive 'fair' justice.
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The violence raged for two months, before a mediation team led by Kofi Annan negotiated a new coalition government that included all the major players. Although those regions affected by the violence have since recovered, efforts to seek justice for the victims through a Kenyan-led tribunal have been rejected twice by parliament, a move that prompted the ICC to take up the case instead.Skip to next paragraph
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Now Kibaki is spearheading efforts to move the cases to the East African Court of Justice based in the Tanzanian town of Arusha. For Kibaki's supporters, trying the so-called "Ocampo Four" at the Hague is akin to ceding African sovereignty to European colonial powers. To date, all of the cases heard by the ICC have involved African leaders, a fact that many African intellectuals see as evidence that the court is simply a "neo-colonial" tool of rich Western nations against poorer African ones.
"The victims of the post-election violence deserve justice," Kibaki said in an address to the Kenyan parliament late April. The Kenyans facing triall also deserve a fair and legal hearing, he argued. He has called on citizens to remain calm, “even as we pursue the option of having a local mechanism to deal with any international crimes.”
The President's call for a trial at Arusha has drawn support from the heads of state of the East African Community. The EAC held at a meeting in Tanzania on April 28, and passed a resolution to expand the court’s jurisdiction to cover crimes against humanity.
The resolution had been preceded by another from the East African Legislative Assembly, which had urged the East African Community Council of Ministers to implore the ICC to transfer the cases to East Africa.
"We must never allow ourselves to return to neocolonialism," said Peter Munya, Kenyan member of the assembly, following the resolution.
Those who supported the resolution said that holding war-crimes tribunals at Arusha would strengthen local courts and dispense justice both to the accused as well as to survivors. Dora Byamukama, a Ugandan member of the assembly who was part of the Observer Mission to Kenya in the elections, said that the ICC cases were more symbolic, and failed to reach out at the core and heart of Kenyans. There is a precedent for holding war crimes tribunals at Arusha. Special tribunals were held there for war crimes committed in the Burundi civil war and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.