ICC to scrutinise Kenya violence
Nairobi - The International Criminal Court (ICC) signed an agreement with Kenya on Friday to set up an office in the country to pursue the masterminds of Kenya's post-election violence, officials said.
The fighting in late 2007 and early 2008, some of the worst in the history of east Africa's biggest economy, erupted after Prime Minister Raila Odinga, then an opposition leader, accused President Mwai Kibaki's party of stealing the election.
About 1 300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes in the ensuing battles.
A power sharing deal brokered by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan stopped the fighting and created Kenya's first coalition government.
"With the exchange of letters today, the operational legal framework that is essential for the court to conduct its work in Kenya is in place," ICC Registrar Silvana Arbia said at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Arbia's visit comes a week after Sudan's President Omar al Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on genocide charges, attended a ceremony to sign in Kenya's new constitution, sparking international and local criticism.
Officials have defended the move saying the government did not want to risk regional instability.
Analysts say the government's decision to invite the leader had cast doubt on Kenya's willingness to co-operate with the ICC, but the signing of the agreement was a step in the right direction.
"Bashir's visit was like Kenya had slapped its international obligations in the face. The government needs to practically show its fidelity to the Rome Statute by co-operating with the ICC no matter who it touches," said Peter Aling'o the executive director of Institute for Education in Democracy. He was referring to the statute which established the ICC.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says he will seek warrants by the end of the year for up to six Kenyans, but could only prosecute the two to three most responsible from both sides.
According to the agreement, victims and other people appearing before the court will be granted immunity from personal arrest or detention.
It also grants ICC officers immunity from direct taxation and customs, protects the court's rights to all means of communications, and protects against censorship.
"We have agreed to comply with every aspect of the request for privileges and immunities that ICC officers require in order to undertake their work," George Saitoti, Kenya's minister in charge of internal security, said.